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Huntington Station

Family members of the late WWII veteran Michael Colamonico and elected officials stand together at the corner of McKay Road and Beau Lane in Huntington Station. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Town of Huntington officials and veterans organizations gathered to give thanks for the lifelong work of a late Huntington Station World War II veteran for his commitment to the community.

McKay Road in Huntington Station was officially dedicated as “SSGT USAF Michael J. Colamonico Way” at its intersection with Beau Lane behind Huntington High School in a Nov. 24 ceremony. The signpost stands on the corner near where Colamonico lived with his wife, Lorraine, through his death in December 2013.

McKay Road was dedicated as USAF SSGT Michael J. Colamonico Way Nov. 24. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“Mr. Colamonico dedicated his life to his family and veterans affair issues for active military and veterans,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said.

Colamonico was drafted to serve in the U.S. Air Force during World War II where he was assigned a position as a turret gunner on a B-17 bomber. On Dec. 31, 1943, Colamonico was on his first mission — a 13-hour bombing run — when his plane was shot down by a German fighter plane over southern France, according to his son, Michael Jr. He was held as a prisoner of war at the infamous Stalag 17 in Austria for 17 months before being liberated in 1945.

While a prisoner, he wrote poetry and drew illustrations in a bound book he titled, “A Wartime Log,” which his son said is now cherished as a family heirloom.

Upon returning to the U.S., Colamonico settled in Huntington and became a charter member of the town’s Veterans Advisory Board. Its current board members made the request that his home street be dedicated in his name, which was approved by a unanimous vote of the Town Board at its July 17 meeting.

He was always there for the people in the community, no one really realized the impact until he had passed,” his grandson Francis Fanzilli said. “We get so caught up in thinking of ourselves and the world, we forget the impact we can have on the people around us.”

Veterans gathered at the Nov. 24 dedication ceremony salute the flag during the national anthem. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Colamonico volunteered at the Northport VA Medical Center helping and attending to injured veterans. He also was an active member of St. Patrick’s R.C. Church in Huntington, according to Father Michael Bissex.

“Michael loved the community he helped build, literally and figuratively,” Bissex said prior to blessing the sign.

Colamonico also served as a mentor to Huntington’s youth, in particular helping U.S. Army Capt. Michelle Mudge navigate her way through joining the armed services to become a pilot.

“He was a true mentor, he was one of the ones who believed in me from the time I was 15 years old,” she said. “ He pushed me through some dark times.”

Midge said she keeps a picture of Colamonico and his plane’s crew — that he once gave to her — on the mantle of her fireplace as a reminder. The captain believed her mentor would have been thrilled by the turnout at the dedication ceremony, and his wife agreed.

“I’m very honored and I know he would be, too,” she said. “I’m very happy to see him honored in this way.”

His wife spoke with family and friends with her arm stayed looped around the signpost long after the ceremony was over, as if holding onto a piece of her husband.

Third-grade student struck by van in Huntington, undergoing treatment at Cohen Children’s Medical Center

The Mendelsohn family of Lloyd Harbor. Photo from GoFundMe

Two distant Long Island communities have rallied to support an 8-year-old Lloyd Harbor girl seriously injured in a Huntington accident earlier this month.

GoFundMe campaigns have raised more than $40,000 to help Leah Mendelsohn, a third-grader at Lloyd Harbor School, who was hit by a van while crossing New York Avenue Nov. 3. Each fundraising campaign hopes to be able to offset the family’s medical bills while Mendelsohn begins her long road to recovery.

“Communities come together when they need to,” said Lisa Pinsker, of East Northport, a longtime family friend of the Mendelsohn family. “I’m happy to know that it’s going to help them — and after the amount of money we raised, they are pretty grateful for it.”

I’m happy to know that it’s going to help them — and after the amount of money we raised, they are pretty grateful for it.”

— Lisa Pinsker

On Nov. 3, Leah was with her mother picking up her younger sister, Sara, from dance class at Laura’s Dance & Fitness Studio in Huntingtonat approximately 12:10 p.m. As Leah was crossing New York Avenue, she was hit by a 1997 Ford van traveling southbound driven by Pedro Guerrero, of West Babylon. He stayed at the scene of the accident.

Leah was transported to Huntington Hospital by the Huntington Community First Aid Squad, then transferred to the intensive care unit of Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park due to her extensive head trauma, liver and lung injuries.

The first GoFundMe Campaign for Leah was launched by ENT and Allergy Associates, a Garden City-based medical practice where her father, Michael, works as a pediatric ear, nose and throat specialist. It has raised more than $22,800 of its $25,000 goal as of this paper’s press time Nov. 20 and can be found at www.gofundme.com/helping-leah-mendelsohn.

The medical office jumped into action as Dr. Mendelsohn has been out of work for several months, in and out of hospitals battling a life-threatening infection, according to Pinsker.

“It’s the financial burden that’s hitting the family right now,” she said. “When he’s not able to work, he doesn’t get paid.”

Leah’s father has extended his leave from work in order to stay 24/7 at the bedside of his daughter, who is undergoing extensive surgeries at Cohen’s. She most recently underwent a skull reconstruction surgery Nov. 14.

We’re hopeful, but she’s got a really long road to recovery in front of her.”

— Lisa Pinsker

A second GoFundMe campaign was launched by family friend Tricia Avidano, of Cold Spring Harbor, who hoped to raise an additional $20,000 to help offset Leah’s medical bills and family’s expenses at this difficult time. Avidano turned to Pinsker for help in terms of helping direct the funds to the family.

The page has raised more than $22,000 of its $20,000 goal as of Nov. 20 and is no longer accepting donations. It can be found at www.gofundme.com/help-for-leah-mendelsohn-and-family.

In addition to the fundraisers, Pinsker said the Lloyd Harbor community has pulled together to prepare hot evening meals for the five-person Mendelsohn family.

“Every night there’s somebody coming in to make sure they are eating — eating healthy — and taken care of,” Pinsker said.

She said the family hopes as of Nov. 16 that Leah would be released from the hospital soon but will have to undergo extensive therapy at home.

“We’re hopeful, but she’s got a really long road to recovery in front of her,” Pinsker said.

Huntington Station residents Adrian Bonilla, Jennifer Perez Cordero and Neftali Camacho Hernandez were arraigned Nov. 14 for allegedly operating a cocaine distribution ring. Photos from SCPD

Three Huntington Station residents face a total of 47 charges for allegedly operating a cocaine distribution ring following an 18-month investigation conducted by Suffolk County’s District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors said they found the trio had stored a kilogram of cocaine next to the bassinet of a 1-month-old baby.

Suffolk County law enforcement officers  arrested Adrian Bonilla, 40; Neftali Camacho Hernandez, 27; and Jennifer Perez Cordero, 28. They were arraigned in Suffolk County Supreme Court Nov. 14 for allegedly operating and conspiracy to operate an illegal drug trafficking ring, according Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D).

“This indictment should serve as a warning to drug dealers who operate in Suffolk County that law enforcement is coming for you.”

— Tim Sini

“This indictment should serve as a warning to drug dealers who operate in Suffolk County that law enforcement is coming for you,” Sini said in a statement. “These are serious charges; two of these defendants are facing up to life in prison if convicted. We will continue to aggressively target, arrest and prosecute anyone trafficking this poison into our communities.”

The district attorney’s investigation began in April 2017, under the tenure of Thomas Spota (D), where law enforcement officials utilized electronic and physical surveillance of the three suspects.

From April 2017 until this month, law enforcement officials said Bonilla and Hernandez allegedly sold approximately one-third of a kilogram of cocaine, or 650 individual doses of the drug each month. They allegedly charged $50 per one-half gram bag, resulting in proceeds of roughly $32,500 per month. Law enforcement officers claim to have made 19 covert purchases of cocaine from Hernandez during their investigation.

Police said Cordero was allegedly involved in helping package and distribute the narcotics in conjunction with Bonilla and Hernandez, both of whom are also accused of being members of the Latin Kings street gang.

On Nov. 2, law enforcement officers executed search warrants at three Huntington Station locations associated with suspects. The bust resulted in the seizure of 1 kilogram of cocaine found concealed underneath a bed next to a baby’s bassinet, 18 grams of crack cocaine, approximately $66,207 in cash, digital scales and packaging materials, according to court records.

“These individuals were making a living off selling cocaine, two of them even put their own child at risk,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said in a statement. “These arrests have concluded a nearly two-year investigation into drug sales in Huntington Station. This collaborative effort is another
example of the results that can be achieved when agencies work together.”

These individuals were making a living off selling cocaine, two of them even put their own child at risk.” 

— Geraldine Hart

Bonilla’s numerous charges include operating as a major trafficker, first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, second-degree conspiracy, third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and endangering the welfare of a child. If convicted of the top count, he faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison. Bonilla was held in lieu of $2 million cash or $4 million bond.

Hernandez has been indicted on numerous felonies including conspiracy in the second degree, and 19 counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of eight and one-third to 25 years in prison. Hernandez was held in lieu of $1 million cash or $3 million bond.

Cordero was arrested on charges including first-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and endangering the welfare of a child. If convicted, she faces a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison. Cordero was held on $250,000 cash or $500,000 bond.

The three defendants are all scheduled to be back in Suffolk County Supreme Court Dec. 12.

Huntington town officials, members of Veterans of War Post 1469 and Lipsky Construction representatives celebrate the official groundbreaking on a veterans housing complex in Huntington Station Oct. 30. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Columbia Terrace veterans affordable housing project, which has been promised for close to eight years, might be finally coming to fruition.

Town of Huntington officials, members of the Huntington Community Development Agency (CDA) and members of the local Veterans of Foreign War Post 1469 joined Bayport-based Lipsky Construction Oct. 30 to celebrate the start of the project’s construction.

Huntington Station has been waiting decades for neighborhood and economic revitalization, which over the past several years is beginning to mobilize,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “Our veterans and their families make many sacrifices to keep them safe, and we owe them the opportunity and ability for owning a home they can live in.”

Our veterans and their families make many sacrifices to keep them safe, and we owe them the opportunity and ability for owning a home they can live in.”

— Chad Lupinacci

The new development features 14 apartments at the corner of Lowndes Avenue and Railroad Street in Huntington Station. It consist of six, one-bedroom units and eight, two-bedroom condo-style apartments, according to CDA Director Leah Jefferson.

The project was put out to bid again in June with a budget of approximately $3.5 million, Jefferson said. Lipsky Construction was the lowest bidder and a contract signed in September. The project is expected to be completed within 300 days, and have all units sold and occupied by Sept. 30, 2019.

“When I heard it about veterans, I took extra steps to make sure we got on the project,” said Barry Lipsky, the president of Lipsky Construction.“It’s a matter of how much to give back.”

The costs of the units will be offered at 80 percent of the Nassau-Suffolk median income, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo. The one-bedroom apartments  starting at $200,000.

The veterans housing project was first proposed back in 2010, according to Lupinacci. That same year, the CDA was awarded $1.56 million grant from the New York’s Empire State Economic Development Fund Program. An additional $2 million dollars were borrowed by the town from the town’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund And Agency Fund for the sake of the project, which will be paid back upon the sale of the apartments. Interim funding has been secured by Huntington’s elected officials through People’s United Bank in the form of a construction loan.

“What I found out over the years, veterans don’t ask for a lot. They’re not banging on doors saying ‘gimme, gimme, gimme.” 

— Rick Seryneck

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D), former director of the town’s CDA, said one of challenges has been  rising costs compared to the amount of grant funding available.

The town has also secured $250,000 in funds from the county to go toward road realignment, curbing and street lighting, which Lupinacci said would be installed after construction is finished.

The supervisor said a lottery will be held to fill the apartments closer to the project’s completion.

Rick Serynek, a member of the Huntington Veterans Advisory Board, said he knows veterans who could make use of affordable housing. He said  many of those who have served are not the type to ask for help, even if they need it.

“What I found out over the years, veterans don’t ask for a lot. They’re not banging on doors saying ‘gimme, gimme, gimme,” Serynek said. “All they want is a fair shake.”

A newly finished community mural that spans the bridge between the Huntington Station and South Huntington communities was unveiled on Huntington Awareness day.

The Town of Huntington celebrated the completion of Birchwood Intermediate School’s community mural painted on the Long Island Rail Road overpass over New York Avenue Sept. 22.

It’s a day our community celebrates not an individual’s, but our collective achievements,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “This beautification project delights and inspires us, it continues the beautification that we’ve done. It helps bring us forward, inspires us, and let’s us know that we are one community working together.”

Annie Michaelian, former assistant principal at Birchwood, and Barbara Wright, a fifth-grade teacher at Birchwood, led a team of students, teachers and staff to painting a mural along the LIRR overpass that highlights Huntington’s unique landmarks, features and cultural diversity.

Area residents should be able to easily identify some of the iconic landmarks painted on the overpass including the Huntington Lighthouse and the southwest entrance to Heckscher Park, and a stylized version of the park’s fountains and bridges. These items are depicted as drawn by Birchwood’s students.

The best part of this experience was as we were painting our community members are walking past us and thanking us for beauitfying the train station,” Birchwood principal Anthony Ciccarelli said. “It was touching to all of us, it put smile on our faces. We did it for the love of our community.”

In the last few weeks since TBR News Media first reported on the mural, the finishing touches including the names of the schools in Huntington and South Huntington school districts have been added along with a quote by Walt Whitman, Huntington’s famous poet and journalist.  A flag was also added to an airplane to thank Aboff’s Paints in Huntington for donating all the paint, brushes, rollers and supplies needed.

See more photos of the new Huntington Station LIRR mural while in progress, click here. 

File photo

Suffolk County Police 2nd  Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a pedestrian in Huntington Station early Sept. 17.

Juan Rosa Aparicio was crossing Depot Road, near East 11th Street, at approximately 5:35 a.m. when he was struck by a southbound 2008 Honda. Aparicio, 69, of Huntington Station, was pronounced dead at the scene by a member of the Huntington Community First Aid Squad.

The driver of the Honda, Rigoberto Flores, 44, of Huntington Station, was not injured.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check. Anyone with information on this crash is asked to call the 2nd Squad at 631-854-8252 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

Setauket Elementary School students were ready for the first day of classes, Sept. 5. 2017. File photo by Rita J. Egan

It’s back to school time, and we want to help you commemorate the occasion. If your child attends one of the following school districts and you’d like to submit a photo of their first day of school attire, them boarding or arriving home on the school bus, or waiting at the bus stop, we may publish it in the Sept. 6 issues of Times Beacon Record Newspapers. Just include their name, district and a photo credit, and send them by 12 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 5 with the subject line “Back to school,” and then be sure to check Thursday’s paper.

Email The Village Times Herald and The Times of Middle Country editor Rita J. Egan at rita@tbrnewsmedia.com if your child attends:

  • Three Village School District
  • Middle Country School District

Email The Times of Huntington & Northports and The Times of Smithtown editor Sara-Megan Walsh at sara@tbrnewsmedia.com if your child attends:

  • Huntington School District
  • Northport-East Northport School District
  • Harborfields School District
  • Elwood School District
  • Smithtown School District
  • Commack School District
  • Kings Park School District

Email The Port Times Record and The Village Beacon Record editor Alex Petroski at alex@tbrnewsmedia.com if your child attends:

  • Port Jefferson School District
  • Comsewogue School District
  • Miller Place School District
  • Mount Sinai School District
  • Shoreham-Wading River School District
  • Rocky Point School District

Happy back to school!

Scott Blackshaw's brother, David, center right, holds a sign dedicating Hillwood Drive for the 9/11 responder's honor. Photo from Town of Huntington

Town of Huntington officials paid tribute last Saturday to a Huntington Station resident who lost his life to 9/11-related illnesses.

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) led a street ceremony Aug. 25 dedicating Valleywood Drive in Huntington Station in honor of former New York Police Department officer Scott Blackshaw.

“NYPD Officer Scott Blackshaw embodied the American spirit that rises to any challenge, a spirit of selfless sacrifice to help others in need, and a spirit of resolve and bravery committed to defending our way of life,” Lupinacci said. “Scott Blackshaw dedicated his time and his love to his family.”

“NYPD Officer Scott Blackshaw embodied the American spirit that rises to any challenge, a spirit of selfless sacrifice to help others in need, and a spirit of resolve and bravery committed to defending our way of life.”

— Chad Lupinacci

Blackshaw was a graduate of Northport High School who joined the NYPD in 1990. He patrolled the Manhattan South borough and worked for the 13th Precinct at the time of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. He spent six weeks on duty at ground zero working the pile, searching for traces of his fallen comrades and fellow citizens.

“We must never, ever forget what a hero really means is someone who is selfless, who gives of their time and energy because they care about their community,” state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) said. “Scott was such a person.”

Blackshaw lost his battle with cancers sustained as a result of his work at Ground Zero May 20. He was 52. The town supervisor said his neighbors recalled how he was the type of person who used to help cut their grass for free and plow their driveways when it snowed. As he fell ill, Blackshaw’s friends and neighbors rallied to his support to take care of him, calling themselves “Team Scotty.” He, in return, call them “his angels.”

“Scot was one of those people, he cultivated a family right here on this road,” said Suffolk County Legislator Tom Donnelly (D-Deer Park). “This sign will be a living testament not only to NYPD Officer Scott Blackshaw but to the kind of person he really was.”

More than 10,000 people have been diagnosed and certified to have 9/11-related cancers and illnesses, according to John Feal of the Feal Good Foundation. The foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to helping all emergency personnel who have faced injury or illness due to their time of service get the health care they need.

On Sept. 15, Feal said Blackshaw’s name will be officially added to hundreds of other first responders and emergency personnel who lost their lives as result of the attacks listed on the memorial wall at the 9/11 Responders Remembered Memorial Park, located on Smithtown Boulevard in Nesconset.

“But now that the street sign is up, he’d say it’s your responsibility to cut your grass every week and pick up your leaves.

— David Blackshaw

“Today’s street ceremony serves a purpose like the park,” he said. “That history is never distorted and so generations to come will know the sacrifice that Scott and others made. These are tangible items that you can see and can touch that will be a reminder that Scott was truly a hero.”

Following the unveiling of the new street sign, Blackshaw’s friends and family hosted a block party to honor his life with donated food, drinks and supplies from the Best Yet in East Northport, East Northport Beverage, and The Home Depot in Huntington.

Blackshaw’s brother, David, said it was amazing to see the community come together for Scott, providing him with a support system that gave “full life.”

“My brother wouldn’t want this sign up on the street, and he would tell you all to go away,” he said, his words answered by laughter. “But now that the street sign is up, he’d say it’s your responsibility to cut your grass every week and pick up your leaves.”

Suffolk County Police Department Highway Patrol Bureau, assisted by New York State Police, arrested seven people during an overnight sobriety checkpoint in Huntington Station.

Suffolk police officers, with the assistance of state troopers, conducted a sobriety checkpoint at the corner of New York Avenue and Church Street in Huntington Station. The checkpoint was conducted as part of the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Saturation Saturday, a high-visibility evening where police departments step up their enforcement efforts to remind communities that they are out in full force, looking for impaired drivers as the Labor Day holiday approaches. A total of 417 vehicles went through the checkpoint.

The following people were charged with driving while intoxicated:

  • Jeffrey Hindla, 29, of Sayville
  • Raymond Archer, 51, of Huntington Station
  • Selena Piliere, 29, of Huntington Station
  • Suellen Gordon, 54, of Huntington Station
  • James R. Roldos, 51, of Huntington Station

In addition, Nicole Gulmi, 34, of Melville, was charged with driving while impaired by alcohol. All of the above-named individuals will be arraigned Dec. 23 at 1st District Court in Central Islip.

Hixon Flores-Hernandez, 21, of Huntington Station, was charged with one count of driving while ability impaired by drugs. He was processed by state police and released on bail.

The New York State Armory is slated to become the James D. Conte Community Center. File photo

Town of Huntington officials went back to the drawing board by hiring a new architect to take over designing what promises to be a future Huntington Station landmark.

Huntington town board unanimously approved a resolution to hire Patchogue-based BBS Architects, Landscape Architects and Engineers, P.C. to take over the engineering and design of the James D. Conte Community Center in attempts to keep the project’s budget under control.

In December 2016, the town selected DCAK-MSA Architectural and Engineering P.C. out of 14 proposed bids received to create plans to renovate the former New York State National Guard Armory on East 5th Avenue into a community center. The costs of the firm’s engineering services were not to exceed $603,000 over the length of the four-year contract.

On May 22, 2018, DCAK-MSA submitted a supplemental fee request asking for an additional $850,000 to raise their total design fee to $1.453 million, more than double the initial price agreed upon, according to the town.

We do expect to receive a modified plan from BBS after contracts are signed, scaling construction costs back down within the $9 million range.”

— Chad Lupinacci

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) also indicated there were issues with the conceptual plans that were unveiled in November 2017 as the renderings included features that brought the project’s total cost up to $14.2 million, far exceeding the anticipated budget of $10 million.

“We do expect to receive a modified plan from BBS after contracts are signed, scaling construction costs back down within the $9 million range,” Lupinacci said. “Their experience provides knowledge and skills necessary as we move into the important cost management and design phase.”

BBS has completed more than $3 billion of municipal and school construction projects, according to the town, and is familiar with municipal bidding costs and industry trends. Its contractual costs with the town are not to exceed $711,000 over a four-year span. 

The town first acquired the former armory from New York State in 2013 in the hopes of creating a space that could be used for community-based public programs in education, fitness, health and wellness and veterans’ activities.

The center will be named after James Conte, a former state assemblyman who represented the 10th district including Huntington Station for 24 years and played an instrumental role in getting the state to transfer ownership of the decommissioned building over to the town. Conte died in October 2012 of T-cell lymphoma.

The initial conceptual plans for rehabilitating the 22,500-square-foot building unveiled in November 2017 suggest space could be repurposed for such uses as arts and crafts, a computer lab, a recording studio, an all-purpose gymnasium, a strength training facility, CrossFit center, rock climbing arena, a community meeting space, a multipurpose room, classrooms, office space and an elevated indoor running and walking track. The town has also promised the American Legion Greenlawn Post 1244 a designated area to run as a veterans canteen.

“A couple of months ago my mother and I went down to Town Hall to view the plans that are going to be on display today, and we were just blown away,” said Conte’s daughter Sarah at the time of the unveiling. “This is exaI amctly what my father would have wanted for this community. Myself and my family are so honored to be here and to have this named after him. We know he would be honored as well.”

The first set of architects had suggested possible outdoor uses for the 3.6-acre site could include an amphitheater, meditation gardens, a spiritual walkway and bench seating.

It’s unclear which of these features may be eliminated or reduced in an effort to keep the project costs within its remaining $9 million budget, but BBS is expected to present its revised plans to the town board in the future.

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