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Huntington Station

Huntington Station veteran Jerome Robinson, ninth from left, stands with the 2017 VetsBuild graduating class at the Huntington Opportunity Resource Center Nov. 13. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Veterans who have served our country are proving in Huntington Station they can also learn the skills to help build a better local community.

More than 20 veterans received their certification in construction at the Huntington Opportunity Resource Center Nov. 13 after successfully passing through VetsBuild, a program offered by the nonprofit United Way of Long Island, that provides job training in green construction, facility maintenance and technology for veterans and their families.

“VetsBuild is not just about teaching home building skills and construction skills, it’s about building your lives,” said Craig Fligstein, vice president of community impact for United Way of LI. “It has accelerated positive changes in your life and allowed you to take a new turn in your career.”

Huntington Station resident Jerome Robinson, a 2017 VetsBuild graduate, said he served 11 years in the U.S. Army and as an officer in U.S. Army Reserves.

“We have served our country in different ways, but we are all looking for a way to move forward and find a new and exciting career path for ourselves,” Robinson said. “Personally, VetsBuild has opened up a number of doors.”

Robinson, 52, said he was previously employed doing overnight custodial work for Stony Brook University and struggled to make ends meet after being laid off in September. He learned about the free six-week construction program through United Veterans Beacon House, a nonprofit organization that provides temporary and permanent residences for U.S. Military veterans in Nassau and Suffolk counties, and started classes Oct. 2.

“I knew it was a chance to make myself more marketable to potential employers and find a career,” Robinson said.

VetsBuild will offer two to three training sessions a year for veterans depending on demand, according to Rick Wertheim, the senior vice president of housing and green initiatives for the United Way of LI. Those enrolled take daily classes in basic construction techniques and earn their Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10-hour certification. Students then have the opportunity to train in specialized disciplines of the trade, from electrical to gas work, based on their interests, Wertheim said.

Robinson said he will be moving forward with GasPro, to gain skills in gas appliance installation and repairs. Others in his class will become electrical apprentices and at least one will be going back to college for an associates degree in renewable energy.

The skills the veterans have learned are used to build energy-smart homes throughout Long Island, including some for other veterans in need. The United Way of LI debuted the most recently completed VetsBuild home at 40 Depot Road in Huntington Station. It was specially commissioned by United Veterans Beacon house to become a residence for five veterans with special needs.

The more than 3,500-square-foot house was named the 2017 Grand Winner for Innovation in Affordable Homes by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of its Housing Innovation Awards. The Depot Road home earned the recognition by being a “zero energy ready home” because it incorporates specialized innovative green features. These features render the projected annual energy cost at a netgain of $200 per year due to its capability to sell off excess energy produced by its photovoltaic solar panels. Other green technology featured in the home includes a solar thermal water heating system, internet-controlled heating and air conditioning, and 100 percent LED lighting.

State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, a Republican, faces off against Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards, a Democrat, for Huntington Town supervisor. File photos

Two of Huntington’s elected officials are running against one another to snag the open seat of town supervisor, as 24-year incumbent Frank Petrone (D) announced he was not seeking re-election. The candidates met recently at TBR News Media offices in Setauket.

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) was elected to the town board in 2014, after serving 10 years on the Elwood board of education. She worked for 37 years at Verizon, climbing the ladder to regional president of network operations.

Edwards said she is running to see through some of the changes and programs she’s started.

State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci is running for Huntington Town supervisor. File photo

State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R) was elected in 2012, and serves as the ranking Republican member on the Assembly Higher Education Committee. Previously, he was a trustee on the South Huntington school board for nine years. He now wants to bring his experience to benefit the town.

Both Edwards and Lupinacci agree that public safety is one of the biggest issues the next supervisor will face.

Lupinacci stressed that the next supervisor will need to ensure the town cooperates with county and state officials to pool resources to keep the pressure on gangs and the heroin/opiate addiction issue. He proposes monthly meetings with area school superintendents to help determine how the town can help school districts, and more after-school and summer programs like the Tri-CYA to keep youths off the streets.

Edwards said the effort to cooperate for the sake of improving public safety is already there.

“The things we are doing right is that we have partnered with the [county] police department, we have partnered with the state liquor authority, and we have been a participant going with them on raids,” she said. “We are intimately involved in that to address the criminal nature of the code aspect of it, so that if there is something, we can shut it down.”

The Democratic candidate pointed to the recent shutdown of two Huntington Station bars with ties to gang activity, but said the town needs to be even more proactive. Her five-point plan to improve public safety includes getting more state resources to create a stronger public safety office within the town, creation of a heroin/opiate task force and adding more lighting to improve visibility in areas that are hot zones for crime.

Governmental reforms are needed in Huntington, according to both candidates, starting with a three-term limit, or 12 years, in office.

Edwards also wants to create additional meetings where town department heads meet directly with citizens to hear and answer their concerns, make town hall’s entrance more customer service-oriented, and distributing government forms to local libraries to make them easier to obtain.

Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards is running for supervisor. File photo

Lupinacci suggests increasing the number of town board meetings and taking them on the road, hosting them in schools to allow more people to attend. Edwards disagreed.

“Taking town hall on the road would be confusing to people,” she said. “I think people will be showing up at town hall and have no idea where the town board is meeting.”

Lupinacci said a list of town board meeting dates and locations could be printed on the annual recycling calendar mailing.

“We also need to increase the amount of residents’ speaking time,” he said. “Right now, it’s clipped at three minutes. We want to increase it to five minutes to give people more time to speak on the issues.”

His other proposals include creating an online checkbook on the town’s website where taxpayers can see where their money is being spent, create an online freedom of information to request town documents, and providing a greater breakdown of the town budgeting process over a series of meetings to allow for more input.

Lupinacci also stressed the lack of available parking in Huntington village is an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed — he says a parking garage is overdue.

Edwards insists a parking garage for the village is currently in the works, but said each of the town’s hamlets have different issues of importance.

Wendy Velasquez. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County police 2nd squad detectives are seeking the public’s help to locate a Huntington Station teen who was reported missing last week.

Wendy Velasquez, 16, who was last seen at her residence in Huntington Station Oct. 10, was reported missing Oct. 12. She is Hispanic, 5 feet, 4 inches tall, 120 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.

Detectives do not suspect foul play.

The investigation is ongoing. Detectives are asking anyone with information to call 911 or contact the 2nd squad at 631-854-8252.

Huntington Manor firefighters evacuated 15 residents from an early morning apartment blaze Sept. 20.

The fire department responded to initial reports of a structure fire on New York Avenue between East 10th and East 11th streets in Huntington Station at 6:51 a.m., according to fire district spokesman Steve Silverman.

Firefighters found a fire in an apartment building located behind a commercial building and began an aggressive search and rescue. Several neighboring fire departments including Commack, Dix Hills, Greenlawn, Halesite, Huntington, Melville also responded bringing a total of 50 firefighters and 10 trucks to the scene.

Huntington Manor assistant chiefs Jon Hoffman, Chuck Brady and Jim Glidden led crews in evacuating residents and bringing the fire under control within an hour. The fire caused extensive damage to the commercial building and apartments on the first and second floor, according to Silverman.

New York Avenue was closed off in both directions by Suffolk County police during the fire, causing snarls to rush-hour traffic.

The Suffolk County police Arson Squad and Huntington Town fire marshal are investigating the cause of the fire.

Andrea Echevarria mugshot. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County police have arrested a Huntington Station woman for stealing $15,000.

Andrea Echevarria stole the personal identifying information of three people from customer records kept by her former employer, Deer Park PTDC, a physical therapy office on Deer Park Avenue. She used the information to open a line of credit, then used the line of credit for cosmetic surgery totaling $15,000, according to police.

After a nine-month investigation by 2nd Squad detectives and the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office, Echevarria, 33, was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree identity theft and one count of second-degree identity theft. Echevarria was held overnight at the 4th Precinct and was scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Sept. 19.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

A bicyclist was critically injured while riding in the center of the southbound lane of Route 110 in Huntington Station at about 8 p.m. Sept. 6, according to the Suffolk County Police Department. Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad detectives are investigating the incident.

Naeem Iqbal was driving a 2007 Honda Accord west on Broadway and crossing Route 110 when he struck Miguel Vilorio Ponce, 31, of Huntington Station, who was riding a bicycle in the center of Route 110 at about 8 p.m.

Ponce was transported via Huntington Community First Aid Squad in critical condition to Huntington Hospital. Iqbal, 42, of Huntington, was not injured.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check and the investigation is continuing.  Anyone with information regarding this crash is asked to call the 2nd Squad at 631-854-8252.

This artistic rendering depicts what Huntington Station may look like once revitalized. Photo from Renaissance Downtowns

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Efforts to revitalize the southern portion of Huntington Station received a much-needed push forward last week.

Huntington Town Board members voted to approve spending $1.25 million in bond funds received from the Suffolk County Legislature to conduct an extensive sewer study as part of the Huntington Station
revitalization efforts.

The lack of sewers in Huntington Station is one of the areas that is desperately in need of improvement to make revitalization possible, as the land north of the Long Island Rail Road tracks in Huntington Station is served by the sewer district, but the south side is not, which has limited development and economic opportunities.

“It is the hurdle that prevents development from occurring,” said Ryan Porter, the director of planning and development with Renaissance Downtowns. “It prevents this project from being implemented on the south side.”

Renaissance Downtowns is a nationally-renowned development group chosen by the town to be a master developer of Huntington Station’s revitalization in 2012. Porter said due to the lack of sewer access in the south, the town has been forced to pursue a “dual track” when approaching revitalization efforts. Construction of a mix-used  building at the intersection of Northridge Street and New York Avenue was started this past January while there remain no specific plans yet in place for the south side of town, according to Porter.

The sewer study, which will be conducted by Suffolk County under an inter-municipal agreement, will analyze the existing sewer infrastructure, feasibility and design conditions within Huntington
Station to determine the most efficient way to connect the southern part of the town to existing sewer districts.

The southwest sewer district, which currently serves areas in the Town of Babylon and Town of Islip, currently extends only as north on Route 110 as the Walt Whitman Mall.

Porter said if southern portions of Huntington Station could be hooked into either the southwest sewer district or another system, it would greatly increase the future development potential.

“If an existing building is under performing, [the owner] can only tear down what they have and rebuild the same thing,” Porter said. “There’s very little motivation for people to improve their buildings. If
sewers were available, they could increase the building’s uses which is a financial
justification to rebuild your property.”

Suffolk County has already moved to issue the request for bids from engineering firms interested in undertaking the study.

Huntington Station residents interested in sharing their thoughts and ideas about what they would like to improved or built can visit www.sourcethestation.com. The website contains information on sharing ideas find out about upcoming community meetings.

By Sara-Megan Walsh

The decision by lawmakers in Charlottesville, Virginia, to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, a general in the Confederate Army, from a city park sparked protests featuring unabashed Nazi salutes, white-supremacist rhetoric and violence.

Three people have been killed in the Charlottesville protests. On Aug. 12, an Ohio man allegedly drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters opposing the hateful rhetoric of those aligned with the neo-Nazi sympathizers, killing 32-year-old Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer and injuring many others, according to Virginia police. Two Virginia state troopers — Lt. H. Jay Cullen and trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates — also died in a helicopter accident on the way to the scene of the accident, according to a state police spokesperson.

A Huntington vigil attendee holds a sign standing against the events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo from Julia Fenster

The impact of these protests have rippled out across the nation into local communities. Demonstrations were held in Huntington and Huntington Station by residents on Aug. 13 in response to the Charlottesville events.

More than 100 residents attended a solidarity vigil Sunday evening on the corner of Park Avenue and Main Street, organized by Action Together Long Island, a grassroots social action group formed in backlash to President Donald Trump (R) taking office. Action Together Long Island has nearly 3,500 members, according to founder and chief organizer Julia Fenster.

“What we are witnessing in Charlottesville is not representative of our nation, and it’s not representative of our community,” Fenster said. “We are going to draw a line in the sand and will not let that happen here.”

Rev. Larry Jennings, president of the NAACP Huntington Branch at Bethel AME Church in Huntington Station, opened the vigil with a moment of silence for those affected by the violence. This was followed by a live performance of “Amazing Grace.”

Eve Krief, a Centerport resident, said she attended because the events of Charlottesville touched her personally. Krief recalled growing up hearing stories of how her Jewish mother as a 5-year-old was forced to go into hiding during World War II. Both of Krief’s grandparents and her aunts were killed by Nazis.

“Growing up as a Jewish girl, I was taught never to forget how the Europeans were silent as Jews were targeted and taken away,” she said. “All day long the silence was deafening. The words — ‘the silence was deafening’ was never more powerful and meaningful to me than yesterday.”

Krief called for elected officials, both Democrats and Republicans, to come out more strongly against the violent protests, racism and white-supremacist attitude of Charlottesville protesters.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Julia Fenster, chief organizer of ATLI, at the vigil. Photo from Julia Fenster

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) attended the Huntington vigil.

“The rally in Charlottesville does not represent our American values and must be denounced outright,” he posted in a statement on Twitter. “There is no middle ground here — the ugliness of hate and intolerance have no place in our society. Period. On behalf of all Suffolk County residents, my thoughts and prayers are with the victim, those injured and their families during this difficult period of time.”

A second rally against the violence in Charlottesville was held at the corner of Route 110 and Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station on Sunday evening. The event was a result of collaboration between several groups, including Action Together Long Island and LI Activists.

As calls for unity against hate rang through Huntington, racist graffiti was discovered painted on a fence in Huntington Station on the corner of Depot Road near Bogart Street, according to Suffolk County police. Suffolk County police did not provide any further details on what was painted on the fence.

State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) has called for law enforcement to increase the number of patrols in the area for the safety and security of residents.

“As someone who was born and raised in Huntington Station, I want to reassure the community that such acts of hatred will not be tolerated here, as they are not tolerated anywhere in New York,” Lupinacci said. “Hate speech directed toward any group of people needs to be publicly denounced now more than ever.”

Suffolk County’s Hate Crimes Unit detectives are investigating the matter, according to SCPD Assistant Commissioner Justin Meyers.

File photo

By Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police arrested a man for allegedly driving while intoxicated and endangering the welfare of a child after he stole a vehicle. He also fled police and was involved in a motor vehicle crash in Melville early morning Aug. 5

A 2nd Precinct officer observed a man in a 2001 Ford driving recklessly south on New York Avenue at East 15th Street in Huntington Station at 3:12 a.m. The vehicle had been reported stolen from Bay Shore at about 2:30 a.m. An officer attempted to pull over the vehicle and the driver, Justice Bennett, fled. Bennett lost control and the vehicle overturned and crashed at Old Country Road, west of Ponderosa Drive, at 3:16 a.m., police said.

Bennett, 19, of Bay Shore, was transported by the Melville Fire Department to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow for treatment of serious injuries. A 13-year-old passenger and two 14-year-old passengers in the vehicle were all transported by the Melville Fire Department to Nassau University Medical Center for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

Second Squad detectives charged Bennett with criminal possession of stolen property, three counts of aggravated driving while intoxicated (Leandra’s Law), three counts of endangering the welfare of a child and unlawful fleeing of police. He is scheduled for arraignment at a later date.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check and the investigation is continuing. No attorney information for Bennett was immediately available.

File photo

Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a pedestrian in Huntington Station July 10.

A 20-year-old woman from Huntington was driving a 2001 Buick eastbound on Jericho Turnpike, just west of Hunters Lane, when her vehicle struck a man who was crossing northbound at approximately 2:15 p.m. The victim, Vitaliy Yaremchuk, 34, of Philadelphia, was transported to Huntington Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The driver of the car was not injured and remained at the scene.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check and the investigation in ongoing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the Second Squad at 631854-8252.

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