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Huntington Station

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.

Breezy Park in Huntington Station. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A Huntington Station teen is seeking his community’s support to create a safe place where he and other skateboarders can safely catch some fresh air.

Daenys Cruz, 18, has launched a Change.org petition asking Huntington Town officials to consider constructing a skate park at Breezy Park in Huntington Station. What once started as a classroom assignment has slowly turned into a movement, garnering more than 520 signatures as of July 25.

“I think skateboarding is a healthy habit,” Cruz said. “It’s also a community where you will find people look out for one another.”

Skateboarders view architecture differently. Some people will see a set of stairs, but to us it’s something to jump off of.

– Daenys Cruz

The 2018 Walt Whitman High School graduate said the idea came to him in English class, where he had to write an argumentative essay. Cruz said he started skateboarding nine years ago after he was diagnosed with type I diabetes, commonly called juvenile diabetes.

“Skateboarding gave me a way to keep myself healthy,” he said. “With diabetes, you have to stay active to maintain a good quality of life.”

He started by practicing in an abandoned parking lot but quickly took to skateboarding at Breezy Park, as he could get to it from his house without having to beg his parents for a ride, he said. Its pathways and curbs provided him with inspiration to keep skating.

“Skateboarders view architecture differently,” Cruz said. “Some people will see a set of stairs, but to us it’s something to jump off of.”

Cruz said his petition seeks a safer environment for skateboarders by keeping them out of traffic on busy residential streets and off commercial properties. He admitted to having shop owners threatening to call local police on him while practicing in their parking lots, looking to get away from passing motorists.

“I had a friend who ended up getting hit by a car,” the teen said. “It was one of the scariest moments, because he almost lost his life.”

The Town of Huntington currently has two skate parks: Greenlawn Skate Park for BMX bike riders, scooters, rollerbladers and skateboarders; and Veterans Skate Park for rollerbladers and skateboarders only off
Bellerose Avenue in East Northport.

Veterans Skate Park, which was built in 2011 by Site Design Group and California Skateparks, cost the town $420,000 and was undertaken as part of a $8.3 million park renovation, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo.

If there was a place we could come every day, it would be a blessing.”

– Daenys Cruz

Cruz said he’s visited both skate parks, but there is no available public transportation and they can be too difficult for teens to get to without a ride. Greenlawn Skate Park has restricted hours to keep skateboarders,
scooters and rollerbladers separated from motocross bike riders, only permitting skateboarding in the afternoon. Cruz said it makes practicing difficult for older teens, like himself, who may work at a job until the late afternoon or early evening.

“We do not ask to make a huge skateboarding plaza, but a place where us skateboarders of Huntington can make a place to ourselves,” Cruz’s petition reads.

In speaking with others, the teen said he would like to see a street-style skate park that provides a flat, smooth surface with curbs, ledges, maybe a few small ramps or set of stairs.

“If there was a place we could come every day, it would be a blessing,” Cruz said. “We could really take it to our full potential.”

The Huntington Station teen said he’s reached out to the town via email and hopes to present his petition to town officials at an upcoming board meeting.

Hundreds of Huntington area residents took a clear stand against President Donald Trump’s (R) immigration policies at the corner of Jericho Turnpike and Route 110 June 30.

Standing two to three people deep on all four sides of the intersection, protesters held signs with messages of “Families belong together,” “No human is illegal” and homemade signs calling for “Reunite families.”  The chant of “Love not hate makes America great” was taken up as a refrain. Each honk from a passing car or truck providing the crowd of more than 600 — an unofficial estimate — with a new wave of energy to combat the sweltering heat.

At a podium set up at the northwest corner of the intersection, speakers from a coalition of more than 50 organizations — including Long Island Inclusive Communities Against Hate, New York Chapter 2 of The American Academy of Pediatrics, Latinos Unidos de Long Island, Sepa Mujer and many others — took turns speaking to those gathered on a bullhorn.

We hope our rally displays the love and compassion we hope that America can represent as well as the hopeful and powerful nature of our democracy.”
– Pilar Moya

“We hope our rally displays the love and compassion we hope that America can represent as well as the hopeful and powerful nature of our democracy,” said Pilar Moya, founder of Latinos Unidos de Long Island, a nonprofit organization that helps provide support and a community for Latino families. “Our message to the families separated at the border is, ‘You matter, and our voices are our extensions of yours.’”

More than 2,300 immigrant parents and their children were separated after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions enacted a zero-tolerance policy for those who crossed the border illegally in mid-April. After public outcry, Trump signed an executive order June 20 designed to end the family separations. The policy has been both denounced by members of the Trump administration as a holdover Obama-era procedure and publicly cited as a new strategy intentionally instituted to deter asylum seekers from trying to come to America.

“Our mission is to protect the health and well-being of all children, regardless of their immigration status,” said Dr. Steve Goldstein, pediatrician and president of New York Chapter 2 of The American Academy of
Pediatrics. “We want to see immediate reunification of those children already taken from their parents. We oppose housing families and children in detention centers and prefer community settings for them and we want to see timely determinations of applications for asylum.”

Despite Trump’s executive order, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told the U.S. Senate Finance Committee last week that there were still 2,047 children in federal custody as of the last week of June.

“As a therapist working with adults who have PTSD resulting from childhood  traumas, what is being done to children separated from their parents is creating trauma that is everlasting,” said Sharon Golden, founder of Together We Will — Long Island, which identifies as an advocacy group for human rights. “I cannot accept what is going on and how the immigrant community is being treated, and I will stand by them and continue to fight for them until they are given the rights they deserve.”

Billii Roberti, a member on the Town of Huntington’s Advisory Committee on Energy Efficiency, Renewables and Sustainability, attends the meeting on solar prospects for churches and nonprofits. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

A Huntington Station church recognizes that the Bible says God made light and it is good, now if only they could afford to reap the sun’s benefits.

Bethany Presbyterian Church is one of many houses of worship with an interest in harvesting solar energy, but many are finding the upfront costs are too high.

In 2017, the church financed an audit of its electric system and insulation in an effort to increase its energy  efficiency, Pastor James Rea Jr. said. While this helped reduced the congregation’s electrical bill by 20 percent, according to Rea, the  congregation is interested in taking it a step further.

We would do solar, but we just can’t afford it right now.”

– Christopher Sellers

“We would do solar, but we just can’t afford it right now,” Christopher Sellers, an elder at Bethany Presbyterian, said, noting the church is still paying for the energy audit.

While renewable energy proponents point to community solar initiatives, where the output from a solar farm is shared among multiple buildings, there is still a large upfront cost and requires a significant amount of space to build the solar farm according to Ryan Madden, a sustainability organizer for Long Island Progressive Coalition.

“We need solutions like community solar,” Madden said. “Our version of community solar takes the form of bringing in multiple organizations at the same time to bring down cost and creating locally driven solar campaigns.

LIPC partnered with Massachusetts-based company Resonant Energy, which works with nonprofits to provide low-cost solar, to create the PowerUP Solar initiative. The initiative seeks to bring together nonprofits and churches for the intent of purchasing solar systems in bulk to help decrease the cost. PowerUP member organizations held a meeting with other interested groups June 13 at the Huntington Station church to advertise their plans.

Madden said nonprofits have a difficult time when it comes to getting a solar hookup simply because of the issue of affordability.

We’ve seen widespread adoption in single-family homes, but not so much in small commercial spaces.”

– Isaac Baker

“They are not usually looked at by solar developers because its more expensive, or there are multiple decision makers in those organizations that can stall a project,” he said.

Other than cost, Isaac Baker, the co-president of Resonant Energy, said the nonprofits also have to contend with a lack of incentives to get into solar, specifically that nonprofits are not eligible for the federal
solar tax credits that homeowners or for-profits can get. There are no current programs that financially help New York organizations transition from traditional electric to solar.

“We’ve seen widespread adoption in single-family homes, but not so much in small commercial spaces,” Baker said. “[A large amount] of rooftop is available in any state on small commercial buildings that are owned by nonprofits.”

Some religious organizations on Long  Island have already invested heavily in solar technology. The Sisters of St. Joseph in Brentwood made a big splash earlier this year when they unveiled their community solar system on their main campus. The 3,192 solar photovoltaic panels on their roof power 63 percent of the convent’s residential and office space on the 212-acre property.

Karen Burke, the coordinator of land initiatives for the Sisters of St. Joseph, said that her sisterhood was looking to make the switch at other facilities.

The town is really into getting into as much solar as possible, so this is a great untapped resource.”

– Billii Roberti

Baker said that if the PowerUP can bring together 10 different organizations, bulk pricing could bring the cost of solar panels down to $114,000 per building with 56 kilowatts of output. The initiative’s members were promised to save approximately $2,200 per year and a net savings of $212,000 in 25 years, according to Baker.

The time line for the PowerUP initiative would have the nonprofits and churches getting technical assessments by the end of July, having installation done in September and the systems up and running by October.

Billii Roberti, a member on the Town of Huntington’s Advisory Committee on Energy Efficiency, Renewables and Sustainability, said that Huntington should try to look to nonprofits to proliferate sustainable energy.

“[This initiative is] bringing in people who are otherwise unable to take advantage of solar, people who are disenfranchised in a sense,” Roberti said. “The town is really into getting into as much solar as possible, so this is a great untapped resource.”

An aerial map overview of Huntington Station revitalization projects shows the state-owned NY Avenue property highlighted in yellow. Image from Source the Station

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington Town officials are looking to state representatives in Albany to push for the transfer of ownership of a state property on New York Avenue to the town by June 20.

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) introduced a late resolution at the June 5 town board meeting to send a home rule message urging New York state legislators to approve the transferring of ownership of about 4 acres of land in Huntington Station to the town in order for revitalization efforts to move forward.

“The Town of Huntington, in partnership with Renaissance Downtowns at Huntington Station LLC and the entire Huntington Station community, is engaged in a multi-year community planning and revitalization process to help realize the community’s aspiration for a more walkable, vibrant and transit-friendly environment,” Cergol’s resolution reads.

“As you may know, from day one when I started with the town I was assigned to Huntington Station and I’ve been chipping away at it ever since.”
– Joan Cergol

The land sought is a narrow strip of property adjacent to the western side of New York Avenue/Route 110, bordered to the north by Church Street running along the roadway south to the Long Island Rail Road right of way. It is currently owned by New York State Department of Transportation.

Ryan Porter, president and co-CEO of Renaissance Downtowns, said obtaining ownership of the land is critical for moving forward in the planning and construction of the artist lofts and hotel envisioned as part of the Huntington Station revitalization master plans. In February 2014, the town board approved a special use permit for the hotel along New York Avenue under a C-6 overlay zoning. Since then, the plans have not advanced any further.

Town board members approved the home rule message by a 3-2 vote urging the passage of the land transfer bills that have been sponsored by state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) and state Assemblyman Steve Stern (R-Dix Hills) before the end of state legislature’s session.

“As you may know, from day one when I started with the town I was assigned to Huntington Station and I’ve been chipping away at it ever since,” Cergol said, noting she also recently sponsored a resolution that allowed the area to be federally designated an Opportunity Zone which provides tax incentives to business owners. “To be in the position I am now to advance progress is very rewarding and to see things happening makes me feel like a rock star.”

Councilmen Gene Cook (R) and Ed Smythe (R) voted against seeking a transfer of the New York Avenue property. Cook said he was originally in favor of the resolution but admitted to having issues with some of the actions taken by Renaissance Downtowns in recent months, including requesting permission to construct two-bedroom apartments in the Gateway Plaza after initial plans were already approved and seeking approval of $2.6 million in tax breaks from Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency on the project.

“It was a good way to set [Renaissance Downtowns] up and say we’re all playing good or you aren’t playing.”
– Gene Cook

“I wasn’t happy with what happened with Renaissance the past couple of weeks, the nonsense, the changes, going for IDA money,” the councilman said. “It was a good way to set them up and say we’re all playing good or you aren’t playing.”

Porter said he hasn’t had the opportunity to speak personally with Cook since the developer’s request to add two-bedroom units to Gateway Plaza was withdrawn in mid-May.

“We made an adjustment to alleviate the concerns of the community,” Porter said. “But the truth of the matter is that there was a good portion of the population that was disappointed we removed the two-bedrooms units.”

Renaissance Downtowns is hopeful it will receive the necessary permits to begin demolition of the existing buildings located at 1000 to 1026 New York Avenue this summer to make way for construction of Gateway Plaza, according to Porter. The proposed plans for the plaza call for the construction of a mixed-used building consisting of 16,000-square-feet of retail space and a total of 66 apartments. The existing Brother’s Barber Shop will remain in place.

The master developer said there is a June 14 meeting scheduled to hammer out more details and set a more definitive schedule for demolition and construction.

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