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Huntington Town Hall

A marijuana pipe. Stock photo

A Town of Huntington councilman is planning a town hall to share how the town can be prepared if marijuana is legalized in New York.

On June 4, 7 p.m. at Huntington Town Hall, Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) will preside over a discussion titled “The New York State legalization of marijuana: How would it affect us in the Town of Huntington? How can we best be prepared?”

Panelists include professionals from law enforcement, treatment and recovery; health care and prevention specialists; drug counselors; the American Automobile Association; human resource professionals and public policy makers. Panelists are expected to start the conversation on what the impact on Huntington would be if marijuana is legalized, followed by a question and answer section.

“The passing of such an impactful law at the state level requires leadership and commitment from local government policy makers,” Cuthbertson said. “We want to make sure that the Town of Huntington is prepared if this law is passed.”

For more information on the seminar people can call Cuthbertson’s office at 631-351-3171.

 

By Karen Forman

Hundreds of students, parents, grandparents and politicians rallied outside Huntington Town Hall this Saturday to honor the lives of the Parkland school shooting victims and call for the implementation of stricter gun control measures.

The March for Our Lives Long Island held March 24, founded by 16-year-old Huntington students Avalon Fenster and Sara Frawley, was one of the more than 800 rallies that sprung up across the country as part of the national movement started by survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

“In the short term, we want to honor the lives lost in Parkland and all the school shootings since Columbine,” Fenster said. “In the long term, we want to get youth more civically involved, collaborating with elected officials to create legislation that makes our lives a priority.”

“We want to live in a country where children can go to school and not fear that they won’t come home.”
— Julia Fenster

The event was kicked off with a performance by Dan Krochmal, an Australian-born singer now residing in New York City, who wrote a song in support of the movement titled “Pride Before the Fall.” Featured speakers included student organizers, local politicians and family members of the Parkland shooting victims.

“We want to live in a country where children can go to school and not fear that they won’t come home,” said Julia Fenster, Avalon’s mom, and the founding chairperson of March for Our Lives Long Island. “Where parents saying goodbye to their children in the morning don’t fear it is the final goodbye. Where teachers only need to worry about teaching and not about being a human shield.”

Melissa Beigel, the sister of Dix Hills native Scott Beigel, spoke at the rally. Beigel was a geography teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who was shot and killed while attempting to lock his classroom door to protect students.

Avalon Fenster publicly called for politicians to pass stricter gun control legislation in the wake of the shootings. The student organizer acknowledged that U.S. citizens are entitled the right to bear arms but highlighted that there is a significant difference between colonial-era rifles and assault rifles.

“People forget that the 2nd Amendment was created in colonial times when they used a rifle that only shot about two bullets in three minutes,” she said. “Now we have automatic weapons that can shoot 140 rounds in three minutes. We are not trying to abridge people’s rights, but we do think that human life should take priority over material ownership and convenience of that ownership.”

“All you students, your voices count. Fight for change.”
— Paul Guttenberg

Rally organizers took turns reading the names of all the people who have been killed in a mass shooting since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. This somber act caused a quiet hush to sweep over those gathered.

Former U.S. Rep Steve Israel (D-Huntington), who left office in January 2017, spoke about the voting behavior of elected officials he witnessed while in office.

“I spent 16 years watching people in Congress voting no for laws that would have kept us safe,” Israel said. “Each time I kept thinking that this time would be different, but they kept voting no. They didn’t want to let down their [National Rifle Association] voters.”

Among the signs carried by rally participants included “NRA profits are bathed in the blood of our children.” Israel has written a 320-page book titled “Big Guns,” a comical novel about the firearms industry and Washington politics, which is currently scheduled to be published in April.

“If adult politicians can’t keep you safe, you vote against them,” he said, to which the crowd responded with “vote them out.” “Change is coming and you are our change. We are going to make the world safe again.”

Commack resident Paul Guttenberg, uncle of slain 14-year-old Parkland student Jaime Guttenberg, took to the stage to publicly address a crowd for the first time.

“All the students who died in these mass shootings had their voices robbed from them. Now we have to be their voices.”
— Max Robins

“She will never get to go to college, get married or have children of her own because of assault rifles,” he said. “Mass shooting can happen in any town in this country. We have to stop gun violence in this country and ban assault rifles.”

Guttenberg encouraged those students at the rally to use the rally’s momentum to keep pushing for stricter gun legislation.

“All you students, your voices count,” he said. “Fight for change.”

Isabelle Kaufman, a 16-year-old student at Half Hollow Hills East, echoed his sentiments as she spoke to those gathered about the need to hold the federal government and elected officials accountable.

“All of this happened because of a 19-year-old who couldn’t be trusted to purchase alcohol, but he was allowed to purchase an assault rifle,” she said. “Students should go to school in fear of taking a test, not in fear of their lives.”

The crowd, moved by the speeches, took up the chant of “No more silence. No more violence.”

Max Robins, a member of the March for Our Lives Long Island group, concluded the two-hour rally with a motivating speech and call to action.

“All the students who died in these mass shootings had their voices robbed from them,” Robins said. “Now we have to be their voices. And we are the voice that will not be silenced. We will not be forgotten.”

Event will be held in Huntington Town Hall's parking lot March 24 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Town of Huntington will host a Organ Donor Enrollment Day Oct. 10. File photo by Rohma Abbas

The organizers of the Huntington’s school shooting protest have announced a change of location after storms blanketed the area in more than a foot of snow.

The March for Our Lives Long Island event scheduled for March 24 at Heckscher Park will be relocating across the street to Huntington Town Hall, according to student organizers. The event’s website read: “due to the severe winter storm and resulting bad grand conditions expected on Saturday the location of the event has changed.”

Huntington Town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo said town officials had safety concerns regarding the use of Heckscher Park for the rally, due to large number of people attending, multiple entrances to the park and potentially muddy fields. By comparison, there are only two entrances to the town parking lot on Irwin and Jackson streets.

“The town supports the First Amendment rights of the students to assemble and speak their minds on this national matter,” she said on behalf of town officials.

The student organizers have filed the proper paperwork and received permits to host the rally on town property, according to Lembo.

The Huntington event is being held in conjunction with the Washington, D.C., march to show solidarity with the Parkland, Florida, shooting survivors and “demand that our lawmakers make gun reform a top priority to end this cycle of gun violence in our schools and our communities at large,” the organizers’ website reads. It will feature students speakers and local residents who lost loved ones in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

Participants and those following the events are promoting use of the hashtag #NeverAgain. As of March 22, the event’s Facebook page shows more than 900 individuals are stating they will attend.

Are you attending Huntington’s March For Our Lives March 24? Tweet us @TBRNewsMedia with your thoughts and photos. 

Jo-Ann Raia holds a map from the 1880s in the archives. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

There has been a steady hand at the helm of Huntington Town Hall for the past 30 plus years.

Jo-Ann Raia, Huntington Town clerk, was elected for the first time in 1981, and ever since then, she has not stopped bringing positive improvements to the town.

Raia has been a Huntington resident since 1958, but spent summers on the Island as child. She has worked under five supervisors and has served as secretary to the town board and board of trustees, among many other duties.

She has devoted much of her time in office to creating a state of the art facility for Huntington’s archives, and a successful records management program.

Raia said when town government moved into what is now Town Hall, in 1979, the archives were being stored in the old gymnasium, as the building used to be a high school.

“I was told that these were my records, as I am the legal custodian for Huntington,” she said in a phone interview. “I went to as many seminars as I could [on record keeping], I lobbied the state for funding and received state grants.”

She said the road was not easy to get a proper archive system in place, as she had to convince many people to give her the funds and resources required.

 Jo-Ann Raia displays one of the many old town records inside the town archive room. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.
Jo-Ann Raia displays one of the many old town records inside the town archive room. Photo by Victoria Espinoza.

“When the town spends money on a baseball field, everyone can see it, but to put money into an area that’s restricted and no one will see it is a different story,” she said. “That’s why I had to convince and beg.”

The archives officially opened in October 1991 and ever since then, researchers and students from throughout Long Island have visited.

Through learning so much for the Huntington archives, Raia herself became well-versed in the topic, and has since spoke at conferences and panels on records management.

“We were the pioneers, and now [Huntington archives] runs like clockwork,” she said.

Some of the items in the archives that stand out to Raia are the Revolutionary War claims, the manumission of slaves and the Duke’s Laws.

Raia said she refers to the Revolutionary War claims as an I.O.U. book, with records of all of the things British soldiers borrowed from colonials living in Huntington in the mid 1770s, like oxen and wagons.

The manumission of slaves is a record of all the slaves freed from a former town supervisor who lived on Park Avenue in Huntington, and according to Raia, used to have African Americans enter through his back door as slaves, and leave through his front door as free citizens.

The Duke’s Laws, published in 1665, covered all the laws of colonial life, like no traveling on Sunday. Raia said Huntington is one of the few local governments to still have an original copy of them.

Aside from her many other duties as town clerk, Raia particularly enjoys the marriage marathon she performs every Valentine’s Day, where she marries multiple couples in a row throughout a day’s time.

In 1989, Raia was appointed marriage officer, and starting in 1995, decided to create a special event as marriage officer.

“I wanted to make it something special, so I researched other ceremonies, and found a special poem that I now recite that has sort of become my trademark,” she said.

The event has blossomed over the years, with merchants from all over town donating baked goods, flowers and gifts for the event. Raia personally donates all the paper goods and decorations.

Raia has presided over large and small ceremonies, and has even seen a ceremonial pick and axe procession performed by a local fire department.

“I never know what I’m going to see,” she said.