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Huntington

Local authors will read from their new publications and answer questions at an event organized by Councilwoman Joan Cergol. Photos from Councilwoman Cergol’s office

Town of Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol is inviting residents to join her July 18 as she places the spotlight on three published authors at a special “Readings Under the Tent” event at Melville’s Arboretum Park.

The three Huntington authors will join Cergol under a tent at the park, read from their recently published works and answer questions. The event begins at 7 p.m., is open to the public and is free.

“This is just another wonderful way to enjoy our parks and spend a summer evening. I look forward to hearing the stories behind the works of our highlighted authors, and hearing them read excerpts from their published works,” Cergol said. “Huntington has a rich literary history, dating back to Walt Whitman. The writers who will be speaking continue that tradition and represent different genres of literature, which should make it very interesting.”

The authors are:

Michael Bobelian, an award-winning author, lawyer and journalist whose works have covered issues ranging from legal affairs to corporate wrongdoing to human rights.  As a contributing writer at Forbes.com, Michael currently covers the Supreme Court, Wall Street reform, white collar crime, regulatory agencies, human rights and high-profile trials. His current book, “Battle for the Marble Palace: Abe Fortas, Earl Warren, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and the Forging of the Modern Supreme Court”,  is a narrative account of the politicization of the court during the 1950s and 1960s and the revolution it sparked in the confirmation process. He lives in Cold Spring Harbor. 

Amy Giles, an award-winning copywriter and young adult author of “Now Is Everything” (a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of 2017) and “That Night” (a Junior Library Guild selection). Published in October 2018, “That Night” explores how two teens, who each lost a brother in a mass shooting, slowly become friends and then something more, learning to heal and move forward together. Amy lives in Huntington with her husband, two daughters and rescue dog.

Jeannie Moon, a USA Today bestselling author of romance and women’s fiction. A lifelong Long Island resident, Jeannie sets her stories in the coastal towns and hamlets that influenced the story of her life. Additionally, Jeannie is a school librarian and an English teacher with more than 30 years of experience in public and private schools. The author of 16 contemporary romances for Tule Publishing and Penguin Random House, her latest novel “All of Me” — the third installment in her Compass Cove series — is  scheduled for August 28 publication. Jeannie is married to her high school sweetheart, and has three grown kids and three lovable dogs.

Cergol is already working on a second session, to be held in August, at a different town park and with a different lineup of authors. “This is a wonderful opportunity for residents of all ages and literary tastes to experience some of the hidden jewels of our town park network and appreciate first-hand why Huntington has been a magnet for authors dating back more than 100 years,” the councilwoman said.

Arboretum Park, home of the town’s Anne Frank Memorial Garden, is on Wilmington Drive, off Bagatelle Road in Melville. For more information, call Cergol’s office at  631-351-3173 or email her at  jcergol@huntingtonny.gov. 

Huntington town board listens to residents complaints at a March 5 meeting. Photo by David Luces

Many Huntington residents rely on income from accessory apartments to help offset high property taxes. The Town of Huntington has proposed legislation that would change rental rules. In some cases, the new rules are more lenient, making it easier for people to rent space in their home.  But the proposals also include a ban on basement apartments, unless a valid dwelling unit permit already exists. 

The fate of these accessory apartments has proved to be a contentious issue and residents have been debating the pros and cons of such a change in May and June at two town board meetings. 

“This could create cramped and unsafe living conditions.”

— Hector Gavilla

At a May 30 public hearing, a change in local zoning law was discussed and would reduce the lot size requirement for accessory apartments from 7,500 square feet to 5,000. The frontage requirement for an apartment would change from 75 feet to 50 feet. 

Hector Gavilla, a real estate broker in the town for the past 16 years, spoke at the hearing and sent a letter stating that high property taxes are the real problem that needs to be addressed. He also said it is a false narrative to tell people that these changes in the law will lower the rates for apartment rentals. He argued that the changes in law could harm more people than it would help. 

“[The proposal] this will allow too many people to occupy much smaller dwellings,” he said. “This could create cramped and unsafe living conditions.” 

Town records show that the town unanimously approved a resolution to ban basement apartments without a valid permit.

At a June town board meeting, a proposal to ban all basement and cellar apartments, unless a valid permit already exists or is pending with an already-filed application, was put on the table as well as changes to short-term rental rules.  Some residents argued that the ban would negatively impact lower-income homeowners. Others said basement apartments are a safety concern and potentially hazardous, because the space is prone to mold and carbon monoxide leaks. 

Huntington resident Dale Gifford said she is in favor of the ban on basement apartments in the town. 

“Expert environmentalists have come from out of town to lend their voices to educate the public and the board on the damages caused by overdevelopment and overcrowding,” she said. “Nitrate seeps through the soil from stressed cesspools and gets picked up by the heavy rain.” 

John Esposito had similar sentiments on the legislation, stating that it is a no-brainer. Accessory apartments, he said, can be especially hazardous to EMT and emergency response workers due to possible carbon monoxide issues that can occur in basements. 

“This a step in the right direction. Myself and others object to the overdevelopment, zoning of multiple apartment units and the apartments behind Stop and Shop,” he said. “This will give us a better quality of life [in the town].”

Conrad Ege, a Huntington resident, opposed the legislation, saying it was too much of a financial burden. 

“It would make it harder for them to pay some lines of credit, to pay taxes, to pay for other improvements that are necessary on their home and it would just make it more difficult for them to live here,” he said. 

Despite being opposed to the accessory apartment ban, Ege said he supports the legislation that would put limitations on short-term rentals in the town. 

Roger Weaving Jr., president of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, stated he is in favor of the bill, but asked the board to clarify what they meant by accessory dwelling units. Certain style homes, such as high ranches, could cause some confusion.  He stressed that high ranches should be able to continue to have accessory dwellings.

We are here with concerns and the town is simply putting Band-aids on our problems. The change to 90 days is a start, but we really have a way to go.”

— Justine Aaronson

With the popularity of Airbnb, residents have complained that these short-term rentals have negatively impacted their quality of life. In April, the town board voted to reduce the number of days that a homeowner can engage in short-term rental agreements from 120 days a year to 90 days. Some residents said that the limit is not enough. Justine Aaronson, a Dix Hills resident, complained that accessory apartments affect quality of life. She told the town board of an incident where a stranger’s car with out-of-state plates was parked on their driveway around midnight. Concerned, she called the police and later found out that the individual was staying in a neighbor’s rental unit. 

“I want the Town of Huntington to protect the quality of life in residential communities,” she said. “We are here with concerns and the town is simply putting Band-aids on our problems. The change to 90 days is a start, but we really have a way to go.”

“We’re talking about a win-win-win situation with these amendments as they will make it possible for our older residents to age in place, allow our younger residents to attain the dream of homeownership, all while giving the town a means by which to directly regulate, in many cases, previously illegal rental housing,” said Councilwoman Joan Cergol. “My prior sixteen years in Huntington Town government specializing in economic and community development have deeply sensitized me to the very real financial challenges and housing needs our residents face every day. I’m so gratified to be in a position to answer this call.”

The next public hearing is scheduled for July 16 at 2 p.m.

Lisa Gaines, mother of 7-year-old Victoria Gaines, who was killed in a July 4th boating tragedy in 2012 joined town and maritime community leaders at the Harbormaster’s office, where officials announced plans to increase enforcement against unsafe, intoxicated and speeding boaters in Huntington’s waterways during the 4th of July holiday week.  They also announced a joint initiative between Neptune Sail and Power Squadron and the town to provide advanced boating safety training under Huntington’s newly renamed Victoria Gaines Boating Safety Program.

Gaines offered words of caution, including safety tips.

“You are responsible for the wake you leave behind,” and cautioned boat passengers not to assume the boat operator has taken all safety precautions, encouraging  passengers to “ask questions.”

On the evening of Thursday, July 4th, from 8:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., the Town will be enforcing a temporary 5 mph boating speed limit in the certain zones as identified on a map, which is available on the town’s website HuntingtonNY.gov and its social media pages.

“The Town implements these temporary speed zones due to the overwhelming number of boats in Huntington’s waters–from 800 to 1,000 boats–for the Fourth of July celebration and the danger that a wake from a speeding boat creates, potentially destabilizing a smaller or overcrowded boat,” said Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). “Sadly, this exact scenario tragically played out in 2012. Seven years ago, Lisa Gaines lost her daughter, Victoria, who was just days shy of her 8th birthday, when the boat they were on capsized in Oyster Bay after a Fourth of July fireworks display.”

Bay Constables will patrol the waters from 7:00 a.m. until 2 o’clock in the morning every day and will be on call 24/7.

“They [bay constables] will continue to support the Suffolk County Marine Bureau to crack down on speeders, intoxicated boaters, conducting boat stops and ensuring boats are operating safely to prevent unnecessary tragedies,” Lupinacci said.

Dom Spada, Acting Director of Maritime Services cautioned boaters planning to enter Huntington’s waterways for the 4th of July fireworks displays about tidal conditions.

“Later in the evening, around 10:30 p.m. on July 4, we will be experiencing mid-tide,” he said. “Rocks and jetties are barely covered by the water during mid-tide, so they may not be visible to boaters, but please stay in the channels and don’t cut your turns short.”

Senior Harbormaster Fred Uvena added that boaters can call the Harbormaster’s office on Channel 9 when their boats’ waste tanks are getting full.

“Please don’t dump your waste water into the harbor; these waterways are a precious natural resource‑we’ll send a pump out boat to you, just call us on Channel 9.”

The town’s map also lists eight boating emergency pickup locations: Powles Dock; Lloyd Neck Bath Club; Huntington Town Dock; Huntington Bay Club; Huntington Beach Community Association Dock; Northport Yacht Club; Soundview Boat Ramp; and Eaton’s Neck Coast Guard Station.

Uvena also advised boaters of the potential destruction a wake can create – even outside of the 5 mph zone – when hundreds of boats are in the water in close proximity. He gave additional safety tips and warned against BWI, boating while intoxicated.

“We will stop you, we will check you, we will bring you to shore, where we’ll do a field sobriety test, and you will be arrested.”

Supervisor Lupinacci also announced the launch of new advanced boating safety training courses offered at Town Hall to help boaters and passengers avoid tragedies on the water: “Under the banner of the Town’s Victoria Gaines Boating Safety Program, I am pleased to announce that the Town is now offering advanced boating safety courses presented by Neptune Sail and Power Squadron, which address planning for and troubleshooting boating emergencies – information that can save lives.”

Philip Quarles, Education Commander for Neptune Sail and Power Squadron, stated: “The Neptune Sail and Power Squadron was founded in 1938 and has been serving Town of Huntington for 83 years teaching boating safety and advanced boating courses. We are honored to be partnering with the Town of Huntington offering classes to residents. “Emergencies on Board” will be offered on August 12. You can learn more by visiting www.neptuneboatingclub.com.”

Gaines said she hopes boaters of all ages and levels of experience continue to educate themselves about boat safety.  She believes the new laws on the horizon will ultimately save lives.

“One never thinks this could happen to them and it absolutely can,” she said. “Have a fun and very safe holiday and summer to all.”

Four Seasons spa in Huntington. Photo by Donna Deedy

Suffolk County Police arrested two Flushing women June 20 during a raid at a massage parlor in Huntington.

In response to community complaints, Suffolk County Police 2nd Precinct Crime Section officers, assisted by the Town of Huntington Public Safety’s criminal intelligence detectives and 2nd Squad detectives, conducted an investigation into illegal activity at the Four Seasons Spa, located at 367 West Jericho Turnpike at around 5:35 p.m.

Jing Mei Zou, 50, of Flushing, and Qiong Zhou, 55, of Flushing, were arrested and charged with two counts of prostitution and two counts of unauthorized practice of a profession. There were no customers in the business at the time the search warrant was executed, according to police. No other arrests were made. Business records and massage tables were seized as part of the search and the policy say that the investigation is ongoing.

The Town of Huntington does not have the authority to shut down the spa, but issued five summonses for building violations that include illegal signs, public nuisance, interior alterations without a certificate of occupancy and plumbing without necessary permits. 

The doors were locked, but the business still posts its telephone number on the door. A business using the same phone number and address still advertises massage services on a website longisland.bedpage.com, posted on May 8. 

Zou and Zhou pleaded guilty to one count of attempted unauthorized practice of a profession a misdemeanor, and were sentenced to one year probation.

Suffolk County police have previously conducted similar raids and investigations, particularly in 2017, for prostitution at massage parlors. 

After an extensive search for technology, the Town of Huntington now offers closed captions for town meetings. The screen shot above is from the May 29 town board meeting, where the benefits of organ and tissue donation were discussed. Image provided by Councilwoman Cergol’s office.

Civic engagement just became easier for hearing-impaired Huntington residents. The town announced the debut of real-time closed captioning of town board, planning board and zoning board appeals meetings for viewing on the town’s website and government access television channel.

“This is an important expansion of both the town’s transparency of government actions and its ability to better serve the disabled community,” said Councilwoman Joan Cergol, who initiated in early 2018 live-streaming of the meetings. 

“As a member of Huntington’s Citizens Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities, I want to thank Councilwoman Cergol and her staff for meeting with us and quickly acting on the committee’s suggestion to add closed captioning to town meeting videos,” said committee member Len Urban. “People like myself with a hearing loss depend on closed captioning to enjoy television, movies and also to keep informed.  We can now follow the comments, conversations and debates at Town Hall easily at home without the frustrations of not hearing clearly.”   

When Cergol met with the committee, committee members cited two actions they wanted the town to pursue: expanding HART bus paratransit service to take residents to doctor’s appointments at two medical facilities on the east side of Commack Road, and adding closed captioning to the town meeting broadcasts.

Cergol contacted the town’s Department of Transportation, which agreed to a pilot program expanding the HART paratransit service to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center at 650 Commack Road, Commack and to both the St. Catherine and St. Charles Health and Wellness Center and Stony Brook Advanced Specialty Care at 500 Commack Road. 

The process that led to closed captioning was more involved. A search of other municipalities that provided closed captioning found that some used a paid service in which people listened to the meetings and added the captions, not necessarily in real time.

The town’s Information Technology Department, however, said it preferred to seek a piece of speech-to-text equipment that would be more cost-effective and allow instantaneous translations. The issues centered on both cost and accuracy. Cergol’s staff began contacting governments throughout the United States, which led to conversations with officials in Austin, Texas, whose captions appeared to meet the accuracy test. They identified the equipment they used and the manufacturer — a company, as it turned out, headquartered in Farmingdale.

“I’m proud to say our nationwide search led us right back to Long Island,” Cergol said.

Cergol’s staff passed that information on to the Information Technology Department, which arranged to borrow the device for a test. When that test met the town’s standards and was then favorably reviewed by a hearing-impaired member of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee, the decision was made to purchase the equipment, at no cost to taxpayers. Cergol tapped the franchise fees paid to the town by Altice and Verizon to fund the equipment purchase and associated monthly usage fees.

“I want to thank Citizens Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities member Len Urban for beta-testing the closed captioning technology on behalf of the town’s hearing-impaired community, and committee chair Marianne Iannaccone and her committee members for their very important role in sensitizing us to the barriers they confront so we can do all we can to remove them,” concluded Cergol.

The meetings can be viewed on the town’s government access channels, Optimum Channel 18 and FiOS Channel 38, or on the town’s website at www.huntingtonny.gov/meetings.

Huntington Harbor

It was baymen versus baymen at the podium during Huntington’s town meeting last month, with two sides arguing whether or not the shellfish harvesting technique known as sail dredging should be banned.

Water quality concerns prompt discussions about harvesting shellfish using mechanical and sail dredging techniques. The state prohibits harvesting shellfish in Huntington Harbor. Rendering from New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Charles Murphy, the president of the North Shore Baymen’s Association, said that the practice of raking with mechanical means through the bay floor is barbaric, destroys underwater lands and results in overharvesting. He recommends only hand-harvesting shellfish.

“Over the last six years, the operators of four diesel powered boats have stolen millions of dollars’ worth of clams and oysters from the Town of Huntington’s waters,” Murphy said in  a letter circulated in the community. “These diesel boats, as well as some of the smaller boats, have put a big time hurting on the bay.”

Other baymen said a ban or regulation over the practice of sail dredging, which differs from mechanical dredging, is unwanted and likely even unnecessary, pointing out that the last 10 years’ oyster harvests have been particularly good.

“We’re getting squeezed,” Bob Cannon, a fisherman who spoke at the meeting, said to the town council. “I prefer if you don’t make our lives any more difficult.” 

George Doll has been a Northport fisherman since 1958 and formerly served as Northport’s mayor for the last 12 years. Sail dredging, he explained in an interview, is mainly used during the winter months when fishermen struggle to make ends meet. It relies on wind in a sail to drive a rake through the bay floor to harvest shellfish. 

Dom Spada, the deputy mayor and police commissioner of the Village of Huntington Bay, said in a phone interview that mechanical dredging, using motorized engines to harvest shellfish, has always been prohibited.

The town, he said, has issued in recent years summons to people harvesting shellfish using mechanical equipment. He was unable to provide statistics on the problem.

As for sail dredging, he said it’s status quo. The seasonal and locational restrictions that apply for hand-harvesting also apply to sail dredging. 

The board has 90 days from May 29 to vote on the issue. However, the topic is currently not on the next town meeting agenda.

Core issue: Water quality 

The dredging debate is surfacing just as New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is advancing a major $10.4 million Long Island Shellfish Restoration Project. Huntington Harbor was selected as one of five bodies of water where hundreds of millions of clams and oysters are being sowed to improve water quality.

Christopher Gobler, the chair of Coastal Ecology and Conservation at Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, is a co-chair for the project. He said he knows of no good information about the shellfish population trends for Huntington Harbor over time that might indicate whether or not shellfish are overharvested. One trend is clear: Huntington Harbor’s water quality needs improving. Gobler said his team identified five ecosystems that would most benefit from additional filtration, and Huntington ranks among the chosen few.  

Suffolk County Health Department has documented 139 beach closures over the last decade in Huntington Harbor caused by high levels of Enterococcus bacteria, a fecal bacterium. 

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, together with the Town of Huntington, Stony Brook University and the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County, will plant up to 650,000 adult clams, 5.1 million seed clams and 1 million oysters spat-on-shells this summer and fall, based on availability.

The project hopes to improve water quality, mitigate harmful algal blooms, restore shellfish populations and increase biodiversity in coastal waters.  

“Let’s hope the dredge boats don’t steal these clams,” Murphy stated in the document that he circulated in the community. 

Huntington Harbormaster Fred Uvena gives a tour of accident-prone sites. File Photo by Kyle Barr

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) decided to postpone voting on the town’s new mooring policy after the May 29 public hearing on the issue at Town Hall. 

“The supervisor felt the board needed additional time to contemplate the code changes and accompanying rate increases,” said Lauren Lembo, public information officer for Lupinacci, in response to an email inquiry.

The Wednesday afternoon meeting attracted a large number of speakers opposed to the changes.  Many complaints centered on the additional fees and insurance requirements.  Residents who spoke thought that visiting yachts should be responsible for absorbing additional costs, rather than taxpaying residents. 

The proposed mooring resolution as currently drafted aims to accomplish the following:

• Prevent irresponsible boat ownership and irresponsible boating.

 • Place liability for all costs incurred by the town in removing, storing and disposing of unseaworthy and wrecked vessels on the owner or person responsible for the vessel. 

 • Increase required insurance limits for vessel wreck removal and pollution mitigation; assure those who have concerns that this will, in fact, not require the Town to be named as an additional insured.

 • Lower the cost of transient commercial mooring permits from $200 to $40 to help the local maritime economy.

• Allow the 40 or so commercial baymen who operate in Huntington’s waterways to have their mooring permit included with the issuance or renewal of their commercial license, making it easier to do business in the Town of Huntington.

• Establish a nominal $40 season permit fee to be deposited into the board of trustees account. Non-residents already pay $200 for the same season permit to help cover the costs of vessel wreck removal, pollution mitigation, and remediation of navigational safety hazards.  The fees would also be used to help fund building a database to help the town identify who owns the boats on town moorings in the harbor, so the town can hold violators responsible for hazardous boating safety conditions.

“Our maritime and harbormaster staff often remove debris from the water—dislodged docks from Connecticut, wrecked and abandoned vessels in our own waterways and other hazards that can cause harm to life and property near our shorelines,” Lupinacci said at the meeting. “The town spent over $50,000 last year removing derelict and abandoned boats in an effort to keep the harbor safe to navigate and protect our water quality. Taxpayers should not be on the hook for the consequences of irresponsible boat ownership.”

Gerard Fioravanti, creator of the Flagel, with a proclamation.

A Frenagel, a French croissant bagel, has become a new sensation in Huntington and across the nation. It’s the culinary brainchild of chefs at Fiorello Dolce, a bakery on Wall Street in Huntington. 

“It tastes like a bagel but so much lighter,” said Gerard Fioravanti, who created the dough. “The layers are light, airy and flaky, while the outside is baked to perfection with a crisp texture.”

In April, Fioravanti competed and won a baking competition with the Frenagel on the television series Bake You Rich, a Food Network program. 

The Town of Huntington recognized his achievement at its May board meeting and awarded him an inscribed plaque. 

“We used to make baked doughnuts at first, until chef Kristy Chiarelli wanted a bagel one morning, but didn’t want to go to the bagel store,” Fioravanti said. “So, I told her to get a raw doughnut from the freezer and let it proof to make it like a bagel.”

An hour later chef Kristy seasoned it with sesame, black sesame, poppy seeds and fleur de sel. She filled it with scallion cream cheese and the Frenagel was born. 

The Frenagel is available at Fiorello Dolce Patisserie in Huntington and online at Carlosbakery.com and goldbelly.com as well as in most Carlos bakery locations. 

Northport power plant. File photo

One year ago, the Town of Huntington’s board members considered eminent domain proceedings for the Northport power plant as a potential outcome to LIPA’s tax lawsuit against the Town of Huntington.  

A newly released report on the topic, prepared by the town attorney and several other town departments, now suggests the legal obstacles just may be too great for the town to overcome.

“Let’s take it, let’s take it now.”

— Eugene Cook

The report notes that eminent domain proceedings would render the power  plant property exempt from taxes, a situation that would result in the loss of $55 million in taxes to the Northport-East Northport school district.

Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) found this aspect of the situation to be unacceptable.

“After reading the thorough report prepared by the town attorney, it is my position that eminent domain of the Northport power plant would not be feasible and would actually harm the Northport-East Northport school district, as well as taxpayers in the Town of Huntington, by making the property tax-exempt,” he said. 

Some board members, however, still support the idea of establishing a municipal utility through eminent domain proceedings.

“Let’s take it, let’s take it now,” Councilman Eugene Cook (I) said in a telephone interview. “We can lower taxes; we can reduce energy costs.” 

Cook estimates that the plant will likely be used for another 20 to 30 years, and he said that it may become a more important part of the state’s energy plan when Indian Point nuclear power plant closes next year. He’s undeterred by the report.

The detailed legal and financial challenges outlined in the report cite a range of laws, legal opinions and case law to support its findings.

“There is no doubt that General Municipal Law Section 360 authorizes municipalities to own and operate a power-generating facility,” the report states. “However, the grant of authority in Section 360 is limited.”

A main sticking point: The town can generate electricity for itself and its residents. But using only a fraction of the energy that it generates — and selling the rest to a public utility — is legally questionable. The report based this conclusion on a 1989 legal opinion of New York State’s attorney general, which reportedly states that a municipality cannot own and operate a power plant for the sole purpose of selling power to a public utility.

Using the current situation as an example, the report indicates the Town of Huntington would use approximately 15 percent of the energy generated by the Northport power plant, leaving a surplus of 85 percent. The courts would need to determine whether or not the arrangement would be legally acceptable, as stated in the report. 

Power of the LIPA statute

Town attorney Nick Ciappetta said the town does not need permission to file eminent domain proceedings to acquire the Northport plant, but he added it’s unclear in LIPA’s Power Supply Agreement with National Grid if the town can step into National Grid’s shoes.

Additionally, the LIPA agreement may also prohibit a local municipality from owning, condemning and operating a power plant in any part of the former LILCO’s service area.  

“My focus is on passing legislation that would protect taxpayers across Long Island from LIPA’s nonsensical attempts to destroy communities.”

— Jim Gaughran

“A municipality located within LILCO’s former service area may not establish a public utility service to provide gas or electric power without LIPA’s agreement,” the report states, citing a 1999 attorney general legal opinion.

LIPA spokesman Sid Nathan did not respond to phone calls or questions submitted via email regarding the Northport power plant, but in a May 9, 2018, Times of Huntington-Northport report on the eminent domain proposal, the utility’s spokesperson said that LIPA’s annual $80 million in property taxes for the Northport power plant exceeds its revenue, potentially rendering the decision not in the public’s interest.

If the town board majority remains interested in pursuing the eminent domain option, the next step, as described in the report, would be for the town to hire an accounting firm to analyze the public benefit of operating the power station.  

Financial challenges

The Northport board of education weighed in on the loss and determined that it would have to dramatically reduce staff at all levels, eliminate proposed capital improvements, eliminate extra-curricular and academic offerings and significantly increase class size, among other measures.

“Assuming that the town’s operation of the power plant results in a net profit, there does not appear to be a legal mechanism to make the school district whole,” the report states.

This past spring NY State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) introduced legislation (§4452a)that aims to supplement school districts and government entities impacted by LIPA’s tax suit with additional state funds. The bills, though, still require support from the state legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

“I stand fully behind the Town of Huntington in their lawsuit with LIPA and I have led the fight in Albany to protect taxpayers threatened by LIPA’s wreckless lawsuits, introducing and passing bills that would do just that,” Gaughran said. “My focus is on passing legislation that would protect taxpayers across Long Island from LIPA’s nonsensical attempts to destroy communities.”

If Gaughran’s bills pass and the board votes to move forward, the report also notes a majority of town voters would still need to approve a public referendum to acquire the power plant. 

“This would be a tall order as the power plant lies exclusively within the confines of the Northport-East Northport school district and voters outside of that school district might deem such an acquisition too provincial and/or not in their best interests,” the report states.

Paul Darrigo, a Northport resident who has garnered more than 4,500 supporters through a Facebook campaign Concerned Taxpayers Against LIPA, said he is not yet prepared to comment on the complex idea of taking over the power plant through eminent domain. 

The deal, if it gets the green light from board members, the courts and the community, would also be dependent upon the town’s ability to borrow money or issue bonds to finance a municipal utility. If it all worked out, the project would “at a minimum,” reportedly double the town’s outstanding debt.  

The Northport power plant, the largest power generating station on Long Island, is owned by National Grid, a multinational business located in the United Kingdom. The plant and its four generating units and support facilities sit on 275 acres along Long Island’s North Shore. The town estimates the value of the property at $3.4 billion and receives $84 million in taxes. The plant burns both oil and gas and is regarded as a major air polluter. Both the American Lung Association and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have found its ozone emissions, a powerful respiratory irritant, to be a serious public health concern.

The fate of the cats at Huntington’s animal shelter is still unknown as the facility reaches capacity. To adopt animals contact the shelter at 631-368-8770. Photo by Little Shelter Animal Rescue

On May 22 the people at Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center rescued more than 20 abandoned cats living in squalor in an unidentified Centerport home. Neighbors and the new property owner called the shelter after the previous residents were evicted. 

David Ceely, executive director of Little Shelter, which manages the Huntington shelter, said the situation was initially too much for its responder to handle.  

“This is not a daily occurrence,” he said. “We typically get calls about a couple of animals abandoned not usually something this large.”

After Ceely entered the house with trappers, the cats scattered. Authorities identified extreme living conditions, while trying to catch the animals. They found rooms fouled with old, soiled newspaper in litter boxes and empty food and water bowls. The cats were forced to escape through a broken basement window in search of food and water. 

The state of the house when Ceely entered it. Photo by Little Shelter Animal Rescue

Ceely also noticed that a stove top burner had been left on. 

“Cats love to move around and jump on things, that gas burner had to have been running for weeks, not only is that danger but this could have ended a lot worse than it did,” he said. 

The captured cats will be vaccinated, spayed or neutered and fit with a microchip. 

Ceely said some of the cats were put up for adoption last weekend. The rest need to be evaluated to make sure they are ready for a new home. 

“The biggest way to help us is to adopt and donate to help offset the medical cost,” Ceely said. 

The executive director said the facility has too many cats that need homes. They hope people adopt the animals, since the facility is maxed out on its capacity. 

For more information on the shelter, call 631-368-8770 or visit www.littleshelter.com.

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