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Huntington

Councilman Eugene Cook has a proposal that would set term limits for all Huntington elected officials. File photo by Rohma Abbas

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Town of Huntington council members will reopen the issue of setting term limits for elected officials by putting it before residents next month.

The town board voted unanimously to hold a public hearing Dec. 13 on term limits for all elected officials in the town.

Councilman Eugene Cook (R) presented a revised resolution that proposed that individuals elected to the offices of town supervisor, town council, town clerk, receiver of taxes and superintendent of highways be limited to three consecutive terms, for a total of 12 years, in the same office.

“Since I’ve been elected, I wanted to put term limits in and I didn’t have any support for it,” Cook said. “I spoke to the new [elected officials] coming in, and they asked me if three terms was alright.”

Cook previously made an effort to bring up term limits in August, which was defeated. This revised resolution differs from his August proposal, which suggested setting the limit at two consecutive terms, or a limit of 8 years in office.

The August proposal failed to move forward after Cook and Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) tried to amend it so that the nonlegislative positions of town clerk and receiver of taxes would not be term limited. Supervisor Frank Petrone (D), Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) and Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) voted against the amendment because they said they believe term limits should apply to all elected officials equally.

“I believe what’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” Cuthbertson said after the Nov. 10 board meeting.

Petrone, who is preparing to leave office after serving for nearly 24 years, and Cuthbertson (D), who was re-elected Nov. 7 to his sixth term having already served for 20 years, have both agreed to move forward with a public hearing Dec. 13.

The supervisor admitted while he was not initially in favor of implementing term limits, he’s had a change of heart.

“Term limits bring movement, people can move to other places,” Petrone said. “People in the town can move, like Susan [Berland] did, to the county when there are vacancies and there’s only a vacancy in the county because there’s a term limit.”

Berland, who first took political office as a Huntington board member in 2001, ran a successful campaign to be elected the next representative of Suffolk County’s 16th Legislative District Nov. 7, taking over for Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills). Stern could not run for re-election due to being term limited.

Similar to Cook’s revised resolution, Suffolk County legislators are limited to serving 12 years in office.

Cuthbertson said he agreed to have the public hearing and will listen to what residents have to say on the issue Dec. 13 before making a decision.

The Nov. 9 motion to move forward with implementing term limits comes only two days after state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R) was elected to be the town’s next supervisor and his running mate, Republican Ed Smyth, won a seat on the town board. Both Lupinacci and Smyth’s campaign promises focused on government and ethics reform, including support for term limits for town officials. Lupinacci and Smyth take office in January 2018.

“While we appreciate the town board’s enthusiasm about term limits, we may better serve the public by passing a comprehensive ethics reform package beginning next term, which includes term limits for policy makers, among other initiatives which make government more transparent, accountable and efficient for the people of Huntington,” Lupinacci said in a statement.

The town board has the option of voting on Cook’s resolution at their Dec. 13 meeting, immediately placing term limits on those newly elected.

Cook said if his measure is not approved in December, he will continue to push for reform.

“If it doesn’t go through, I’ll put it up again in January,” Cook said. “It’s good for the people of Huntington, that’s for sure.”

Huntington town officials will hold a public hearing on the future of Grateful Paw Cat Shelter Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. File photo

Huntington town officials are weighing the pros and cons of a change of leadership at Grateful Paw Cat Shelter, but some volunteers fear their minds are already made up.

The town board voted 4-1 to schedule a public hearing on Little Shelter Animal Rescue taking over operation of the town-owned cat shelter for Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. at town hall.

Little Shelter was one of two organizations who responded to the Oct. 3 town’s request for proposals (RFP) by those looking to operate the shelter. The RFP is for a five-year contract to operate the cat shelter starting January 2018, undertaking the responsibilities of taking in and caring for any stray and displaced cats; emergency pickup of stray cats in the town; operating a trap, neuter and release program for feral cats; and facilitating cat adoptions by residents.

David Ceely, executive director of Little Shelter, believes his nonprofit’s experience as an independent no-kill shelter makes the company qualified for the job.

“We handle a lot of the emergencies, particularly the cat emergencies in Huntington already,” he said. “We think that facility has so much more potential. We would like to maximize the potential that facility has and represent the Town of Huntington.”

While Little Shelter has never had a formal business agreement with the town, according to Ceely, the nonprofit has informally worked to pull dogs from its town shelter to alleviate overcrowding and help prevent euthanasia due to lack of space.

The other application was submitted Nov. 3 by League of Animal Protection of Huntington, according to its president Debbie Larkin, who has run the nonprofit shelter for more than 40 years.

“I’d like to hope every council member and the departing supervisor had the chance to read through the proposals carefully,” Larkin said. “I hope that this response to the RFP was not an exercise in futility for us and their minds were already made up.”

The two responses were reviewed by a five-person panel comprised of representatives from the town attorney’s office and Department of Public Safety, according to town spokesman A.J.Carter. The applications were evaluated based on criteria outlined in the RFP: proof of not-for-profit 501(c)(3) status in good standing; sufficient employees/volunteers to operate the facility; plans for emergency cat pickup; adoption applicant criteria; breakdown of medical services provided for adopted cats; and submission of the past two years of shelter records and IRS 990 tax filings showing a not-for-profit status. Based on these criteria, the panel found Little Shelter to be the “successful, responsive and responsible proposer.”

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (R) was the only board member who voted against scheduling a public hearing on Little Shelter taking control of the cat shelter come January. Edwards said she is in favor of the town signing a contract with LAP.

“We were going to award the contract before to the [League of Animal Protection],” she said. “Now that they got their 501(c)(3) status back retroactively, I think it would have only been fair to give it back to them.”

Town officials first solicited bids from any organization interested in running the cat shelter earlier this spring, after it came to light in April that the LAP had lost its not-for-profit status with the IRS in 2015 but never notified the town. Huntington Attorney Cindy Mangano said the town became aware of this breach of the contractual agreement when drawing up a new document, as the previous agreement expired in December 2016.

At the June 13 town board meeting, council members voted to give LAP an extension until Nov. 30 to regain its not-for-profit status and halting the current RFP process.

The organization’s attorney and accountant were able to get its 501(c)(3) status reinstated by the IRS within five weeks, according to Larkin, and retroactively applied to the date it was lost.

LAP’s president and several of its volunteers called on town officials to make an executive order to immediately approve the contractual agreement previously drawn up this spring at the Aug. 15 board meeting, which would extend the organization’s operation of the cat shelter.

Instead, Supervisor Frank Petrone (R) insisted the town was legally obligated to move forward with the RFP process, otherwise fearing it could run the risk of another interested party taking them into court over the matter.

Events were held across the North Shore last week in honor of Veterans Day.

State and local officials gathered to remember all those who served, and celebrate those still serving at local parks and memorials.

Events included a Veterans Day service at Sound Beach Veterans Memorial Park. Resident Debbie Goldhammer presented Sound Beach Civic Association President Bea Ruberto and all of the veterans in attendance with a themed painting and three hand-painted rocks from her client David Weinstein, a quadriplegic who couldn’t be in attendance but wanted to thank his local veterans.

Heritage Park in Mount Sinai displayed its annual Parade of American Flags. Members of Mount Sinai Boy Scout Troop 390 — Brian McCrave, Trevor Satchell-Sabalja, John Lamparter, Kim DeBlasio, Joseph McDermott, Matthew Lamparter, Brandon McCrave, John DeBlasio and Jake DeBlasio — helped assemble the flags.

A speech and presentation of wreaths ceremony commemorated the day at East Setauket Memorial Park.

Huntington Town officials paid a special tribute to all those who have served in the United States Armed Forces in a Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 5 at 9 a.m. The ceremony placed special recognition to this year commemorating the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I with a flowered wreath laid at the flagpole memorial.

In addition, Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) held a moment of silence for two Huntington veterans who have recently died.

Dominick Feeney Sr., a longtime Huntington Town highway supervisor and former organizer of the town’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade,  served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He died Oct. 15.

Northport resident Alice Early Fay, served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and Korean War and received many awards including the World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, and the National Campaign Medal.  She was a member of the Huntington Veterans Advisory Board and was chairwoman of the committee that built the town’s Women Veterans Memorial in front of town hall. Fay died Nov. 2.

Huntington YMCA employees and town officials at a ceremonial groundbreaking Oct. 25 on a new facility. Photo from Facebook

The ground has been broken and construction is underway on a new building for the Huntington YMCA that will nearly triple the size of its existing facility, allowing it to expand the programs it offers to the community.

The YMCA of Long Island and Huntington Town officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking Oct. 25 to celebrate the start of construction of a 29,000-square-foot Health Living Center. The new facility will allow Huntington YMCA to expand its fitness and preventative health programs that focus on chronic disease prevention and recovery.

“Our Health Living Center is a tremendous step forward, allowing us the capacity to achieve this goal and provide our community with the programs it needs,” said Anne Brigis, president and CEO of the YMCA of Long Island in a statement. “We have listened intently to the needs of the Huntington community, and we’re excited to begin building our Health Living Center into a gathering place for individuals to grow, learn and lead healthy lives.”

The new state-of-the-art center will include a 7,500-square-foot gym with a suspended running track above it, cycling studios, several multi-purpose adult fitness rooms and a new child care center. There will also be room set aside for the YMCA to expand its programs that focus on chronic disease prevention and recovery, including Moving for Better Balance (a fall prevention program), a diabetes prevention program and senior wellness walks.

The conceptual rendering of the new Huntington YMCA. Photo from YMCA of Long Island

“The Y is more than a swimming pool or an athletic field,” said New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport). “At its heart, the Huntington YMCA is a community center where people can engage with physical and mental health and get the care they need. The Healthy Living and education programs all work to help these local communities and provide very necessary programs to people from all walks of life.”

The Health Living Center is being built in accordance with New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) new health initiative, which calls for a stronger emphasis on preventive health measures and education.

The nearly $9 million price-tag of the new building is being paid for through a combination of public-private partnership, according to Beverly Lacy, vice president of philanthropy for YMCA LI. The organization has received both a $400,000 and $500,0000 Empire State Development award from the state office which aims to support local business development and job creation through efficient use of financial assistance, and several generous private individual donations.

The Town of Huntington received a municipality grant to improve the parking lots shared by the town’s facilities, the senior center, Huntington YMCA and the Cinema Arts Center.

Construction of the new facility is anticipated to to be complete in 12 to 18 months, according to a YMCA spokesperson.

Once construction is complete, Lacy said that the Huntington YMCA will be able to move its programs currently held in the town’s John J. Flanagan Center, where it rents space, into the new facility.

“We have had a great relationship and it’s good to work with the town, but the facility is a little tired,” Lacey said. It’s hard to keep the heating and cooling where it needs to be. It’s hard to use the space for our purposes, as for health and wellness classes you want to be able to control the temperature.”

Town spokesman A.J. Carter said there are no future plans for Flanagan center’s use.

Redeems last season’s one-hole playoff loss for runner-up status

Port Jefferson's Shane DeVincenzo bested his last season runner-up record by placing first in the Suffolk County championship Nov. 4. Photo from Port Jefferson athletics

By Jim Ferchland

For Shane DeVincezo, the mental game of golf has always been his focus. The Port Jefferson junior came into the Nov. 3 Suffolk County championship hoping to place in the Top 9, as is his goal every season, and after finishing with a 69, 2-under par, on the first day of the tournament Nov. 2, he knew he was in a good place to keep pushing toward his target position.

“I thought, if I try to go out there and win, the Top 9 will just automatically happen,” he said. “If I try to go for Top 9 and just worry about that and not push for the lead, I think I’ve got a good chance. I thought, with the position I’m in right now, there’s no doubt I can make states.”

With his first place Suffolk County finish, Port Jefferson golfer Shane DeVincenzo qualified to compete in the state tournament. Photo by Jim Ferchland

DeVincenzo followed up his day one performance with an even-par 71 Friday to capture the county title with a 36-hole total of 140, good for 2-under-par at Manorville’s Rock Hill Golf and Country Club.

The Port Jefferson golfer avenged his second-place finish from last year’s tournament in capturing the top spot. In 2016 he lost to East Hampton’s Turner Foster on a one-hole playoff. Foster finished tied for second in Suffolk Nov. 3.

Port Jefferson head coach Chuck Ruoff said he is proud of what his athlete has accomplished.

“He wasn’t going to let last year define him,” Ruoff said. “I know that in his heart last year gave him a lot of motivation. For two days he just went out and played his best.”

DeVincenzo overcame a rocky front nine in the first round by his standards, shooting one over to start his tournament. He rallied after that and finished three under on the back nine for the best score of the day.

“I felt I did really good,” DeVincenzo said on his performance on that back nine. “I wouldn’t say it was really a bad front nine — the front nine is a lot harder here and you just gotta get through it. On the back nine, my putter got rolling and I made a lot of good putts which saved me. Three under par is pretty good.”

He said there was something familiar about the Manorville course that he thought gave him an advantage.

“These greens are kind of like Port Jeff,” DeVincenzo said. “They’re just a little more sloped, but distance-wise and yardage-wise, they’re practically the same. Playing at Port Jeff definitely helps playing at Rock Hill.”

Port Jefferson junior Shane DeVincenzo swings away during the first of the two-day Suffolk County championship tournament. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Ruoff has been by DeVincenzo’s side since he starting golding in eighth grade, and said he’s in awe of the 16-year-old’s abilities.

“It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Ruoff said of DeVincenzo’s talent. “He picked up the game somewhat late for someone who’s got to this ability level. Just between how hard he works and the instruction he’s given, it’s just really hard to explain. Year to year he’s made huge jumps in his game.”

Although DeVincenzo also trains at Port Jefferson Country Club under head professional Bill Mackedon, he said he looks at Ruoff like his best friend, adding that his coach makes the game a lot easier.

“We bond very well — I really like him as a coach,” he said. “Ever since I started in eighth grade, he’s been there as a supporter. Even when I’m struggling he’s there to help me. I have him to back me up and he helps me boost up my confidence.”

DeVincenzo golfed in a foursome Nov. 3 along with Pierson’s Henry Brooks, Eastport-South Manor’s Andrea Ternavasio and Sayville’s Sean Haselton. DeVincenzo has played with his Sayville opponent before.

“Me and Shane have been playing together for a long time,” Haselton said. “He got hot with the putter today and that’s what did it for him. I feel we feed off each other — he makes a good putt, then I make a good putt. We both played really solid. It’s fun to play with people playing well.”

Haselton finished the first day with a 73, one over par, and ended day two tied for second with

Foster and Habrorfields’ Pat Healy. In the team competition, he helped Sayville win its first county title since 2013 with an 813, ahead of Harborfields (826) and Smithtown West (831).

Port Jefferson’s Shane DeVincenzo eyes his target. Photo by Jim Ferchland

DeVincenzo, the second-place trio, Huntington’s Tyler Gerbavsits (148), Sayville’s Brendan Smith (152) and Smithtown West’s John Pawlowski (153) all qualified to compete in the state tournament, along with Connetquot’s Kyle Zere and Huntington’s Matt Giamo, who finished tied for eighth at 154. They earned the final two spots by besting Harborfields’ Andre Chi in a one-hole playoff.

Pierson’s Brooks also said he enjoyed playing alongside top competitors, saying he was fascinated seeing DeVincenzo play for the first time.

“He played great today,” Brooks said of DeVincenzo. “He was hitting every drive straight — drilling long putts. He was really dialed in.”

Even before DeVincenzo’s performance at Rock Hill, Ruoff said his athlete is the greatest player he’s ever coached.

“Without a doubt in my mind he is,” Ruoff said. “There have been some great players that we’ve had the privilege of seeing at Ward Melville, who is our closest competitor, through the years. As far as Port Jeff goes, he’s been the best player I’ve been around by far.”

Ruoff said he sees DeVincenzo finishing Top 5 in the state.

“I feel that anything can happen on a given day in a round of golf, but he’s certainly right at the top,” Ruoff said of DeVincenzo. “Every year he has slightly exceeded his high expectations, and I have high expectations for him. He just blessed with a lot of talent.”

Huntington councilwoman Susan Berland (D) races against Republican Hector Gavilla to represent Suffolk’s 16th Legislative District. Photo by Alex Petroski

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Two candidates are vying to represent Suffolk County’s 16th Legislative District as term limits force incumbent Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) to step down after 12 years of service.

Democratic candidate Susan Berland, of Dix Hills, has served Huntington residents as a councilwoman for more than 16 years. She has drafted the town’s blight legislation for abandoned or unsafe buildings and structures, placed restrictions on bamboo growth, and had free sunscreen dispensers installed at town beaches.

Republican hopeful Hector Gavilla, also of Dix Hills, is seeking political office for the first time. Gavilla has been a licensed real estate broker since 2003, and has run Commack-based Long Island Professional Realty since 2010.

The candidates are concerned with the county’s financial future, affordable housing and public safety. Both nominees said with Suffolk expecting a budgetary deficit of more than $150 million this year, there is a need for the incoming legislator to help bring finances under control by consolidating
services wherever possible.

“We spent over $600 million for social services and we never ask these people if they are illegal aliens.”

— Hector Gavilla

Berland also proposes that the county’s sale tax be increased by 0.25 percent, from 8.625 to 8.875 percent, and that all county employees be asked to chip in and help contribute to their health insurance.

“That really spreads it among everybody equally and that would help raise money,” she said during a recent candidate debate at TBR News Media’s Setauket office.

Gavilla said if elected he would look to save money in two of the largest areas of the county’s budget: police department salaries, as their contract ends 2018, and social services.

“We spent over $600 million for social services and we never ask these people if they are illegal aliens,” he said. “I want to make sure these people are American citizens.”

While residents continue to struggle with the cost of living in Huntington township, the two candidates disagreed on what measures would improve quality of life.

Gavilla said his platform puts taxpayers first by looking to reduce backdoor fees, like the mortgage fee and false alarm fee, and stop wasteful government spending in attempt to build transit-oriented or affordable housing.

“We have an obligation to provide different types of housing for different people,” Berland countered.

“We have an obligation to provide different types of housing for different people.”

— Susan Berland

The councilwoman said if elected to the legislature she would support high-density, mixed-use retail and apartment space as a way of helping to preserve existing open space, like parks and golf courses.

Gavilla said he would rather see 20-year tax abatements offered to large businesses in an effort to attract more job opportunities.

For current residents, public safety in combating gang-related violence and the heroin/opioid crisis is a top priority.

Berland said she would suggest bringing back the county’s DARE program to educate elementary school children on the dangers of gangs and drug use. She also recommended closer cooperation among law enforcement officials and drug courts, which offer addicts a choice of treatment or jail time for drug-related offenses.

“We need to have cooperation between the police department, FBI, town and code enforcement to draw together and combat these issues,” she said.

Gavilla said he’d propose much stricter prosecution and enforcement on drug dealers, increase police patrols, and arrest and deport any illegal immigrant.

“I want to make sure every single illegal alien who commits a crime has to be deported,” he said. “Today, we have many illegal aliens coming in and they have become a burden on society.”

Incumbent Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D), Democratic candidate Emily Rogan and Republicans Jim Leonick and Ed Smyth are competing for two seats on Huntington's town board. Photos by Alex Petroski
Incumbent Mark Cuthbertson (D). Photo by Alex Petroski

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Four candidates for the Huntington town board are deeply divided on what steps are needed to ensure a brighter future for residents.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) is seeking re-election to his sixth term on town council with political newcomer Huntington resident Emily Rogan (D). She is a freelance writer who has served as a trustee for Huntington school board for 12 years, four of which as the board’s president. Rogan seeks to take over the seat of Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D), who chose to run for Huntington supervisor rather than seek re-election to town council.

They will face off against Republican candidate Jim Leonick, of East Northport, an attorney with his own practice who has previously worked as a state tax grievance arbiter. He is running with Lloyd Harbor resident Ed Smyth, also an attorney who has served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and previously on the Village of Lloyd Harbor’s board of zoning appeals.

While the candidates all profess a love for Huntington, they disagreed on what shape or form its future development should take.

Republican candidate Jim Leonick. Photo by Alex Petroski

Cuthbertson said one of his main goals is creating more housing for senior citizens and millennials to enable them to stay in town. Rogan agreed to the need for a walkable community that incorporates mixed-use retail and apartment spaces in the town, citing downtown Huntington Station and Melville’s Route 110 as prime locations.

“The entire town benefits when all of our town is thriving and feels uplifted,” Rogan said. “People want to see Huntington Station become as desirable a place to be as downtown Huntington village, downtown Northport Village or Cold Spring Harbor.”

Leonick and Smyth both said they feel these developments aren’t considered desirable by residents, saying current town board simply isn’t listening. The Republican
candidates said rather than high-density apartments, they would make it easier for seniors to put accessory apartments in their homes for additional income.

Democratic challenger and political newcomer Emily Rogan. Photo by Alex Petroski

“Density is part of a plan that will allow us to sustain our local economy,” Cuthbertson responded in a recent debate at TBR News Media offices in Setauket. “We’ve already liberalized the rules of apartments to put apartments over stores in our downtown areas. In Huntington village, it’s been very successful.”

Rather than more housing, Smyth and Leonick said their focus would be outreach to bring large businesses to Melville’s Route 110 business corridor to increase jobs.

“The best path to affordable housing is a bigger paycheck,” Smyth said.

Leonick took it one step further calling for re-evaluation of the town’s comprehensive master plan Horizons 2020.

“The biggest thing we need to do is put the brakes on future development projects until we get a handle on what we need to be doing,” Leonick said.

Both Republican candidates said that if elected, they would focus on improving the status of the town’s roadways and traffic issues. Smyth called the town’s roads “deplorable,” citing Prime Avenue as an example, after utility companies have cut them up to lay wires and infrastructure, calling for changes to town code. Leonick heavily criticized town officials for a lack of parking in Huntington village.

Republican candidate Ed Smyth. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It takes a half hour of driving around to get a spot,” he said. “You can’t continue to develop in the village without solving that problem. We should have had a parking garage a while ago.”

Cuthbertson said the town’s work on a parking garage began two years ago, with a failed attempt at a public-private partnership, but is now moving forward. He pointed to the lack of empty stores downtown as a sign of success.

Rogan agreed that the town’s roadways need change, not more paving, but rather to become more pedestrian and bicyclist friendly. She wants to focus on a public campaign and signage to improve driver awareness.

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Huntington's Eric Sands pushes through the pack. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

A series of fortunate events led Huntington football to a homecoming victory Oct. 21.

Down the entire game, a 76-yard touchdwon toss from quarterback John Paci to Alex LaBella gave the Blue Devils their first lead of the game, 20-13, with 6:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. Then, with one minute left to play, Riverhead went for a 2-point conversion following a 3-yard touchdown run from Darnell Chandler that made it 20-19, instead of trying to tie the game with an extra-point kick. The ball was dropped by Riverhead’s Albert Daniels in the end zone on the attempt to hand Huntington the game.

Huntington’s John Paci pulls back to launch a pass. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“Winning is always something we look to do,” Huntington head coach Steve Muller said, adding he did not anticipate the game finishing in this fashion it did. “We take it game by game no matter who they are. We respect everybody. We’re trying to get into the playoffs.”

At halftime, Huntington was down 7-0 after a 40-yard touchdown pass from Christian Pace to Chandler in the second quarter. The Blue Devils offense was lifeless in the first half.

“We thought we didn’t play good Huntington football,” Muller said. “I said to my guys in the locker room that there’s really nothing to say, but we can take over this game if we want to. It’s how bad you want to be remembered for this homecoming.”

Eric Sands, a Top 25 rusher in Suffolk County, had two touchdowns in the second half. The senior said he just wants to go to work every time he steps on the gridiron.

“I’m always excited when my name is called,” he said of consistently getting the football. “I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do and stay focused.”

Sands has 611 yards on 87 carries and 11 touchdowns through seven games this season. He scored on runs of 5 yards and 2 yards in the win, and finished the game with 132 yards on 25 carries.

Paci, who completed four of eight passes for 123 yards, seemed to be the hero after heaving the big touchdown pass to LaBella for the advantage, but the junior was quick not to take all the credit.

Huntington’s Alex LaBella races toward the end zone. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“I was scared when the ball was in the air,” Paci said. “It had some arc on it, but I was so excited when LaBella caught it.”

His senior wide receiver was also sweating on the other side of the field.

“There was a lot of nervousness,” LaBella said. “I just had to keep my eye on the ball, run down the field and score.”

Luke Eidle, who had 11 tackles and an interception, also aided Huntington.

Huntington hasn’t lost a game since Sept. 23, a 20-17 loss at home against West Islip. With the win over Riverhead, the Blue Devils have won four straight and improve their record to 5-2.

“I’m always proud of my team,” Muller said. “They’re all great kids and they work real hard everyday. That’s all I could ask for.”

Huntington will go on the road to conclude the season with a game at Bay Shore, which hasn’t lost its last two games, but only scored 10 points in that duration. The game will be Oct. 28 at 2:30 p.m.

Huntington football fans come out to celebrate homecoming. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Huntington town officials hope federal funding will help crack down on drug use and gang violence. File photo

Huntington town officials were pleased to find out they will be receiving federal and county funding to implement local programs addressing drugs and gang violence. 

The town will be receiving part of the $500,000 federal grant awarded to Suffolk County Police Department from the U.S. Department of Justice Oct. 5 to combat the influence of street gangs such as MS-13. The grant comes from the justice department’s Project Safe Neighborhoods, a national initiative aimed at stemming gang and gun violence through enforcement and community outreach programs.

“This is the fruits of a collaboration between Suffolk County Police Department and our town officials,” Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) said. “The gang situation and opioid crisis are symptoms of something larger. While they are working on enforcement, we locally have to work on prevention and intervention.”

Edwards said she called for a meeting this past July with top Suffolk County officials including Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), Police Commissioner Tim Sini (D) and town officials upon learning about this grant’s available to come up with a strategy.

“We agreed at that meeting that tackling the problem required working together to coordinate the work being done by law enforcement and social services and youth programs,” Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said. “The funding will enable us to move ahead at full speed towards making a dent in the effects gangs and violent crime have had on the quality of life in some of our neighborhoods.”

Edwards said she did not know exactly how much of the grant, or what funds, will be directed to the Huntington community, she will start working with local leadership to see what form the prevention and intervention initiatives will take.

“The money is now available to create these initiatives,” the councilwoman said. “We will work with community leaders and school districts to see what is best for their needs.”

Edwards said she hopes to gather these “key stakeholders” together in November, once election season is over. Ideas will also be brainstormed by Huntington’s Youth Council, a group comprised of students from each of the town’s nine high schools which meets monthly.

In addition to the federal grant, Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) announced the county legislature approved spending $70,000 to purchase two license plate scanners for the police department’s 2nd Precinct.

“It doesn’t infringe on civil liberties, but gives the police a heads up while they are cruising around,” Spencer said.

This will bring the precinct’s total up to five scanners allowing them better coverage of Huntington’s main roadways when searching for stolen cars or those on a watch list    whether protectively for an Amber Alert or wanted for suspected drug trafficking.

Spencer said, as a member of the county’s new Heroin and Opiate Advisory Panel, that recent reports pointed to Route 110 as a roadway heavily used for drug trafficking. He hoped the addition of two license plate scanners will help reduce the illegal activity in the Huntingon area.

“I want to keep the pressure moving in a positive direction and not only being reactive when there is some sort of public safety incident that has occurred,” he said.

A conceptual rendering of the proposed K.I.D.S. Plus adult group home in Greenlawn. Photo from Facebook

Greenlawn residents rallied before Huntington Town officials Oct. 17 seeking answers to their questions about proposed plans for a group home on Cuba Hill Road.

More than a dozen community members spoke out at the town board meeting in which the Northport-based nonprofit K.I.D.S. Plus presented plans for an 8,000-square-foot group home for adults with physical and developmental disabilities. Residents raised concerns about traffic, noise, overall size of the home and density of group homes in the area, but ultimately found themselves with more questions than answers.

“I’m really trying hard not to have the knee-jerk reaction of not in my backyard,” said Manan Shah, a Cuba Hill Road homeowner. “We want to be partners. We want to understand. But to ask us to give you an 8,000-square-foot home without giving us information is unfair.”

Sergio Gallardo, of Greenlawn, said the Cuba Hill Road residents weren’t given an opportunity to speak with K.I.D.S. Plus founder Tammie Topel to learn what types of disabilities the home’s residents would have or review the business plans.

“We assumed you would have sat down with the people who live in the area prior to this hearing,” Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said. “Obviously, that didn’t happen.”

Topel, a Northport resident and member of the Northport school district’s board of education, is a well-known advocate for children with special needs as she has spoken publicly on several occasions about her son, Brandon, who is diagnosed with autism. She explained her “dream” plan is to build a group home for eight adults, 21 years of age and older, on the 2-acre wooded lot. The house would have an administrator/coordinator on site 24/7 to oversee the health and safety of residents in addition to a rotating staff of specialists and caregivers based on individual residents’ needs, according to Topel.

“There is a waiting list in New York state of greater than 11,000 people who need homes and we are trying to mitigate the problem,” she said. “We are trying to provide assistance for parents of children, young adults and adults who need a supportive independent place to live.”

However, residents were quick to point out that the K.I.D.S. Plus home would not be the first facility of its type in community.

“Within a half-mile of my home in any direction, and my neighbors as well, there are three group homes already — this would be a fourth,” said William Whitcomb, a Cuba Hill Road homeowner of 10 years. “Regardless of the nature of the residents, four is simply too much.”

Another major concern voiced repeatedly was the proposed size of the group home in comparison to the existing homes. Neighbors expressed fears that it would alter the area’s character, giving it a more commercial feel.

“The homes tend not to be very large; the properties are large, that’s why we like to live there,” said Taylor McLam, a Cuba Hill Road homeowner who said his residence is approximately 1,200 square feet by comparison. “Seven times the size of my house seems a little much.”

Jules Smilow, a resident of Darryl Lane, expressed sympathy, saying that a group home that was more commensurate in size to the existing residences would be more agreeable.

Many Greenlawn property owners, including Rebecca Gutierrez and Stephen Wuertz, pointed to the three existing group homes in the area with concerns of noise from handicapped transportation and delivery trucks, increased traffic and possible behavior incidents involving future residents.

“I think one of the things that is happening here is some people don’t know what disability looks like and what it is all about,” said George Wurzer, a licensed clinical social worker.

Wurzer said he operates a number of group homes for children diagnosed with autism. While many were met by resistance  from their surrounding communities at first, he said that over time there was more acceptance and the neighbors learned more about developmental disabilities from the experience.

“Tammie’s vision is the next evolutionary stage in helping people with disabilities,” Wurzer said.

Petrone admitted it was, in part, the town’s fault that residents did not have critical information to fairly evaluate the group home proposal. He directed Anthony Aloisio, the director of planning and environment, to arrange for a community meeting between residents and Topel.

Topel has posted a proposed blueprint of the building on the K.I.D.S. Plus Facebook page. There are several upcoming public meetings to provide those interested  with more information Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. at Signature Premier Properties in East Northport, and Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. at Cause Cafe in Fort Salonga.

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