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Huntington

Town board to host public hearings on new proposals

The town board will consider a ban on e-cigarettes at town beaches and playgrounds. File photo by Nick Scarpa

Huntington Town residents next week will be able to weigh in on a proposal to ban e-cigarettes from town beaches and on another measure that would expedite cleanup of graffiti-ridden properties in the town.

The proposals will be the subject of two separate public hearings on June 9 at 7 p.m at Town Hall.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) has introduced the new legislation to ban e-cigarettes from town beaches and playgrounds. Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) hopes to improve on old legislation to speed up the process of graffiti removal from both residential and commercial properties.

Berland’s proposal enhances existing graffiti cleanup laws. Under the new provisions, residents of Huntington would have 10 days after they receive a summons from the town to remove the graffiti from their property, according to Berland. After the 10 days expire, the town can send Huntington Town General Services Department employees in to remove the graffiti. The resident will then be charged with the cleanup fee and a $250 administrative fee.

If the owner fails to pay the cleanup bill within 30 days, the property will be added to a graffiti blight inventory, which will cost homeowners $2,500 and owners of commercial properties $5,000. Owners who fail to pay the bill will have the bill become a lien on their property.

The time frame is even shorter for graffiti that contains hate speech. The owner has a total of three days to remove it after getting a notice of violation before the town takes action.

“I think it’s important to protect our neighborhood from unwanted graffiti,” Berland said in a phone interview.

Berland has worked with graffiti cleanup for years and is now trying to create legislation that amends the town code so that the cleanups are routine.

Cuthbertson has introduced legislation to add electronic cigarettes to the list of products banned from town beaches and playgrounds. This list already includes tobacco and herbal cigarettes, pipes and cigars.

In 2010 a county law restricted the sale of e-cigarettes to those old enough to buy tobacco. Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) sponsored legislation to ban vaping, or the act of smoking an e-cigarette, at county parks and benches in late 2012.

Many residents in Huntington approached Cuthbertson asking for legislation to end vaping on public grounds, since they have concerns with being exposed to secondhand smoke. However, this new law, if adopted, would not include private property, as well as the parking lots at beaches. New no-smoking signs would go up at each public beach and playground.

In an email through his legislative aide, Cuthbertson said he believes this legislation is important on a public health level.

“The extensive amount of medical research and published studies support our desire to protect the health and welfare of those at our town beaches from secondhand smoke,” the councilman said.

Veterinarian reflects on family business

The Huntington Animal Hospital, located on Walt Whitman Road in Huntington Station, is celebrating 63 years. Photo from Dr. Jeff Kramer

A four-year-old boy’s dream of being a veterinarian and following in his father’s footsteps has led to decades of business success.

The Huntington Animal Hospital is celebrating 63 years of business, and owner Dr. Jeff Kramer, who is living his lifelong passion, plans to mark the milestone with a special client appreciation day on June 6.

From the time Kramer, 61, was brought home as a baby from the hospital to his bedroom, which now serves as the exam room in Huntington Animal Hospital on Walt Whitman Road, he has been surrounded animals and the veterinary office.

“Growing up all I was ever going to do was be a veterinarian,” Kramer said in a recent interview. “I was always going to be a vet, there was never any other options.”

The animal hospital that Kramer owns once served as his childhood home and his father Mort Kramer’s veterinary office, which is where he got first-hand experience working in the field. The younger Kramer would hold animals, clean cages and observe as his father performing daily duties. Every free second he had was spent working with his dad, Kramer said.

“I’ve worked in this animal hospital since I was a little boy,” Kramer said. “I skipped Saturday morning cartoons and came here.”

Huntington Animal Hospital's Dr. Jeff Kramer is hard at work doing what he does best — helping animals. Photo from Kramer
Huntington Animal Hospital’s Dr. Jeff Kramer is hard at work doing what he does best — helping animals. Photo from Kramer

Kramer attended Johns Hopkins University and then went on to attend veterinarian school at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, where he worked hard to fulfill his dream of becoming a vet.

After graduating from veterinary school, Kramer spent time living in Virginia and working at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C.  He then returned to Huntington Station where he teamed up with his dad and worked at the family’s animal hospital. Once his dad retired, Kramer took over the business and has been operating it ever since.

“It has been an all-around wonderful experience, giving back to people and providing the animals and people with care and help,” Kramer said.

In the past Kramer has treated ferrets, guinea pigs and hamsters, but the practice now treats cats and dogs. Kramer said the staff would treat other animals if they came in.

While he loves treating dogs and cats, he said a big part of his job is treating their owners and helping them cope through difficult times. Through his more than 30 years running the practice, he said he has seen some sad cases that are just part of the job.

“It’s hard to see a dog and cat that has been hit by a car,” Kramer said.

The veterinarian said his job is very rewarding and he loves helping animals and owners. He said he loves giving back and providing animals with the care they need.

“It’s a wonderful profession,” he said. “I’m very very lucky to be a veterinarian. I’m one of the family doctors, that’s my favorite part.”

Sal Migliore, an owner of four cats, visits Kramer regularly and has been for the last three years. He called the veterinarian a good person who is very caring with animals.

“He is our Dr. Doolittle,” Migliore said. “He is a doctor for animals. We don’t know what we would do without him, we have so much faith in him.”

Next week, at the June 6 client appreciation day, people will get to meet a dog trainer, groomer along with Kramer and his team. Attendees will also be able to enjoy snacks and drinks, Kramer said.

“It’s really saying thank you to our Huntington Animal Hospital family,” Kramer said.

Huntington's Katie Nugent leads the relay pack on the way to her first-place finish for the Suffolk Division II title. Photo by Mike Connell

Every point counted. Literally.

The Huntington girls’ track and field team needed contributions from its sprinters and hurdlers, distance runners and field event specialists to put it in a position to overtake East Islip in the final event and lift the Blue Devils to their first-ever Suffolk County Division II spring championship last Thursday at Northport High School.

Huntington nipped East Islip in the final team standings by a mere two points, 91-89. The outcome wasn’t decided until 4×400-meter relay anchor Katie Nugent’s all-out sprint in the final 100 meters of that race produced a first-place finish and gave the Blue Devils the title they have coveted all spring.

“What a meet!” Huntington head coach Shawn Anderson said. “That was one of the most exciting meets I have ever been a part of, especially since we were in the mix of it. As a coach, I knew that we were prepared, but it was up to the athletes to rise to the occasion and they proved why they were the best team out there today in Division II. [East Islip] pushed us all the way to the end.”

Huntington trailed East Islip heading into the shot put and the relays, 75-66, but Betty Huitt came up big for the team in shot put, shattering her previous personal best with a throw that measured 34-8 1/2, to place fourth and capture four team points, to inch the Blue Devils closer to the top.

Alexandra Koumas leaps over the hurdle for Huntington. Photo by Darin Reed
Alexandra Koumas leaps over the hurdle for Huntington. Photo by Darin Reed

In the 4×800 relay, the team of Nugent, Nicole Abbondandelo, Alexandra Koumas and Suzie Petryk turned in a gutty performance. The foursome notched a winning time of 9 minutes, 38.65 seconds, just shy of their best this spring, but notable in light of the fact that most of athletes had run two prior races, including Koumas, who only had about 30 minutes rest after her 400 hurdles final. East Islip took third in the race.

The 4×100 relay was next, and the Blue Devils team of Samantha Glicker, Lexi Mills, Maliyah Davis-Coddington and Marina Ruzic earned Huntington a valuable point with a sixth place finish in 52.47 seconds. East Islip took second in the race.

As Huntington’s 4×400 relay team of Nugent, Anna Gulizio, Latoya Shand and Alexis Pastorelli took the track, Anderson knew that a victory in the race would give the Blue Devils the Suffolk Division II title. A second place finish would give the team a tie in the standings with East Islip and a third place finish would mean letting the county crown slip through their collective fingers.

The team’s splits of 59.6, 58.5, 1:02.9 and 58.6 produced a new school record of 3:59.64.

“We were in second going into the final leg,” Anderson said. Nugent accelerated going into the final turn and caught West Babylon at the top of the stretch. It was an all-out sprint in the final 100 meters, producing a victory by a mere 65/100ths of a second.

“It was one of the most intense races I have seen, and with the win, came the title,” Anderson said. Since East Islip didn’t have a team running in the race, they were unable to score any points, while Huntington’s finish allowed it to overcome its deficit.

In other action, Petryk and Nugent finished first and second, respectively, in the 800. Petryk covered the distance in an efficient time of 2:16.18. Nugent just edged out the third place finisher from Half Hollow Hills West by 4/100ths of a second, with a personal best time of 2:19.22.

In the 400 hurdles, Koumas set a new Huntington record by posting a time of 1:05.06 as she swept across the finish line in second place. In the 3,000, Abbondandelo finished third after a “super-fast start,” Anderson said.

The freshman crossed the line in 10:44.99.

Nina Cartwright threw a personal best distance of 91-2, just missing a top six finish in discus.

Petryk cruised to victory in 7:12.80 in the 2,000 steeplechase, and Pastorelli finished fifth, in 7:43.90, a new personal best time. Petryk raced in the 1,500 soon after, and finished second in 4:52.54, making sure to save some energy for the all-important relay that was contested near the end of the competition. Abbondandelo placed fifth in a new personal best time of 4:58.96.

Shand finished fourth in 58.63 in the 400 dash.

“Latoya was an unsung hero for us as she ran four races on Tuesday and two races on Thursday for us,” Anderson said. “She’s quiet, yet fierce, and always lays it out on the track.”

Kayla Eidle gained the Blue Devils valuable points in the team standings with her fifth place finish in the 1,500 race walk, in 7:55.45. Cartwright cleared 9 feet in the pole vault, to finish in a tie for third place. Nugent notched a personal best 32-3 3/4 in shot put, when she launched three consecutive throws about 10 minutes prior to running in the 4×800 relay.

The Blue Devils are on a roll, winning the league and division titles, and Anderson hopes the good times roll into states.

“Each and every girl laid out their best efforts on the track and had some absolutely stellar performances,” Anderson said. “With such a historic day, it will be fun to see how we do at the state qualifier meet this Friday and Saturday at Port Jefferson.”

File photo by Rohma Abbas

The political season is swinging into high gear in Huntington.

Last week, town Democrats and Republicans tapped their picks for two open seats on the town board. The Huntington Town Democrat Committee nominated incumbent Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and town Deputy Director of General Services Keith Barrett for the spots, according to Mary Collins, chairwoman of the committee. The committee also nominated incumbents Ester Bivona for town receiver of taxes and Marian Tinari for district court judge.

The Democratic nominations took place last Wednesday, Collins said.

“We think they’re the best people we have,” Collins said. “They’ve shown an interest in good government and getting things done.”

The Huntington Town Republican Committee unanimously picked incumbent Councilman Gene Cook (I) and Northport-East Northport school board member Jennifer Thompson, according to Chairwoman Toni Tepe. The nominations took place last Friday.

“The screening committee recommended [them] to the full committee because they feel that Gene has been a stalwart supporter of the people and that he always has the interest of the people at heart,” Tepe said in a phone interview this week. “And Jennifer Thompson came in, screened very nicely, [was a] very personable, knowledgeable individual and would be an asset on the town board.”

Republicans also nominated Tom McNally, a Huntington Station-based attorney and a Republican committee member, for the Suffolk County Legislature 16th District seat, held by Democratic incumbent Steve Stern. The party also chose Jennifer Heller-Smitelli, a civil litigator from Huntington, to run for the 17th Legislative District seat, held by Democratic incumbent Lou D’Amaro.

At this point, the candidates need to collect signatures to get on the ballot. And it looks like there might be a contest for getting on the ballot — at least over on the Democratic side — with former Highway Superintendent William Naughton announcing this week that he wants to run for town board. In addition, newcomer Drew Merola, a business account manager at Verizon is vying for a seat.

Asked for her thoughts on primary elections, Collins said they could be good or bad.

“Sometimes they help solidify the party,” she said. “Sometimes they can cause rifts. It all depends on how people conduct themselves while the primary process is going on.”

Berland and Barrett, when reached this week, said they were excited to get the Democratic committee’s nomination. Cook and Thompson didn’t immediately return a call for comment on Wednesday morning, but Cook stated in a previous interview he’s running for a second four-year term because he’s taken issue with the way the Democratic majority has spent money.

Tepe and Barrett agreed that this year’s election would be about transparency and ethics.

“And also to maintain a community that is in the liking of people who live here,” Tepe said.

Huntington Town, Northport Village to participate in Clean Beaches Day

Clean Beaches Day kicks off in Huntington Town and Northport Village this weekend. File photo

This weekend, Huntington Town residents will get the chance to roll up their sleeves and clean up their favorite beaches.

Clean Beaches Day is set for Saturday, June 6. Huntington Town and Northport Village co-sponsor the event, which will feature cleanups at Centerport, Crab Meadow, Gold Start Battalion, Asharoken/Steers and Scudder beaches.

In an interview this week, Northport Village Mayor George Doll said he is calling on volunteers to participate in the festivities. A commercial fisherman by trade, Doll said the event is important to him and he’s been participating for several years.

“I do it because not only am I interested in the environment, but I make a living off of fish that are pretty much a natural resource,” he said. “And it’s just a way of doing something to help keep it clean.”

Those who participate in Northport will get the chance to visit Bird Island, a bird sanctuary that doesn’t get a lot of visitors, Doll said. The island was created in the 1960s with dredge spoils, and the site eventually became home to a number of birds including Canadian geese, swans and ospreys, he said.

Volunteers will get the option of registering for a cleanup at Centerport, Crab Meadow or Gold Star Battalion beaches, according to a press release from Councilwoman Susan Berland’s (D) office. Also, volunteers can register to be a part of the Clean Beaches Bus Tour, which will take them to Asharoken/Steers and Scudder beaches.

One kickoff for the event will be at 8:15 a.m. at Centerport Beach, where volunteers can enjoy breakfast before the cleanup. The bus tour leaves Centerport Beach at 9 a.m. After the cleanup, at noon, a luncheon will be held at the pavilion at Centerport Beach, where volunteers can relax and enjoy refreshments.

Doll said volunteers would also be meeting up in Northport at 8:30 a.m. at the Village Dock, where they’ll be served a continental breakfast courtesy of Tim’s Shipwreck Diner. Cleanup will start at 9 a.m.

Visit the town’s website for more information on Clean Beaches Day or contact Fran Evans at 631-351-3018.

The Art League of Long Island’s Art in the Park Fine Art & Craft Fair was held at Heckscher Park on Saturday, May 30, and Sunday, May 31. This annual juried fair and fundraiser for the Art League is now in its 48th year and attracts fine artists, craftspeople and art lovers from throughout the metropolitan area to Huntington.

By Jane Lee Bock

Huntington schools have taken a big step toward ensuring that local taxpayers continue to see some money back in state rebates this year.

School districts have formed a consortium to help reign in expenses, implementing one more of the mandatory steps needed to comply with the regulations of the three-year state property tax freeze credit.

The credit is a new tax relief program that reimburses qualifying homeowners for increases in local property taxes on their primary homes, according to the program’s website. The credit applies to school districts in 2014 and 2015 and to most other municipalities in 2015 and 2016.

Cold Spring Harbor school district has been designated the lead agency for the consortium and is partnering with Western Suffolk BOCES to coordinate the plans and submit them to the state by June 1, 2015. In total so far, 19 districts are eligible to participate in this joint effort. Northport, Huntington, Harborfields and Cold Spring Harbor have officially joined the consortium.

William Bernhard, interim assistant superintendent for business at Cold Spring Harbor. File photo by Karen Spehler
William Bernhard, interim assistant superintendent for business at Cold Spring Harbor. File photo by Karen Spehler

In 2014, New York property owners received a rebate if their school district stayed within the state’s 2-percent property tax cap when developing its budget. In 2015, property owners will get a rebate if the districts demonstrate that they have plans that will develop efficiencies and cost savings, and their local municipal taxing districts stay within the tax cap. In 2016, the rebate requirements will be aimed at only municipalities, requiring them to stay within the tax cap and develop cost savings.

The state estimates this three-year program will result in $1.5 billion in taxpayer savings. This consortium meets the requirements of the government efficiency plan component of the property tax freeze credit.

No specific savings have been announced yet because the plans have to be submitted and approved by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance and any savings created by efficiencies implemented before 2012, when the freeze was initially created, are allowed to be included in each district’s component of the plan.

“What they have allowed us to do is that if we had some prior efficiencies that were instituted prior to June 2012, which is the first year of the tax cap, we can use that towards demonstrating our savings,” William Bernhard, interim assistant business superintendent of the Cold Spring Harbor school district said in a phone interview. “Many districts had to do that to stay within the tax cap.”

In addition, by grouping the districts together, they will be required to save one percent of their tax levy combined, instead of individually, he said. Those savings must be realized through the 2016-17 school years.
Bernhard said he hasn’t seen the full plan yet because the information has not been submitted.

Visit www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/property_tax_freeze.htm for more information on the property tax freeze credit program.

Firefighters douse a blaze that overtook a two-story office building on New York Avenue in Huntington village on Tuesday. Photo from Huntington Fire Department

Huntington Town firefighters doused a blaze in the village that ravaged a two-story office building on Tuesday night.

Firefighters douse a blaze that overtook a two-story office building on New York Avenue in Huntington village on Tuesday. Photo from Huntington Fire Department
Firefighters douse a blaze that overtook a two-story office building on New York Avenue in Huntington village on Tuesday. Photo from Huntington Fire Department

The fire broke out at 191 New York Ave. at about 7:45 p.m., according to Steve Silverman, a spokesman for the Town of Huntington Fire Chiefs Council.

The building near Prime Avenue, called the Huntington Law Center, housed a number of law practices, including the Ten Haagen Financial Group and prominent local lawyers Jim Matthews, Jim Gaughran and John Leo.

The Huntington Fire Department responded to the call. The Centerport, Halesite and Huntington Manor fire departments assisted at the scene. The Cold Spring Harbor and Greenlawn fire departments provided standby coverage.

Huntington Fire Department Chief Robert Berry said about 65 local firefighters showed up to douse the blaze. Firefighters didn’t leave the scene until 10:30 p.m., he said.

The cause of the fire was unclear, but the heaviest part of the blaze was in the rear of the building, Berry said in a Wednesday phone interview. There was no damage to adjacent buildings.

“The whole second floor is destroyed and the first floor had severe water and smoke damage,” Berry said.

The town has placarded the building, meaning it is uninhabitable, according to town spokesman A.J. Carter. There is “major structural damage to the roof,” he said.

Program aims to make dogs more adoptable

Dogs Playing for Life, a socialization program for dogs, is now being implemented at the town shelter. Photo from A.J. Carter

Dogs at the Huntington Animal Shelter will get the chance to participate in playgroups that will help them burn energy and counteract the stresses of shelter life.

The town shelter has begun implementing Dogs Playing for Life, a socialization program for shelter dogs. In addition to playgroups for the dogs, the program also helps provide better indicators for shelter staff in classifying dogs for adoption.

“Huntington is proud of our shelter and our efforts to stay at the forefront of current trends in caring for the physical and emotional needs of the dogs in our care,” Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said in a statement. “We are excited about the potential of the Dogs Playing for Life program to stimulate dogs at the shelter and prepare them for their lives when they find new homes.”

This week, the founder of Dogs Playing for Life, Aimee Sadler and her team, began training shelter workers and volunteers in the program, according to a town statement. The training includes a classroom session and training with some of the shelter dogs. There is also a classroom presentation and demonstration for safe handling techniques during group experiences.

The Dogs Playing for Life program has its roots on Long Island, beginning at the Southampton Town Animal Shelter 17 years ago.

“Play is good for animals and people,” Sadler said in a statement. “Letting shelter dogs get together to socialize daily helps them to cope with the stressful kennel environment while waiting for someone to take them home.”

The benefits of the program include critical dog-to-dog social skills that can help postadoption in developing positive relationships, along with exercise that will help relax the dogs in their kennels when meeting people. Also, shelter staff will gain a better understanding of each dog by observing its state of play and social skills of the leash — information that can be used to make better decisions about potential adoption matches.

The program, which costs approximately $6,000, is being funded at a cost share by the town and the Huntington League for Animal Protection, whose volunteers have worked with the shelter dogs for many years.

Jane Barbato, who runs the volunteer program at the shelter for the League for Animal Protection, said, “The shelter staff and LAP volunteers already know that we have the most wonderful dogs in the world. Playing for Life gives the public the opportunity to see for themselves just how magnificent they really are — in all their glory, just doing what dogs do, reveling in their connection with each other.”

Dogs Playing for Life is the latest program implemented at the shelter in an effort to help dogs find new homes and help with basic socialization training.

The town is planning on chronicling the progress of the program in online videos told through the eyes of Dixie, a pit bull mix at the shelter.

$6.5 million state project resumes in Fort Salonga

Roadwork on Route 25A in Fort Salonga. Photo by Rohma Abbas

A $6.5 million state project to repave a 10.6-mile stretch of Route 25A in Huntington Town resumed in Fort Salonga on May 20.

Repair and repaving work began at Bread and Cheese Hollow Road in Fort Salonga and will proceed westward to Middleville Road in Northport, according to a statement from the New York State Department of Transportation. Posillico Inc. of Farmingdale, under contract with NYS DOT, is performing the work. That section of the roadwork is expected to be completed within two weeks, according to a statement from the DOT.

The statement indicated that three of the most deteriorated sections of Route 25A were repaired prior to the harsh winter weather.

The scope of the project is to repave Route 25A, Main Street and Fort Salonga Road between Route 108 in Cold Spring Harbor and Bread and Cheese Hollow Road in Fort Salonga. The pavement along the 10.6-mile project route will be removed and replaced with new asphalt and the traffic signal loops will be replaced.

The project includes installation of fresh pavement markings, including bike lane striping and more visible pedestrian crosswalks.

In addition, audible rumble devices will be added on the centerline, which will provide noise and physical vibration warnings to motorists who stray into oncoming traffic.

Drainage structure repairs are included in the project to improve roadway runoff.

“When completed, these pavement repairs will improve motorists’ safety and help maintain the integrity of NY Route 25A/Main Street/Fort Salonga Road in the Town of Huntington,” according to the statement.

In an effort to begin the project while minimizing its impact, the construction has been arranged to be shorter and limited to sections of Route 25A, according to the state. The work will also take place during off-peak days and night hours depending on the area.

The travel lanes will also be shifted during the work to accommodate construction activities. A single travel lane is being maintained in each direction. On-street parking is not permitted during this construction work, according to the release.

The NYS DOT is urging drivers to use alternate routes in an effort to avoid travel delays. Local officials, businesses, schools and emergency service providers are being notified about the repaving operations in their local areas.

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