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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.

David Stein is joyous after winning a contest for Northport-East Northport school board. Photo by Rohma Abbas

By Rohma Abbas & Victoria Espinoza

Voters in the Huntington, Northport-East Northport, Harborfields and Cold Spring Harbor school districts resoundingly approved their districts’ proposed 2015-16 budgets and elected a number of newcomers to local school boards.

Both Harborfields and Northport-East Northport school board races had contests this year — in Harborfields, five candidates vied for three seats, and in Northport-East Northport, a pool of seven were competing for three slots.

Huntington and Cold Spring Harbor had races in which trustees ran unopposed.

Huntington
Voters in the Huntington school district approved a $120.3 million budget, 1,228 votes to 301. Proposition 2, which allows the district to spend just over $1 million in capital reserve monies to pay for state-approved projects, passed 1,252 votes to 251.

Four people ran unopposed for re-election or election: board President Emily Rogan received 1,193 votes, board members Xavier Palacios and Tom DiGiacomo collected 1,139 votes and 1,185 votes, respectively, and newcomer Christine Biernacki garnered 1,189 votes. Rogan, Biernacki and DiGiacomo won three-year terms.

As the lowest vote getter, Palacios will serve the remaining two years on a term of former Vice President Adam Spector’s vacated seat.

“We will maintain our efforts toward achieving cost savings and efficiencies, while preserving the goal of providing students across the district with a high quality education that promotes an affinity for learning as well as college and career readiness in an increasingly global and technologically-driven society,” Superintendent Jim Polansky said in a statement.

Tammie Topel is joyous after winning a contest for Northport-East Northport school board. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Tammie Topel is joyous after winning a contest for Northport-East Northport school board. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Northport-East Northport
In Northport-East Northport, the $159.6 million budget was approved, 3,281 to 788, in a turnout that school officials there called stronger than usual. Proposition 2, which allows the district to spend $1.2 million in capital reserves, was approved 3,561 to 504. Longtime Trustee Stephen Waldenburg Jr., who has served on the board for 15 years, was voted out in a heated race against six others for three seats, amassing 1,290 votes. Incumbent David Badanes, 2,446 votes, was re-elected to another term. Candidate Tammie Topel, former school board member, got her seat back after declining to seek re-election last year, with 2,130 votes and newcomer David Stein, who championed a successful grassroots parental movement to get full-day kindergarten included in this year’s budget, enjoyed victory to the board, with 2,548 votes.

Newcomers Peter Mainetti, Josh Muno and Michael Brunone missed the mark as well, with Mainetti garnering 1,018 votes, Muno receiving 542 votes and Brunone getting 1,039 votes.

Stein said he’s looking forward to working with his colleagues on the school board as his first order of business.

“I feel that the will of this entire community, that did great things this year, was just heard. This is what we’ve been working for. The community put kindergarten together; they did it as a community effort.”

Waldenburg said he “would’ve liked to won,” but the community has spoken.

“I’ve given it my all for 15 years and I’m grateful that I was able to serve that long,” Waldenburg said. “I appreciate it. The community wants somebody else; that’s their choice.”

Newly elected Trustee Tammie Topel and incumbent David Badanes also spoke positively about their victories.

“I feel on cloud nine. I feel really great,” Topel said.

The United Teachers of Northport, the district’s teacher’s union, endorsed the three candidates who won, according to Antoinette Blanck, the president of the union. She said she was “thrilled” the budget passed, especially because of full-day kindergarten.

Harborfields
Voters in Harborfields approved their budget with high marks — 82.5 percent voter support for an $80.5 million spending plan, with 1,442 voting in favor and 305 voting no. Voters also supported a proposition on the ballot to establish a new capital reserve fund, with 79.4 percent in favor.

Incumbents Donald Mastroianni and board President Dr. Thomas McDonagh were returned to the board, and voters elected newcomer Suzie Lustig. Mastroianni earned the most votes, at 1,017, McDonagh earned 958 votes and Lustig got 953 votes.

Candidates Chris Kelly and Colleen Rappa fell short.

Mastroianni and McDonagh are both incumbents; serving their ninth and seventh year, respectively. Lustig, a resident of the Harborfields district for 22 years, will be serving on the board for her first time.

Lustig said she wants to focus her time on making sure all students at Harborfields receive a well-rounded education that is competitive for the 21st century.

“Our school has to be of a holistic level, some children may be gifted in science or they may be gifted in music, and we need to make sure we represent everybody for a competitive environment,” Lustig said.

Lustig has served as the Harborfields Council of PTAs “Get Out the Vote” chairperson for three years now, and has served on the district’s advisory committee since 2013, as well as holding many different PTA positions since 2007.

Mastroianni, who has served on the board since 2006, believes that the biggest challenges Harborfields faces as a district are state-imposed, including the gap elimination adjustment on school district aid, a deduction from each school district’s state aid allocation that helps the state fill its revenue shortfall.

Mastroianni also hopes to focus on current district committee work regarding building usage and full-day kindergarten.

“I think full-day kindergarten is definitely possible, but we have to take a hard look at the costs and the sustainability,” Mastroianni said.

McDonagh wants to focus on many of the projects that have just begun this year, including the capital improvement bond project, and evaluating the need for facility modifications over the next few years.

“The projects being considered include both athletic facilities and educational facilities, as well as just general district facility needs like bathrooms and other facilities,” McDonagh said.

Cold Spring Harbor
In Cold Spring Harbor, voters approved a $64 million budget, 335 votes to 130. Proposition 2, which moved to spend capital reserve money on various projects, passed 318 to 107. Proposition 3, to establish a new capital reserve fund, was approved 314 to 114. Board President Anthony Paolano and Trustee Ingrid Wright ran unopposed for re-election and received 366 and 359 votes, respectively.

Cold Spring Harbor
Voters passed a $64 million budget, 335 votes to 130. Proposition 2, to spend capital reserve money on various projects, passed 318 to 107. Proposition 3, to establish a new capital reserve fund, passed 314 to 114. Board President Anthony Paolano and Trustee Ingrid Wright ran unopposed for re-election and received 366 and 359 votes, respectively.

Commack
Community members passed Commack’s $185 million budget 1,927 to 575.

Comsewogue
The district’s $85.2 million budget passed, 1,024 to 204. Proposition 2, to add bus service for 38 John F. Kennedy Middle School students, passed 1,096 to 134. Three people ran unopposed for board seats and were elected, board President John Swenning, Trustee Rick Rennard and newcomer Louise Melious.

Harborfields
An $80.5 million budget passed with 82.5 percent voter support. Voters also supported a proposition on the ballot to establish a new capital reserve fund, with 79.4 percent in favor. Incumbents Donald Mastroianni and board President Dr. Thomas McDonagh were returned to the board, and voters elected newcomer Suzie Lustig. Candidates Chris Kelly and Colleen Rappa fell short.

Hauppauge
Voters passed the district’s proposed budget, 1,458 to 442. Michael Buscarino and Stacey Weisberg were elected to the board with 1,098 and 1,122 votes, respectively. Candidate Susan Hodosky fell short, with just 984 votes.

Huntington
A $120.3 million budget passed, 1,228 votes to 301. Proposition 2, to spend just over $1 million in capital reserve monies to pay for state-approved projects, passed 1,252 votes to 251. Four people ran unopposed for re-election or election: board President Emily Rogan got 1,193 votes, board members Xavier Palacios and Tom DiGiacomo received 1,139 votes and 1,185 votes, respectively, and newcomer Christine Biernacki garnered 1,189 votes. Rogan, Biernacki and DiGiacomo won three-year terms. As the lowest vote-getter, Palacios will serve the remaining two years on a term of a vacated seat.

Kings Park
Voters passed an $84.7 million budget, 2,065 to 577. A second proposition on the ballot, regarding a school bus purchase, passed 1,998 to 542. A third proposition, regarding a capital project to replace the high school roof, passed 2,087 to 455. Incumbent Diane Nally was re-elected to the board with 1,821 votes, while newcomer Kevin Johnston was elected with 1,886 votes. Incumbent Charlie Leo fell short in his re-election bid, garnering 1,108 votes.

Middle Country
Middle Country’s $236 million budget passed, with 1,863 votes in favor and 579 against. All three school board incumbents — President Karen Lessler and Trustees Jim Macomber and Arlene Barresi — were running unopposed and were re-elected to their seats.

Miller Place
Newcomer Keith Frank won a seat on the school board, edging out candidate Michael Manspeizer, 781 to 287.
“I’m just looking forward to the next three years,” Frank said. “I have big shoes to step into.”
Residents also passed the district’s $70 million budget, with 964 voting in favor and 262 voting against.
Board President Michael Unger said voter turnout was low “as a result of a good budget and good candidates.”

Mount Sinai
Voters approved the $56.7 million budget with 1,241 in favor and 316 against. Newcomer Michael Riggio was elected to the board with 993 votes, followed by incumbent Lynn Capobiano, who garnered 678 for re-election to a second term. John DeBlasio and Joanne Rentz missed election, receiving 624 and 321 votes, respectively.

Northport-East Northport
The $159.6 million budget passed, 3,281 to 788. Proposition 2, to spend $1.2 million in capital reserves, passed 3,561 to 504. Incumbent David Badanes, former trustee Tammie Topel and newcomer David Stein were elected to the board, with 2,446 votes for Badanes, 2,130 for Topel and 2,548 for Stein. Incumbent Stephen Waldenburg Jr. fell short of re-election, with 1,290 votes. Newcomers Peter Mainetti, Josh Muno and Michael Brunone missed the mark as well, with Mainetti garnering 1,018 votes, Muno receiving 542 votes and Brunone getting 1,039 votes.

Port Jefferson
Voters passed a $42.4 million budget, 491 to 130. Proposition 2, to create a new capital reserve fund that would help replace roofs throughout the district, passed with 467 votes in favor and 122 against.
Trustee Vincent Ruggiero was re-elected to the board with 468 votes. Write-in candidates Tracy Zamek, a newcomer, and Trustee Mark Doyle were elected with 246 and 178 votes, respectively. There were a number of other community residents who received write-in votes, including former board member Dennis Kahn, who garnered 58 votes.

Rocky Point
The $78.7 million budget passed with 788 votes in favor and 237 against. Board Vice President Scott Reh was re-elected to a third term, with 679 votes. Newcomer Ed Casswell secured the other available seat with 588 votes. Candidate Donna McCauley missed the mark, with only 452 votes.

Shoreham-Wading River
The school budget passed, 910 to 323. Michael Fucito and Robert Rose were re-elected to the school board, with 902 and 863 votes, respectively.

Smithtown
Smithtown’s $229.5 million budget passed, 2,582 to 762. School board President Christopher Alcure, who ran unopposed, was re-elected with 2,295 votes, while newcomer Jeremy Thode was elected with 2,144 votes. MaryRose Rafferty lost her bid, garnering just 860 votes. A second proposition on the ballot, related to capital reserves, passed 2,507 to 715.

Three Village
Voters passed a $188 million budget, 2,401 to 723. Incumbents William F. Connors, Jr. and Deanna Bavlnka were re-elected, with 2,200 and 2,052 votes, respectively. Challenger Jeffrey Mischler fell short, garnering only 1,095 votes.

Local firefighters douse a house fire on East Neck Road in Halesite on May 16. Photo by Steve Silverman

About 50 firefighters doused a blaze at a Halesite home on Saturday morning. There were no injuries.

Local firefighters douse a house fire on East Neck Road in Halesite on May 16. Photo by Steve Silverman
Local firefighters douse a house fire on East Neck Road in Halesite on May 16. Photo by Steve Silverman

Under the command of Halesite Fire Department Chief Dan McConnell, firefighters from Huntington, Centerport and Cold Spring Harbor fire departments responded to the scene on East Neck Road. Volunteers from the Halesite Fire Department responded to reports of a house fire at about 10 a.m., according to Steve Silverman, a spokesman for the Town of Huntington Fire Chiefs Council.

The firefighters began an aggressive interior attack through the front door and up a spiral staircase to the second floor. They were able to confine the fire to the attic and rear of the home. The remainder of the home sustained smoke and water damage, Silverman said.

The Halesite Fire Department was on the scene with two engines, a ladder truck and ambulance. Huntington Manor Fire Department was on standby at Halesite’s fire department.

Firefighters had the blaze under control in just over an hour, Silverman said.

The Suffolk County Police Arson Squad and the Huntington Town fire marshal are investigating the case.

Photo from CAC

By Karen Jillian

On Sunday, May 17, at 4 p.m., the Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington, will host the 9th Annual First Exposure Student Film Festival, a program curated by professional filmmakers from the Suffolk County Film Commission. The event, which will feature the “best of the best” high school short narrative, documentary and animated films, will include a screening of the films and a reception for the filmmakers and members of the audience.

Each year, for the past nine years, Long Island high schools are requested to submit films by their students that were done throughout the year as school projects. This year approximately 28 high schools submitted hundreds of films. The films, according to Skolnick, are “whittled down to a manageable number by a jury of people from the Long Island film industry.”  This is done at the Long Island Media Arts Showcase at Five Towns College in Dix Hills. The jury picks from the hundreds that compete, but only a handful make the cut into the First Exposure event.

The winners’ films are shown at the showcase, and they are awarded a certificate and a Cinema Arts membership. Those at the Cinema Arts Centre hope the winners use the membership to “view many of their films to expand their cinematic talents and become better filmmakers,” says Skolnick.

“Long Island is a hotbed of filmmaking. It is just a matter of time before a student establishes a name for him or herself as a major filmmaker!” — Dylan Skolnick, co-director of the Huntington Cinema Arts Centre

There are many types of shorts created such as dramas, comedies, horror films and Public Service Announcements dealing with prevalent subjects such as drunk driving and bullying.

Skolnick says it is not only winning that is important but the process itself. Many of these young filmmakers go on to schools such as the University of Southern California, SUNY Purchase and New York University. Some will also go on to wonderful careers in filmmaking.

Those that do not win entrance into the festival have still done “important work in education and character building by making their films and attempting to be one of the few to enter into the film festival. The skills they acquired participating in these projects and this contest will be helpful in future endeavors,” he added.

While some schools can provide better equipment with which the students can work, students from less well-equipped schools make a good showing as well. Proudly, Skolnick proclaims, there is diversity among the schools participating. “Money can buy a lot of equipment but it cannot buy imagination. The kids make up for their schools not having deep pockets,” Skolnick said.

Come to the Huntington Cinema Art Centre on Sunday, and perhaps you will see a film made by a student who was inspired by the Long Island environment and will follow in the footsteps of some other talented Long Island filmmakers. According to Susan Finkelstein, director of publicity and promotions at the Cinema Arts Centre, “past winners have gone on to … be featured at the Hamptons Film Festival.”

Admission is free and refreshments will be served.The audience can chat with the young filmmaking students after the screening. For more information, call 631-423-7611 or visit www.cinemaartscentre.org.

A call for legislative action on eve of boating safety week

Local safe boating advocates don’t want proposed state and federal laws improving safety on the water to lose steam. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Huntington boating safety advocates are calling for new wind in the sails of languishing state and federal measures aimed at making recreational boating safer.

Jackie Martin, commodore of the Greater Huntington Council of Yacht & Boating Clubs, said she wants to see some action on two proposed laws, one state and one federal, that would attack the issue of boating safety from multiple fronts, including increasing boating safety education state and nationwide; and mandating that boat manufacturers create and affix plates publicizing the maximum passenger capacities for vessels shorter than 45 feet and greater than 20 feet.

“Nothing’s been done on this,” Martin said in a phone interview on Friday. “I can also say I’m disappointed.”

The commodore voiced her frustrations just a few days before the launch of the third annual Huntington Safe Boating Week, an event filled with programs highlighting the significance of taking safety precautions and behaving sensibly on the water. The week is a partnership between GHCYBC, town, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Neptune Sail and Power Squadron, which provides boating education classes and seminars.

It’s been a year since either of the bills made any waves. The bills have been referred to committees, according to their latest status updates in the State Assembly and the Library of Congress online databases.

The laws were prompted in part by the deaths of three children in Oyster Bay almost three years ago: Victoria Gaines, 7, Harlie Treanor, 11, and David Aureliano, 12, died when the boat they were on capsized on its way back to shore after a July 4 fireworks show. The 34-foot cabin cruiser was carrying 27 people at the time.

If approved, the New York State legislation would require all boaters in the state’s tidewaters to obtain boating certification issued by either the commissioner, the U.S. Power Squadrons or the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, phasing in the requirements for various age groups by 2020. It would prohibit individuals under the age of 14 to operate a boating vessel, and would eliminate the use of online classes to obtain boating certification, “due to the ineffective educational requirements of said classes,” according to the legislation.

Stephanie Quarles, vice commodore of GHCYBC, said a swift requirement for older boaters to conform to the proposed boating certification standards is key, because many accidents involve older boaters.

“Once you’re a boater, there’s so much to it and it can be dangerous if you’re not careful,” she said. “And it can be an awful lot of fun if you’re in a safe environment.”

Asked why there’s been no movement on the state bill, Assemblyman Andy Raia (R-East Northport), a co-sponsor, called the situation “frustrating,” and said that Albany can be “a slow process.” Raia added that there’s been some talk within the state’s parks department about the difficulty of enforcing the proposed law, as it would create two separate boating certification requirements — one for tidewater and another for freshwater.

He also said the bill doesn’t have a New York State Senate sponsor.

“Things don’t necessarily move until there is a Senate sponsor,” he said.

However, the bill has not been forgotten, Raia reassured.

“It’s not dead,” he said. “It’s something that we are talking about – particularly now that the boating season is upon us. The basic problem is nothing in Albany is moving as fast as things should be, even though it makes perfectly clear sense.”

Over on the federal level, U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) unveiled legislation last year called the Boating Occupancy and Teaching Safety Act. As of May 20, 2014, the law was in a subcommittee.

Under the bill, states would be required to spend a share of federal funding it already receives under the recreational boating safety program.

Israel’s bill would also require boat manufacturers — as of January 2016 — install a “capacity plate” on boats between 20 and 45 feet in length that list the maximum number of passengers and maximum gross weight it can carry. Federal law already requires this information for boats shorter than 20 feet long, so the bill would expand the regulation.

Caitlin Girouard, communications director for Israel, said the House of Representatives speaker never brought the legislation to the floor for a vote in the last Congress, “but the congressman will be reintroducing the legislation and once again pushing for its passage.” According to the Library of Congress’s database, the bill has no co-sponsors.

Huntington Safe Boating Week starts this Saturday and runs to Friday, May 22. For more information on events go to www.huntingtonsafeboatingweek.com.

Commack, Kings Park, Smithtown districts’ numbers dip while Huntington reports increase in students last year

Superintendent James Grossane file photo

Enrollment numbers are in flux for western North Shore school districts like Commack, Huntington, Kings Park and Smithtown, but superintendents are planning accordingly for the future.

A Western Suffolk BOCES report released in March pegged an overall 6.9 percent decline in enrollment numbers of elementary and middle school students from 89,532 in 2008 to 83,336 in 2014. Some of the districts suffering the larger numbers of enrollment dips included Commack, Kings Park and Smithtown — the largest district under the Western Suffolk BOCES region — but Huntington’s district, however, was named one of only three districts to see an enrollment increase over the last few years.

Overall regional enrollment is projected to decline by 5,396 students, or 6.5 percent, over the next three years, as elementary and middle school enrollment figures progress through the system, according to the report.

“The number of births in Suffolk County declined from 21,252 in 1990 to 15,521 in 2013 (preliminary data),” the report said. “Smaller kindergarten classes replaced larger exiting twelfth-grade classes each year since 2008. As these smaller cohorts continue to move through the system, losses are projected in elementary, middle and secondary grade enrollment from 2014 to 2017.”

Commack and Kings Park each suffered a little more than 13 percent dips in enrollment between 2008 and 2014, the report said — the greatest losses of any Western Suffolk BOCES district during that time. But Timothy Eagen, superintendent of schools for the Kings Park Central School District, said there was no need for panic.

Eagen said his district hit historical enrollment numbers back in 2006 at 4,192 students and then saw that figure slowly drop over the following years to 3,511 this year. Looking ahead, Kings Park projected 3,391 enrollment by the coming September.

“The reason for the enrollment decline is fairly simple,” Eagen said. “The incoming kindergarten class has been smaller than the graduating twelfth-grade class of the previous year since 2007.”

Eagen said enrollment numbers should stabilize in the not-too-distant future, as the district moves forward with a staff-neutral budget that allows for reductions in class sizes.

“Class sizes are finally moving in a good direction, and I have received some very positive feedback from the community on this,” he said.

The Commack School District, which did not return requests for comment, saw its enrollment figures drop from 7,830 in 2008 to 6,778 in 2014.

Smithtown’s numbers started at 10,844 in 2008 and dropped about 250 students per year to 9,704 by 2014, the report said, and school Superintendent James J. Grossane said the Smithtown Board of Education was working diligently to prepare for the shift. The superintendent said the district is bracing for an ongoing dip through the year 2023, when he projects a total enrollment of 7,316.

The BOCES report said Smithtown saw a 26 percent drop in housing sales between 2007 and 2012 but did note sales went up between 2012 and 2013 by 36.2 percent, showing a generally stabilizing market.

Meanwhile, Smithtown’s BOE convened a housing committee in April 2014 comprised of a broad cross section of school community members as well as members of the Smithtown community at large to analyze the district’s future housing needs in light of a continuous decline in enrollment, Grossane said. That committee made various recommendations to the BOE back in March, including closing one elementary school no sooner than the 2016-17 school year but did not specify which one. It also suggested the BOE considered a potential middle school closure for the 2022-23 school year if enrollment continues to decline at its current rate, pending a study from the BOE’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Instruction and Housing.

The Huntington school district, which did not return requests for comment, was one of three districts to record enrollment increases between 2013 and 2014 at 1.8 percent alongside Copiague and Wyandanch, bringing its 2014 number up to 4,446 from 4,384 in 2008.

The same could not be said, however, for its neighboring school district in Northport-East Northport, where numbers declined from 6,410 in 2008 to 5,686 in 2014.

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