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Mark Cuthbertson

Huntington Town Clerk JoAnn Raia hands out copies of the 2019 Tentative Budget to the town council. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The first draft of the Town of Huntington’s 2019 budget prepared by Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) was immediately met by sharp criticism and divided the town council.

Lupinacci presented a draft of the town’s 2019 budget calling for a $122.8 million tax levy, or an increase of 2.53 percent from the current year, at the Sept. 20 town board meeting. The proposed 2019 budget falls under New York State’s mandated tax levy increase cap by approximately $80,000, includes $371,000 in rollover savings from 2018, and accounts for growth in the town’s tax base valued at roughly $400,000.

I have taken a conservative approach to expenditure allocations, using previous actuals as a baseline for these costs.”

— Chad Lupinacci

“I have taken a conservative approach to expenditure allocations, using previous actuals as a baseline for these costs,” the supervisor wrote in an open letter presenting the budget. “Particular focus was given to employee salaries, overtime and benefits.”

Lupinacci said some of the challenges faced in drafting the 2019 budget included accounting for contractually mandated collective bargaining increases for all town union employees and a 9 percent increase in employee medical costs. He has suggested appropriating $750,000 from the town’s fund balance to help cover costs in three areas: the consolidated refuse fund, street lighting and the Huntington sewer district.

“I have incorporated realistic revenue budgeting, and have not relied upon one-shot revenues as a means of balancing the 2019 Tentative Budget,” the supervisor wrote.

The budget draft immediately received sharp criticism by Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) who took issue with the supervisor’s suggestion of eliminating one staff member each from each of the four board members’ personnel. Cuthbertson dubbed Lupinacci’s proposal “the height of hypocrisy” pointing to eight individuals who serve the supervisor’s office, in addition to the town board reinstating nine employees and creating 14 new staff positions in August.

In all the time I have been here, council people have had a staff of one secretary, one legislative aide, much like what is afforded our county legislators and members of the state Assembly. “

— Mark Cuthbertson

“In all the time I have been here, council people have had a staff of one secretary, one legislative aide, much like what is afforded our county legislators and members of the state Assembly,” Cuthbertson said. “Now that we have a bloated budget with these positions created in a naked power grab, he seeks to eliminate the people that help council members do their job and, in many respects, holds the administration accountable to the people of this town.”

Lupinacci said he had personally pulled all town board members aside prior to the formal release of the 2019 Tentative Budget to inform them of his proposed staffing changes. He explained his vision is that each councilperson would keep their legislative aide, who assists in policy research and handling calls from residents, and would share one combined office manager or secretary.

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) also spoke out against the proposed 2019 staffing changes.

I am not okay with the tentative budget decision regarding town council personnel which were made without consultation of fellow town board colleagues,” she said. “We, like our supervisor, must serve our constituents and this budget decision diminishes that ability.”

We, like our supervisor, must serve our constituents and this budget decision diminishes that ability.”

— Joan Cergol

In response to the proposed 2019 budget, Cuthbertson was the sole vote against reinstating four town employee positions. These staff openings include a Spanish-speaking office assistant for Town Clerk JoAnn Raia (R) at $9,260 and a dispatcher requested by Superintendent of Highways Kevin Orelli (D).

“I requested and have complete justification for a Spanish-speaking typist,” Raia said. “I have couples coming in all day long for marriage licenses, divorce documents and other documents that are in Spanish and need translation. That is a critical need in my office.”

Lupinacci said the elimination of the four positions is due to employees being replaced over time, largely due to resignations or promotions. Raia confirmed the Spanish-speaking typist submitted a resignation two weeks ago after serving with the town for four years after receiving another job offer.

“I didn’t single out any position,” Cuthbertson said. “I think we were in a better position to budget and pay for it, if we had not gone on a spending spree with patronage jobs in August.

Huntington Town Hall. File photo by Rohma Abbas

The Town of Huntington’s new administration made a second wave of staffing changes at its Aug. 7 meeting, reinstating some positions, while abolishing others.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) sponsored a resolution last week that reinstated nine job titles with a total annual salary of $284,921 while also creating 14 new positions for a total of $272,413. The bill also cut nine staffing positions, which is estimated to save more than $268,000 annually.

We look at the different departments, I’ve been in office seven months now to see what has been working and what isn’t working.”

– Chad Lupinacci

“We look at the different departments, I’ve been in office seven months now to see what has been working and what isn’t working,” Lupinacci said.

A second bill put forth by the supervisor appointed nine individuals to the newly created positions, many of which are exempt from taking civil service tests. Both pieces of legislation passed by a narrow 3-2 vote, split on party lines with Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) and Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) voting against. They accused the board’s hiring process for these position of lacking in transparency and reeking of political nepotism.

We are seeing chapter two of the Republican patronage playbook at work,” Cuthbertson said, denouncing the legislation. “A slew of positions are being created that require no civil service test. These are patronage jobs — plain and simple.”

The councilman reported he and Cergol weren’t included in the hiring process, stating he had seen only one candidate’s résumé prior to the town board meeting and questioned if those appointments had proper qualifications.

We are seeing chapter two of the Republican patronage playbook at work.”

— Mark Cuthbertson

Councilman Gene Cook (R) voiced support for Lupinacci’s appointments, stating the changes were needed in order for town government to run efficiently.

“In the past month or two, I’ve had nothing but complaints against the people in the building department,” he said. “I’ve had the same thing with the planning department. There’s been a number of issues and people deserve better.”

As part of the staffing changes, Joseph Cline, who has served as Huntington’s director of engineering services, was demoted to deputy while maintaining his $138,375 salary. Cline will be replaced by Daniel Martin, who will make more than $146,500 a year. He was appointed to serve as a Suffolk County Supreme Court judge since 2010 before becoming a deputy town attorney.

Lupinacci said he stood by the newly hired and appointed employees based on their skills and merit. Of the nine appointments made Aug. 7, five are new hires and four individuals were already employed by the town but are taking on new roles for which they will receive an additional stipend.

There’s been a number of issues and people deserve better.

— Gene Cook

Cuthbertson previously criticized Lupinacci’s February appointments for going to “11 white Republican males” many of whom had previously campaigned on the party line for various government positions. The councilman argued this second wave of appointments will also have a negative fiscal impact on the town.

“This is gravely wrong from a fiscal and budget standpoint,” Cuthbertson said.

He estimated many of the newly created positions would cost the town approximately $40,000 a year in benefits including health care insurance and retirement benefits.

The town will pull roughly $265,000 from its contingency funds in order to fill the new positions.

“Where is the transparency you promised?”

— Joan Cergol

Cergol voted against the move, calling it a “dizzying array of personnel maneuvers that mystify even those of us used to looking at these resolutions, let alone the public.” She also questioned the hiring process used.

“Where is the transparency you promised?” Cergol said.

She said the resolution Lupinacci presented to board members on the Friday before their meeting had dramatically changed by Tuesday afternoon without explanation.

Among those who will be leaving Town Hall include: John Coraor, director of cultural affairs; Rob Reichert, deputy director of planning; and Jake Turner, the deputy director of engineering services.

The town will be looking to fill three openings that have resulted due to these promotions or being newly created, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo, including an entry-level auto mechanic, an audio-visual production specialist and a plumbing inspector position by civil service candidates.

Event will be held April 29 at 8:30 a.m. at Harborfields High School in Greenlawn

Hunter Cuthbertson, center, with his siblings while hospitalized for his bone marrow transplant in 2017. Photo from Cuthbertson family

Huntington residents are being asked to lace-up their sneakers for a 5K race aimed at raising awareness that April is National Donate Life Month.

Town of Huntington council members Joan Cergol (D) and Mark Cuthbertson (D) are co-sponsoring the first 5K Run to Save Lives April 29 at Harborfields High School along with Simply Fit Health and Wellness gym, which has locations in Centerport and Huntington. The event aims to raise awareness for the importance of organ and tissue donation, an issue that hits close to home for Cuthbertson.

The councilman’s son Hunter said he was surprised when blood tests came back  abnormal during his routine precollege physical in 2016. The younger Cuthbertson said further testing led him to be diagnosed with aplastic anemia, or bone marrow failure, an affliction causing his body to not produce enough blood cells.

“They said I could try to go back to school, but I would need a bone marrow transplant at some point,” he said.

“Nationally, 23 people die every day because they don’t receive an organ.”

– Christian Siems

Luckily for the councilman’s son, his younger brother was tested and wound up being a perfect match, despite just one-in-four odds. He underwent a week of chemotherapy before receiving his bone marrow transplant March 21, 2017.

“My treatment went really well,” the younger Cuthbertson said. “But it was really a perspective changing experience.”

He has since become a strong supporter of bone marrow donor drives, encouraging others to get tested to see if their tissue could be a potential match. Representatives from LiveOnNY, a nonprofit association dedicated to recovering organs and tissues for transplants in the New York metropolitan region, and Be the Match, a 501(c)(3) organization that matches patients with marrow donors, will both be at the April 29 event to encourage people to sign up.

“I think everyone who has the time to get their cheek swabbed, which takes 15 seconds, should do it,” he said. “Even if you are not the match or don’t have the time to do it today, a couple years down the road you might be the match to save someone’s life.”

Cuthbertson is one of the two individuals who will be recognized at the 5K race alongside Christian Siems, a 2012 Harborfields High School graduate. Siems said he considers himself one of the lucky ones. It was during one of the school’s annual blood drives that a nurse detected an issue with his heart.

“When she listened to my chest, she said, ‘You have a heart murmur,” but I hadn’t been diagnosed with a heart murmur; I got it checked out,” Siems said, indicating he later went for testing to St. Francis Hospital. “It was probably one of the scariest days of my life.”

Christian Siems. Photo from Michele Martines

Siems learned that his heart was starting to fail before age 21. He underwent surgery to have an internal defibrillator implanted and attempted to move forward with his plans to attend college.

But when Siems started feeling constantly tired, was pale, struggling to walk and even having difficulty talking, he was rushed to Huntington Hospital. Doctors had him airlifted via helicopter to cardiac specialists at Westchester Medical Center who informed him he would need a heart transplant.

“I was told I had to sit in the hospital and wait for a heart,” Siems said. “It could have been six months; it could have been a year.”

Doctors decided to risk performing an open-heart surgery to install an assistive device that would allow Siems to wait for his much-need transplant at home. He received a phone call after only six months that a donor was found. Siems celebrated the third anniversary of his successful heart transplant April 25.

“Nationally, 23 people die every day because they don’t receive an organ,” he said. “In New York, if you get too far out [on the list] a lot of times a doctor will tell you to move to another state to get an organ faster.”

New York state also has the third-lowest donor registration rate in the country, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, a section of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“There’s no general knowledge about organ donation out there,” Siems said. “A lot of people don’t know what it is, there’s a lot of myths and misconceptions.”

He encouraged local residents to come to the event and learn more about signing up to become an organ donor. Race registration costs $25 for adults and $10 for students. All proceeds will go to LiveOnNY. Register online at www.LivingSimplyFit.com/5k.

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.”

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards walking in the Cow Harbor Day Parade on Sunday, Sept. 20. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Supervisor

Edwards’ leadership is needed

As Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) steps down from his 24-year reign, Huntington faces a number of challenging issues ranging from gang violence to balancing smart economic growth with traffic and parking. It will take a tough individual to get the job done.

Two great candidates have stepped forward to fill Petrone’s shoes. While there is no doubt that Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R) is overall well-liked by Huntington’s residents, Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) has shown she has breadth of community support and the gritty determination needed to bring about change.

In her first term in town office, Edwards has spearheaded the creation of the Huntington Opportunity Resource Center and pushed hard for the revitalization of Huntington Station. There’s a master plan in place for the station. The mixed-use Northridge Project is no longer a vision of what could be, but a constructed reality prepared to open by the end of this year.

Edwards said she’s had an inside seat to the town’s affairs “long enough to know what to keep, what things need to change and what things need to be tweaked.” From our perspective, taking time to directly observe first before demanding change is a sign of wisdom.

If we have to choose one, we encourage you to vote for Edwards. We wish Lupinacci continued success.

Town Board

We choose Cuthbertson, Rogan

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) offers the sole voice of political experience in the four-way race for two seats on Huntington Town Board. It’s clear by his knowledge of the area’s issues, the challenges in overcoming them, and familiarity with the town code.

Cuthbertson is running on the Democratic ticket with Emily Rogan, who is a political newcomer, but claims to have refined her communication and negotiation skills as a member of Huntington school district’s board of education when Jack Abrams Intermediate School was temporarily shut down and transformed into a STEM magnet school.

When listening to these somewhat “reluctant” running mates, it became clear to us that together the Democrats offer a blend of institutional knowledge and a refreshing new point of view. It’s a team with the right combination of governmental skill and fresh energy that is needed to push Huntington forward.

We appreciate the efforts of Jim Leonick and Ed Smyth in running for public office, but had difficulty fully understanding their future vision for Huntington. They took issue with town codes but didn’t fully know how the impact of the changes they proposed, which left us feeling uncertain. The future leadership of Huntington needs to be not only strong, but have a firm grasp on the details.

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.

Town of Huntington officials want to ensure that Italian-Americans can celebrate their culture with pride this Columbus Day weekend.

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) made a vow to protect the Christopher Columbus statue overlooking  Huntington Village against a growing movement to remove what have been referred to as controversial historical monuments.

“The Town of Huntington took on the crusade of putting the statue here,” Petrone said. “We are not removing the statue. The town board feels very strongly about this; we are not removing it.”

Huntington’s Christopher Columbus statue has stood at the corner of Main Street and Lawrence Hill Road for more than 40 years. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington’s Columbus statue has stood at the corner of Main Street and Lawrence Hill Road for more than 40 years, according to Petrone. It was commissioned by Sam Albicocco, a Huntington resident of Italian-American heritage, and its costs were financed by contributions from local residents.

The supervisor said he felt it was necessary to make a public statement in wake of a growing movement at the national and state levels to remove public monuments to controversial historical figures, such as Confederate war leaders and Christopher Columbus.

In August, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) assembled a committee to consider possible removal of “symbols of hate” throughout the city, including statues of Christopher Columbus, as national debate raged over taking down Confederate monuments.

Shortly after the committee was announced, The New York Times reported the Christopher Columbus statue in Central Park was defaced with its hands stained by red paint and graffiti, which included the words “Hate will not be tolerated” on the pedestal.

“This is a political frenzy that’s been unleashed on the Italian community,” said Robert Ferrito, state president of the Sons of Italy. “It’s a frenzy of political correctness and a rewriting of history.”

Ferrito said his Italian-American fraternal organization is working with other organizations throughout the state to ensure that all monuments to Christopher Columbus are protected and the holiday remains unchanged.

“This is a political frenzy that’s been unleashed on the Italian community. It’s a frenzy of political correctness and a rewriting of history.”

— Rob Ferrito

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) recalled how his own father, an immigrant, was one of many Italian-Americans who faced strong discrimination during World War II and the years that followed and spoke of how it relates to the proposition of tearing down the statue.

“I was proud as a young boy to be an Italian-American,” Suozzi said. “We are going to make sure people realize Christopher Columbus gave so much to our country, just like Italian-Americans gave so much to our country, and we are not backing down.”

The announcement by Town officials comes on the eve of the annual Long Island Fall Festival in Heckscher Park, which is traditionally kicked off each year with a wreath laying at the Columbus statue.

“As anyone who has viewed the parade knows, it is not only about one man,
Christopher Columbus,” Petrone said. “It is about the millions of Long Islanders of Italian extraction who take pride in their heritage and their contributions to our town, our Island, our state and our country. Here in the Town of Huntington — a town that values diversity and inclusiveness, and, above all, history — we have no plans to cancel the parade. And we certainly have no plans to even consider taking down this statue.”

The wreath laying will be held Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. The town’s annual Columbus Day parade will be held on Oct. 8 starting at 12:30 p.m. and travel along the length of Main Street.

Petrone said that the town had not received any written objections to the parade or ceremony as of Oct. 1.

Huntington Manor Fire Department members unveil the new sign at the entrance of the newly-named Depot Road Richard W. Holst Memorial Park. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Eight years after the tragic death of a Huntington Manor firefighter, a town park has been renamed to honor his service to the community.

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and the town board announced Depot Road Park is now officially Richard W. Holst Memorial Park, renamed after the late fire police captain, chaplain, and posthumous honorary chief of Huntington Manor Fire Department.

“It is our honor to rededicate this park in his name for his heroic efforts and his giving to this community, continuously,” Petrone said.

Noreen Holst, Huntington Town Board members and Huntington Manor Fire Department members unveil a memorial plaque dedicated to Richard W. Holst. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Holst, a U.S. Navy veteran, joined the Huntington Manor fire department in 1978. He served for 31 years, spending 26 of those as the department’s chaplain and captain of the fire police. Prior to his death, Holst was elected chief chaplain of the New York State Association of Fire Chaplains in 2008. His fellow firefighters affectionately called him, “the Rev.”

“As chaplain, Rich spent countless hours looking after, comforting and at times consoling members and families of the Huntington Manor Fire Department,” said Jon Hoffman, first assistant chief of Huntington Manor Fire Department. “Today, we dedicate this stone and plaque in honor of Richie. It will stay here for years and watch over the people in this park as Richie did for us for so many years.”

In the early morning of Sept. 9, 2009, Holst was walking to 7-Eleven on Depot Road when he saw smoke rising from the adjacent shopping center. He reported the fire and immediately went to the scene to begin evacuation of the stores and checking for possible trapped occupants. Shortly after firefighters arrived, Holst suffered a heart attack and died.

The fire was determined to have started in Uber Cafe, a bagel shop, and police later ruled the incident arson, Petrone said. One of the shop’s owners pled guilty to attempted arson, the second owner was later convicted of arson.

Depot Road Park in Huntington was renamed for former Huntington Manor Fire Department member Richard W. Holst.

The newly renamed Huntington Station park off East 20th Street is only a few hundred feet from the site of the fatal fire. It features a playground and Little League baseball fields. 

“Depot Road Park is a special place, it’s a hidden gem in our park system,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “I think like many of you firefighters who knew Chief Holst, he was a hidden gem in our community. He was someone who was there to serve, dedicated his life to service in the [U.S.] Navy and in the fire department, then the important role of chaplain. So much of his time was dedicated to others.”

In addition to the park’s new signage, a large stone was unveiled bearing a memorial plaque with Holt’s image, notes about his accomplishments and details about his death. Deacon Edward Billia from St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church said a blessing over both the sign and memorial stone.

Noreen Holst appeared deeply touched by the tribute paid to her late husband. While she declined to speak publicly, she clutched a tissue in hand while Huntington Manor Assistant Chief Chuck Brady thanked all those who attended Saturday’s ceremony on behalf of the family. 

Huntington Manor Fire Commissioner Chris Fusaro encouraged the young members of the organization to take a long look around at those gathered and ask to hear personal stories about Holst’s exemplary life. 

“For all you who don’t know what firefighters do, it’s day and night, holidays and weekends when you get up from the table, get out of bed to go and respond,” Fusaro said. “Rich did that. He did it willingly and always from his heart.”

Huntington Manor firefighters salute their former colleague. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

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

A 3-to-2 split of the Huntington Town Board has sent a proposal aimed at placing term limits on elected officials back to the drawing board.

At an Aug. 15 town board meeting, council members voted against a public hearing on legislation that would limit the number of years a public official could hold office. The sticking point was which town positions it would affect.

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) made a motion to amend Councilman Eugene Cook’s (R) resolution which proposed a two-term, or eight-year limit, upwards to three four-year terms, or 12 years. Edwards said this would be more in line with term limits placed by other state and federal governmental offices. Suffolk County legislators are limited to 12 years in office.

Cook accepted these changes, but proposed that the elected positions of town clerk and receiver of taxes be removed from the bill as they are not legislative positions.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said he wouldn’t support these changes, citing term limits should apply to all elected officials or none. Supervisor Frank Petrone (D)  and Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) sided with him.

Berland proposed, with Cuthbertson’s support, that the issue of term limits on elected officials should be voted on in a townwide referendum this November. Petrone and the council members voted against a hearing on the current proposed legislation to see if a referendum is a possibility.

As incumbent bows out, potential challengers come out of the woodwork

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone drives through the Cow Harbor Day Parade on Sunday, Sept. 20. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

After more than two decades at the helm, 72-year-old Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) announced last week he will not be seeking re-election this fall for another term as supervisor.

“It is with a considerable sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, as well as a little bit of sadness, that I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for re-election this year,” Petrone wrote in an open letter last week. He said it was a difficult decision, but felt he had achieved what he wanted to when he first took office.

“Since becoming town supervisor … I have consistently pursued an agenda that mirrored my first campaign slogan: People before Politics,” he said. “My agenda was to run town government in a way that made quality of life for our residents my No. 1 priority. And now, looking back, I believe I have accomplished what I set out to do back in 1993. It is only when an elected official puts people first that politics can be used for the greater good.”

Since being elected supervisor almost 24 years ago, Petrone has worked on issues spanning from creating affordable housing, parking, revitalizing Huntington Station, improving local water quality and more. Petrone said he is proud of his fiscal management record, which includes reducing the debt service from 24 percent to about 7 percent in the operating budget and obtaining and maintaining an AAA bond rating. He also mentioned his environmental record, which includes spearheading the first open-space bond act on Long Island, protecting 1,000 acres of land from development, purchasing more than 300 acres for preservation, creating nine new parks and improving 73 others.

“Since becoming town supervisor … I have consistently pursued an agenda that mirrored my first campaign slogan: People before Politics.” — Frank Petrone

The supervisor credited his achievements to his ability to run a bipartisan government.

“We hired people based on their qualifications and not their party affiliation,” he said. “We worked together as professionals and, when necessary, we reached across party lines to move initiatives forward.”

He thanked the many people in government he’s worked with throughout the years, as well as his wife Pat Petrone “for understanding that the demands of this job are 24/7 and for allowing me to focus on my public responsibilities, sometimes at the expense of family ones.”

At the town board meeting Tuesday, April 4, residents thanked Petrone for his service, and those very people are exactly what he said he’ll miss most.

Town board members praised Petrone for his leadership.

“The supervisor has a great ability to bring people together toward a common goal,” Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) said in an email. “We will miss his guidance, leadership and passion for our great town.”

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) echoed the sentiment.

“A little more than 23 years ago, Frank Petrone assumed the office of supervisor and inherited a town adrift in fiscal instability, laden with debt and countless quality of life issues needing immediate attention,” he said in an email. “Pledging to place the people above politics, Supervisor Petrone worked in a bipartisan manner to restore Huntington’s fiscal health, implemented numerous programs and enacted commonsense legislation to protect our fragile environment, expand housing opportunities for seniors and moderate income families. Throughout his distinguished tenure as supervisor, Frank Petrone never wavered from doing what was in the best interest of his residents. He demanded the best from his fellow town board members and staff, always stressing the importance of upholding our commitment to fair and just public service. It has been an honor and privilege to serve alongside a compassionate and caring gentleman. He has been a faithful and trusted mentor, and I wish him the absolute best in his impending new role as grandfather.”

Town Councilman Gene Cook (I) said he hopes Petrone’s future is as bright as possible.

“I wish him the very best,” Cook said in a phone interview. “I have the utmost respect for him and I hope his future is everything he wants it to be.”

“Frank Petrone never wavered from doing what was in the best interest of his residents. He demanded the best from his fellow town board members and staff, always stressing the importance of upholding our commitment to fair and just public service.”
— Mark Cuthbertson

As for his own future, as a challenger to Petrone’s seat just four years ago, Cook said he’s interested in hearing from residents to see if they would like him to run for supervisor again.

“It’s up to the people of Huntington to decide and I’d really like to hear from them,” he said. “If there’s support I’ll look into it and see how I feel about it.”

Cook encouraged residents to call or email him if they would like to see him represent them as town supervisor, or even “give me a thumbs-up when you see me in town.”

Darryl St. George, a Greenlawn resident who announced his bid for town supervisor last month also praised Petrone.

“Supervisor Petrone has committed over 20 years of his life to town government,” he said in an email. “I thank him for the positive contributions he has made to our town.”

St. George said he believes the timing is right for a new leader to bring change.

“I commend him on his decision as I know it was a difficult one,” he said. “Now is a time for new and energetic leadership to engage our community, and bring real and meaningful change to our neighborhoods. I am dedicated to doing what is right for the people of Huntington and listening to their ideas and concerns.”

Petrone’s announcement seems to have widened the pool of candidates for his soon-to-be vacant seat, as Huntington Station resident Brian Muellers said soon after Petrone announced he is “very seriously,” considering a run.

Muellers is a former Nassau County Legislator. He served in the 18th District from 2000 to 2003, and is looking to enter the public arena again after leaving his leadership role at Pall Corporation, a global supplier of filtration, separation and purification products. He recently volunteered for the congressional campaign of U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) which Muellers said reinvigorated his desire to give back.

“I am determining for myself if there’s enough interest in the background, experience and leadership I bring for a run for office,” he said in a phone interview. “I have the ability to win tough elections, and I have a strong desire to serve my community.”

Petrone said he feels comfortable leaving office now, as many of the projects he set out to work on when he first campaigned are completed and successful.

“It was a good breaking time for me personally and a good breaking time for the town,” he said at the town board meeting. “Some new blood will come in and sit in this seat and will maybe have some new ideas that I didn’t have. And that’s what the town needs. It needs to keep moving forward and it needs to keep new ideas floating. So I think it’s time to give someone else an opportunity to do that.”

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