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Northport

Residents of the Huntington area gathered at the annual East Northport Volunteer Fire Department’s fair last weekend. The fair had rides for all ages, games with prizes, raffles, live music and food for all to enjoy.

File photo.

Gunshots rang out in the Huntington area twice over the weekend, leading police to find injured young men lying on the ground in separate but similar incidents.

The first shooting occurred early on Saturday morning in Huntington Station. The Suffolk County Police Department said at about 1:35 a.m., officers responded to West Hills Road and President Street after a 911 call reported the shooting. Those 2nd Precinct officers found 22-year-old local resident Nelson Hernandez lying on the sidewalk, a gunshot wound to his back.

Not even 24 hours later, just after midnight on Sunday, 2nd Precinct officers responded to Stuyvesant Street in Greenlawn, between Crown Avenue and Brand Drive, after another 911 call reporting a shooting. Police said they found 18-year-old Aaron Jolly, a Northport resident, lying in the street with a gunshot wound on his right leg.

Hernandez was in serious condition at Huntington Hospital, police said, and Jolly was treated and released from the same facility.

In both cases, police reported that the shooter was unknown. Hernandez was shot while walking on West Hills Road near President Street, and it was not clear whether there was a single shooter of multiple assailants. Jolly was reportedly standing in the street when he was shot by an unknown person.

Detectives from the SCPD’s 2nd Squad are investigating the two shootings. Anyone with information is asked to call them at 631-854-8252, or to call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800-220-TIPS.

A gas station and convenience store is proposed for the corner of Route 25A and Woodbine Avenue in Northport Village. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The entrance to Northport Village off of Route 25A could be in store for a face-lift.

Long considered an eyesore by some, the corner of Woodbine Avenue and Route 25A is the subject of a zoning board application for a gas station and convenience store.

Applicant Edward Clark, of Babylon, and his architect Harold Gebhard, of Lindenhurst, are seeking area and use variances to move forward with the plan, but the zoning board wants more information — particularly on traffic impacts — following a public hearing on the proposal last week.

Currently, a vacant white building that was once a gas station and auto repair shop sits on the property. The applicant is seeking to rehabilitate the current building, add a canopy, gas pumps, a convenience store and eight parking spaces. If approved, a maximum of six cars could gas up at a time. Clark said he’s been in discussions with BP to be the new gas station. 

The convenience store would sell soda, coffee, packaged foods, bread, milk and more, but there would be no food preparation on site, Clark said. He said he needs the convenience store to offset the cost of gas.

Zoning board members expressed some concern about the appearance of the project, especially the size of the convenience store and the height of a proposed canopy atop the gas pumps. Clark and Gebhard said from its peak to the ground the canopy would be about 18 feet high.

Zoning board member Arlene Handel said she was concerned about the height of the canopy obscuring a “historic entry point” to the village.

“It’s very much an important part of the character of the village,” she said. She added that a tall canopy “is really going to cut upon the view.”

ZBA Chairman Andrew Cangemi had a flurry of questions about the project that were mostly traffic-related. He wanted to know the number of cars the project is anticipated to generate during hours of operation and its peak hour volumes, and how the lighting would look.

Some residents in the audience expressed dissatisfaction with the proposal and questioned whether the community needed another gas station. But Cangemi pointed out that the site needs work and a gas station had already existed there.

“We understand something’s got to go in there,” Cangemi said.

Clark said he’s been trying to move forward with developing the site for several years and called the long process a “nightmare.”

“I’ve been paying rent, real estate taxes on this property for three years to get to this point now,” he said.

The public hearing will be held open until Sept. 16. Cangemi asked the applicant to come back with a traffic study.

A $6.5 million project to repave and repair Route 25A will resume in Northport and Cold Spring Harbor on Monday. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Route 25A’s $6.5 million makeover is set to resume in Cold Spring Harbor and Northport on Monday, Aug. 10, the New York State Department of Transportation said on Friday.

Motorists can expect travel lanes to be shifted between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. in both areas. In Cold Spring Harbor, repair and repaving will be underway between Glen Way and Lawrence Hill Road. In Northport, the work will span Elwood and Middleville roads, according to the DOT. No travel lane closures are expected — a single travel lane will be maintained in each direction.

The DOT estimates those sections of Route 25A to be complete in about two weeks, weather permitting.

The work is part of a larger 10.6-mile project along Route 25A/Main Street/Fort Salonga Road between NY Route 108 in Cold Spring Harbor and Bread and Cheese Hollow Road in Fort Salonga, all within Huntington Town. The top layer of distressed pavement along the project area is being removed and replaced with new asphalt and the DOT is replacing traffic signals and installing fresh pavement markings, including bike lane striping and more visible pedestrian crosswalks. The project also includes the installation of rumble devices on the center yellow lines to provide noise and vibration warnings to motorists who may stray across into oncoming traffic. In addition, workers will clean and repair drainage structures to improve roadway runoff.

Construction is being staged on shorter, limited sections of the project area, and the work is taking place during off-peak day and nighttime hours, depending on each area’s overall needs and characteristics. On-street parking will not be permitted during the construction work. Drivers are being warned of the construction and urged to use alternate routes to avoid travel delays. Local officials, businesses, schools and emergency service providers have been notified about the repaving operations in their areas.

Posillico Civil, Inc., of Farmingdale, is under contract with the DOT to perform the project.

“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 DOT.

Drivers who cannot use alternate routes are reminded to drive carefully through the work zone for their safety as well as the safety of the highway work crew.

The construction work may be canceled, postponed or prolonged due to inclement weather.

For up-to-date traffic and travel information, motorists should call 511 or visit www.511NY.org. Travel information can also be obtained from the INFORM Transportation Management Center cameras at www.INFORMNY.com.

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A scene from the annual Make-A-Wish Junior Sailors Regatta, hosted by the Northport Yacht Club. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

It was a windy summer morning at the Northport Yacht Club on Monday where more than 100 sailors from age 8 to 17 rigged their own boats and hit the water to race at the 20th Annual Make-A-Wish Junior Sailors Regatta.

Sailors hailed from the Northport Yacht Club, Centerport Yacht Club, Huntington Yacht Club, Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club and Huntington YMCA, and all gathered to raise funds for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a nonprofit organization that grants children with life-threatening illnesses wishes within their lifetimes.

For the Doherty family, which has headed the regatta for nine years, the Make-A-Wish Foundation has a very personal significance: a family friend who died from a heart condition at age 16 was a Make-a-Wish recipient, and was able to take a trip to Walt Disney World Resort thanks to the organization.

Keara Doherty, 17, who has been the top fundraiser all nine years since being involved with the event, said that once she ages out of sailing in the regatta this year, she plans to become more directly involved with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and help her dad, Bob, who is involved with the club’s Special Event Committee, organize the regatta and recruit fundraisers. This year alone, Keara Doherty has raised $10,000 by writing personal letters to family and friends asking for donations.

According to Peggy Doherty, the teen’s mom, the fundraiser has become increasingly successful over the years. Nine years ago, the event raised $25,000. Last year, the group hit $50,000. She said that this year the fundraiser brought in $46,000.

Northport Yacht Club Rear Commodore Rich Boziwick spoke highly of Bob Doherty’s influence in making the fundraiser a success.

“He’s been an incredible asset to this whole event,” he said. “He coordinates, brings the staff together, and gets the kids together.”

This year’s winners, in order of increasing difficulty levels, were: Joey Zarcone (Opti Green), Connor Burns (Opti White), Aidan Quigley (Opti Blue), Sterling Thompson (Opti Red), Courtney Garrison and Zoe Buscareno (Pixel); Connor, Brandon and Tyler Besendorfer, and Sebastion Blot (Blue Jay); Hallie Simkins and Cormack Murphy (Club 420), and Gavin Anderson (Laser Radial).

It is clear that there is a high level of community involvement with the fundraiser, with bagged lunches donated by a local Stop & Shop and prizes (including baseball tickets and a kayak) for the top fundraisers donated by local shops and members of the yacht club.

The Northport Yacht Club also hosts an annual swim-a-thon that contributes to the total funds raised for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.  This year, there were 120 participants who swam 3,800 laps (53 miles) in total.  Of the group, 16-year-old Bryce Winters came in first place, swimming 304 miles in under 3 hours. Fundraising worked on a kid-by-kid basis, with individuals and sponsors setting rules for how sponsors would donate, sometimes based on number of laps swam or number of hours spent swimming.

Peggy Doherty said that the yacht club plans to continue hosting the fundraiser for years to come and that she and her family plan to stay involved.

“The kids are doing so much better with fundraising [as the years go on],” she said.

State appellate court sides with municipalities in rulings

Northport power plant. File photo

Huntington Town and Northport-East Northport school district’s fight to knock the lights out of a Long Island Power Authority lawsuit that looks to drastically decrease how much the utility pays in taxes on the Northport power plant recently got a big boost.

Last week, a New York State appellate court ruled in favor of the municipalities, clearing the way for both to go to trial against the utility and engage in pretrial depositions and discovery. In 2010, LIPA filed a tax certiorari lawsuit against the town, claiming the town greatly over-assessed the Northport power plant and that it should be paying millions less in taxes.

Northport-East Northport schools, along with Huntington Town, filed companion lawsuits in May 2011 that claimed LIPA didn’t have the right to file to reduce its taxes and that it breached a 1997 contract promising it wouldn’t. In 2013, a New York State Supreme Court justice upheld the district and town’s rights to sue LIPA and National Grid, and last week’s court ruling upheld that lower court ruling.

LIPA sought to have the school district tossed out of the suit, but the district claimed it was a legal third-party beneficiary of a 1997 power supply agreement between LIPA and the Long Island Lighting Company. Last week’s court ruling upheld that claim. It cites a 1997 letter from LIPA to the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association, to which Northport-East Northport belongs, that upon the issuance of a 1997 power supply agreement, “LIPA will immediately drop all tax certiorari cases against all municipalities and school districts,” and that “neither LIPA nor LILCO will initiate any further tax certiorari cases on any of their respective properties at any time in the future unless a municipality abusively increases its assessment rate,” as “spelled out in the [PSA].”

Stuart Besen, the town’s attorney on the case, said he believes the letter from Richard Kessel, former chairman of LIPA, was integral in swaying the judges to rule in favor of the municipalities.

“I just think that Supervisor [Frank] Petrone really deserves a lot of credit for having the foresight for one, making sure the clause was in the [power supply agreement], and two, demanding that Richard Kessel reiterate that position in a letter.”

If successful in the suit, the town wouldn’t have to pay approximately $180 million in taxes the utility claims it overpaid in a three-year period, Besen said. LIPA pays roughly $70 million in taxes on the Northport power plant, town officials have said.

The utility contends the plant is worth less than 11 percent of the value reflected by its current assessment. If LIPA was successful in lowering its assessment and thus the amount it pays in taxes, town residents could be hit with tax increases of up to 10 percent. Those who live in the Northport-East Northport school and library districts could get a whopping 50 percent increase in their taxes.

John Gross, senior managing partner at Ingerman Smith, who represents the school district in the case, said the next step is to move forward with discovery and a motion for summary judgment in favor of the district.

“And if we win that, that means the claims they made to reduce the value of the plant are thrown out,” Gross said in an interview on Tuesday.

The town and the school district are partners in the lawsuit, Gross said.

Asked what town taxpayers should take away from the development, Besen said “that the town is fighting.”

“The town is fighting a big entity, both National Grid and LIPA. But we feel we’re right. We feel that those three years we don’t have to pay, that LIPA and National Grid made a promise to the people of Huntington and the town is going to do everything possible legally to uphold that promise.”

Sid Nathan, a spokesman for LIPA, said the authority couldn’t comment on ongoing litigation.

Franzone to be sentenced to 3.5 years in state prison

Nicholas Franzone photo from Suffolk County DA’s office

A Northport man accused of helping his uncle in carjacking a Commack woman after the uncle ran down two Suffolk County cops in Huntington last year pleaded guilty to charges relating to the crimes in court on Tuesday.

Nicholas Franzone, 23, pleaded guilty in Central Islip at a court conference to robbery, criminal possession of stolen property, unauthorized use of a vehicle, petty larceny and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, according to Bob Clifford, a spokesman for Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota’s office.

Franzone’s crimes were for stealing gas and participating in stealing a Commack woman’s car and her credit cards as he and his uncle, Chad Moriszan, 35,were trying to dodge capture after striking officers Nicholas Guerrero and Heriberto Lugo.

They fled fleeing the scene of the hit-and-run, leaving Guerrero seriously injured. Guerrero had to be hospitalized for more than three weeks with a severe head injury. He underwent surgery and a regimen of physical therapy during his recovery.

Both Northport men were eventually arrested hours later in a Central Islip Target store on Carleton Avenue when they tried to use a stolen credit card to buy a television.

On July 23, Moriszan was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to assault in the first degree, assault on a police officer, leaving the scene, grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, robbery in the second degree and forgery.

Franzone will be sentenced by State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho to three and one-half years in state prison on Sept. 9.

Ian Fitzgerald, a Central Islip-based attorney who represented Franzone, said he felt the sentence term was a fair one. “He had the chance to do the right thing and he didn’t take it so he got himself in this situation,” he said.

He also said the DA dropped prior felony assaults charge against Franzone.

“Our position from the beginning was that he really had nothing to do with Mr. Moriszan running over the officer,” Fitzgerald said.

The attorney said his client didn’t even see the officers struck, and wasn’t even aware that there was a second officer on the scene. The pair of officers pulled over Moriszan and Franzone during a traffic stop.

“He’s glad that it wasn’t worse,” he said. “He’s glad that officer Guerrero survived.”

Franzone has cleaned up his act since the incident, Fitzgerald said. The attorney said his client was on drugs — prescription pills — and since being incarcerated he’s gotten clean.

“[He] seems to be a pretty intelligent young man who unfortunately got wrapped up in some bad stuff.”

DA to recommend maximum prison term

Maureen Myles. Photo from Suffolk DA's office

An East Northport woman has been convicted of stealing $30,000 meant to fund a van with a wheelchair lift for a Huntington teen with cerebral palsy.

Maureen Myles, 62, was convicted on Friday of grand larceny, scheme to defraud and petit larceny following a seven-day trial in Central Islip, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota’s office. DA detective-investigators arrested Myles in December 2013 for making off with the money, which donors raised at a benefit dinner in Northport.

The DA’s office said State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho found Myles guilty of one count of third-degree grand larceny, two counts of fourth-degree grand larceny, scheme to defraud and petit larceny.

Myles was previously convicted of a felony — in 2004, a jury found her guilty of grand larceny and scheme to defraud, for buying $40,000 worth of Bermuda cruise tickets using credit card numbers she stole from her employer, according to the DA.

Spota said the office will recommend the maximum prison term of three and a half to seven years when Myles is sentenced on Sept. 2.

Myles’ attorney, Garden City-based Richard Benson, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on Monday.

Dance students go through a routine together at the Huntington YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

Walking into the dance studio at the Huntington YMCA feels like walking into a family gathering full of distant relatives you’ve never met before. But the vibe is one of comfort and inclusion, especially if you’ve got a penchant for impromptu group renditions of Taylor Swift songs.

Dance students go through a routine together at the Huntington YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Dance students go through a routine together at the Huntington YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano

The friendly atmosphere inside the studio is natural, according to dance instructor Pam Christy-Allen, after students, teachers and parents have worked together for as long as they have.

“I have the same kids every year, so I build relationships with them,” Christy-Allen said in a recent interview. “As their sweet sixteens have come we’ve been invited to them and they include you like their family. It’s very rewarding.”

Last month, the YMCA’s dance program turned two decades old, a milestone that staff there celebrated. But there’s no resting on laurels — program leaders say they plan to stay on their toes.

In a recent visit to the program, students showed appreciation for their instructors. Thirteen-year-old hip hop, acro and ballet student Samantha Sluka began taking YMCA dance classes at age 3 and said that Debbie Smith, her ballet teacher, has kept her interested in dancing through the years. Sluka said YMCA classes have improved her self-confidence in addition to technical dance skills, and that in the future she “would love to dance on Broadway”.

Mary Dejana, a 17-year-old tap and jazz student, said that she likes lyrical and contemporary dance styles best because they help her express her feelings. She said that the YMCA program has taught her teamwork.

“Under the tutelage of my ballet, modern and pointe teacher Jo-Ann Hertzman and with the many opportunities the YMCA provided, I have come to understand not only more about dance but more about myself and the world around me,” wrote former student Mariah Anton in a letter to the staff at the YMCA. With plans to continue dancing at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Anton wrote that her “experiences at the YMCA have directed [her] to invest back into others through teaching, encouraging, and opening the world to the next generation in the same way that the YMCA invested in [her].”

Students practice using the bar at the YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Students practice using the bar at the YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Citing the Huntington YMCA as a “second home … during [her] childhood and early adulthood,” former student Melanie Carminati, now physical therapist and Pilates instructor in East Northport, called the dance program “a safe haven for artistic growth and creativity” in a written statement. She attributed the environment to the guidance of Edie Cafiero, cultural arts director.

Cafiero stressed the importance of allowing dancers to express their creativity from a young age. “We start with 3-year-olds,” he said. “We make it fun while still using terminology and introducing steps. We let them explore themselves at that age.” She said that classes become more serious as students age and advance, but that they have the option to either hone in on certain dance styles or further expand their horizons and learn new styles.

Among some of the less conventional dance classes offered at the YMCA are Irish step, hip hop, acro, lyrical, contemporary, modern and adult ballet.

When asked what factors have contributed most significantly to the success of the Huntington YMCA dance program, Cafiero pointed to the variety of classes offered and the welcome-all attitude of the staff.

She said she walked into a famous ballet school at age 15 “and they told me I was over the hill before seeing me dance. I never wanted a kid to feel like that. We don’t turn anyone away. If they have the passion to dance we want to nurture it.”

Anyone interested in the Huntington YMCA cultural and performing arts program is invited to contact Cafiero at 631-421-4242, ext. 132.

Young bathers dive into the waters of a newly reopened beach at the Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The county health department warned locals on Friday against bathing at 25 Huntington area beaches, the morning after heavy rainfall drenched the North Shore.

According to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, it issued the advisory because the rain could have led to bacteria levels in the water that exceed state standards.

“The beaches covered by the advisory are located in areas that are heavily influenced by stormwater runoff from the surrounding watersheds and/or adjacent tributaries,” the department said in a press release, “and, because of their location in an enclosed embayment, experience limited tidal flushing.”

Affected beaches include Eagle Dock Community Beach, Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club beach, West Neck Beach, Lloyd Neck Bath Club beach, Lloyd Harbor Village Park beach, Gold Star Battalion Park beach, Head of the Bay Club beach, Nathan Hale Beach Club beach, Baycrest Association beach, Bay Hills Beach Association beach, Crescent Beach, Knollwood Beach Association beach, Fleets Cove Beach, Centerport Beach, Huntington Beach Community Association beach, Centerport Yacht Club beach, Steers Beach, Asharoken Beach, Hobart Beach (both the Long Island Sound and cove sides), Crab Meadow Beach, Wincoma Association beach, Valley Grove Beach, Prices Bend Beach and Callahans Beach.

The advisory was scheduled to be lifted at 9 p.m. on Friday, to give enough time for two tidal cycles to clear out the water. However, the health department said the advisory would not be lifted if water samples from the affected beaches showed continued high levels of bacteria.

For up-to-date information on the affected beaches, call the health department’s bathing beach hotline at 631-852-5822 or visit the beach monitoring webpage.

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