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Sara-Megan Walsh

Indian Hills Country Club. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The real estate developer for a controversial Fort Salonga development has handed over his proposed plans for a mandated environmental impact study for public consumption. 

The Hauppauge-based Northwind Group, founded by developer Jim Tsunis, submitted a 16-page report Aug. 14 outlining how potential impacts of The Preserve at Indian Hills will be evaluated prior to construction of the community. Residents have until Sept. 17 to give feedback and voice any concerns. 

Town of Huntington Planning Board voted Aug. 8 to issue a positive declaration that the submitted plans to construct 98 townhouses and a clubhouse on the existing Indian Hills Country Club golf course will have a significant environmental impact. In accordance with state law, the Northwind Group must undertake, with a detailed environmental impact study that looks at how the development may impact water quality of the
watershed, the area’s steep slopes and coastal erosion zone, added traffic and other issues. 

“The 99-lot yield is supported by a yield map prepared to town specifications and approved by the planning board for yield purposes and is less than what would be permitted as right-of-way under current zoning if each property were developed independently,” reads page 3 of the developer’s draft report. 

The Fort Salonga Property Owners Association has previously asked town officials to place a moratorium on new developments in the Crab Meadow Watershed area, which includes Indian Hills. The group has voiced fears, despite the developer’s revised plans that scales 108 units originally requested down to 98, the development will have a devastating impact on the local roadways and
surrounding wetlands.

“There is no doubt that this latest plan is completely unacceptable to the neighborhood,” John Hayes, president of the property owners association, said. “Like its predecessors, it does not fully address many of the environmental and social concerns that have been raised.” 

Hayes admitted he and others were still going over the 16-page report but said he is likely to suggest additional intersections be added to the traffic study. Those intersections already cited for inclusion by the developer include: Route 25A at Makamah Road, Route 25A at Fresh Pond Road, Makamah and Breeze Hill roads, Fresh Pond Road and Breeze Hill Road and Fresh Pond Road at Claymore Road.

“The roads are not designed for this sort of development,” Hayes said, citing numerous fatal accidents at Makamah Road and Route 25A. 

The draft environmental study outline also clearly stated the 18-hole golf course will be modified, but maintain 18-holes calling it “an important part of the visual character of the site and area.” 

The draft scope of the environmental study can be viewed on the Town of Huntington’s website, www.huntingtonny.gov, under the Planning & Environment Department page, under Site Specific Plans, Reports and Studies. 

Comments may be submitted through Sept. 17 via email to planning@huntingtonny.gov or mailed to Huntington Town Hall, Department of Planning & Environment (Room 212), Attn: Preserve at Indian Hills Draft Scope, 100 Main St., Huntington, NY 11743. 

A conceptual rendering of the approved site plans for TDG Commack on Jericho Turnpike. Photo courtesy of Smithtown Planning Department

Town of Smithtown officials gave their seal of approval to two developers to construct a total of 160 new apartments between two complexes. 

The town board voted unanimously Aug. 14 to approve site plans for two housing projects: a mixed-use development featuring 62 units at The Lofts at Maple & Main in Smithtown and a 92-unit complex by TDG Commack, LLC to be built on Jericho Turnpike. 

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said he hopes the two projects will help provide much needed housing in the township. 

The Lofts at Maple & Main by East Hampton-based developer VEA 181st Realty Corp. will consist of four buildings on the site of the former Nassau Suffolk Lumber & Supply Company in Smithtown. A mixed-use, three-story building will be constructed facing Main Street consisting of approximately 9,400 square feet of retail space on the ground level divided into two storefronts. The second and third floors will each contain 13 residential units consisting of six one-bedroom apartments and seven two-bedroom apartments per floor. Set back behind the Main Street building, three additional three-story apartment buildings will have 12 apartments each, primarily two-bedroom units. 

“This will be the first opportunity for a young person, a young professional coming out of college that cannot afford to buy a single-family home on a half acre of property, to have an avenue to live in the business district,” Wehrheim said. “It puts them in walkable distance to restaurants, a railroad station and everything they really require.” 

The development will have six affordable workforce housing units constructed and rented out for below-market price, according to town planner Liam Trotta. 

The supervisor said he hopes the apartment complex will help push downtown revitalization.“It will have a positive effect on the local business community as well,” he said. “The people that go into those 62 units will frequent the businesses that are along Main Street.” 

The town board expressed it was “pleased” with the agreements struck with the developer during planning, such as agreeing to permit three-story buildings instead of the four stories initially requested. 

The developer, Salvatore DiCarlo, of VEA 181st could not be reached for comment by press time. Wehrheim said that DiCarlo still needs approval from Suffolk County’s Health Department for the on-site sewer treatment, which may take a few weeks, but construction will begin immediately afterward. 

The second garden apartment complex designed by TDG Commack was approved as  a seven-building apartment complex along Jericho Turnpike, taking over the site of the Courtesy Inn. Each building will have two stories and, when completed, offer a mix of 48 one-bedroom and 44 two-bedroom units. There will be a
community pool for residents. 

Similar to The Lofts at Maple & Main, the Commack housing development has proposed to build a sewer treatment plant into the site to handle all wastewater at the location. However, Trotta said as the developer did not exceed the maximum density for the site, it will not be required to designate units as affordable workplace housing.

Residents question how town officials are selecting priority list of park updates for upcoming 2019 capital budget

A spring rider at Morewood Park in Smithtown

Town of Smithtown officials have taken steps to approve roughly $4.5 million in investments in its parks, but residents are questioning which ones are given top priority. 

Smithtown approved a $174,500 contract to redesign Flynn Memorial Park into a modern sports complex while greenlighting plans to construct a new playground and spray park at Callahans Beach at its July 17 meeting. The total price tag for those two projects is estimated at $4.5 million. 

“We are doing a lot of work that needs to be done at the parks and beaches at a huge financial cost,” Councilman Tom Lohmann (R) said. “It won’t be done in one year, it has to be done smartly. But, it has to be done.” 

The barbecue area at Callahans Beach. Photo by Kyle Barr

At Callahans Beach, town officials have proposed a plan to rip up a portion of the asphalt parking lot in order to install a new playground at an estimated cost of $175,000, a spray park for roughly $150,000 and to construct picnic area shelter for approximately $200,000. Lohmann, who serves as the board’s liaison to the town Department of Parks, Buildings & Grounds, said the improvements are a result of the town’s approved lease agreement with Propagation Solutions Inc., for Site Tech Wireless LLC to install a 150-foot cell tower in the upper parking lot. 

“As part of their recommendations and requirements for the cell tower, we had to make changes to Callahans Beach,” the councilman said. “We will be adding the playground and some beautification to ensure it is still aesthetically pleasing.” 

Lohmann said the town hired St. James-based RDA Landscape Architecture to create a plan for the Kings Park’s Flynn Memorial Park project. One of the first steps is $2.2 million for all new LED lighting for the fields along with new field layout, new fencing as well as a new concession stand in the center of the park that will also contain bathrooms. The proposed plans call to tear out the existing facilities, install a new playground, repave the parking lot and redesign the layout to reduce it to one main entrance.

“By making it a true softball-baseball complex with a playground for kids to come play on, we hope it will help drive people into our communities,” Lohmann said. “It will be done and upgraded to where it should have been many years ago.” 

The latest announcement of capital improvements to Smithtown’s parks comes shortly after the town celebrated the grand reopening of three parks after $1.3 million in refurbishments: Joseph Andreoli Park in Nesconset and Gaynor Park and Veterans Memorial Park in St. James.  

Smithtown residents have questioned how elected officials are deciding which parks take priority in receiving upgrades. 

A Town of Smithtown parks employee spreads fresh wood mulch at Morewood Park July 27. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Michael Vizzini, a four-year homeowner on Stanwich Road, said he hopes there will be some consideration given to Morewood Park. The park consists of two basketball courts whose surfaces have a spiderwebbing of cracks stretching across it, with the back boards showing signs of rust. The playground fell victim to a fire more than 10 years ago, according to the town parks
department, and was rebuilt on a soft wood mulch base with metal slides, a set of swings and dotted with a few spring-based animals on which to ride. 

Vizzini, who lives adjacent to the park’s back entrance, has been looking for a way to improve its aesthetics since he moved in. 

“I’ve called the town to see if they will remove the partial sidewalks so I can plant bushes there next to my white picket fence,” he said. “Contractors won’t touch it, it’s town property.” 

Vizzini said he purchased on Stanwich Road to be close to the park for his two young children, but unfortunately, there isn’t much there on which they can safely play. 

Commack resident Bridget Zaminer, a Knolls Lane homeowner, said she’s lived in the area for three years and has only taken her three young children to Morewood Park a handful of times to use the basketball courts. 

The basketball courts at Morewood Park. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“The play equipment is old and dingy,” Zaminer said in an email. “Not to mention, I would not want to be there alone since it’s so desolate.” 

Lohman said the town’s parks department did a full review in 2017, which estimated the town would need $11.6 million to bring all its parks and beaches up to date.  

“Where do you get $11.6 million?” he asked. “Monies weren’t properly put back into the property to keep these facilities and assets up to standard.” 

The councilman said factors used to determine which sites will get funding include estimated community use, safety concerns and consideration for those facilities where the town provides additional services for which a fee is paid — such as boat slips at the marina or sports fields utilized by adult leagues. He admitted dozens of town “pocket parks,” or recreational areas surrounded by residential properties like Morewood, are in desperate need of updates so it’s a tough call. 

Lohmann said he has a meeting with Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) and parks director Joseph Arico scheduled for Aug. 2 to discuss the town’s 2019 capital budget and which parks to update. Residents should be pleased to know sites being given consideration include the town’s marina and Morewood Park. 

“[Morewood] doesn’t get a tremendous amount of use,” Lohmann conceded. “But with younger and younger families moving into the neighborhood, it’s getting attention.”

The Northport power plant. File photo
Mediation meetings could begin in next 30 days in attempt to reach settlement in lawsuit before fall trial date

Town of Huntington and Northport school officials have agreed to sit down with Long Island Power Authority to see if an agreement can be reached, before the lawsuits go to trial. 

The town board voted July 17 to hire a neutral third party in an attempt to resolve its differences over the assessed property tax value of the Northport Power Station with LIPA and National Grid that have led to a lengthy, ongoing battle.

Councilman Gene Cook (R) put forth a late-starter resolution at Tuesday’s board meeting to hire Port Washington-based attorney Marty Scheinman, who he reports came “very highly recommended.” His
motion was approved 4-0. 

“The judge was very adamant about making sure we sat down and went through this,” Cook said. “Why don’t we put all the cards on the table and see what we find. I’m all for it.”

Scheinman has been a full-time arbitrator for more than 40 years and has helped parties reach an agreeable resolution in more than 20,000 private and public-sector disputes, according to his website. He has experience dealing with high-profile celebrities, elected officials and helped resolve the largest commercial dispute in the history of the New York state court system between the co-founders of AriZona Beverages, according to Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). 

“This is just about getting everyone to the table,” Lupinacci said, who has consistently said the town remains open to negotiations.  

Now, Scheinman faces the daunting task of finding common ground between LIPA, which filed a tax certiorari lawsuit against the town assessor’s office in 2010 seeking a 90 percent reduction in the assessed property tax valuation of its Northport Power Station, and seeking repayment of all taxes it claims to have overpaid since 2010 — currently amounting to more than $550 million and growing — and the Huntington and Northport communities it would affect. 

“I’m glad to have been selected and hope I can help the parties resolve their dispute,” Scheinman said. 

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) voted against taking up Cook’s suggestion, before ultimately abstaining from voting on the contract to hire an arbitrator. Cuthbertson said while he commended a move toward mediating the dispute, but questioned Scheinman’s relatable experience. 

“This particular litigation is a specialized litigation involving complex tax certiorari formulas for assessing power plants,” he said. “As far as I can see this mediator’s experience is really with labor and employment relations, so I have concern with this mediator’s background and choice.”

Under the approved contract, the town has agreed to pay Scheinman $1,150 per hour in addition to covering all out-of-pocket expenses, such as transportation, plus a one-time $400 administrative fee. The overall bill will be evenly split between the town, LIPA, National Grid and Northport-East Northport school district, whose trustees unanimously agreed to move forward with mediation July 11. 

Huntington’s town board change in approach to its lawsuit with LIPA comes shortly after the court trial was originally slated to begin, June 11, which had been postponed. All parties were scheduled to appear July 18 in Suffolk County Supreme Court before Judge Elizabeth Emerson at 10 a.m. to present their arguments on motions already made on the case. The outcome was not available by this publication’s press time. 

In early June, Cook had asked his fellow board members to hire Manhattan-based law firm Boise Schiller & Flexner LLP as additional legal counsel in the town’s pending tax certiorari case with LIPA and National Grid to aid current outside legal counsel, Lewis & Greer P.C. The measure was shot down by a 3-2 vote with Lupinacci, Cuthbertson and Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) standing against it. One of Cuthbertson’s key reasons for standing against it was the cost, as under the contract the town would have paid Boise Schiller & Flexner $1,650 an hour.  

Cook has also previously publicly spoken out about looking into the possibilities of using eminent domain for the town to take possession of the Northport power plant. He never brought the option before the board. 

Mediation meetings between all four parties would likely begin within the next 30 days, according to Cook. 

Both the Town of Brookhaven and Village of Port Jefferson announced they were nearing settlements over the tax-assessed value of the Port Jeff plant with LIPA in early April.

Children enjoy the upgrades to Joseph Andreoli Park in Nesconset. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

More than a dozen excited children climbed over a Nesconset playground Monday afternoon, as families took in the park’s first upgrade in more than two decades.

Town of Smithtown officials celebrated the completion of $1.3 million in upgrades to three town-owned parks this week, which also came in approximately $62,000 under budget. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at Joseph Andreoli Park in Nesconest July 9, followed by a celebration for Gaynor and Veterans
Memorial parks in St. James held July 10.

“There is no more important mission we can do than to build parks like this for the children who are growing up here,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “It’s been a long time coming.” 

Town of Smithtown officials celebrate the opening of Joseph Andreoli Park with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Joseph Andreoli Park, commonly referred to as Gibbs Pond park, received two new playgrounds. For older children, there are five different slides, several climbing obstacles and a swing set. A second area for younger children ages 2 to 5 consists of several tiny houses they go inside with interactive features.

“It’s visually appealing,” Shannon Cooley,  a Nesconset resident, said as she watched her 3-year-old daughter play. “It’s colorful, not faded, and everything feels inviting and welcoming.” 

Cooley said her favorite part of the renovations are the separate play areas created for young children and the new Classic Turf, a synthetic grasslike “shag rug” that replaced the former wood chips.

Both Cooley and Nesconset resident Morgan Tavis said they appreciated the modern, clean look, but if they had one criticism of the design, it would be a lack of shaded areas. “A shaded area for respite would make this into a full day activity,” Tavis said.

Wehrheim said there will be further improvements made at the Gibbs Pond park. Boy Scout Troop 566 has offered to build benches that will be installed by the town, according to the supervisor, and renovations to
make the bathrooms handicapped accessible are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019. Shaded canopies will be installed over the playground’s slides, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo, to prevent them from becoming heated and potentially burning children.

“This is the first of many,” Wehrheim said, indicating more park renovations are in the works for 2019. “We made a commitment when we got elected, one of those commitments was to renovate and bring our parks into the future so I am very pleased and honored this afternoon to tell you we have kept that campaign promise.”

Joseph Andreoli Park, off Gibbs Pond Road in Nesconset, now has a separate playground for children ages 2 to 5. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Both Gaynor Park and Veterans Memorial Park in St. James have received similar upgrades, according to Smithtown Parks Maintenance Director Joseph Arico. Gaynor Park has received a similar new playground set and field upgrades. The existing tennis courts at Gaynor were fully resurfaced and the basketball court was enlarged from a half court to full regulation size. 

Veterans Memorial Park, located off Moriches Road, had more recently received upgrades to its sports fields. Roughly $300,000 was spent to install a new playground set along with a new artificial grass surface and a resurfacing of the water park playground to improve safety, according to Arico.

Councilman Tom Lohmann (R), who served as the town board’s liaison to the parks department on the project, voiced his approval of the final product. 

“We are putting money back where it belongs in our parks, beaches and infrastructure so that we, the residents, have a nice place to bring our children, grandchildren and enjoy this beautiful town,”
Lohmann said.

Steve Stern. Photo from Stern's office

Former Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) said he knew his neighbors best and his confidence was backed up when the ballots were counted Tuesday night.


Special Election Results
Steve Stern (D)          5,748
Janet Smitelli (R)       3,949

Stern became the first Democrat elected to represent the 10th Assembly District in New York State Assembly in more than 30 years by defeating Republican candidate Janet Smitelli, 5,748 to 3,969 votes, in the April 24 special election.

“I look forward to being a strong voice for Long Island,” he said “That’s exactly what’s needed in New York State Assembly.”

Stern received approximately 59 percent of the ballots cast, according to the unofficial results posted by Suffolk County Board of Elections. He ran on the Democrat, Working Families, Independence, Women’s Equality and Reform lines.

The newly elected assemblyman called it a “historic win” indicative of the larger political dialogue happening across the country.

“So many people in our community believe that the federal government is going in a dangerous direction,” Stern said. “If Washington is not going to address the issues and what’s going on, we have a responsibility to do it up in Albany.”

“If Washington is not going to address the issues and what’s going on, we have a responsibility to do it up in Albany.”
– Steve Stern

Stern will be sworn in April 30 to take over the seat vacated by Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R). The new state assemblyman thanked his campaign volunteers and said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) had called to offer his congratulations.

The state’s 10th Assembly District has been represented by Republicans since the early 1980s. The longest-serving assemblyman was Huntington Station resident Jim Conte (R) who held the office from 1988 until his death in October 2012. Lupinacci, who worked for Conte, then won the seat in a 2012 special election.

“I’d like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to my opponent Steve Stern upon his victory,” Smitelli posted April 24 on Facebook. “During this campaign we discussed the issues and got the community engaged. I wish him the best of luck.”

She could not be reached immediately for further comment.

Stern previously said if elected he intended to continue local efforts but on a much larger scale, such as combating gang activity, which he has done by helping to get county funding for automatic license plate readers that target criminals. He’s also passionate about protecting the environment and the area’s water quality, having co-sponsored legislation identifying key areas of importance when it comes to developing sewer infrastructure. Stern said this legislation plays a key to downtown revitalization of Huntington Station. He said he’s a strong supporter of term limits and bipartisanship.

His first action upon being elected, in keeping with a personal tradition started during his days in county Legislature, Stern said, was driving around town starting to pull up his campaign signs.

Mothers embrace one another during a Hope Walk for Addiction rally at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai last year. Photo by Kevin Redding

TBR News Media raked in 11 New York Press Association awards last weekend.

The company won prizes across the gamut of categories, from news and feature stories to photos and advertisements.

“I am so proud of the staff at TBR News Media that works hard to deliver the news each week,” Publisher Leah Dunaief said. “We are delighted to be among the top winners in the contest, as we are every year.”

“Comprehensive, sustained coverage of a life-or-death infrastructure issue. Lede with compelling citizens rather than reports from bureaucrats or written statements.”

— NYPA judges

In the feature story category, TBR News Media had two winners for its division amongst publications with similar circulation. Port Times Record Editor Alex Petroski won first place for his story on how a local political party boss helped President Donald Trump (R) win Long Island votes.

“Following the election, many wondered, ‘How did Trump win?” judges wrote about Petroski’s piece titled “One on one with the man who helped Donald Trump win Suffolk County,” which profiles Suffolk County Republican Committee Chairman John Jay LaValle and details his relationship with the president. “This story answers that on a micro level with an in-depth interview of the man who helped Trump in Suffolk County. I think more papers would have been well served to seek out similar stories.”

Reporter Kevin Redding took third in the same category for his story for The Village Times Herald on a spooky local bar in Smithtown.

“A perfect pre-Halloween story about the haunted local watering hole,” NYPA judges said. “Plenty of examples of what some have seen, heard and felt, which is just what you’d want from a story about a haunted building.”

Petroski also won second place in Division 3 for his ongoing coverage on a boat ramp in Port Jefferson Village where two people had died and at least one other was severely injured, in the news series cateogry. Times of Huntington Editor Sara-Megan Walsh took third place in the same category.

“Comprehensive, sustained coverage of a life-or-death infrastructure issue,” the judges wrote of Petroski’s five-piece submission that included three stories, a front page and editorial on the topic. “Lede with compelling citizens rather than reports from bureaucrats or written statements. Narrative scene-setting ledes can make stories like this more important and compelling.”

Alex Petroski’s story on how Donald Trump won Suffolk County won a first-place feature story prize.

Redding also roped in a second award, getting a third-place nod in feature photo Division 2 for a picture he took for The Village Beacon Record at Hope Walk for Addiction at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai.

“There was tight competition for third place, but the emotion on the faces of the people in this photo put it a step above the rest,” the judges said of the women hugging and crying in the photo, who’d lost loved ones to battles with addiction.

Arts and Lifestyles Editor Heidi Sutton won first place in the Division 2 picture story category for her layout of local Setauket resident Donna Crinnian’s photos of birds in Stony Brook Harbor. The picture essay was titled “Winged Wonders of Stony Brook.”

“Elegant way to showcase nature of our feathered friends,” NYPA judges wrote.

Director of Media Productions Michael Tessler received an honorable mention in Division 2 coverage of the arts for his review of Theatre Three in Port Jefferson’s rendition of “A Christmas Carol.”

“Nice photos and an insightful story on the characters portraying a beloved classic,” judges said.

The Village Times Herald won first place for its classified advertising, as judges said it was “clean, precise, well-spaces and not crowded,” and Wendy Mercier claimed a first-place prize for best small space ad. TBR News Media’s Sharon Nicholson won second place for her design of a best large space ad. The Village Times Herald ranked in the Top 5 in total advertising contest points with 50, good for fourth place. The first-place winner, Dan’s Papers, received 90.

An artistic rendering of the proposed development on Elwood Orchard site along Jericho Turnpike. Rendering from Villadom Corp

Town of Huntington officials have decided to use the public hearing on contentious plans for a proposed Elwood mall as the trial run for taking town board meetings on the road.

Huntington Town board members voted 4-1 to reschedule public comments on the proposed Villadom Mall to a May 17 town board session that will be held at Elwood Middle School.

“This will be our test case,” Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said.

Lupinacci, during his 2017 campaign for town office, had proposed rotating where town board meetings are held in attempt to increase accessibility to residents. He said he felt the strong community interest in developer Villadom Corp’s proposal to construct a 486,380-square foot mall with mixed retail and office space on Jericho Turnpike in Elwood provided a good opportunity to try relocating.

“I once again stand in strong opposition to the Villadom project…”
— Steve Stern

“The middle school auditorium has more seating,” the supervisor said. “I am sure it will be a long hearing of several hours of comments.”

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) was the sole vote against relocating the Villadom hearing, citing security concerns and potential confusion for concerned residents.

Many area residents voiced their opinions on the proposed mall at the April 10 town board meeting. The first among them was former Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills).

“I once again stand in strong opposition to the Villadom project and overdevelopment in our area which will have a tremendously adverse impact on the aquifer, already heavy traffic and the quality of life,” Stern said.

He said the Suffolk County Legislature previously voted against Orchard Park, a prior proposal to build 360 luxury apartments in addition to retail and office space, on the same site as Elwood Orchard, Villadom’s proposed project.

“There are doomsday predictions of traffic counts, megamalls and tax breaks that are non-existent.”
— Robert Rocklein

Robert Rocklein, a member of the civic group Huntington Matters, said he is supportive of Villadom’s plans.

“I see the glass as half full, not half empty,” he said. “I see a lot of benefits that could be bestowed on the community.”

Rocklein said he believes residents’ fears of the mixed-use project have been created by information circulating on social media. He once viewed a similar development in Short Hills, New Jersey whose tenants he said have given more than $1 million a year to community organizations and groups.

“There are doomsday predictions of traffic counts, megamalls and tax breaks that are non-existent,” Rocklein said. “Elwood school district stands to have the most to gain, but also the most to lose.”

An online petition started against the proposed Villadom Mall has gathered more than 4,000 signatures in the last three weeks. Residents have voiced concerns about the potential environmental impact of the development’s storm water runoff on drinking water as well as potentially increased traffic on Jericho Turnpike, Old Country and Deer Park roads.

The Greater Huntington Civic Group, a nonprofit organization of multiple civic associations in the Town of Huntington, will be hosting a public meeting with the developer April 18 at 7 p.m. prior to the town hearing. The event will be held at the Huntington Moose Lodge, located at 631 Pulaski Road in Greenlawn.

In November, state Sen. Ken LaValle gave his blessing to a feasibility study for the electrification of the Port Jefferson LIRR line east of Huntington. File photo

A Smithtown resident will take the lead in determining the future of the Long Island Rail Road.
Phillip Eng was appointed the next president of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s LIRR April 12 by MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota and MTA Managing Director Ronnie Hakim.

“Phil has shown exceptional leadership and dedication during his time at the MTA, and I know he will bring his enthusiasm for developing a world-class transportation system to the LIRR,” Lhota said.

“As a Smithtown resident and Suffolk County native, Phil Eng understands the importance of transportation on Long Island.”

— Steve Bellone

Eng will take over for Patrick Nowakowski, who served as LIRR president for nearly four years. He submitted his resignation less than a month after the LIRR had its worst on-time performance in the last 18 years, according to a March 15 report released by the Office of State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli in March. The report had found that nearly 21,400 trains were delayed, cancelled or terminated in 2017; a 20 percent increase from 2016.

“As millions of commuters can attest, the performance of the Long Island Rail Road has become unacceptable,” DiNapoli said in a March statement. “On-time performance has fallen to the lowest level in nearly two decades, hurting riders. While Amtrak was a big factor behind the deterioration in service last year, the LIRR was responsible for more than twice as many delays.”

Eng first joined the MTA in March 2017 when he was appointed its chief operating officer. His role as chief operating officer was leading major initiatives across all of the MTA’s agencies, particularly with a focus on using innovation and technology to modernize the transportation systems and improve customer reliability, according to the MTA. From October 2017 to January 2018, he held the position of acting president at New York City Transit.

“The LIRR couldn’t have a found a more qualified person for this role,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in a statement. “As a Smithtown resident and Suffolk County native, Phil Eng understands the importance of transportation on Long Island.”

“My life’s work has centered on conceptualizing the best possible options to make transportation options more reliable.”

— Phil Eng

He is now expected to use his 35 years of experience in the New York State’s transportation sector to get the LIRR’s performance back on track. Prior to joining the MTA, Eng started his career with New York State Department of Transportation in 1983 as a junior engineer. He worked his way up, rising through the ranks to become the state DOT’s executive deputy commissioner. While there, Eng was responsible for delivering on the $2.5 billion annual capital construction program and was involved in the environmental impact study on the LIRR Mainline Expansion Project.

“My life’s work has centered on conceptualizing the best possible options to make transportation options more reliable, allowing commuters to get where they need to go safely and quickly,” Eng said in a statement. “I am honored to be chosen to lead the LIRR and its team of talented women and men as we work together to make the daily experience on the trains a better one.”

In his new position, Eng will be expected to manage several major infrastructural changes underway on the LIRR including the Double Track Project, which adds a second track to the Ronkonkoma branch between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma stations and is scheduled for completion later this year. He will also be expected to implement the Performance Improvement Plan, unveiled March 19, which aims to improve the LIRR’s service reliability, seasonal preparedness and communications with its customers. Public calls from elected officials to expand electrification on the Port Jefferson line east of the Huntington station, a long sought technological improvement, are also intensifying.

Juan Lopez of Huntington Station was convicted of using the threat of violence to recruit people into the gang MS-13. Photo from Suffolk County District Attorney’s office

A Huntington Station man has been found guilty of being an MS-13 gang member who used the threat of violence in attempt to recruit new members.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) announced April 9 that Juan Lopez, 32, was convicted by a jury of first-degree attempted coercion, a felony. Lopez faces a maximum of four years in jail.

“The victims did not join; they did the right thing,” Sini said. “That’s why it’s critical that the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office is here to protect the victims of not only gang violence, but also of gang intimidation.”

On April 16, 2017, Lopez was approached by two young men at the soccer fields of Manor Field Park in Huntington Station at approximately 1 p.m. in attempts to recruit them to MS-13, according to the district attorney. This occured less than five days after the murder of four young men near a park in Central Islip by alleged gang members.

Tattoos denoting Juan Lopez’s connection to the gang MS-13, according to District Attorney Tim Sini. Photo from Suffolk County District Attorney’s office

“When the boys resisted, this defendant stated to them in unequivocal terms, ‘this is how you end up dead in the park,’” Sini said. “My message to Mr. Lopez is: That’s how you end up in jail in Suffolk County.”

Lopez was arrested by Suffolk County Police Department the following day, April 17, 2017.

The case was prosecuted by the Enhanced Prosecution Bureau’s Gang Unit. The Gang Unit was launched in January 2018 by the newly-elected district attorney to focus exclusively on investigating and prosecuting crimes committed by gang members, such as members of MS-13.

Sini said prosecutors’s evidence against Lopez at trial included witness statements in addition to his own tattoos. Lopez has a “1” tattoed on his right arm near his shoulder with a matching “3” tattooed on his left arm near the shoulder joint. In addition, he had a skull with two horns tattooed lower on his left arm, forming the letter “M” when viewed upside down. The district attorney said these tattoes are symbolic of membership in the MS-13 gang.

“We will spare no resources, we will spare no effort to eradicate MS-13 from our communities,”he said.

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