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Sen. John Flanagan

A rendering of the proposed outline of the Kings Park sewer lines. Photo from Smithtown Planning Department

Town of Smithtown officials are counting the days to June 20 to see if state officials will take the necessary steps to help Kings Park sewers become a concrete reality.

Smithtown town board held a special session June 1 to approve an amended home rule bill requesting permission to alienate, or use, 11,000 square feet of parkland to construct a pump station necessary to move forward with sewering the Kings Park business district. The paperwork was overnighted to Albany, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said, in hopes the legislation will pass before the state legislative session ends June 20.

“They are only in session for a few more weeks, if we miss the end of their legislative session it would put that whole project off for at least a year,” Wehrheim said.

“[I]f we miss the end of their legislative session it would put that whole project off for at least a year.”
– Ed Wehrheim

Smithtown and Suffolk County require approval from the state to turn parkland located on the property of Smithtown’s Department of Parks building, located at 110 E. Main St. in Kings Park, into a sewage pump station. While the state Senate previously granted its permission, the state Assembly took issue with the town’s request.

“The Assembly takes the alienation of parkland very seriously, there must be an equal or greater amount of land that is sterilized,” Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said. “There is never a net loss of parkland.”

The Assembly has requested three changes in order for the process to move forward, according to Wehrheim. The first requirement was to permanently preserve an additional 7,000 square feet of open space in exchange for constructing the pump station and to provide an aerial overview of the property to see the layout. Minor wording changes to the legislation were also requested.

“[The Assembly] wanted some additional data to make sure everything passes muster,” Fitzpatrick said.

The Suffolk County Legislature must take up the same amended home rule bill, pass it and send it back to the state legislature for approval as well, according to the assemblyman, for the project to move forward.

Wehrheim said he will be watching and waiting to make sure the alienation bill passes, while the project has funding from the state. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has earmarked $20 million for sewering of the Kings Park business district in the 2018 state budget, but it is not in the town’s hands yet.

“We haven’t been notified by anyone or assured that the money will stay there until we are ready to do the project,” the supervisor said. “We are methodically pursuing it.”

The governor has made a commitment to Smithtown and Kings Park. I think we will continue to keep it.”
– Michael Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick said home rule requests, such as Smithtown’s to use parkland for the public purpose of creating a pump station to install sewer lines, are usually handled at the very end of a legislative session.

“I have every confidence on the Assembly side that we will get this done,” Fitzpatrick said. “The governor has made a commitment to Smithtown and Kings Park. I think we will continue to keep it.”

The amended bill must also be reapproved by the state Senate, which passed the prior version in May, but has been deadlocked in recent days.

“Once the home rule messages are adopted and filed by the town and county, the Senate has every intention of passing the bill again,” said the office of state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) in a statement.

The supervisor said the final draft of the Kings Park market analysis study to revitalize the area — in which sewers are noted to play a critical role — is expected to be finished shortly and presented to the public. The study, which cost $200,000 and was paid for by county taxpayers, could become outdated, according to Wehrheim, if the project gets delayed because the state approval isn’t granted this year.

“I understand the town supervisor is worried about getting this done,” Fitzpatrick said. “But it ain’t over till it’s over, and it ain’t over until June 20.”

State Sen. John Flanagan congratulates Laurel Hill School student Sam Specht for winning the New York State Senate’s 2018 Earth Day Poster Contest. Photo from Senator John Flanagan's office

A student in East Setauket is improving the environment one bottle at a time.

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) presented sixth-grader Sam Specht with a certificate for winning the New York State Senate’s 2018 Earth Day Poster Contest during a May 21 assembly at The Laurel Hill School. For his entry, “We Are Creating a Monsterous Problem,”

Sam took the challenge one step further by creating a monster made of bottles to hold his poster.

Sam Specht’s winning Earth Day poster entry included a robot made of plastic bottles holding his poster. Photo from Joanne Specht

Flanagan said Sam, 12, was chosen from 4,600 entries, representing 43 of 63 state senators.

“You, my friend, have distinguished yourself as the best of 4,600,” Flanagan said.

The senator had advice for the students in attendance. He said young people may garner more respect when it comes to advising others in disposing of litter and recycling since people don’t always listen to adults who tell someone to pick up or recycle a piece of garbage.

“I guarantee if one of you said it, they’d pay a lot more attention,” he said. “So, don’t think you can’t make a difference, because you can.”

Sam, who lives in Bellport, has attended The Laurel Hill School since pre-K. He chose the plastic bottles as the issue for his poster because he said not enough people recycle them properly. During his research for the essay that accompanied the poster, Sam said he discovered a million bottles are purchased worldwide every minute and 91 percent aren’t recycled. Facts he included on his poster.

“I figured out that the amount of the bottles we use in America daily are enough to go from New York to San Francisco and back,” he said.

The 12-year-old had advice on how to help with reducing the number of bottles found in trash cans and littering communities. One, Sam said, is to purchase reusable drinking containers, and to also look for recycling receptacles when in public. Sam said it’s vital to research locations to ensure plastic is recycled properly when returning bottles from home, which he found most supermarkets do.

“I figured out that the amount of the bottles we use in America daily are enough to go from New York to San Francisco and back.”

— Sam Specht

Sam was unable to bring his bottle monster to the assembly because he already brought the pieces, which included soda and water bottles for the body and a milk jug for the head, to Costco to recycle. He said he was happy his teacher and mom took pictures to display at the school presentation.

“I was pretty surprised when I won because I knew a lot of people participated so I didn’t really expect that,” he said.

Sam’s mother, Joanne, said her son has been concerned about the environment for years.

“He is always reminding us to turn off the water when we brush our teeth,” she said. “He is also always asking everyone in our family to use refillable bottles instead of buying water bottles.”

The mother said Sam helps his neighbors bring their recycling cans to the curb on collection days, which she said has made him more aware of how much plastic is used and discarded.

“I am glad for Sam that he won because he takes this issue very seriously,” she said.

Protests outside Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan's East Northport home March 23. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Roughly a dozen protesters marched up and down Cayuga Avenue in East Northport Friday morning greeting residents as they headed to work with chants of “hey hey, ho ho, predators have got to go.”

The New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators, a coalition of child sex abuse survivors, advocates, and advocacy organizations, stood outside state Sen. John Flanagan’s (R) home to protest his opposition to the Child Victims Act March 23. They carried signs reading “Stop protecting predators & start protecting kids” as well as blown up copies of the New York Daily News front cover “Protectors of the Predators” featuring Flanagan’s photo.

Kathryn Robb protests with others outside Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s East Northport home March 23. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The rally’s aim was to push the Senate Majority Leader to use his position among Republicans to negotiate approval of the legislation that would open up the state’s statute of limitations of child-sex abuse crimes.

“I think that the power and energy of the ‘Me Too’ movement has really opened people’s eyes,” said Kathryn Robb, a Manhasset resident and child sexual abuse survivor. “We’re saying enough is enough, time is up. The laws in New York need to change. They are archaic and protect the predators, not victims.”

The Child Victims Act, if passed, would extend the time that child-sex abuse victims have to file a lawsuit from age 23 to age 28 in criminal cases, and up to age 50 in civil cases. In addition, the passage of the bill would open up a one-year period where survivors could file claims previously not permitted under the current law.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) included the Child Victims Act in his 2018 executive budget for the first time, after the bill was passed by the state assembly in 2017. The March 23 rally coincides with the last weekend of negotiations before the April 1 deadline to approve the state budget.

The act has been blocked by Senate Republicans numerous times during the past 14 years, according to Marci Hamilton, a founding member of the New Yorkers Against Hidden Predators and CEO of CHILD USA, a nonprofit think tank that seeks to end child abuse and neglect through evidence-based research.

“We are out here to tell Senator Flanagan it’s time to finally put this bill to rest and pass it,” Hamilton said. “He has personally refused to meet with us.”

Protests outside Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s East Northport home March 23. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Sen. Flanagan and his spokesperson were not immediately available for comment in response to this morning’s protest.

In a pre-Election Day 2016 sit down with TBR News Media and his then Democratic challenger Peter Magistrale, Flanagan addressed the Child Victims Act and statutes of limitation.

“We have statutes of limitations for very cogent reasons and no matter how emotional a subject may be, witness availability, evidence, all those things have a salutary effect in terms of what happens,” he said.

Hamilton said the protest group has plans this afternoon to meet with state Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) in her office to discuss her position on the Child Victims Act and attempt to negotiate her support of the bill’s passage.

Huntington YMCA employees and town officials at a ceremonial groundbreaking Oct. 25 on a new facility. Photo from Facebook

The ground has been broken and construction is underway on a new building for the Huntington YMCA that will nearly triple the size of its existing facility, allowing it to expand the programs it offers to the community.

The YMCA of Long Island and Huntington Town officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking Oct. 25 to celebrate the start of construction of a 29,000-square-foot Health Living Center. The new facility will allow Huntington YMCA to expand its fitness and preventative health programs that focus on chronic disease prevention and recovery.

“Our Health Living Center is a tremendous step forward, allowing us the capacity to achieve this goal and provide our community with the programs it needs,” said Anne Brigis, president and CEO of the YMCA of Long Island in a statement. “We have listened intently to the needs of the Huntington community, and we’re excited to begin building our Health Living Center into a gathering place for individuals to grow, learn and lead healthy lives.”

The new state-of-the-art center will include a 7,500-square-foot gym with a suspended running track above it, cycling studios, several multi-purpose adult fitness rooms and a new child care center. There will also be room set aside for the YMCA to expand its programs that focus on chronic disease prevention and recovery, including Moving for Better Balance (a fall prevention program), a diabetes prevention program and senior wellness walks.

The conceptual rendering of the new Huntington YMCA. Photo from YMCA of Long Island

“The Y is more than a swimming pool or an athletic field,” said New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport). “At its heart, the Huntington YMCA is a community center where people can engage with physical and mental health and get the care they need. The Healthy Living and education programs all work to help these local communities and provide very necessary programs to people from all walks of life.”

The Health Living Center is being built in accordance with New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) new health initiative, which calls for a stronger emphasis on preventive health measures and education.

The nearly $9 million price-tag of the new building is being paid for through a combination of public-private partnership, according to Beverly Lacy, vice president of philanthropy for YMCA LI. The organization has received both a $400,000 and $500,0000 Empire State Development award from the state office which aims to support local business development and job creation through efficient use of financial assistance, and several generous private individual donations.

The Town of Huntington received a municipality grant to improve the parking lots shared by the town’s facilities, the senior center, Huntington YMCA and the Cinema Arts Center.

Construction of the new facility is anticipated to to be complete in 12 to 18 months, according to a YMCA spokesperson.

Once construction is complete, Lacy said that the Huntington YMCA will be able to move its programs currently held in the town’s John J. Flanagan Center, where it rents space, into the new facility.

“We have had a great relationship and it’s good to work with the town, but the facility is a little tired,” Lacey said. It’s hard to keep the heating and cooling where it needs to be. It’s hard to use the space for our purposes, as for health and wellness classes you want to be able to control the temperature.”

Town spokesman A.J. Carter said there are no future plans for Flanagan center’s use.

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