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Smithtown

the orphaned fawn in Bendickson living room, before finding an adoptive doe. Photos from Janine Bendickson

Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown got an emergency call May 28 from Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga). He was driving on the Sunken Meadow Parkway when he encountered a man on the side of the road aiding a dying doe that went into labor after being struck by a car.  

Janine Bendickson bottle-feeds the newborn colostrum. Photo from Janine Bendickson

The man, Gordon Edelstein, was pulling a fawn from the birth canal as Trotta got out of his car. Another newborn fawn, which was lying nearby, seemed healthy, he said. The second-born fawn was breathing faintly, so Edelstein, a retired Marine administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Unfortunately, only one fawn survived. 

“It was a horrible scene and sad to see,” said Trotta, a former cop who often stops at roadside incidents. “Life is so fragile.”

Janine Bendickson, the director of Wildlife Rehabilitation at Sweetbriar, who quickly arrived at the scene estimates that the fawns were born about one week prematurely. She wrapped the surviving baby deer in a blanket and took the animal home and bottle fed it colostrum, the nutritious milk that mammals produce and mewborns typically get when they first nurse.  

The next day, as fate would have it, Bendickson noticed that a wild deer in the nearby woodlands had also just given birth.  

A wild deer accepts an orphaned fawn as her own. Photo from Janine Bendickson

“Deer typically don’t accept fawns from another doe,” Bendickson said. “But we thought we would give it a try.”

The new mother approached the orphaned fawn and started licking and nurturing it. The doe then accepted the fawn as her own and let it nurse. 

“We were all moved to tears,” Bendickson said. “It’s a tragic story with a happy ending.”

Bendickson, who has worked at Sweetbriar for 20 years, said that the rescue was one of the more remarkable experiences of her career. 

A video of the Bendickson bottle feeding the fawn can be found here.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin. Flie photo by Alex Petroski

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) spoke on the House floor April 30, ahead of a unanimous House passage of his legislation to honor former Congressman Bill Carney. The bill, H.R. 828, designates the United States Postal Service facility located at 25 Route 111 in Smithtown, New York, as the Congressman Bill Carney Post Office.

 “Congressman Carney was an incredible man who fought tirelessly for his constituents everyday. Even before his life in politics, his commitment to serving his country and community never wavered,” Zeldin said.

William Carney, formerly of Hauppauge, died May 22, 2017, at the age of 74, after a four-year battle with prostate cancer. He served in the U.S. Army Medical Corp from 1961 to 1964 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. He also served as a Suffolk County legislator in 1976 for a single term, before his election as U.S. congressman for New York’s 1st Congressional District, where Zeldin now serves. The district is comprised of Smithtown, Brookhaven and the East End. 

Carney served eight years in Congress and was a member of the Conservative Party. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, according to obituaries after his death, Carney sponsored a bill to reduce strategic arms and freeze nuclear weapons, which was backed by then President Ronald Reagan. Carney was also known for supporting the $4.5 billion Shoreham nuclear project. Carney left office in January 1987.

“Congressman Carney will be remembered for his strength, integrity and commitment to his district and nation, and there is no place he loved more than Long Island. Now, every time someone enters the Congressman Bill Carney Post Office, his legacy will be remembered forever,” Zeldin said. 

“Bill was a beloved husband, father and grandfather. For our community, for New York’s 1st Congressional District, for our nation and for the ideals in which he believed, he was a fighter until the very end,” the Carney family said in a prepared statement. “Bill loved the 1st Congressional District and it was his highest honor serving its people. Smithtown was our family’s home for decades, and it is particularly meaningful that this Post Office continues to serve the people about whom he cared so deeply. Thank you to Congressman Zeldin for helping preserve his memory in a place that was always very special to him. We know that he is smiling at being remembered back home.”

The bill is expected to pass the Senate.

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Smithtown decked out for autism awareness. Photo by Alexandra Damianos

By Donna Deedy

The Town of Smithtown held a special Light the Town Blue ceremony in front of Town Hall April 3. Local families and members of the community living with autism joined with elected officials and town employees in the ceremonial kickoff for the month-long campaign. 

The ceremony was led by 21-year-old Brendan Lanese, who lives with autism, and his family. Prior to the lighting ceremony, Lanese invited any residents living with autism to assist him in illuminating the town in blue.

For the duration of April, blue lights and giant puzzle ribbons, the Autism Society’s official symbol for autism awareness, will embellish major landmarks throughout Smithtown, including Whisper the Bull, Town Hall, the Smithtown Parks and Highway Department grounds. 

In 2018, Councilman Tom Lohmann (R)and Parks Director Joe Arico helped to revive the tradition, which began for the first time in April 2015. Residents can pick up free blue light bulbs at the Town Council Office, 99 West Main St., Smithtown.

For more information, call 631-360-7621.

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It was fun for all ages when The Harlem Wizards came to Smithtown West High School squaring off against the Smithtown faculty All Stars in a fundraising basketball game to benefit DECA Feb. 28. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Back by popular demand, the Harlem Wizards basketball team returned to Smithtown West High School Feb. 28 where they took on the Smithtown faculty all star team in a basketball fundraiser to benefit the Distributive Education Clubs of America club.

The student Club members who organized the event took care of the gate, the Wizard memorabilia sales, the raffles and the 50/50 sales infront of a packed crowd. Fun was had by all.

 

Millers Pond in Smithtown. File photo by Rita J. Egan

Suffolk County’s Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is offering a $2,000 reward for information leading to those individuals who might be responsible for decapitating six birds found in Smithtown and Great River.

The Town of Smithtown’s Public Safety Department received an anonymous phone call Feb. 4 reporting three dead birds were found near the Maple Avenue and 4th Avenue entrance to Millers Pond County Park, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. The public safety officers then immediately notified the Suffolk SCPA.

Roy Gross, chief of the nonprofit animal advocacy group, said his volunteers working in cooperation with Smithtown park rangers and Suffolk County Police Department found the bodies of two chickens and a blue jay that had been beheaded lying next to a bloodied cardboard box.

“People do these animal sacrifices, and it’s absolutely illegal. They will say they are allowed to do it because it’s a religious right. It is not.”

— Roy Gross

The following day, Feb. 5, the SCPA received a report of three decapitated birds, two chickens and a dove, left alongside Wheeler Road in Great River. Gross said additional items left at the site raised questions as to whether the animals’ deaths were ritualistic in nature.

“We’ve had numerous cases over the years,” he said. “It has all the indications of a religious animal sacrifice.”

The SPCA contacted Marcos Quinones, a retired New York police detective of 36 years and renowned occult specialist, on these two cases. Quinones said he has worked with law enforcement officials at federal, state and local levels on various causes related to occult matters.

“Santeria is a nature-based religion, and it varies based on what god or goddess you worship, each has an element of nature they are thought to control,” he said. “If you needed something from them, you would do a ritual.”

Quinones said based on the location of the six birds’ bodies and items left with them, he believes the birds were killed elsewhere and brought to the pond as a religious offering for Oshun, goddess of the rivers and lakes.

“Santeria is basically a good, nature-based religion, but sometimes people take something good and misuse it,” the occult expert said. “You have to ask yourself what’s the purpose of this ritual?”

Under New York State law, to kill an animal without any intention to consume it is illegal, according to Gross.

“People do these animal sacrifices, and it’s absolutely illegal,” he said. “They will say they are allowed to do it because it’s a religious right. It is not.”

In February 2018, the Suffolk SPCA found the bodies of two hens frozen in the ice at Millers Pond. Gross said the chickens’ heads were found a short distance away, but it was originally thought that other animals may have ripped it apart from the body as potential food.

“We canvassed the area to see if anyone had chickens that were lost,” the chief said. “We did a thorough investigation but couldn’t get any information on it.”

“If there’s an arrest and conviction, that’s a check I’m happy to write.”

— Roy Gross

Gross said twice the SPCA has found a cow’s tongue nailed to a tree across from Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Great River. Upon further investigation, SPCA volunteers discovered candle wax, pins and nine slips of paper bearing individual names had been inserted inside the cow’s tongue, according to Gross. Another time the cow’s tongue was attached by a fishing lure and left out with a bowl of livestock feed as an offering.

“Imagine if a child had come along and grabbed it or seen something like that,” Gross said. “It’s bad enough for an adult, walking along and seeing a tongue hanging from a tree or a beheaded animal. It’s barbaric and should not exist in this day and age.”

If an arrest is made, Gross said the individual will face misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty to wildlife or farm life, which carries a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine for each offense.

The SPCA is asking anyone who may have information related to the recent discoveries in Smithtown and Great River to contact the nonprofit organization at 631-382-7722. All calls are confidential.

“If there’s an arrest and conviction, that’s a check I’m happy to write,” Gross said.

The site of the proposed community residence on Twixt Hills Road in St. James. Photo from Google Maps

A new property owner in St. James is already making waves with neighbors over plans to convert a single-family residence into an adult group home.

Life’s WORC, a private nonprofit organization that supports people who are developmentally disabled or have autism, notified the Town of Smithtown Jan. 15 it purchased a home on Twixt Hills Road with the intent of creating a community residence for six adults. Several members of the St. James community have raised concerns and are asking for a public information session about the home slated for Feb. 14 be pushed back as it falls on Valentine’s Day. 

“One of our major service goals is to establish homes that will enable persons with disabilities to reside in the community close to their families and friends while allowing them opportunities for normal life-enriching experiences,” reads the organization’s letter. 

Life’s WORC purchased a two-story colonial home that currently provides four bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms on a 0.56-acre lot on Twixt Hills Road. The nonprofit closed on the home Jan. 9 at a price tag of $575,000, according to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island’s website. The residence offers 2,857 square feet of living space and has a two-car garage. 

“The town can accept it or reject it based on saturation, but you have to define saturation legally.”

— Nicole Garguilo

“The residence is located in a pleasant, safe, neighborhood of single-family homes and is accessible to desirable community amenities, which include shopping, public transportation, medical, recreational faculties, parks and houses of worship,” reads Life’s WORC’s Jan. 15 letter to the town. 

The organization’s notice states the home will be used to house six adults under a residential manager with on-site staffing 24 hours a day. The nonprofit organization, started in 1971, currently oversees residences for more than 140 individuals in Suffolk and Nassau counties. It also operates homes in Queens. Life’s WORC could not be reached for comment. 

Nicole Garguilo, spokeswoman for Town of Smithtown, said while the town is not obligated to host an information session slated for the Feb. 14 town board meeting, it has reached out to the organization on behalf of residents. Life’s WORC has offered to host a second meeting, after the initial session slated for Valentine’s Day, to discuss the St. James home with concerned community members, according to Garguilo. 

Under New York State Law, Smithtown town officials have 40 days to respond to Life’s WORC, or until approximately Feb. 24, and raise any objections to the planned Twixt Hills Road community residence. Its primary basis for objection would be citing a saturation of group homes in the area, according to Garguilo, which can be tricky. 

“The town can accept it or reject it based on saturation, but you have to define saturation legally,” she said. “It’s almost like a trick question, you can accept with conditions. Usually, it’s accepted with conditions.”  

The public informational session on the Twixt Hills home will be held 7 p.m. Feb. 14 at the Eugene Cannataro Senior Citizens Center, located at 420 Middle Country Road in Smithtown. 

Smithtown Town Hall. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By David Luces

Smithtown residents, who have ever had ideas for what downtown Smithtown or Commack’s future should look like, have been asked to contribute their 2 cents or give two hours of their time.

The Town of Smithtown announced plans Feb. 5 to update its Comprehensive Master Plan and is looking for community input to define the vision of the town’s hamlets present and future. 

Residents will be able to participate through a series of public workshops, an interactive website, survey and public hearings. 

“I truly believe that every resident should have the chance to voice his or her vision for our community,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said. “Creating a process where they will have the opportunity to help shape their hometown hamlet by design, is the very definition of the people’s government.”

“Creating a process where they will have the opportunity to help shape their hometown hamlet by design, is the very definition of the people’s government.”

—Ed Wehrheim

The topics covered by the town’s comprehensive plan will include: community plans for each hamlet, land use, transportation, parking, community facilities, sustainability and future capital improvements.  

The town has launched a new website with specific details that outline the project at www.PublicInput.com/Smithtown, where it will address frequently asked questions and will be posting updates moving forward. Community residents can choose to complete an extensive online survey providing feedback on what aspects are most important and what areas the town needs the most improvement. 

Community workshops for individual hamlets will start March 7; see complete list below. Residents are encouraged to attend the community workshops in their respective hamlets to give input toward the immediate and long-term approach for growth, development, protection and community enhancement. 

“No stone will be left unturned when it comes to planning the future of our township,” Councilman Tom McCarthy (R), liaison to the Planning Department said. “This comprehensive plan will serve as a guide, not just for us but for our children and grandchildren.”

The town anticipates the new Comprehensive Master Plan will be completed by the end of 2019. 

Community Workshops Date

● Smithtown: March 7, 7-9 p.m. at Smithtown senior center located at 420 Middle Country Road 

● Nesconset: March 12, 7-9 p.m. at Great Hollow Middle School, located at 150 Southern Blvd.

● Hauppauge: March 19, 7-9 p.m. at Pines Elementary School, located at 22 Holly Drive

● St. James: March 27, 7-9 p.m. at St. James Elementary School, 580 Lake Ave. 

● Commack: April 4, 7-9 p.m. at Commack High School’s art gallery, located at 1 Scholar Lane

● Kings Park: April 11, 7-9 p.m. at Kings Park High School, located at 200 Route 25A

Graphic by TBR News Media

By Sara-Megan Walsh and Kyle Barr

The three North Shore towns of Brookhaven, Huntington and Smithtown are grappling with how to best recycle in 2019 after Brookhaven’s facility ground to a halt in October 2018. 

An aerial view of Town of Brookhaven’s Green Stream Recycling plant in Yaphank is surrounded by recyclables in August 2018. Brookhaven has since returned to dual stream recycling. Photo from Town of Smithtown

In that month, Brookhaven’s recycling contractor Green Stream Recycling prematurely terminated its 25-year agreement to operate the town’s recycling plant in Yaphank. The announcement came as collected recyclables piled up like mountains outside the Yaphank facility as China’s new National Sword policy took effect, implemented in January 2018, which set strict contamination limits on recyclable materials it would accept. Up until then, China had been the world’s largest importer of recycled materials, and now local towns had to scramble to find a new market to sell to.

All three towns solicited bids from recycling companies in the hopes of finding the most efficient and green solution for its residents. 

The result is Brookhaven, Huntington and Smithtown have all taken slightly different approaches based on what services they’ve been offered. Residents have been puzzled by new recycling schedules, as the townships are still attempting to explain what has changed with their recycling and how it will impact the future.

Brookhaven

Once the bottom of the recycling market fell out from China’s decision, Brookhaven was caught directly in the storm that followed, with the Green Stream facility being the center of multiple towns’ recycling efforts.

“It’s not the system that so much changed, as much as what was allowable,” said Christopher Andrade, the town’s recycling commissioner. “[China] went down from 5 percent contamination to 0.5 percent. It wasn’t the equipment that caused the problem, it was the standard that caused the problem.”

At the Jan. 17 Brookhaven Town Board meeting, council members unanimously voted to sign a $760,000 contract with West Babylon-based Winters Bros. Waste Systems of Long Island to take their materials to Smithtown’s Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. 

The new standards mean Brookhaven residents can only put out the most common No. 1 and 2 plastics, which are collected together with aluminum such as food cans. Paper products are collected separately. The town asked that any unclean paper products such as used pizza boxes be thrown out with regular trash instead. Glass is no longer being picked curbside by the town, and instead can be placed at one of seven drop-off points located around the town.

“It’s not the system that so much changed, as much as what was allowable.”

— Chris Andrade

To advertise these changes, Brookhaven took out newspapers ads and broadcasted the changes on radio, television and social media at the tail end of 2018. The town is planning another media blitz for 2019, including another mailer to all residents along with additional newspaper and radio ads. The annual mailer sent to Brookhaven residents, which includes information about the new recycling system, costs $30,000. Otherwise the town has spent approximately $12,000 on newspaper ads and roughly $10,000 on radio ads so far. Andrade said the town is continuing to advertise the changes.

Further changes to Brookhaven’s recycling system could again appear on the horizon. Matt Miner, chief of operations, said the town is looking for means of getting its recycling facility restarted, though this would require a new contractor to partner with Brookhaven. 

Andrade said he hopes to have the facility running again before the six-month contract with Smithtown is up. In addition, the recycling commissioner said he is awaiting news of the current litigation between the town and Green Stream over the voided contract.

For now, Brookhaven is sticking with dual stream, as officials said single-stream recycling resulted in a worse quality product that at this point was near impossible to sell.

For more information on recycling, visit Brookhaven’s video on recycling.

Smithtown

The Town of Smithtown opted to take a unique approach to dual-stream recycling by taking on two different contracts in hopes of getting their best payout for recycled materials. 

In December, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) signed a six-month contract with Winters Bros. Waste Systems of Long Island to pick up all collected paper and cardboard recycling in exchange for paying the town $30 per ton. These collections are expected to net Smithtown approximately $177,000 per year, if they choose to extend the contract. 

Since Oct. 29 the Town of Smithtown has been piling up residents’ recyclables at its Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park. File Photo by Kyle Barr

The town entered a separate contract with Islandia-based Trinity Transportation, which will take unprocessed curbside metals and plastics, limited to plastics Nos. 1 and 2, with $68 per ton being paid by the town, at a total cost of approximately $104,000 per year. 

Overall, the combination of two contracts along with money received from Brookhaven for shipping their recyclables for pickup, will net the town approximately $178,500 per year in total, according to town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo. 

Residents who wish to recycle their glass bottles and containers can drop off materials at three locations throughout town: Municipal Services Facility in Kings Park, Town Hall and the Highway Department building on Route 347 in Nesconset.  

Smithtown Town Board has budgeted $16,000 for its public campaign regarding the return to dual-stream, the least of any township but also with the smallest population to reach. Garguilo said many of the graphics and printed materials have been designed in-house, which has helped save money. She added that the supervisor and town officials will be speaking with senior citizen groups and community associations throughout early 2019 to help re-educate residents who may not be technologically savvy. 

For more information on recycling, go to Smithtown’s video on the subject.

Huntington 

After the Yaphank plant’s closure, the Town of Huntington signed a two-year contract with Omni Recycling of Babylon returning to a dual-stream process with papers and cardboard being collected on alternate weeks from plastics, aluminum and glass. The town’s total recycling costs will depend on how well the town can re-educate residents and their compliance, according to Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R).

“The only vendors continuing single-stream recycling would have trucked it off Long Island at a cost of $120 to $135 a ton,” he said. “It’s a matter of re-educating the public and getting them used to the old system again.” 

“It’s a matter of re-educating the public and getting them used to the old system again.”

— Chad Lupinacci

Lupinacci said to stick with a single-stream process would have cost the town approximately $1.7 million to $2 million a year based on bids received from contractors. As such, the town decided to move to a dual-stream process where its costs will be determined by how much of the collected material is clean enough to be repurposed. The town will receive $15 per ton of recyclable papers and cardboard delivered to Omni Recycling, and be billed $78 per contaminated ton as determined by the facility. 

“We require lids and covers on the recycling bins to reduce contamination from dirt and moisture,” the supervisor said. “Soiled and moldy paper are not recyclable.” 

The Town of Huntington expects to collect 900,000 tons of paper and cardboard from its residents. Assuming that 80 percent will be clean enough to recycle, Lupinacci said the town will wind up paying out approximately $32,000 for its paper goods. 

Unlike Brookhaven and Smithtown, Huntington town residents can continue to put all plastics, Nos. 1 through 7, and glass bottles out for curbside pickup. Based on an average of 550,000 tons collected annually, the town will pay $75 a ton, at a cost of $412,500 a year, to recycle these materials. 

“I think people are adjusting, but it will take a few weeks.”

— Chad Lupinacci

The Town of Huntington has set aside nearly $86,000 in 2019 — more than Brookhaven and Smithtown combined — to educate its residents about the return to dual stream. According to Huntington’s website, dual-stream recycling is the collection of bottles, cans and plastics one week, with paper and corrugated cardboard the following week. Half that budget will be paid by a grant obtained from the state Department of Environmental Conservation, according to Lupinacci. To date, the town has spent $1,000 on social media ads and roughly $43,000 on printed materials including direct mailers and calendars. 

The supervisor said it seems to be paying off. 

“Omni-Westbury, [which] does our collection, said the quality of our first week’s recyclables was better than expected,” Lupinacci said. 

The first collection of papers and cardboard in January yielded 104 tons, only 10 percent of which was considered contaminated, according to the supervisor. 

“I think people are adjusting, but it will take a few weeks,” he said. 

For more information on recycling, watch Huntington’s video on recycling.

Glass: Is it worth collecting? 

Glass is a product many town officials have found difficult to sell, as there’s not much market for it.

Brookhaven and Smithtown are no longer accepting it as part of curbside pickup, but rather asking their residents to bring glass bottles to various drop-off locations. Collections at these locations has increased, according to Miner, and Brookhaven Town has installed larger containers to meet that demand.

To date, Brookhaven has sent two pilot shipments with Jersey City-based Pace Glass Recycling, and Miner said the town is looking to set up some sort of long-term contract.  Andrade said the town is not currently making money from sending the glass to Pace, but the only costs incurred are from the town employees hauling the product up to New Jersey.

“This is actually a recycling of the glass, which most of the towns on Long Island have not been able to achieve,” Miner said.

Andrade added there is a chance Brookhaven could land a deal with the New
Jersey-based company.

“You have to establish relationships, so we’re still in the beginning of the dance there,” the recycling commissioner said. “They’re taking a look at the quality of our material … they’re liking the material so I’m cautiously optimistic.”

Smithtown elected officials renewed a prior inter-municipal agreement with Brookhaven at their Jan. 24 meeting, agreeing to ship the town’s collected glass to their neighbor for processing. 

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Casa Luis on West Jericho Turnpike in Smithtown. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Karina Gerry

A Smithtown mom-and-pop restaurant has been able to reopen its doors more than a year after a horrific blaze left many questioning its fate.

Casa Luis, located at 1033 W. Jericho Turnpike, served up lunch to customers Jan. 10 for the first time since a devastating single-car crash set the restaurant up in flames in October 2017.

At around midnight Oct. 1, a 2004 Nissan Quest crashed into a 2011 Ford pickup truck and then plowed into the Spanish restaurant. The sedan burst into flames, killing the driver and setting the 30-year-old restaurant ablaze. Owner Jose Luis Estevez, commonly known as Luis, and his wife, Carmen, were asleep upstairs when they received a call from their neighbor alerting them to the fire.

“You know how many customers call me, ‘Luis, are you OK?’” Estevez said. “‘Do you need help?’ It’s so nice, so nice.”

“I’m not a famous guy. I’m a real guy, but I love what I do. I have my place and I love that people like my food or enjoy my restaurant. I still work because I love it.”

— Jose Luis Estevez

The owner said the resulting fire destroyed the restaurant’s kitchen, but left the dining room untouched. The couple’s upstairs apartment was damaged and the outside of the building was pitch black from smoke damage. Estevez, an immigrant from Spain, and his wife found themselves suddenly forced out of a home and a business they had spent years nurturing it.

“My mom took it really bad,” said Delia Arias, who works at the restaurant with her parents. “She was very fragile for months after, but she pulled through. My parents are strong people.”

Arias, who along with her siblings grew up helping around the restaurant, was surprised at the extent of the damage from the fire.

“The next day, I came to see the place,” she said. “It was a big shock, it was emotional, it was a little bit of everything all at once.”

Both Arias and her father said there was an outpouring of love and support from the community during the 15 months it took to rebuild. The local deli offered Estevez free coffee and lunch, and his fellow restaurant owners offered Casa Luis’ employees jobs to ensure that they could return to work when the business reopened.

“I never expected that in my life,” Estevez said. “Out of this world.”

Arias echoed her father’s sentiments, noting that customers, friends and family members all reached out to make sure her family was okay.

“You didn’t even ask and people were just coming and like ‘You need this, here take this,’” she said. “It was amazing. Such a horrible thing happened and everyone was so amazing to us, it was a really nice thing in such a crazy time.”

For Estevez, there was never any question about whether or not he was going to rebuild after the fire.

“This business gave me a lot of things,” he said. “So for respect of business, of the people in the town, on Long Island. I opened again.”

During the first two weeks of reopening customers came to celebrate with Estevez and eat at the local restaurant they had come to love over the past 30 years.

“I’m not a famous guy,” he said. “I’m a real guy, but I love what I do. I have my place and I love that people like my food or enjoy my restaurant. I still work because I love it.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the swearing-in of state Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport). Photo by Sara Meghan Walsh

By David Luces 

More than a week after New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) released his proposed budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year, many municipalities both big and small in Suffolk County may have to face the reality of losing state funding. 

This comes as a result of the governor’s decision to end state funding to Suffolk County towns and villages as part of a program called Aid and Incentives for Municipalities, which was originally established in the state’s 2005-06 fiscal year. 

If the budget passes, 41 towns and villages in Suffolk County stand to lose AIM funding. Those local governments that rely on AIM funding for more than 2 percent of their budgets would keep this aid.

“It’s as if the governor has decided to aim a dagger at the heart of every municipality on Long Island,” Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said. 

“It’s as if the governor has decided to aim a dagger at the heart of every municipality on Long Island.”

— Ed Romaine

The Town of Brookhaven stands to lose $1.8 million, which is the second highest loss in funding behind the Town of Hempstead which is set to lose $3.8 million. 

Romaine said the decision to cut aid for Brookhaven taxpayers is unconscionable and that it will have an immediate and serious impact on town services and could result in a tax increase. 

Other townships along the North Shore are also standing on the cliff’s edge of funding loss. Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said in a statement that he is disappointed to learn of what he called an unprecedented $59 million in total cuts Cuomo has proposed in his 2020 NYS budget, including little more than $1 million in AIM funds for Huntington. 

“[This is] effectively gutting the unrestricted state revenue sharing program and significantly affecting the Long Island region,” the town supervisor said. “I urge our state Legislature to reject the governor’s dangerous proposal, which could translate into service and program cuts and layoffs.”

The Huntington supervisor added the town should not be punished because of what he described as its conservative fiscal practices, which have resulted in a state funding stream that represents less than 2 percent of the town’s budget. 

“When you take over $1 million away from us, the money has to come from somewhere,” he said. 

Over in the Town of Smithtown, which stands to lose more than $650,000 in AIM funds, officials are staying wary of the timetables, especially considering that many municipalities calculate the AIM funds into their regular yearly budgets. 

“We’ve heard about it, though it’s not official yet — there’s a distinct possible that it could happen,” said Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R). 

“When you take over $1 million away from us, the money has to come from somewhere.”

—Chad Lupinacci

Town officials expressed that the governor should give them and other municipalities more time to prepare for the proposed budget cuts. 

Werheim said the town already has completed its budget and if the money is lost it would put a hole in their operating budget, forcing them to allocate funds from somewhere else. 

If the governor’s plan goes into effect, programs like Horizons Counseling & Education could lose funding, officials said. The program is funded to provide adolescent and adult treatment, prevention and education services for drug- and alcohol-related problems. 

“I’d ask [the governor] to reconsider other avenues,” Werheim said. “Many municipalities on Long Island depend and rely on federal funding.” 

Many incorporated villages along the North Shore are also looking at a funding loss, such as the Village of Northport which is expected to lose $50,000. Others villages like Poquott would lose $2,500, Belle Terre $4,100 and Old Field $3,500.

“I do not yet know how this is going to impact the village,” Old Field Mayor Michael Levine said.

The Village of Port Jefferson would lose $33,000 of AIM funding. 

“If that goes through it means losing another budget revenue line,” Mayor Margot Garant said. “As this stuff starts to pile up, it really starts to hurt.”

Garant mentioned that the lobbying group New York Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials, which represents mayors and small municipalities across New York, will be pushing back against this line in the budget come February. 

Other groups like Suffolk County Village Officials Association will also work with NYCOM and Suffolk legislators to lobby Suffolk’s representatives in Albany about the dire consequences of this aspect of the governor’s budget proposal. 

“As this stuff starts to pile up, it really starts to hurt.”

— Margot Garant

“The governor’s proposal hurts the village citizens the most in villages that have the largest budgetary needs,” said Richard Smith, president of SCVOA. “The governor continues to add to village responsibilities and costs, but simultaneously wants to force villages to increase their local property taxes to pay for the same village services as were provided last year.”

While schools are gearing up to present next year’s budgets, some districts on Long Island would also see less state aid if the governor’s proposed budget passes. Shoreham-Wading River School District would see an incremental increase in foundation aid of $16,000 but a fall in expense-driven aids resulting in a net decrease of $77,000 in state aid. Superintendent Gerard Poole said the district expects to advocate for more funds.

“Last year, as a result of our advocacy and the support of our local legislators, our final foundation aid allocation was about $100,000 higher than what the executive budget originally proposed,” Poole said. “It is also important to note that an additional aid category, building aid, which was not included in recent media reports is in fact projected to increase for our district next year due to the completion of capital projects.” 

The New York State Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees must review the proposed budget before the state Legislature acts on the appropriation bills. Town officials and others said they will continue to advocate for more aid for their districts.

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