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State

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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Ward Melville’s 200-yard medley relay finished third in the state championship at Ithaca College. Photo from Sydney Boals

By Desirée Keegan

When Sydney Boals touched the wall during the state championship preliminary round of the 200-yard medley relay a second behind the swimmer next to her, she knew she had some stiff competition.

“I knew I had to have that fast turn, have a good breakout and sprint all the way to finish,” the freshman said. “I knew I had to go hard, so when I was swimming I just kept my head down, thought about trying my best and sprinted.”

As her Ward Melville swimming teammate Kaitlyn Ehlers capped off the race at Ithaca College Nov. 18, the quartet looked up at the scoreboard to see a 1 minute, 47.98 second finish, good for third place.

The Ward Melville swimming team’s
200-yard medley relay quartet
stands on the podium. Photo from
Sydney Boals

“I was super happy, and I thought everyone else was too,” said Sydney, who swam the breaststroke as the third leg. “We didn’t have our best time, unfortunately, but it was still a really good race and we made our coaches proud.”

Senior Victoria Bogdanski and sophomore Riley Gavigan were also members of the state championship-placing relay. Ward Melville head coach Chris Gordon said he was excited to see his young team put up the numbers it did.

“Not everyone gets to have this experience,” he said before talking about Bogdanski in particular. “She was thrilled, and being a senior the moment really hit her. There were tears of happiness and sadness knowing her 10-year swimming journey was coming to an end. She’s a great person, a great kid. She works really hard. You get what you put into it, and she put in the effort.”

The four girls hadn’t swum as a unit until the county competition, where the relay team placed first in 1:47.86. The Patriots were the No. 5 seed heading into the state preliminary round, and exited the first heat in the No. 4 spot before placing third in the finals.

“I was watching, shouting, getting excited with each turn, seeing if they hit the wall well, come off the wall hard — I just hoped they’d come out of the water happy with their time,” Gordon said as he was watching his relay in the finals. “They didn’t know each other’s cadence, their pace and it’s a pretty good job on their part getting together and getting in sync for such big meets.”

Boals finished with a personal best time of 1:55.19 in the 200 freestyle, good for 12th and just shy of breaking a school record. Gavigan placed 10th in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:05.41.

“They swim all these events on Friday and come back on Saturday to swim them all again and it’s tiring,” Gordon said. “Their bodies can only give so many ‘A’-type efforts in a row in such a short period of time, and I thought their positive mindsets were great even after they finished.”

Members of Ward Melville’s relay team. Photo from
Sydney Boals

Riley finished the day in high spirits, saying her time wasn’t going to get her down.

“The other girls were a little nervous with it being their first time but I tried to get them to look at it like any other meet,” she said. “In the beginning of the season we were trying to qualify for the state meet, we didn’t have winning counties or even placing in the Top 20 at states in our heads. It was really surprising and I’m really proud of our team. We’re motivated, ready for next year.”

Gordon said he’s looking forward to seeing what his team can do next season.

“They should be thinking they have the opportunity to come back next year if they continue to work hard and do the right thing,” he said. “Their finish was pretty darn good, and I think the team really shocked a lot of people. This is one of my most memorable years — I’ve been here 24 years — I’ll look back on it fondly. To be able to come back next year and have another crack at it, it’s an awesome opportunity. I hope they leave this year inspired going into the offseason.”

Boals said she expects the team will be back better than ever.

“We can be great in the future bringing back some really fast swimmers,” she said. “I just wanted to make Section XI proud and make Ward Melville look good. We’re good with what we can do and we’re proud of what we’ve been able to do. We’ll be back here next year — we’re going to have an even better, faster future.”

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Patriots powerhouse wins two 1-0 games for first state crown since 2008

Kerri Thornton has become a thorn in the side of her opponents.

The senior standout scored Ward Melville’s game-winning goal in overtime to help the Patriots bring home the first Class A state title in field hockey since 2008 with a 1-0 win over Maine-Endwell on their field Nov. 12.

“At first, I honestly did not think it went in,” Thornton said. “When Kate [Mulham] got the back ball, I ran back into the circle and got ready for her to send it in. When she did, I received it, and just turned around and shot it hard hoping that it would go in.”

As Thornton’s teammates surrounded her in celebration, she said she knew what she’d done.

“I let out a huge shout in relief,” she said as she saw the smiling faces racing toward her. “It has been our dream ever since we were kids to win a championship like this. The journey this season — as a senior this year — this was what I wanted. I’m just so proud of my team for putting in the time and effort to get to where we got. It’s incredible that we finally pulled it off.”

The game-winning goal was scored with 4:37 left in overtime. Mulham said despite the team’s perfect 21-0 record, losing in the state final and semifinal games in extra minutes in the last two years lingered in the back of their minds. She said despite coming up just short in recent years, she knew the qualities her surrounding teammates possessed.

“What makes Ward Melville field hockey different is that we field a team where every girl is extremely talented,” she said. “Overtime is a high-pressure situation, but I was confident. That’s what makes us so successful.”

She said when she heard her classmate calling for the ball from the circle, she knew what she had to do.

“All I could see was a swarm of defenders when I passed the ball to Kerri,” Mulham said. “But I heard her calling for it, and I trust her, so I sent it to her. When I saw it go into the net, I broke down — tears of joy, and I rushed to hug her so tightly. I never wanted something so badly, and to accomplish something like this with your best friends is a feeling I can’t even put into words.”

With the intensity up and with a huge target on its back, Ward Melville began its journey upstate Nov. 11. With a second trip to the finals in three years on the line, junior Lexi Reinhardt was the first Patriot to jump for joy. Long Island’s leading goal scorer (33 points on 24 goals and nine assists) found the back of the cage in another pressure-filled situation. With 23 seconds left in the first half of a 0-0 game with Baldwinsville, she scored off an assist from senior Shannon Coughlan to send Ward Melville to the finals.

“The play was on a corner and in these games corners are precious,” Reinhardt said. “It was just a great pass from Shannon Coughlan and I was in the right position to finish it.”

She said the Patriots wanted to make a statement being back in the state semifinal game for the third year in a row.

“Heading in, there was definitely some nerves, but I think we channeled that and we were able to play off of the energy of the situation,” she said. “During the game we didn’t focus on that though, we were just focused on playing our game, and winning. The joy and happiness that we feel has radiated throughout the entire program. I will never forget this team.”

The new state standards limit the amount of pitches an athlete can toss in a given day, while allotting a certain period of rest time for each increment of pitches. File photo by Bill Landon

By Desirée Keegan

With elbow injuries running through all levels of baseball at an almost epidemic-like rate, baseball coaches in New York will now have state mandated standards to adhere to in handling their young pitchers. Although a step in the right direction, some coaches don’t think the new rules go far enough.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association unveiled its first stab at guidelines coaches and their pitchers need to follow last December. The regulations include pitch counts — there’s now a cap of 105 in a single day at the varsity level — and nights of rest needed for various pitch-count tiers, before a pitcher can return to the mound.

File photo by Bill Landon

“Action by the NYSPHSAA Executive Committee is a giant step forward in doing our part to protect and support our student-athlete baseball players,” state baseball coordinator Ed Dopp said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor and adjust the pitch-count rules in an attempt to always improve opportunities for our student-athletes and address safety as best we can.”

Pitch counts are also in place for junior varsity and middle school pitchers. Junior varsity players cannot exceed 85 in an outing.

Four nights of rest are mandatory for varsity players throwing between 96 and 105 pitches. Three nights are required for those throwing between 66 and 95 pitches; two for 31 to 65 pitches; and one for up to 30 pitches. The limits change in the postseason, where the maximum pitches allowed at the varsity level jumps to 125.

“These pitch-count rules are a Band-Aid on a problem that is 2 feet wide,” Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci said. “What makes these doctors think that it’s alright for a young kid to throw three days in a row, while it’s under a certain amount of pitches, but Mariano Rivera, who is a trained professional, can’t do it? Big leaguers don’t pitch on the third or fourth day.”

Petrucci also pointed out the fatigue pitchers endure when throwing a particularly strenuous frame, say 30 pitches in one inning, noting the rules don’t take that into account. He also had a problem with the fact that freshmen and seniors, all adhere to the same rules.

“You can bring up an eighth-grader and he can throw 105 pitches on varsity — it doesn’t make much sense,” Smithtown East head coach Ken Klee said. “It should be about development.”

File photo by Bill Landon

Another imperfection is pitching on any mound other than in a high school game is not taken into consideration — when a student-athlete practices, warms-up, if he takes part in an outside league, travel team or showcases.

“One of the biggest criticisms is the amount of outside baseball that kids play,” Port Jefferson head coach Jesse Rosen said. “It’s difficult to keep track of, but it’s about communication. I’ve encouraged kids to ask their travel coaches to communicate with me. It’s going to be a necessity.”

Centereach head coach Mike Herrschaft said the speed at which a pitcher throws should also be taken into consideration.

“There’s a correlation between how fast they throw and the rest they need,” he said. “If I had a kid throwing in the 70s and everything’s healthy I might feel comfortable with them throwing 105 pitches and going on the sixth day, where if I had a kid throwing 90 mph, I’m never comfortable with them pitching on the sixth day.”

For some schools, especially those in the lower leagues, the pitchers are typically the best player on the team and play multiple positions when they’re not on the mound. This too can wear out an arm, and isn’t measured in the first round of rules.

“I never let my pitcher catch or my catcher pitch,” Herrschaft said. “Those have been my standards, especially more recently with the increase in Tommy John surgery and concerns.”

For schools like Kings Park, they need to have athletes play multiple positions. But most coaches try to limit their throwing in one way or another, or give those players more rest.

“To totally get them out of the lineup I think it’s impossible,” head coach Mike Luzim said. “It would negatively impact the normal day-to-day lineups and getting a team prepared to win.”

File photo by Bill Landon

Other new rules include if any pitcher at any level reached the count limit in the middle of an at-bat, he will be allowed to finish that hitter; both teams are required to track pitches on the official NYSPHSAA form and confirm after each inning; and at the game’s conclusion, a pitch count form will be signed by both team’s coaches or designated representatives, and a record will be used to determine which pitchers are available for future games.

“There’s room for manipulation,” Klee said. “It should be put in a database where everyone can see it.”

An app called GameChanger is one that tracks this, and other stats, and is used by many coaches across Long Island, like Klee and Luzim.

“Virginia and Kentucky both mandate that high school teams use GC for this very reason,” Game Changer representative David Kennedy said. “We would love it if New York did the same. It would streamline the process and allow each team to oversee pitch counts for players.”

Luzim said it could eliminate discrepancies that could make a difference throughout the season.

“Right now, everything goes by the home book, so if there were a number that was off by one or two pitches it goes back to the home book, and what if the home book is off by one pitch? And that’s a 95 instead of a 94? That could change the number of days and that could lead to problems or arguments,” he said. “I think there will be a million different scenarios that come up this year that will have to be looked at.”

Other tricky scenarios include a game postponed due to darkness and doubleheaders. Currently, when it comes to doubleheaders, a hurler competing in the first game cannot pitch in the second.

“It would be reasonable to have a kid close the end of the first game and then maybe pitch a couple of innings in the second game,” Rosen said.

File photo by Bill Landon

Klee disagreed.

“I think that if they throw once that day they shouldn’t come back — it’s dangerous,” he said. “I would be an advocate for making it even stricter, meaning less pitches and more rest.”

He also doesn’t like the wording of a “nights” rest, which was changed from a days rest. To him, there’s a loophole there that could count the night after the game as all the rest that’s needed.

Luzim said he’d like to see a cap on the amount of pitches per week.

“You can still end up throwing in a kid who pitches 95 pitches, right below the last level, and they could come back on the Thursday game and throw 105 pitches on that Thursday,” he said, “Then, they could really come back on that following Monday. So they could really end up throwing over 300 pitches in one week.”

For now, the coaches are just happy to see New York is trying to regulate the game to protect players.

“I get that they’re trying to address the problem, but we need to address the problem with more substantive thinking,” Petrucci said. “I think people today don’t trust the coaches. We’ve been doing this quite a while. Us coaches care about these kids, and we’re going to continue to push for their safety.”

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By Bill Landon

Gillian Kenah’s focus may have shifted from defense during one game, to offense the next, but the senior showed she performs when the pressure is on.

“We gave Gill the responsibility last game of playing against their biggest threat, and she stepped up,” Port Jefferson head coach Jesse Rosen said. “Today, she didn’t have that same pressure on her, and she played a phenomenal game.”

That’s because instead of guarding, Kenah was under the boards mopping up when her teammates’ shots weren’t falling, scoring 10 of her 12 points in the second half to give her Port Jefferson girls’ basketball team the push it needed to outscore Haldane 43-30 in the Class C state regional final at SUNY Old Wetsbury March 9. The squad becomes the first basketball team in Royals history, boys’ or girls’, to punch a ticket to the Final Four.

“You dream for these things to happen, you don’t expect for these things to happen. We’ve put in so much hard work, we’ve been looking forward to this for years and we’re finally here.”

—Gillian Kenah

“It’s so incredible — it’s another dream come true,” said Kenah, who averaged 3.1 points per game heading into the matchup. “You dream for these things to happen, you don’t expect for these things to happen. We’ve put in so much hard work, we’ve been looking forward to this for years and we’re finally here.”

The heavy lifting first fell onto senior Courtney Lewis, who scored all seven of the team’s first-quarter points, although they were down 8-7 after eight minutes. Jillian Colucci, a three-point scoring threat who drew double coverage outside, was able to space the floor and create opportunities for her classmate Lewis.

Lewis still led a more balanced second-quarter attack, and with her second 3-pointer of the game, helped her team retake the lead, 15-14, and the Royals never looked back.

Port Jefferson’s defense was everywhere, using a zone defense that bottled up shooters and got deflections to upset Haldane’s rhythm. On the team’s last possession of the first half, Lewis picked off a pass and went end-to-end for a field goal that put the Royals up 21-16 heading to the locker room.

“We’ve been working on our defense all week leading up to Monday’s game — even yesterday and the day before it’s just defense, defense, defense,” said Colucci, who had six points and five assists. “If you can prevent the other team from scoring, you’re going to win the game.”

Kenah was also a factor on the other end of the court, grabbing 13 rebounds while converting those possession into six of her own points to help turn a five-point halftime lead into a nine-point advantage, 27-19, at the end of three quarters.

“It’s incredible this journey with these girls — it’s an amazing experience I can’t even describe the feeling and the emotions that I feel before every game, during every game and after every game,” Colucci said. “It’s just amazing.”

Lewis went to the line three times in the final stanza, going 4-for-6 from the line overall, and, although she missed a shot from beyond the arc soon after, Kenah was there to finish with another put-back.

“I can’t even tell you how much this means — wanting this win,” Lewis said. “We’ll celebrate this win tonight, but tomorrow we’ll be right back at it and practice 10 times harder.”

Rosen struggled to find the words the describe the season’s success.

“It’s excitement,” he said. “This scene, not only for the team, but the kids who traveled here, their passion to want to be here and support the girls it just goes to show you why Port Jeff is such an awesome place.”

Kings Park shot putter grabs gold medal at indoor state track and field meet

Kings Park shot putter Danny Byrne stands atop the podium after placing first at the indoor state track and field championship. Photo from Danny Byrne

By Desireé Keegan

A local shot putter went to Albany in search of redemption, and he returned home with the ultimate hardware.

Kings Park shot putter Danny Byrne’s toughest opponent, Jack Zimmerman of Briarcliff, hadn’t thrown as well as expected, which lifted a weight off his shoulders and allowed him to just relax, and let it fly. Byrne’s 58-feet, 10.25-inch toss, a new personal best, won him gold at the state indoor track and field championships at Ocean Breeze Athletic Conference in Staten Island March 4.

Kings Park’s Danny Byrne hurls the shot put. Photo from Danny Byrne

“It was a surreal feeling — I dreamed about being a state champion,” Byrne said. “Right after the competition reality set in, and I started to cry. It was an emotional experience.”

The Long Island and Suffolk County indoor champ had won both meets during the spring of last year but didn’t perform the way he’d hoped when he made the trip upstate.

“It wasn’t what I wanted,” he said. “I didn’t prepare correctly for that meet last year, and now, I feel I definitely had revenge on the state championship. That spring performance definitely motivated me to work really hard to achieve what I achieved this season.”

Second-year head coach John Luis Damaskos said Byrne has been progressing since he took over the indoor team. He first had the chance to see his athlete compete when he attended a Kings Park football game, and said when he met Byrne on the track, he could already tell the type of competitor he was dealing with.

“He had a good mentality for training hard, and he was focused,” Damaskos said. “To see him train as competitively as he does but still be such a good, nice guy, it’s something a coach really looks for in an athlete.”

Assistant coach Rob Gelling said Byrne’s focus is what took him to the next level.

“I saw an intensity in his eyes for accepting nothing but first place,” he said. “I could see it when he was weight training, I could see it when he was doing drills, and I could see it in his desire to throw every day in practice.”

Byrne also took full advantage of a premiere throwing coach in Shoreham-Wading River’s Bill Heine and credits the football program for helping him add a few feet to his throw.

“It was without question one of the most emotional moments in my whole athletic career — from player to coach. Danny was overwhelmed. There were tears, there were hugs, and there were high-fives and fist pounds…”

—Rob Gelling

“I definitely did a very good weight-training program this year, and I credit the Kings Park football program for teaching me everything I know about lifting,” he said. “As for my technique in the circle, Bill Heine is the reason why I am where I am. His knowledge of track and field, and shot put specifically — I owe him a lot. It all came together and to reach my personal best, it made me feel really good to see all my hard work over the last four years pay off.”

His coaches were also moved by his state championship-winning moment. Damaskos said it was a long time coming.

“It was heartwarming,” he said. “He’s always trying to do more, and it was something he was really proud of — we were all really proud of. Being an elite thrower, he helps out the younger throwers on the team, and he has a great rapport with other throwers on the Island, so to see him be cheered on the way he was and reach this level of achievement, it was something special.”

Gelling echoed the head coach’s sentiment, adding that because he’s retiring, he feels lucky to have had coached a state champion in his final year with the team.

“It was without question one of the most emotional moments in my whole athletic career — from player to coach,” he said. “Danny was overwhelmed. There were tears, there were hugs, and there were high-fives and fist pounds from all the coaches who know him well from Section XI. His parents were ecstatic. He’s a pleasure to work with and I learned a lot from him.”

As Byrne looks ahead, the five-time All-Division, four-time All-County and three-time All-State selection has his sights set on the spring season.

“I’m looking forward to working hard, continuing to improve what I do and I think the sky’s the limit,” he said. “Whatever you put in, you get out, and I’m looking to defend this state title in the spring.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, on right, gets signatures from residents in support of the Community Protection Act outside Stop & Shop in Miller Place. Photo from County Executive Bellone's office

By Kevin Redding

In light of recent court rulings and pending lawsuits in favor of sex offenders, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is urging the New York State Legislature to follow in the county’s footsteps and get tough on sex criminals by passing legislation that gives the county authorization to uphold its strict laws against them.

On Feb. 11, Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) spoke with parents and residents in Miller Place about supporting and protecting the rules within the Suffolk County Community Protection Act — a private-public partnership law developed by Bellone, victims’ rights advocates like Parents for Megan’s Law and law enforcement agencies. It ensures sex offender registration and compliance, and protects residents and their children against sexual violence — much to the dismay of local sex offenders, who have been suing the county to try to put a stop to the act.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Sarah Anker talk to residents about the Community Protection Act. Photo from County Executive Bellone’s office

“We’re encouraging people to go on to our Facebook page and sign the online petition,” Bellone said. “We want to get as many signatures as we can to communicate to our partners in the state that this is a priority that we pass legislation that makes it clear Suffolk County has the right to continue doing what it’s doing to protect our community against sex offenders.”

While the county executive said Suffolk representative have been supportive of the law, which was put in place four years ago, he wanted to make sure they’re armed with grassroots support to convince state colleagues they have a substantial evidence to prove it’s popularity and show it’s the right thing to do.

Since it was enacted in 2013, the Community Protection Act has been the nation’s strictest sex offender enforcement, monitoring and verification program, cracking down on all three levels of offenders when it comes to their proximity to a school facility or child-friendly area, and reducing sex offender recidivism in Suffolk County by 81 percent. Ninety-eight percent of Level 2 and more than 94 percent of Level 3 registrants are in compliance with photograph requirements, what Bellone said is a significant increase from before the law took effect.

Through its partnership with Parents for Megan’s Law, the county has conducted more than 10,000 in-person home verification visits for all levels of sex offenders, by sending retired law enforcement to verify sex offenders’ work and home addresses and make sure their registry is accurate and up to date. More than 300 sex offenders have also been removed from social media under the law.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the act is a critical piece of legislation.

“The program has been incredibly successful, which is why sex offenders don’t like it.”

—Steve Bellone

“The numbers don’t lie, there’s a lot of hard evidence and data that shows this act has done precisely what it was designed to do: monitor sex offenders and make sure they’re not doing anything they’re not supposed to be doing,” Deputy Commissioner Justin Meyers said. “To date, I have never met a single resident in this county who didn’t support [it].”

Besides the sex offenders themselves, that is.

The act has made Suffolk County one of the more difficult places for registered sex offenders to live and, since its inception, Suffolk sex offenders have deemed its strict level of monitoring unconstitutional, arguing, and overall winning their cases in court that local law is not allowed to be stricter than the state law.

In 2015, the state Court of Appeals decided to repeal local residency restriction laws for sex offenders, claiming local governments “could not impose their own rules on where sex offenders live.”

In the prospective state legislation, Bellone hopes to close the sex offender loophole that would allow high-level sex offenders to be able to legally move into a home at close proximity to a school.

“The program has been incredibly successful, which is why sex offenders don’t like it,” Bellone said. “This is what we need to do to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect kids and families in our community. As a father of three young kids, this is very personal to me and I think that while we’ve tried to make government more efficient and reduce costs here, this is an example of the kind of thing government should absolutely be spending resources on.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, on right, with a community member who signed his petition urging state lawmakers to uphold the Community Protection Act. Photo from County Executive Bellone’s office

To conduct all the monitoring and fund educational resources offered to the community by Parents for Megan’s Law — teaching parents what to look out for and how to prevent their children from becoming victims — costs roughly $1 million a year, according to Bellone.

In addition to the residential restriction, Bellone is calling on the state to authorize the county to verify the residency and job sites of registered sex offenders, authorize local municipalities to keep a surveillance on homeless sex offenders, who represent less than 4 percent of the offender population in Suffolk County, and require them to call their local police department each night to confirm where they’re staying, and require an affirmative obligation of all sex offenders to cooperate and confirm information required as part of their sex offender designation.

“If people really knew this issue, I couldn’t see how they would oppose the Community Protection Act, because sex offenders are not a common criminal; there’s something fundamentally and psychologically wrong with somebody who commits sexual crime and we as a society have to understand that,” said St. James resident Peter , who held a “Protect Children” rally in the area last years. “Residents should know that the sexual abuse of children is out of control.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four girls are abused and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18.

“It is imperative that we, not only as a community, but as a state, make efforts to further ensure the safety of our children from sexual predators,” Anker said. “We must do everything in our power to ensure that this law is upheld and that’s why I’ve joined [Bellone] in calling on the New York State Legislature to consider an amendment to grant the county the ability to uphold it.”

To sign the petition, visit https://www.change.org/p/new-york-state-protect-our-children-support-the-community-protection-act.

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Royals will march down Main Street in parade Nov. 20

Port Jefferson's girls' soccer team is all smiles as they walk off the field winners. Photo by Andrew Wakefield

Trailing by a goal, the Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team found itself in a familiar situation. Although this time the stakes were a little bit higher.

The senior-laden Royals were competing for a second consecutive state title Nov. 13, and, down 1-0 to Geneseo at halftime, the girls admitted for once they were worried.

“The team was very nervous,” senior midfielder Brittany Fazin said. “We had a lot of pressure on our backs to win it again, especially with most of us being seniors. But we knew all the hard work paid off for this moment.”

Brittany Fazin slides for the ball. Photo by Andrew Wakefield
Brittany Fazin slides for the ball. Photo by Andrew Wakefield

The team was characterized by frequent comebacks throughout the course of a 31-3-1 two-year run. So at halftime, the team came together to figure out the solution to its problem.

“At halftime, we all spoke up, got on each other, calmed each other down and told each other that this is our game,” Fazin said. “We were playing down to their level, and not playing our game.”

That’s when Jillian Colucci — the team’s spark plug — did her thing.

First, her longtime teammate, senior forward Clare O’Connor, came close to tying the game with a strike over the crossbar 10 minutes in. Two minutes later, she found an opening and passed to Colucci, who scored the equalizer.

“Once that one goal came, that was all they needed,” Port Jefferson head coach Michele Aponte said. “It fueled their fire. It motivated them.”

Port Jefferson kept pressing for the go-ahead goal, and with 24:26 left to play, Fazin scored what would become the state title clincher.

“My goal that put us in the lead felt incredible,” Fazin said. “I beat out two girls down the middle, I took a shot from the 18-yard line and it went into the bottom right corner.”

Mikayla Yannucci battles for the ball. Photo by Andrew Wakefield
Mikayla Yannucci battles for the ball. Photo by Andrew Wakefield

While heading to goal, she said she remembered the mistakes the team had made throughout the course of the first 40 minutes in the back of her mind, to make sure she executed.

“As I was dribbling, I kept repeating ‘get over the ball, get over the ball,’” she said. “Most of our shots skyrocketed over the net, and I knew if I got my shot low and on target, I would have a better chance.”

She put the team to the lead, but got the Royals some breathing room when she scored three minutes later on a strike from 35 yards out, assisted by Colucci, and finished the game with a hat trick goal from the 25-yard line to cap a 4-1 Royals victory.

“I was just having an amazing time playing the sport that I love,” Fazin said. “I’m so glad we got to end it this way.”

Colucci said she hopes other Port Jefferson athletes will continue to take the program on its positive trajectory.

“It was hard not to be nervous with the added pressure after last season, but we focused on taking it one game at a time and we were so pumped to know we had one more opportunity to step out on the field together again in the finals,” the senior forward said. “Looking back on previous seasons and games, going down a goal was not an unfamiliar situation for us. We just knew it was time to shake off the nerves, settle down and work together. I hope we can inspire the players behind us, and the program continues to have this kind of success for many years to come.”

The Port Jefferson girls' soccer team topped Geneseo, 4-1, for the program's second consecutive state title. Photo by Andrew Wakefield
The Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team topped Geneseo, 4-1, for the program’s second consecutive state title. Photo by Andrew Wakefield

Fazin was named most outstanding player in the playoffs, and junior goalkeeper Brianna Scarda was named outstanding goalkeeper.

“Ending with a state title was surreal, but to be named an outstanding player made it a moment I will never forget,” Fazin said. “Most people can’t even say they have one state title, and the fact that I get to say I have two is incredible.”

Colucci said to be able to take home the title with nine other seniors in their final season was icing on the cake for her high school career.

“We are just so lucky to be able to do all of this together — who knew this is how our soccer journeys would end when we started playing intramural soccer at 4 years old?” she said. “It has without a doubt been an incredible journey, and making history just tops it off. It doesn’t get any better than sharing this success with this particular group of girls doing what we love and having fun. It’s truly unforgettable.”

Left to right, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state Sen. John Flanagan discuss the plan. Photo from Cuomo’s office

Keeping the state’s drinking water clean and safe is a subject anyone can get behind, and New York lawmakers across both major parties did just that.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced a series of aggressive water quality initiatives last week in the company of elected officials representing the North Shore in an attempt to better protect public health and the environment. His proposals received great praise from both Democrats and Republicans as a common-sense way to keep New York’s water clean.

“Every New Yorker has a fundamental right to clean and safe drinking water,” Cuomo said. “Water is a priceless resource that requires the highest levels of protection, and I am proud to continue this administration’s legacy of standing up for the environment. We are taking aggressive and proactive steps to ensure clean and healthy communities throughout the state — both for current residents and for generations to come.”

Joining Cuomo at a Stony Brook University discussion on the state’s newest water initiatives were Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and more. At that discussion, Cuomo pitched his statewide water quality rapid response team, which he said would work to identify and develop plans to address critical drinking water contamination concerns as well as groundwater and surface water contamination problems.

“It’s imperative that we all work together at the local, state and federal levels to protect the public health,” Bellone said. “The actions that Governor Cuomo has announced today are demonstrating unequivocally that New York is taking proactive measures to not just meet that standard, but to really raise the bar on the protection of water quality.”

Cuomo said the rapid response team would be working to develop a comprehensive action plan to immediately address water quality issues raised by municipalities and concerned citizens, taking on matters ranging from currently regulated contaminants like lead, to emerging contaminants, like perfluorooctanoic acid. It was a plan that his fellow lawmakers said was easy to get behind.

“We are blessed in New York State and on Long Island to have the availability of high-quality drinking water, but we also have a responsibility to protect it,” Flanagan said. “At the end of the day, nothing is more important to New Yorkers and their families than the air they breathe and the water they drink.”

The team will also review and incorporate the best available science and may include new review standards for currently unregulated contaminants, enhanced testing and oversight of drinking water systems, including private wells, and state-of-the-art drinking water treatment options.

“Creating an agenda to safeguard the quality of Long Island’s water source is great news — not only for the health of New Yorkers — but for the environment as well,” Englebright said. “Governor Cuomo’s work to ensure that every New Yorker has access to safe, clean drinking water is a testament to his commitment to statewide public health. The implementation of a water quality rapid response team is a proactive way to protect the environment from harmful water contamination and keep New Yorkers’ drinking water clean and safe.”

The discussion over drinking water came in the weeks following a horrific drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, where officials have been scrambling to combat unsafe and potentially life-threatening water contaminations.

The governor also proposed regulations to be imposed on mulch-processing facilities to safeguard natural resources. Cuomo said the Department of Environmental Conservation would propose for public comment draft regulations for mulch facilities to increase oversight and provide enhanced safeguards. The proposed regulations would require facilities to establish water runoff management plans to protect groundwater and place restrictions on pile size and storage to reduce the risk of fires, odor and dust.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, above, speaks to local residents, business and organization members at “Meet Congressman Zeldin” on Wednesday, Sept. 16 in the Gillespie meeting room in the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages. Photo by Giselle Barkley

He’s new to D.C., but not to some of the North Shore’s most pressing issues.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) addressed people from Three Village businesses and organizations early Wednesday morning on Sept. 16 in his “Meet Congressman Zeldin” breakfast in the Gillespie meeting room in the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages. The meeting gave Zeldin the opportunity to discuss his past several months in office after he was sworn in back in January and to address issues he said he wants to tackle during his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Some of the more pressing issues, he said, included affordability, supporting local business owners and enhancing the quality of life for Long Islanders of the First Congressional District.

“We’re losing a lot of our friends and our family as our families get split apart moving down to North Carolina and South Carolina and Florida because they can’t afford to get by here,” Zeldin said while discussing Long Island’s cost of living and it’s impact on community members.

He added that some small business owners experienced or are going through tough times as they may struggle between paying their employees and paying their sales tax or other bills associated with their business.

“There needs to be a fundamental re-calibration and better understanding from different levels of government, as to how a small business is able to grow and create new jobs,” Zeldin said as a suggestion to help business stay afloat and create more jobs in the community.

He admitted that one piece of legislation would not be enough to address every business owners’ concerns or needs. As he continued discussing businesses and Long Island’s economy, Zeldin also voiced his opinion on U.S. President Barack Obama’s $15 minimum wage proposal saying that the increase is not nearly sufficient for Long Island residents — especially those who own homes and raise their family.

Long Island’s veteran population and education issues were also a topic of debate as Zeldin discussed his past eight months in congress. One of Zeldin’s first pieces of legislation to pass kept the government from financially penalizing states if schools wanted to withdraw from the controversial Common Core learning standards.

Throughout the breakfast, Zeldin emphasized that he is not the type of politician who will turn away from a difficult issue or decision. He acknowledged that making tough decisions may cost him votes, but he will support what he believes to be right for his community. The statement left those in attendance very pleased.

“I really feel like he listens to the issues that are going on at hand,” said Elizabeth Folk, owner and licensed acupuncturist and massage therapist at Hand on Health and Wellness in Stony Brook. “He seems very genuine with his speaking. I like the fact that he doesn’t care about the cost of losing his votes if it’s an issue that’s very important to him if [his opinion] is unpopular.”

Members of the museum said they agreed with Folk. Deirdre Doherty, director of development for the museum, said that Zeldin’s desire to improve the Long Island economy is not only genuine, but will also assist businesses like the museum.

“Museums go beyond just offering a cultural experience,” Doherty said. “They really have socially impactful programs. We educate over 12,000 students a year. So if the local businesses are healthy, then we can be healthy.”

Regina Miano, special events manager of the museum, said she thought Zeldin’s event was also a good way for Three Villagers to interact with Zeldin saying, “it was great to have him as a new congressman…to be here and speak at the museum…to introduce himself to people that have probably never spoken to him, [it was great].”

Zeldin also highlighted the importance of meet-and-greets with the voters such as these where residents can meet the political figures that are in charge of addressing their concerns and needs.

“Accessibility is important because as an elected representative, constituents need to know that the person they elect to office is representing their passion,” Zeldin said in an interview before the breakfast. “At the same time the elected official needs to be out in the public to listen so that he or she is as tuned in as possible to the top priorities of people elected to serve.”

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