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Steve Bellone

Some debris dumped at the Town of Brookhaven’s Tanglewood Park in Coram. Photo from Legislator Anker’s office

The penalty for illegally dumping on county-owned properties may soon include jail time in Suffolk County, after legislators unanimously approved on March 28 both increased fines and the potential of up to one year’s imprisonment for anyone convicted. The bill, sponsored by Legislators Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) and Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), now goes to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) for his signature within the next 30 days. 

A no dumping sign along North Country Road in Shoreham. File photo

Once implemented, maximum fines for illegal dumping of nonconstruction, demolition and hazardous material wastes by a business or corporation will increase to $15,000 from the previous fine of $5,000. The penalty for dumping nonconstruction materials by an individual will remain at $1,000. If an individual is found dumping construction or demolition material, the misdemeanor fine will increase to $10,000 for an individual and $15,000 for a corporation or business. Under the change, both an individual and someone convicted of dumping material on behalf of a commercial entity may be sentenced up to one year in jail. Imposition of the ultimate fine or criminal sentence is within the sentencing court’s discretion.

“For far too long, fines associated with illegal dumping were considered just the cost of doing business,” said Hahn, chairwoman both of the Legislature’s Parks & Recreation and Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committees. “For those who choose to pursue greed over the health of the public and our environment, your cost of business has just gotten a lot more expensive. The one-two combination of increased monetary penalties and potential jail time will hopefully give pause to any person or commercial entity that believes these significant fines and the potential loss of freedom is a cost effective business strategy.”

Illegal dumping on Long Island has emerged as a serious environmental issue and threat to public health following the discoveries of potentially toxic debris within the Town of Islip’s Roberto Clemente Park, Suffolk County’s West Hills County Park and a housing development for military veterans in Islandia. In February, New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation issued approximately 200 tickets for unlawful disposal, operating without a permit and other violations during stings conducted on Long Island and the Hudson Valley that also identified nine dumping sites upstate. 

“Illegal dumping of hazardous materials and construction waste on county property causes harmful chemicals to seep into our water.”

—Sarah Anker

“For decades, Suffolk County has worked tirelessly to preserve land in order to protect our environment and groundwater,” Anker said. “Illegal dumping of hazardous materials and construction waste on county property causes harmful chemicals to seep into our water, which negatively affects our health. It is important we do everything in our power to continue to protect our parklands and to ensure that illegal dumping does not occur. By doing so, we are not only preserving the environmental integrity of Suffolk County, but improving the quality of life for all residents.”

Trotta called the dumping a crime against the residents of Suffolk County.

“I want to make it unprofitable for contractors to dump this material,” he said, “and more importantly, I want them going to jail for this.”

Browning added that the parks are vital assets for Suffolk County residents, and one of the core recreational resources available to them. She doesn’t like seeing the destruction of quality of life. Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) agrees, saying it’s an important step to protecting parks, while giving teeth to all legislation recently passed on this quality of life issue.

“I applaud legislator Hahn for her hard work toward preventing this serious problem,” Browning said. “Aggressively attacking illegal dumping head on will ensure the sustainability of our parks and preserve one of the many reasons Suffolk County continues to be a great place to live.”

Supervisor Ed Romaine is taking a leadership role in trying to streamline town government services. File photo by Erika Karp

Town, county and state officials on both sides of the aisle agree that climate change poses a real threat to Long Island. That’s why they’re taking serious steps to address the issue, protect the environment and work to save the region from projected devastation.

In his March 24 State of the Town Address, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) devoted more time to the environment than any other issue, outlining measures taken by Brookhaven to reflect the growing threats of climate change, and sea level rise especially — noting the town has the largest coastline of any in the state.

Romaine said the town will continue working to restore its wetlands and limit residential and commercial development to such critical floodplain areas, among several other initiatives to prepare for the challenges ahead.

“It’s a wake up call if we don’t sound the alarm now and come together,” Romaine said in a phone interview. “Whatever I can do, I’m on board. I wish more people in my party shared that belief … but I’m absolutely dedicated to this because I’m a human being living on this planet that’s being threatened every day. Five of the past six years have been the warmest on record. It’s time to wake up.”

Building on ambitious goals set in the past — like cutting the town’s greenhouse gas emission by 50 percent by the year 2020 as proposed in his five-year capital plan two years ago — he said the town plans to replace 35,000 streetlights with energy-efficient LED lights within the next two years to save costs and reduce its carbon footprint; will continue to replace aging cars with hybrid, fuel-efficient models; has already revised its solar code to prevent deforestation and clear cutting of trees; and has instituted wind, solar and geothermal codes, requiring new residential home construction to be “solar ready.”

Resources to help make homes energy efficient 

•Free energy audit:

Long Island Green Homes Initiative is a public-private partnership that offers homeowners a professional energy audit at no cost. It provides an easy-to-use website coupled with energy navigators that help answer any questions a homeowner has and schedule a free home energy assessment providing an in-depth analysis of a home’s energy efficiency. Visit www.longislandgreenhomes.org.

•Carbon footprint calculator:

Cool Climate, a program started at the University of California, Berkley, offers a webpage to help estimate  your carbon footprint. Visit http://coolclimate.berkeley.edu/carboncalculator to find out yours.


•No-cost energy upgrades:

EmPower New York provides free energy efficiency solutions to income-eligible New Yorkers. Whether you own your home or rent, a participating contractor will be assigned to you to assess if your home would benefit from free energy upgrades such as:

-Air sealing to plug leaks and reduce drafts

-Insulation to make your home more comfortable all year round

-Replacement of inefficient refrigerators and freezers

-New energy-efficient lighting

-Plus, free health and safety checks of your smoke detectors, appliances and more. Visit www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/EmPower-New-York.

•Solar energy incentives:

The NY-Sun Incentive Program provides financial incentives to help reduce the installation costs associated with solar electric systems. Incentives are based on building sector and size (residential, small commercial and large commercial/industrial), and within each sector, there are different incentives for specific regions of NY. Income-eligible households may qualify for a program that lowers the up-front cost of installing solar for a homeowner, double incentives for certain households and free home energy improvements. Visit www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/NY-Sun/About.

Neighboring towns Smithtown and Huntington are also investing in their community’s environmental future. Smithtown was named the first town in New York State to be a clean energy community, and Huntington soon followed. This means both towns completed several high-impact clean energy actions like saving energy costs, creating jobs to improve the environment and more, and are now qualified for grants to further clean energy improvement in the area.

Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who served on the county’s Climate Action Plan Committee, is no stranger to pushing aggressive energy and sustainability initiatives herself, like her seawater rise vulnerability bill introduced in 2013.

Although she feels as though there has not been a sense of immediate crisis when it comes to climate change among Long Island residents, she said it’s important for people to recognize the effects it will have on coastal communities and low-lying villages like Port Jefferson, Stony Brook and Setauket Harbor.

Hahn is passionate about increasing sewer districts and eventually switching to alternative on-site wastewater systems that remove nitrogen from wastewater altogether.

Only about 30 percent of Suffolk County uses a sewer system, she said, and the remaining 70 percent are antiquated septic cesspool systems, meaning “every time we flush, the nitrogen in most of our homes or businesses is going right into our drinking water … and eventually surface waters.”

Recently the county has followed the lead of states like Massachusetts in switching over to these new systems in pilot projects. Hahn, with the help of her colleagues and a funding stream to help with the costs, is working on a plan to make these alternative on-site wastewater systems a requirement in Suffolk.

Across the island in Huntington, Leg. William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) also wants to protect clean water from contamination. As the lead sponsor of the Long Island Commission for Aquifer Protection Act — a bi-county legislation that controls drilling into the aquifer and protecting the water for the next 50 years — Spencer said further damage to the water would be a tragic event.

“We have to be aggressive,” Spencer said. “We have a program at the Southwest Sewer District, where we’re trying to reduce fossil fuels and pollution by taking sludge from cesspools and reconstituting that into the fuel oil, instead of burning so much regular fossil fuels. We’re working on reducing nitrogen pollution within the ground, as well as working with Brookhaven National Lab looking for clean forms of energy.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said as a North Shore native her main concern has been erosion and stormwater management.

“So much here has to do with erosion from Superstorm Sandy and I’m always very concerned about these intense, ferocious storms we have and the damage created from them,” she said. “When we’re able to really significantly improve our stormwater infrastructure, the trickle down effect is that improved water quality helps not only recreation but people who derive their income from the bays and the sound.”

According to state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), the leading environmental voice in the Assembly, the superstorm and recent high tides gave Long Island residents a preview of what an elevated water table would look like in the North Shore’s harbor areas like Port Jefferson, Huntington and Nissequogue.

But as New Yorkers, he said, we have an opportunity to set an example for the rest of the country in demonstrating a strong push for climate change initiatives.

“New York can sometimes be relied upon as a model for our sister states to examine and, in some cases, to reflect similar initiatives in their own legislatures,” Englebright said. “If we can do it here, we can demonstrate that it’s doable. Fifty-three percent of the population of our nation lives within 50 miles of ocean water — half of the nation is coastal. Implementing a more widespread use of renewable energy is one of the strongest directions we should try to move our communities toward in order to basically save our island from the ravages of an ever-increasing level of the ocean around us and the shrinking of our shorelines.”

As chairman of the Committee of Environmental Conservation, one of Englebright’s first assignments was to organize a climate advisory task force made up of legislators and set up a series of hearings. Based on the testimonies he received, the assemblyman wrote the New York State Climate and Community Protection Act, legislation first introduced last year and re-introduced again this year.

The bill addresses and mitigates the impacts of climate change in the state. While it’s still a work-in-progress, it has already been heralded by many environmental voices as a significant national model for state action.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“It sets out goals and objectives to begin to reduce our greenhouse gas output, track it more effectively, and establish a series of greenhouse gas emission regulations … [as well as] focuses on disadvantaged communities that have suffered from the effect of the carbon-based economy in a disproportionate way,” he said.

Englebright added residents can probably cut energy usage in the state by as much as 30 percent just with insulation and utilizing thermal windows.

“That’s a thrust I think is prominent in the vision and reach of this bill,” he said. “It sets goals to establish implemental capacity levels for going to renewable systems, be it solar or wind or geothermal. We want to move toward having a 30 percent capacity by 2020 and a 40 percent goal by 2025, and a 50 percent goal by 2030. It’s a very ambitious goal but if you don’t start to move in that direction, then the status quo is likely to be the best you can hope for … and the status quo right now will bring us rising sea levels, increased storm frequency and invasion of disease-carrying insects [like ticks that didn’t used to live at this latitude].”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is adamant to address the restoration of Long Island’s coastal and natural defenses, including coastal vegetation, which he said acts as a natural storm barrier. The vegetation has been decimated due to the nitrogen pollution being pumped into our waterways, the county executive said, but there is good news.

“We know ecosystems have the ability to restore themselves if you remediate the pollution,” he said. “We need to learn to live better with water and put in the infrastructure that adapts to climate change. Post-Sandy, we’ve been raising houses up so they’re not going to be vulnerable to flooding. We can no longer sustain a continual year-after-year decline in water quality in this region.”

Bellone, who has been working closely with Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and his team to fund wetlands restoration projects, said he’s concerned about the federal government’s retreat from addressing climate change.

“That’s just insanity,” Bellone said. “It doesn’t make sense to ignore the science on this. For all of us on Long Island, climate change can fundamentally change our quality of life and no one wants to see that happen. We need to do everything we can to address this issue.”

Cordwood Landing County Park is located on Landing Avenue in Miller Place. File photo by Erika Karp

It’s a purchase that’s been six years in the making, but now, Miller Place can make room for more open space.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) announced last week that the owner of a 5.4-acre parcel adjacent to the 64.4-acre Cordwood Landing County Park has accepted Suffolk County’s most recent offer to acquire the property for open space preservation.

Previously, the wooded piece of land was slated for residential development. Anker had submitted three separate resolutions in 2011, 2014 and 2016 for the county to appraise the parcel with hopes of expanding the adjacent county parkland. While there are still several steps in the approval process, the legislator will continue to push the acquisition forward.

“I will continue to do everything in my power to preserve this environmentally sensitive parcel,” she said. “Residential development on this property would negatively affect the character of the Miller Place historic district and infringe on the beauty of Cordwood Landing County Park.”

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said acquiring the land is a remarkable achievement for the county and its residents.

“Residential development on this property would negatively affect the character of the Miller Place historic district and infringe on the beauty of Cordwood Landing County Park.”

— Sarah Anker

“Legislator Anker has been an incredible advocate for the preservation of the open space around Cordwood Landing County Park, and this acquisition speaks volumes to the quality of leadership we strive for in our region,” he said. “Land preservation allows us to protect our environment, and most of all, improve the water quality in the region. I look forward to continue working with our local leaders to make Suffolk County a great place for all our residents.”

The county is currently in the process of obtaining an environmental site assessment survey. The Suffolk County Planning Department and the Council on Environmental Quality will then review the assessment to ensure the site is environmentally sound, in order to move forward with the acquisition. Following review and pending approval by the council, Anker will put forth a resolution to purchase the property. The purchasing resolution will be reviewed by the Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee, and if approved by the committee, the resolution will be voted on by the legislature.

Cordwood Landing County Park is in the heart of the Miller Place historic district and is an important parcel of open space for the local community. It offers extensive hiking trails and access to the Long Island Sound, and the local community, including the Miller Place Civic Association, has been vocal in support for the acquisition.

“The Miller Place Civic Association is very pleased to see the preservation efforts of this property located between our historic district and the nature preserve is moving forward,” Miller Place Civic Association president Woody Brown said.

He added he’s grateful that the owner, developer Mark Baisch, who owns Landmark Properties in Rocky Point, was willing to let the county purchase and preserve the parcel. He also thanked local officials for their involvement.

“We owe a big thank you to Legislator Sarah Anker, who stood with the community throughout the entire process and continued to work diligently to save this precious parcel in its natural state,” he said. “Also, we wish to thank the Town of Brookhaven, Councilwoman Jane Bonner and Supervisor Ed Romaine for all their support and willingness to partner with the county to purchase the property.”

Anker said she is really just happy to have the community behind her.

“I would like to thank the local community for their support,” she said. “I am confident that I will be able to work with my peers to bring this acquisition to fruition.”

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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From left, Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Kings Park Chamber of Commerce Vice President Linda Henninger pose with a check for money to fund revitalization efforts. Photo by Kevin Redding

As a result of recent state and county funding, community leaders and advocates will finally see the culmination of their hard work in planning a revitalization of downtown Kings Park and downtown Smithtown.

It was all smiles at the Kings Park Long Island Railroad Station last week as Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced construction of a $20 million sewer system long sought after in the hamlet’s downtown is now able to move forward as a result of recent allocations from N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Suffolk County.

Just days after Cuomo said in his State of the State speech he would invest $40 million to build local sewer systems in Kings Park and Smithtown, the county executive presented Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio (R) with a $200,000 check made out to the Town of Smithtown from Suffolk County to advance the community’s proposed Revitalizing Kings Park Downtown action plan, as well as a finalized draft plan developed by Vecchio and his planning team.

Bellone joked, of course, that the governor “had to come in with a slightly bigger check” than the county’s before pointing out the true movers and shakers of the revitalization plans.

“Credit doesn’t belong to any politician,” Bellone said at the event. “I’m certainly not taking credit … the credit belongs to the community. This does not happen without the community. The fact that several levels of government are coming together and funding efforts to revitalize in Kings Park and Smithtown in the downtowns reflects that the community has led the way with engaged community-based planning.”

Regarding the development of a sewer system in downtown Smithtown, Bellone said he’s directed the Suffolk County public works commissioner to begin securing an engineering and design team and have a design made up within the next six to eight weeks.

Bellone said the revitalization team of Kings Park accomplished the hard part of coming together and building a consensus around the plan and, in doing “the nitty-gritty grassroots work,” the governor took notice and it now has the resources necessary to get the job done.

“These county and state funds will help [Suffolk County] achieve our number one economic development goal: make our region once again attractive to young people by building vibrant downtowns,” he said. “These are the high knowledge, high skilled individuals we need in our region to create good paying jobs and build a 21st century economy.”

Sean Lehman, president of the Kings Park Civic Association, called the hamlet a special place to live and said with the development of its downtown it will be even better.

“There’s a reason why Kings Park and Smithtown are two of the most popular areas for people to move to in Suffolk County and that’s because of our assets,” Lehman said. “We have it all here — the people, open space, two state parks, town parks, terrific municipal workers. What we were lagging in was our downtown.”

Vecchio, with whom Bellone toured downtown Smithtown last year as the supervisor laid out his broad-based vision for revitalization, told Bellone he was grateful for all he’s done.

“Thank you for those accolades but I have no doubt in my mind that it was your intercession with the governor that brought the $40 million to the Town of Smithtown and Kings Park,” Vecchio said to the county executive. “I know everybody here is thinking at this moment … when will we get the check?”

Just in time for the holidays, Suffolk County has received a gift that will keep on giving.

Suffolk is slated to receive funding through New York State’s Regional Economic Development Councils for the creation of a countywide Blueway Trail.

According to the National Park Service, a blueway trail is a water path that provides recreational boating opportunities along a river, lake, canal or coastline.

The application submitted by the county earlier this year was based upon a recreational water trail plan Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) was developing for her North Shore district.

When Hahn took up paddle boarding about three years ago, she said it was a transformational experience.

“I was so excited to get a whole new perspective of our community,” she said, adding that although she grew up in the area, she only recently discovered water sports that provide a view of the shore.

“As more and more tourists seek out off-shore recreational activities … there’s no reason why Suffolk County’s lure should end at the water’s edge.”

— Kara Hahn

Reading an article about an established trail in Nassau County gave her the impetus to get a working group together, she said.

After evaluating the economic benefits and increased tourism a more comprehensive blueway trail would bring to the region, the preliminary plan was expanded to include all of Suffolk.

In June, Hahn sponsored bi-partisan legislation authorizing the county to pursue state funding, which resulted in the awarding of a $60,000 grant. She is hoping the seed money will give the county access to other grant funding.

“For generations, Long Island has attracted visitors from around the globe and international acclaim because of its shoreline of world class beaches,” she said. “However, as more and more tourists seek out off-shore recreational activities like canoeing, windsurfing and stand-up water paddling, there’s no reason why Suffolk County’s lure should end at the water’s edge. Once completed, this project will help drive new opportunities for regional tourism and serve as a catalyst to the local economy as our residents — and those vacationing here — discover Suffolk is amazing both on and off shore.”

According to the proposal, during its first phase, Suffolk County — in collaboration with its towns, villages and paddling organizations — will develop a blueway trail plan for the north and south shores as well as the Peconic Estuary in Riverhead. A schematic design of the trail route will include potential launch and landing locations, and there will be signage drafted and project identification for public access and facilities — an implementation plan will complete this phase.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) sees the project as an economic win.

“The funding for the blueway trail plan is a significant breakthrough for Suffolk’s local economy and its regional tourism industry,” he said.

Kristen Jarnagin, formerly of the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau in Hauppauge, and now president and CEO of Discover Long Island, a marketing website that facilitates the booking of vacation plans, envisions an increase in tourism.

“Tourism is a $5.5 billion industry on Long Island, which translates to more than $356 million in local and state tax revenues for Suffolk County,” she said. “We applaud Legislator Hahn’s effort to develop the new Blueway Trail that reflects the beauty of our destination and will assist in meeting the demand of our 9.1 million annual visitors.”

Jarnagin is one of many supporting the project.

Long Island Paddlers, Inc. President Steve Berner echoed her sentiments.

“Tourism is a $5.5 billion industry on Long Island, which translates to more than $356 million in local and state tax revenues for Suffolk County.”

—Kristen Jarnagin

“The Suffolk Blueway Trail will be a real benefit to prospective, novice and experienced kayakers alike,” Berner said. “The Long Island Paddlers commend legislator Hahn for spearheading the effort, and New York State for recognizing the economic potential of such a plan.”

George Hoffman, a founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said he doesn’t forsee any downsides to the plan.

“It gets you out on the water,” he said in a phone interview, “and in addition to the environmental aspects, you get to see colonial history from a different vantage point. There should be markers to flag what you’re looking at.”

He mentioned the Nassau County south shore blueway trail that opened last June.

Ann Strong, of Strong’s Neck, who is on the board of Strong’s Neck Civic Association, is a member of the Three Village Historical Society and is a real estate broker whose family has been in the Setauket area for over 350 years, said she thought it seemed like a good thing for a lot of people.

“I can’t see it would be anything but favorable,” she said, adding that she looks forward to learning more about it. Upon hearing that Hahn was the prime mover of the project, she said she felt heartened that it would be done well.

A total of 10 Regional Councils were established by the state — including the Long Island Regional Council — to assist the regions in jumpstarting their economies. The Councils empower businesses and leaders, as well as citizens to develop strategic plans tailored to their region’s unique strengths and resources.

During the most recent round of funding, the Long Island Region awarded $62 million in grants to support 101 projects, which includes the Suffolk County Blueway Trail Plan.

Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano presents Mia with an award as Kim Ledda and Debra White look on. Photo by Kevin Redding

Nine-year-old Mia Carvajal may be a new student at Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School, but she’s already making a name for herself in the community. The caring fourth-grader who moved to Miller Place from Queens this year is one of just nine winners in the recent Suffolk County Marathon Essay Contest. Hosted by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), the contest encouraged “the future of the county” to address what they feel is important to society. More than 100 essays from across the county were submitted for review in October. For her hard work, Carvajal was recognized by the Miller Place district’s board of education at a meeting last week.

All students involved in the contest were separated by grades (K-2, 3-5, 6-8) and could choose from three different essay topics: veterans appreciation, living a healthy lifestyle and engaging in community activities. Mia — who won in her grade — wrote passionately about what residents can do to raise money for their community and give to those in need.

“Mia did an excellent, beautiful job,” said Kim Ledda, her fourth-grade teacher. “Her essay was wonderful and we’re just so proud of her.”

Ledda and assistant principal Debra White stood by as Mia accepted a certificate from Superintendent Marianne Cartisano and shook hands with each member of the board. Mia was visibly shy and quiet but smiling radiantly the whole time.

“I was really happy when Mrs. White told me that I won,” she said. When asked by a board member if she likes to write at home, she said that she keeps a journal.

“Mia is clearly committed to being involved in her community, helping to make it a better place to live for all residents.”

—Steve Bellone

Mia’s father Francisco was in attendance and said the family’s very proud of her.

“She’s always been very involved in school, always does her homework, and is extremely school-oriented,” he said.

It’s also clear that Mia is extremely community oriented and possesses a great deal of generosity when it comes to others.

In her essay, she encouraged residents in the community to follow in her family’s footsteps and donate clothes, shoes and toys to churches and centers that help the poor. As Thanksgiving approaches, Mia wrote that it’s important to donate cans of food to provide for others in need. As she put it in her essay: “By providing cans of food you may be saving someone’s life.”

She also recommends setting up a lemonade stand in front of a house as a way to raise money for a good cause.

“Lemonade stands are not just there to give you a refreshing drink,” she wrote.

She even offered a piece of advice to get as many people interested in donating as possible.

“I know that many people don’t like plain lemonade,” she writes, “so I think you should make a whole bunch of flavors so more people will come and enjoy your drink and donate.” Ledda said that at the end of the Suffolk County Marathon that took place in Patchogue Oct. 30, all the essay contest winners — including Mia ­— were invited up on a bandstand stage to be greeted and recognized by representatives from Suffolk County.

“I think that all the recognition she’s gotten from this will be worth more than any monetary gift,” Ledda said. “It’s pretty special to be recognized the way that she has been.”

In an email, Bellone had some words of pride for Mia.

“Mia is clearly committed to being involved in her community, helping to make it a better place to live for all residents,” Bellone said. “Thanks to the 100 or more young residents like Mia who participated in this contest, we can see that the future of Suffolk County is in good hands.”

The Shoppes in Wading River is designed to resemble the square of a small town. Photo by Rebecca Anzel

By Rebecca Anzel

East Wind owner Ken Barra talks at the grand opening. Photo by Rebecca Anzel
East Wind owner Kenn Barra talks at the grand opening. Photo by Rebecca Anzel

East Wind in Wading River hosted a grand opening celebration Oct. 28 through 31 to celebrate its latest expansion — The Shoppes. It features 28 locally owned stores, eateries and a carousel.

East Wind owner Kenn Barra evolved the 26-acre property over the past 25 years — he started with a pizza place and added a venue for small weddings and parties, a 50-room inn and Long Island’s largest grand ballroom. He said the new addition of The Shoppes will create more local jobs, help the local economy and hopefully serve as an attraction for residents and travelers from all over Long Island.

“My vision was to create a destination where the local community and guests from The Inn will come and enjoy meeting shop owners and exploring and buying what they have to offer,” Barra said. “Giving local business people the opportunity to develop and grow is rewarding to me.”

The Shoppes are designed to resemble the square of a small town, with freestanding stores connected by a brick walkway. Every couple of feet are wooden benches and adirondack chairs. An indoor pavilion houses a carousel with hand-made horses and figures. East Wind also features 28 specialty retail and boutique shops, an ice cream parlor and a pizza place, all chosen by Barra.

“This is a totally different concept — this is a very ma-and-pa situation,” he said. “I’ve seen people now that I haven’t seen in three years, five years, 10 years strolling along, having a cup of coffee. Neighbors are meeting neighbors.”

A central square at The Shoppes in Wading River. Photo by Rebecca Anzel
A central square at The Shoppes in Wading River. Photo by Rebecca Anzel

Stores include The Crushed Olive, The Painted Canvas, North Fork Bridal, Little Miss Sew It All and Solntse Hot Yoga. Barra said about 70 percent of the spaces are currently occupied.

“The grand opening of The Shoppes at East Wind will usher in a new, welcoming family friendly destination on the eastern end of Long Island,” County Executive Steve Bellone said in an email. “I congratulate owner Ken Barra of East Wind Hotel and Spa for creating this addition of The Shoppes at East Wind. It will become a destination for local residents and tourists, and a year-round venue for local merchants and artisans to market Suffolk County-made items.”

Barra was presented with proclamations from the office of Town of Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter (R), County Executive Steve Bellone (D), Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 28.

The Shoppes plans to host programs and activities throughout the year, such as a Christmas tree lighting and an Easter egg hunt. Fall and Halloween events were scheduled during the grand opening Oct. 28-31.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner speaks at the Organ Donor Enrollment Day kickoff event at Stony Brook University Hospital Oct. 6. Photo from Bonner’s office

By Rebecca Anzel

Registered organ donors are hard to come by in New York state compared to the rest of the United States, and for one elected official in Brookhaven, that’s not going to cut it.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) did not hesitate when her friend Tom D’Antonio said he needed a kidney. She decided right then, at the Huntington Lighthouse Music Festival in Huntington Harbor in September 2015, that she would share her spare.

She underwent comprehensive medical testing at the end of the next month to determine if she would be a viable donor — a blood test, chest X-ray, electrocardiogram, CT scan, MRI, psychological evaluation and cancer screening, to name a few.

“It’s the ultimate physical you’re ever going to have, and by the blood test alone several people were disqualified,” Bonner said. “For once in my life, it turned out that I was No. 1. And it worked out really, really well.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner and her friend Tom D’Antonio after their surgeries to transplant her kidney into his body in April. Photo from Jane Bonner
Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner and her friend Tom D’Antonio after their surgeries to transplant her kidney into his body in April. Photo from Jane Bonner

The surgery was April 26, a Tuesday, at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Bonnor was home that Friday and missed only eight days of work. She said she just had her six-month checkup and she is in good health.

“Jane didn’t just save my life, she saved my family’s life,” D’Antonio said. “Donating an organ doesn’t just affect the person getting the organ — although certainly it affects them the most — it affects everyone’s life.”

Bonner said she takes every opportunity to share her story to bring awareness about the importance of being an organ donor.

“I want to be a living example to show that it can be done because it’s life changing for the recipient and only a little inconvenient for the donor,” she said.

There is a large need for organs in New York. More than 9,700 people are on the organ waiting list, and someone dies every 18 hours waiting for one, according to LiveOnNY, a federally designated organ procurement organization.

New York ranks last among the 50 states in percent of residents registered as organ donors, despite surveys showing 92 percent of New Yorkers support organ donation. Only 27 percent of New Yorkers are enrolled in the state registry, versus the average of 50 percent registered across the rest of the country.

Stony Brook Medicine and Stony Brook University hosted the Organ Donor Enrollment Day event Oct. 6, including Bonner, in a statewide effort to boost the number of registered organ donors.

“Our residents need to be reminded about the importance of organ donation,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in a statement. “Along with stressing how one organ and tissue donor can save multiple lives, understanding and debunking the social and religious myths about organ donation are also critical to turning the tides in New York as we currently rank last in registered organ donors in the nation.”

Dawn Francisquini, transplant senior specialist for the hospital, said volunteers enrolled 571 people.

“New York has a very large population, so it’s going to take a lot to get us up to where the other states are,” she said. “But we’re making progress.”

There are two ways to become an organ donor. One is to be a living donor, like Bonner. A potential donor does not have to know someone in need of an organ to donate a kidney, lobe of liver, lung or part of a lung, part of the pancreas or part of an intestine.

“I’ve been able to accomplish really amazing things, but this is a step above that. Satisfying is not even the word to describe it.”

— Jane Bonner

“Living donation is so important because not only are you giving an organ to someone, so you’ve saved that life, but you’ve also made room on the list,” Francisquini said. “So you’ve saved two lives by donating one organ.”

The most common way is by registering when filling out a driver’s license registration or renewal form to be considered as a candidate upon death. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, though, only about three in 1,000 deceased people are suitable for organ donations.

Doctors determine whether organs like kidneys, livers, bones, skin and intestines are medically viable for a waiting recipient and they typically go to patients in the same state as the donor.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legislation Aug. 18 allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to register as organ donors. If they die before turning 18, parents or guardians are able to reverse the decision.

“By authorizing 16 and 17-year-olds to make the selfless decision to become an organ donor, we take another significant step to grow the state’s Donate Life registry and create opportunities to save lives,” Cuomo said in a statement.

Francisquini said she thinks this new law will make a big difference. Previously, because those under-18 were not allowed to express their wishes when filling out a driver’s license form, many would not register as donors until years later when renewing their license.

Since her surgery, Bonner has shared her story in speeches, panel discussions and on social media using the hashtag #ShareTheSpare.

“I really feel like this is much better than anything I could accomplish in my professional career,” she said. “Through the support of the people that keep electing me, I’ve been able to accomplish really amazing things, but this is a step above that. Satisfying is not even the word to describe it.”

Down Payment Assistance Program to help 35 families

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Legislator Kara Hahn congratulate down payment recipients in Port Jefferson. Photo from Steve Bellone's office

By Donna Newman

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) recently announced the extension of the Suffolk County Down Payment Assistance Program, which assists first-time homebuyers with funds for a down payment to help make the “American Dream” of homeownership a reality.

Assistance will provide up to $10,000 in grant funding to eligible first-time homebuyers — helping an additional 35 Suffolk County families. Since the program’s inception, Suffolk County has helped more than 1,700 families with down payments on their first homes.

Applications are now being accepted through Nov. 30. Residents may download the application through the Community Development tab on the County’s website, www.suffolkcountyny.gov.

Applications will be accepted by mail only and may also be requested by telephone from the Community Development Office: 631-853–5705.

Bellone stressed that qualified Suffolk County residents must purchase a home within the consortium area. They will have 90 days from the date of issuance of the Purchase Certificate to submit a fully executed Contract of Sale to the Community Development Office — or 300 days to submit a fully executed contract of sale if the first-time homebuyer is purchasing a new construction home.

The consortium includes all of Suffolk County, excluding the Towns of Babylon and Islip.

Comprehensive details of the eligibility criteria, income guidelines and other elements of the program are available on the County website. Key eligibility elements include:

• An applicant must be a first-time homebuyer as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as a household that has not owned a home during the three-year period immediately prior to the purchase of a residence with HOME funding.

• Prospective applicants must represent a low to moderate income household with an annual income not exceeding 80 percent of the area median income as determined by HUD, which includes an adjustment for family size; must have at least $3,000 banked at the time of application; have a documented minimum income of at least $30,000 and be able to obtain a mortgage from a qualified lender.

• The maximum appraised value of a single-family residence to be purchased within the Suffolk County Consortium HOME Selection Area cannot exceed $356,000 for existing housing or new construction. Single-family homes, condominiums and cooperative apartments (co-ops) are eligible.

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