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Suffolk County

Peter Scully, Suffolk County deputy county executive and water czar, responds to questions from  TBR News Media’s editorial staff:

1. You’ve been called Suffolk County’s water czar. Why does Suffolk County need a water czar?

The need for the county to have a high-level point person to advance the water quality agenda of County Executive Steve Bellone [D] is a result of two factors: The high priority that the county executive has placed on water quality issues, and the tremendous progress his administration has made over the past seven years in building a solid foundation to reverse decades of nitrogen pollution that has resulted primarily from the lack of sewers in Suffolk County and reliance on cesspools and septic systems that discharge untreated wastewater into the environment. The county executive succeeded in landing $390 million in post-Hurricane Sandy resiliency funding to eliminate 5,000 cesspools along river corridors on the South Shore by connecting parcels to sewers, and the county’s success in creating a grant program to make it affordable for homeowners to replace cesspools and septic systems with new nitrogen-reducing septic systems in areas where sewers are not a cost-effective solution, prompted the state to award Suffolk County $10 million to expand the county’s own Septic Improvement Program. These are the largest investments in water quality Suffolk has seen in 50 years, and the county executive saw the need to appoint a high-level quarterback to oversee the implementation of these programs.

 

2. Which groundwater contaminants are the highest priorities for Suffolk County? 

In 2014, the county executive declared nitrogen to be water quality public enemy No. 1. The nitrogen in groundwater is ultimately discharged into our bays, and about 70 percent of this nitrogen comes from on-site wastewater disposal (septic) systems. Excess nutrients have created crisis conditions, causing harmful algal blooms, contributing to fish kills and depleting dissolved oxygen necessary for health aquatic life. They have also made it impossible to restore our once nationally significant hard clam and bay scallop fisheries, have devastated submerged aquatic vegetation and weakened coastal resiliency through reduction of wetlands. Nitrogen also adversely impacts quality of drinking water, especially in areas with private wells, although public water supply wells consistently meet drinking water standards for nitrogen.

Other major contaminants of concern include volatile organic compounds, known as VOCs. For example, there is perchloroethlyene, historically from dry cleaners; and petroleum constituents — most recently MTBE, a gasoline additive — from fuel storage and transfer facilities.

Then there are pesticides. Active ingredients such as chlordane, aldicarb and dacthal have been banned, but some legacy contamination concerns exist, especially for private wells. Some currently registered pesticides are appearing in water supplies at low levels, including simazine/atrazine, imidacloprid and metalaxyl.

Emerging contaminants include PFAS, historically used in firefighting foams, water repellents, nonstick cookware; and 1,4-dioxane, an industrial solvent stabilizer also present at low levels in some consumer products. 

 

3. Are the chemicals coming from residential or industrial sites?

Contamination can emanate from a variety of sites, including commercial, industrial and residential properties. Many of the best-known cleanup sites are dealing with legacy impacts from past industrial activity. Examples include Grumman in Bethpage, Lawrence Aviation in Port Jefferson Station, Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton and the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant in Calverton. There have been hundreds of Superfund sites on Long Island. Fortunately, most are legacy sites and new Superfund sites are relatively rare.

More recently, the use of firefighting foam has resulted in Superfund designations at the Suffolk County Firematics site in Yaphank, Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton, and East Hampton Airport. The foam was used properly at the time of discharge, but it was not known that PFAS would leach and contaminate groundwater.

The county’s 2015 Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan found that some chemicals, such as VOCs, continue to increase in frequency of detection and concentration. While some of this is attributable to legacy industrial plumes, experts believe that residential and small commercial sites are partially responsible for contamination. This is partly because any substances that are dumped into a toilet or drain will reach the environment, and because solvents move readily through our sandy aquifer. Septic waste is, of course a major of contamination. Residential properties can be also responsible for other pollution, such as nitrogen from fertilizers and pesticides.

4. Which industries currently generate the most groundwater pollution in Suffolk County? 

The county’s Department of Health Services Division of Environmental Quality staff advise that, historically, the major contributors to groundwater pollution in the county were dry cleaners, and fuel storage and transfer facilities. However, current dry cleaning practices have minimized any possible groundwater discharges, and modern fuel facilities are engineered to more stringent code requirements that have substantially eliminated catastrophic releases. Low-level discharges are still a concern, and are the subject of the county’s VOC action plan to increase inspections and optimize regulatory compliance.

There are thousands of commercial and industrial facilities, most of which have the potential to pollute — for example, with solvent cleaners. Best management practices and industrial compliance inspections are key to minimizing and eliminating further contamination.

 

5. The word “ban” is often a dirty word in politics, but do you see benefits to banning certain products, and/or practices, for the sake of protecting the county’s drinking water supply? (The bans on DDT, lead in gasoline and HFCS, for example, were very effective at addressing environmental and human health concerns.) 

Policymakers have not hesitated to ban the use of certain substances — DDT, lead in gasoline, chlordane, MTBE — in the face of evidence that the risks associated with the continued introduction of a chemical into the environment outweigh the benefits from a public health or environmental standpoint. Based on health concerns, I expect that there will be active discussion in the years ahead about the merits of restricting the use of products that introduce emerging contaminants like 1,4-dioxane and PFCs into the environment.

 

6. If people had more heightened awareness, could we slow or even eliminate specific contaminants? As consumers, can people do more to protect groundwater? 

There is no question that heightened awareness about ways in which everyday human activities impact the environment leads people to change their behaviors in ways that can reduce the release of contaminants into the environment. A good example is the county’s Septic Improvement Program, which provides grants and low interest loans for homeowners who choose to voluntarily replace their cesspools or septic systems with new nitrogen-reducing technology. More than 1,000 homeowners have applied for grants under the program, which set a record in October with more 100 applications received.

If a home is not connected to sewers, a homeowner can replace their cesspool or septic system with an innovative/alternative on-site wastewater treatment system. Suffolk County, New York State and several East End towns are offering grants which can make it possible for homeowners to make this positive change with no significant out-of-pocket expense. Consumers can choose to not flush bleaches or toxic/hazardous materials down the drain or into their toilets. Consumers can also take care to deliver any potentially toxic or hazardous household chemicals to approved Stop Throwing Out Pollutants program sites. Homeowners can choose not to use fertilizers or pesticides, or to opt for an organic, slow-release fertilizer at lowest label setting rates.

 

7. Can you offer examples of products to avoid or practices to adopt that would better protect the drinking water supply? 

Consumers can choose to not flush bleaches or household hazardous materials down the drain or into their toilets. Consumers can also take care to deliver any potentially toxic or hazardous household chemicals to approved STOP program sites. Homeowners can choose not to use fertilizers or pesticides, or to opt for an organic, slow release fertilizer at lowest label setting rates.

 

8. Aside from banning products or chemicals, and raising awareness, how do you address the issue?

Promoting the use of less impactful alternatives to products which have been shown to have a significant and/or unanticipated impact on public health or the environment, on a voluntary basis, is a less contentious approach than banning a substance or placing restrictions on its use through a legislative or rulemaking process. Such an approach should only be taken with the understanding that its success, value and significance will depend in large part on public awareness and education.

 

9. What about product labeling, similar to the U.S. Office of the Surgeon General warnings about cigarettes, or carcinogens in California, etc.? Can the county require products sold to include a groundwater contamination warning?

The question of whether the county Legislature has authority to implement labeling requirements could be better addressed by an attorney.

 

10. People, including some elected officials and people running for public office, sometimes say that sewage treatment plants remove all contaminants from wastewater. Can you set the record straight? What chemicals, including radioactive chemicals, are and are not removed from wastewater via sewage treatment?

Tertiary wastewater treatment plants are designed primarily to remove nitrogen, in addition to biodegradable organic matter. However, wastewater treatment is also effective at removing many volatile organic compounds. Some substances, such as 1,4-dioxane, are resistant to treatment and require advanced processes for removal. Evidence shows that the use of horizontal leaching structures instead of conventional drainage rings may facilitate removal of many pharmaceuticals and personal care products, known as PPCPs. Advanced treatment technologies, such as membrane bioreactors, are also being tested for efficacy of removal of PPCPs.

Staff advise that the mere presence of chemicals in wastewater in trace amounts does not necessarily indicate the existence of a public health risk. All wastewater treatment must treat chemicals to stringent federal and state standards. In some cases, such as for emerging contaminants, specific standards do not exist. In those cases, the unspecified organic contaminant requirement of 50 parts per billion is commonly applied.

 

11. Can you provide an example of a place where residential and industrial groundwater contamination concerns were reversed or adequately addressed?

There are numerous examples, mostly under the jurisdiction of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, in which groundwater concerns have been addressed through treatment to remove contaminants. Because health and safety are always the most important issues, the first priority is typically to make sure that people who live near an impacted site have a safe supply of drinking water. In areas served by public water suppliers — Suffolk County Water Authority or a local water district — this is not usually an issue, since public water suppliers are highly regulated and are required to test water supply wells regularly. In areas where people are not connected to a public water system, and rely instead on private wells, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services will work with the water supplier to identify properties that are not connected to a public water system and then contact homeowners to urge them to have their water tested at no charge to make sure that it is safe for consumption. 

Over the past several years, Suffolk County, New York State and the Suffolk County Water Authority have worked together to connect hundreds of homes that had relied on private wells to the public water system, to make sure people have access to safe drinking water.

 

12. Are you hopeful about addressing the issues? 

I am hopeful and optimistic about the success of efforts to reverse the ongoing degradation of water quality that has resulted from reliance on cesspools and septic systems. For the first time in Long Island’s history, environmentalists, business leaders, scientists, organized labor and the building trades all agree that the long-term threat that has resulted from the lack of sewers to both the environment and economy is so great that a long-term plan to address the need for active wastewater treatment is not an option, but a necessity. Experience shows that public awareness can be a significant factor in driving public policy.

Nonprofit Accepts Grant Funds for Postage Costs

Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) talks with Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore while Greg Thompson, right, and Corrections Officer Robert Sorrentino, back, work to pack boxes for Operation Veronica. Photo by Kyle Barr

Suffolk County Corrections Officer Robert Sorrentino watched with awe last week as women older than he worked like machines on an assembly line and prepared care packages for troops as part of a volunteer group called Operation Veronica that works out of St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church in Rocky Point. 

Corrections Officer Robert Sorrentino helps pack boxes at Operation Veronica. Photo by Kyle Barr

Sorrentino serves in the Air National Guard as a technical sergeant out of the Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton and has routinely flown military aircraft in state and federal missions, supported space shuttle launches, flown in rescue missions with hurricanes Irma and Maria and was sent to Djibouti, Africa, during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2010. Still, he couldn’t help but be impressed by the group’s energy.

“It’s really efficient,” Sorrentino said. “I’ve been on the receiving end of getting care packages, and it’s awesome — its greatly appreciated.”

Multiple members of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, including Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr (D), visited Operation Veronica during its regular Friday meeting a few days after Veterans Day. Members of the department helped put together boxes of care packages, which can include snacks, toiletries or other personalized items that can give a little bit of comfort to men and women stationed overseas.

Nearly every Friday since 2005, close to 20 women spend several hours putting together care packages to send to troops stationed overseas. 

Janet Godfrey, a Wading River resident and founder of the group, explained to their visitors how they pack boxes under a certain weight to avoid excess postage fees. Volunteers also showed the sheriff’s department staff how they create survival bracelets out of 550 paracord, the same rope used for paratroopers during World War II, and polar fleece sweaters for soldiers out in deserts that may become freezing at night. 

Greg Thompson, a deputy sheriff who is currently a reservist machinery technician for the U.S. Coast Guard, was also impressed at the skill and attentiveness of the women at Operation Veronica.

“I think this is amazing, absolutely fantastic,” he said.

Toulon called the group extremely efficient in, “not only just the assembly line, but the coordination of the organization, and really it’s just the effort — to say to these vets we’re thinking about them, we’re caring for them and we’re praying for them.”

Sheriff Errol Toulon assists pack boxes at Operation Veronica. Photo by Kyle Barr

He expects the sheriff’s department to collaborate with Operation Veronica in the near future, by either donating goods or assisting in getting the boxes shipped abroad. 

In 2018 TBR News Media recognized Operation Veronica as one the newspaper’s People of the Year. Since then, Godfrey said the group has picked up steam and is still managing to send out hundreds of items week after week.

“We are busier than ever,” Godfrey said.

Funding is always difficult, especially in the shipping department, though the women of Operation Veronica often donate their time and buy their own goods to go in the boxes, as shipping can be upward of $70 for a heavier box.

“The women in this room come in to work, they do everything out of their own pockets,” she said. “They have passed the hat to pay postage at the end of the day.”

Godfrey had some good news, though. She said the Port Jefferson-based Richard & Mary Morrison Foundation has agreed to pay for the costs of shipping, which the Operation Veronica founder said can be as high as $10,000 to $12,000 a year. 

“They have promised to pay our postage however high it goes,” she added. 

For more information about Operation Veronica, visit www.operationveronica.org/.

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Mount Sinai sophomore Joseph Spallina powers his way out of the back field against the Wildcats in the D-IV county finals at Stony Brook Nov. 24. Bill Landon photo

Shoreham-Wading River looked to avenge their only loss of the season back in week five to the Mustangs of Mount Sinai in the Suffolk County D-IV championship game Nov. 24. Avenge it they did, handing Mount Sinai their first and only loss of their season in a 35-14 victory at Stony Brook’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium to punch their way into the Long Island Championship round.

Despite leading 14-13 with two minutes left in the opening half an unsportsmanlike penalty extinguished the Mustang drive, and it was all SWR in the 2nd half with Xavier Arline leading the way with 26 carries covering 195 yards.

It was the Wildcats fifth Suffolk County title, and the team will face Seaford Nov. 30 at Hofstra University at 12 p.m. for the Long Island crown.

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The Rocky Point firehouse on King Road in Rocky Point. File photo by Kevin Redding

By Julianne Mosher

A former Rocky Point Fire Department treasurer pleaded guilty to stealing over $23,000 from the local department over the course of two years. 

The Rocky Point Fire Department Company 2 is using a warehouse on Prince Road as its main base. Photo by Kyle Barr

David Crosby, 28, of Rocky Point made his plea on Thursday to a petit larceny, an A misdemeanor, and will be required to pay the department back a full restitution equaling $23,324. 

“This is a just disposition that ensures the brave firefighters who serve the Rocky Point community will receive the full amount of money that was stolen from their department,” District Attorney Tim Sini (D) said. “The theft of public funds will not be tolerated. Our Public Integrity Bureau will continue to investigate and prosecute criminals who steal funds from our first responders and other public entities.”

The plea agreement will spare Crobsy prison time, officials said. He is expecting his sentence by Acting Suffolk County Court Judge Richard Dunne Jan. 14 to three
years probation.

From 2017 until 2019, Crosby served as the treasurer of Rocky Point Fire Department’s North Shore Beach Company 2, located at 90 King Road. During the two years, he made approximately 80 unauthorized ATM withdrawals from the department’s account totaling $19,744.09, along with $3,580 from a fundraiser the department held. 

When the department became aware of the missing funds a few months ago, they referred the issue to the District Attorney’s Office “right away,” William Glass, attorney for the Rocky Point Fire District said. Crosby surrendered to the DA Oct. 17. 

The attorney added that the money was not from taxpayer money but was solely from the fire department’s personal funds. 

“It’s a shame,” Glass said, “because the money was raised by the fire department.”

Crosby’s defense attorney, Paul Barahal, had no comment on behalf of his client. Assistant District Attorney Carey Ng, of the Public Integrity Bureau, will be prosecuting his case.

People go to vote at the Albert G. Prodell Middle School in Shoreham. Photo by Kyle Barr

Suffolk County Executive:

(WINNER) Steve Bellone (D) – 55.42% – 148,043 votes

John M. Kennedy Jr. (R) – 43.38% – 115,867 votes 

Gregory Fisher (L) – 1.18% – 3,147 votes 

 

Brookhaven Town Supervisor: 

(WINNER) Ed Romaine (R) – 61.52% – 51,155 votes 

Will Ferraro (D) – 37.42% – 31.113 votes 

Junie Legister (L) – 1.04% – 865 votes 

 

Brookhaven Highway Superintendent: 

(WINNER) Dan Losquadro (R) – 58.47% – 48, 624 votes 

Anthony Portesy (D) – 41.51% – 34,514 votes 

 

Brookhaven town council member, 1st District: 

(WINNER) Valerie Catright (D) – 57.36% – 8,647 votes 

Tracy Kosciuk (R) – 42.59% – 6,421 votes 

 

Brookhaven town council member, 2nd District: 

(WINNER) Jane Bonner (C) – 61.97% – 10,028 votes 

Sarah Deonarine (D) – 37.99% – 6,147 votes 

 

Brookhaven town council member, 3rd District:

(WINNER) Kevin LaValle (R) – 65.12% – 8,228 votes 

Talat Hamandi (D) – 34.85% – 4,404 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 6th District: 

(WINNER) Sarah Anker (D) – 54.32% – 9,715 votes 

Gary Pollakusky (R) – 41.05% – 7,342 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 5th District: 

(WINNER) Kara Hahn (D) – 63.1% – 9,763 votes 

John McCormack (R) – 36.88% – 5,706 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 4th District: 

(WINNER) Thomas Muratore (R) – 58.97% – 7,275 votes 

David T. Bligh (D) – 39.23% – 4,839 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 16th District

(WINNER) Susan Berland (D) – 53.89% – 6,501 votes 

Hector Gavilla (R) – 46.08% – 5,559 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 13th District: 

(WINNER) Rob Trotta (R) – 61.99% – 10,385 votes 

Janet Singer (D) – 38.01% – 6,367 votes

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 18th District:

(WINNER) William “Doc” Spencer (D) – 61.47% – 11,998 votes 

Garrett Chelius (R) – 33.81% – 6,599 votes 

Daniel West (C) – 4.71% – 919 votes 

 

Suffolk County Legislator, 15th District:

(WINNER) DuWayne Gregory (D) – 72.15% – 7,037 votes

Chrisopher G. Connors (R) – 27.68% – 2,700 votes 

 

Huntington town council member – two seats:

(WINNER) Joan Cergol (D) – 26% – 20,882 votes 

(WINNER) Eugene Cook (R) – 24.81%- 19,931 votes 

Andre Sorrentino Jr. (R) – 24.07% – 19,336 votes 

Kathleen Clearly (D) – 23.38% – 18,777 votes 

 

Huntington Town Clerk: 

(WINNER) Andrew Raia (R) – 57.71% – 23,804 votes 

Simon Saks (D) – 42.28% – 17,441 votes 

 

Smithtown town council member – two seats: 

(WINNER) Thomas Lohmann (R) – 32.35% – 14,076 votes

(WINNER) Lisa Inzerillo (R) – 32% – 13,925 votes 

Richard S Macellaro (D) – 17.36% – 7,556 votes

Richard Guttman (D) – 17.32% – 7,535 votes 

 

 

 

Steve Bellone (D) and fellow Democrats celebrate keeping the county executive position. Photo by David Luces

In the most profiled race of the year for Suffolk County Executive, Democrat Steve Bellone won handily over his challenger, County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) with 55 percent to Kennedy’s 43 percent. Libertarian candidate Greg Fischer gained just 1 percent of the overall vote.

John Kennedy Jr. (R) the night of Nov. 5. Photo by Kyle Barr

Bellone was greeted by enthusiastic cheers at IBEW.

“It turns out that the voters have decided that there is more work for us to do here,” he said. “This will be my third and final term as County Executive, I don’t know what the future holds but it entirely possible that this could be my final race for public office… If that is the case I must give one final thank you to the person who has been with me for every race that I have won.”

He also thanked his opponents John Kennedy and Greg Fischer.

“I look forward to working together to build a better future for Suffolk County.”

Kennedy blamed the incumbent’s near $2 million war chest for the loss, along with negative campaign ads he said targeted not only him, but his wife and children.

He promised he would continue to be a financial watchdog for the county, saying he thinks the county will entire a financial death spiral it may not be able to pull out of.

“The good news is, I get to keep doing the job I love, being comptroller,” he said. “There’s no lack of fraud waste and abuse in Suffolk County, which we demonstrated the past five years.”

After a heated campaign season, and while the vote seemed to be close as they were tallied, Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) defeated her Republican opponent Gary Pollakusky 54 to 41 percent. Libertarian candidate James Kevin, who was not available for comment, gained nearly 5 percent of the vote.

When brought up on stage, Schaffer called her “landslide Anker.”

The 5th time legislator said it was her strong base and work of her campaign that helped pull her through. She added there are numerous projects she hopes to work on in the coming years.

“We have so many projects in the works … We have the Rails to Trails, the park in Middle Island, continue working with the opioid advisory panel,” she said. “There is so much work to do.

I really want to focus on mental health/addiction treatment, tackle the financial issues with the county, be proactive with supporting local business and those mom and pop shops.”

Pollakusky remained gracious after his loss, saying, “I hope Sarah serves her constituents well for our legislative district.” He added he will continue to be active in the community by leading the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce and serving on the board of the Rocky Point Civic Association.

Susan Berland takes a photo with staff and supporters Nov. 5. Photo by Rita. J. Egan

In the Port Jefferson-Setauket area Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) won overwhelmingly against her Republican opponent John McCormack 63 to 37 percent.

Kara Hahn said she is looking forward to continuing working on several projects including protection of the environment, public safety and the opioid epidemic.

“Those numbers have to come down to zero,” she said. “We cannot accept more opioid deaths. The numbers have fallen a little bit, but we have to continue to work on that. We cannot be losing our children. It’s senseless. It’s preventable. We have to be sure we do what we can on that.”

McCormack was not available to comment.

Thomas Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) easily won over Democratic challenger David Bligh in the fight for the 4th district with nearly 60 percent of the vote. He thanked his wife and staff and said they would move on “stronger.”

While Bligh lost to Muratore for Suffolk County Legislator in the 4th district, he said he plans to stay in the political arena and to run again.

“Tom’s term limited after this year so there’s going to be an open seat in two years,” he said.

Bligh, an environmental engineer, said he has a long list of quality of life issues that he wants to address, including affordability and water quality issues.

Garcia announced Rob Trotta’s (R-Fort Salonga) 62 percent victory against Democrat Janet Singer, by mentioning Trotta’s propensity to stir the pot. Ever the firebrand, the Fort Salonga resident did not disappoint, getting to the mike and calling the Conservative party “corrupt,” adding “this is about honesty and integrity, and that party is clearly lacking.”

When asked to expand on that, Trotta said, “The entire Conservative party is corrupt, period.”

Singer said she was disappointed as she felt she would be a great legislator but enjoyed campaigning where she learned a lot.

She said before this election cycle she felt Rob Trotta didn’t pay attention to water quality issues. She feels it’s a non-issue for him and that suddenly it’s a “hot topic.” She was surprised water quality was included at the bottom of his campaign ad.

“I don’t really care what party you’re in, water needs protection, and it’s going to need money,” she said. “And he doesn’t want to vote for any expenditures, and we can’t do that.”

Rob Trotta the night of Nov. 5. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though her husband did not win over the majority of county voters, Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) still beat her opponent, Democrat Margot Rosenthal, 65 to 35 percent. She said, “We could not have done it without every single one of you,” adding, “while we didn’t get everything we wanted this time, we’ll get it next time.”

For the 16th District, Susan Berland (D-Commack) won out against several-time Republican challenger Hector Gavilla. The race became extremely heated towards the end, with allegations that Gavilla intimidated Berland at a local meet the candidates. Gavilla, on his part, claims Berland’s husband nearly assaulted him.

Schaffer spoke on the incident.

“If you wanted to see probably one of the most despicable races in Suffolk County, was the race that took place in the 16 LD,” Schaffer said. “Let me tell you something, it’s a shame when you happen to have a candidate, a legislator who has been in office for almost 20 years, tell you she’s frightened by her opponent.”

Susan Berland thanked her supporters, staff and volunteers.

“I’m grateful to the residents of the 16th district who have confidence in me to represent them for the next two years.”

William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) easily conquered the vote against Republican challenger Garrett Chelius with 11,998 votes to Chelius’ 6,599.

Chelius was brought up on stage for consolation, and Garcia lauded them for their work in campaigning.

Spencer spoke of his ideas and projects going forward.

“I’m looking towards the future — I want to still focus on our environment, our kids, the vaping/opioid epidemic,” he said. “I think there is a lot of work to be done there. Also, I want to finish some infrastructure projects like the sewers in Huntington Station.”

The lone upset of the night, Republican challenger Anthony Piccirillo won with barely a 1 percent margin against William Lindsay (D-Holbrook). The Democrats have asked for a recount, but if Piccirillo succeeds it would mean the Democrats 11-7 hold on the legislature would become a 10-8, just as partisan divide between officials seems at a near peak. Last year, Republicans and Democrats butted heads over lump bonding issues, with Republicans using their slim minority to block bonds they called were being pushed through by Democrats.

David Luces, Rita J. Egan, Leah Chiappino and Donna Deedy all contributed reporting.

Ed Romaine the night of Nov. 5, 2019.

The race for Brookhaven town supervisor was called before the final votes were tallied, with the night ending with Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) racking up 51,155 votes to Democratic challenger Will Ferraro’s 31,113 votes.

Romaine went on stage to thank the town for an “overwhelming mandate,” of the town board.

Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) the night of Nov. 5. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We are going to go back to work tomorrow,” he said. “The reason we ran is so we can govern, to move Brookhaven forward so we can fix its finances, help its AAA bond rating, get rid of the zombie homes and do all the things that are necessary to build a better town.”

In a phone interview after the night was called, Ferraro congratulated Romaine on his election, but urged the incumbent to listen to resident’s criticisms of the town’s recycling policies and road infrastructure. He added he will continue to be a community organizer in the local area and plans to get involved with his local school board. He added he did not plan on running for another office at least until after next year.

“I ran on 100 percent what I believe in, with every fiber of my being,” he said. “I have no regrets.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) defeated her challenger, Coram Democrat Sarah Deonarine with around 62 percent of the vote to 38 percent.

Though last year’s referendum to give town councilmembers a four-year term, Bonner said it will mean elected officials can focus on long term projects, especially “environmental based projects.”

Deonarine said campaigning was strenuous and difficult.

“If I could pull it off anybody can,” she said. “So, I hope other people follow in the footsteps. I’ve met amazing people. We started something new and we’re really hoping for a better Brookhaven in the future.”

She doesn’t plan to run for office again but is interested in the behind the scenes work and helping future candidates, saying there’s no existing playbook.

“I learned so much that was not given to me when I started.”

Kevin LaValle the night of Nov. 5, 2019. Photo by Kyle Barr

In the battle of Port Jeff Station neighbors, with Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) against her challenger Tracy Kosciuk, a nurse running on the Republican ticket, the town board’s lone Democrat won with 57 percent of the vote.

Cartright said she plans to focus on completing land use plans in the Three Village area and Port Jefferson Station and working on the cottages at West Meadow Beach among other initiatives.

“I’m looking forward to completing the process on all of these initiatives that we’ve embarked upon in the community,” she said.

Kosciuk said that even with her loss, she “still won in many ways,” by “making my opponent more responsive to everyone in the council district, rather than specific pockets.” She added she hopes her opponent works toward revitalization efforts and on the zombie homes issue.

In the Middle Country area, incumbent Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) won with 65 percent of the vote against his Democratic challenger, social justice activist Talat Hamdani.

The incumbent thanked his constituents, and said he plans to continue bringing more business into the Middle Country area and finalize work on the Selden Park Complex.

Hamdani wasn’t available for comment.

In the race for town highway supervisor, Dan Losquadro (R) beat his Democratic challenger Anthony Portesy with 48,624 votes to the Democrat’s 34,514.

Losquadro thanked Garcia and said he was “overwhelmed by the mandate” of the voters.

“They see the progress we have made in Brookhaven,” he said. “They have seen the efforts and results that are possible when we work together. The results of this election will allow us to plan long term.”

Portesy said he ran a good race and thanked all his supporters who came out for him.

“Overall, we fought a good race … If anything, I’ve forced a level of accountable the highway department hasn’t seen in decades,” he said. “There was a level of energy in this cycle in 2019 that we didn’t see in 2017 and that’s really going to build going into 2020 as we go into the congressional and presidential races.”

Dom Pascual, a Democrat, took on Lou Marcoccia (R) for receiver of taxes, but voters went again for the incumbent with the Republican making near 60 percent of the vote.

“We cared, and we listened,” Marcoccia said.

Pascual said he thought they put on a strong campaign.

“I’m a [Democratic] district leader so I’m going to continue to recruit people,” he said. “We’re not going away no matter what. I ran in 2017, it was just me, and this time around we recruited over 50 people. Demographics are in our favor, there’s more Democrats moving into Brookhaven than Republicans, so I think eventually things will change.”

David Luces and Rita J. Egan contributed reporting.

Sarah Anker. File photo by Erika Kara

Despite the proliferation of news and ads surrounding the county executive race, there was one election in the District 6 area many spoke of being more exhausting than the others, and that was the race between Democratic incumbent Sarah Anker and Republican challenger Gary Pollakusky. 

We at TBR News Media do not appreciate some of the methods used in this election, which happened on both sides of the isle. There were some campaign ads that Anker should have put her foot down to stop. On Pollakusky shoulders, the methods employed passing around often misleading information regarding his opponent were also not appreciated. The situation involving the last summer concert series got out of hand, and neither candidate handled it to the standard a legislator requires.

Beyond that, TBR News Media is endorsing Sarah Anker to continue on as legislator. While we appreciate the challenger’s concern for county finances, his ideas for confronting schools and their taxes don’t hold much water. While he has complaints about how much residents will spend on dealing with water quality issues, he did not have much in the way of concrete plans.

Anker has been involved in much, from opioid panels to the North Shore Rail Trail, which we hope will become a major thoroughfare for ecotourism.

We hope that if Anker wins another term, she reaches out to some who have been vocal about feeling unheard. District 6 needs a person who can bridge that divide, and we believe Anker can increasingly fill that gap

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker is running against Republican Gary Pollakusky to represent the 6th District. Photos by Alex Petroski

Five-term Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) is once again facing Republican challenger Gary Pollakusky, a Rocky Point business owner and head of the recently remodeled Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce. The candidates challenged each other in 2017, but while many issues remain the same, such as county finances, coastal water issues and opioids, the campaign season has been even more contentious than two years before.

Many of the Republicans running for county Legislature this year have made county finances a major part of their campaigns, and Pollakusky made it a point when he ran two years ago. 

“The $4 billion plan is unrealistic — it will come down to taxpayers, people who are leaving the Island, to take on this burden.”

— Gary Pollakusky

In a recent in-house debate at TBR News Media offices, the Republican challenger pointed to the recent report from the New York State comptroller, Thomas DiNapoli (D), which called Suffolk one of the most fiscally stressed counties in the state, Pollakusky adding the county now has junk bond status. He said small businesses have a hard time opening in Suffolk County, that it takes two to three years when it should, at most, two to three months. He said the county should have done more to bring in retail giant Amazon. 

Though the largest percentage of residents’ tax bills are due to school districts, the challenger said Suffolk should look to work with both the state and local school districts to reduce the number of administrators, even creating a “chancellor of education” to oversee that cause.

Anker, who first came to the Legislature in 2011 during a special election, argued that the county is not in as much fiscal stress as Republicans have said. She argued that the county’s Baa2 bond rating by Moody’s shows a different picture of the county’s financial shape. She said finances have improved significantly since when she was first elected.

The incumbent argued that instead of looking to bring in Amazon, the North Shore should look to become an “ecotourism hub,” with amenities like the new North Shore Rail Trail and Tesla Science Center.

“Instead of making a right to go pumpkin picking and wine tasting, take a left to downtown Rocky Point, so we can revitalize it,” she said. “So many stores have gone out recently.”

The Republican challenger criticized Anker for removing Rocky Point from the county sewer list and called Suffolk’s prototype septic system program a “toilet tax.” Though residents can get grants from New York State that pay most or all of the installation, Pollakusky argued there are fees attributed to landscaping or regular maintenance. 

“As far as runoff, the $4 billion plan is unrealistic — it will come down to taxpayers, people who are leaving the Island, to take on this burden,” he said.

Anker called Suffolk the “most proactive agencies in government that addresses this issue,” adding she supports the prototype septic systems as well as the county water authority’s multibillion dollar plans to reduce 1,4-dioxane in wells throughout the county. 

She added the reason she removed Rocky Point from the sewer list came from a request by the Rocky Point Civic Association whose members said they did not want to pay an additional sewer tax.

Anker currently chairs the Suffolk County Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel, which was created in 2017. She said the panel has already borne fruit with one recent example being Suffolk County police’s new mass spectrometer, which can identify previously undetectable substances. She said the device came from a suggestion on the 24-member panel. She added the county’s lawsuit of pharmaceutical company Purdue and the Sackler family may bring in millions of dollars of revenue to the county.

“Instead of making a right to go pumpkin picking and wine tasting, take a left to downtown Rocky Point, so we can revitalize it.”

— Sarah Anker

Pollakusky argued that while some county statistics say the opioid epidemic has plateaued, he hasn’t seen an example of that in the district, claiming there is a glut of “drug dealing homes” all across the North Shore. Like in 2017, he criticized his opponent for voting to close the Foley Center in Yaphank, saying it could have been used for bed space and as a treatment center.

Anker came back saying the county should look toward public-private partnerships in creating new treatment space.

Though the candidates talked about the ongoing issues, they were also asked how they felt about their opponents campaign tactics during this contentious season. The challenger’s voice rose during the debate as he criticized Anker for mailings published by political advocacy group People for Political Responsibility, depicting him in photoshopped, unflattering images. He claimed Anker had been disbursing campaign material at functions like the Downtown Rocky Point Summer Concert Series and advocating for herself over radio. 

Anker fired back that she had nothing to do with the mailings and had not handed out campaign material at these functions, instead handing out informational pamphlets for services provided by the county. She said her radio show was not sponsored at all by her campaign and only talked of work being done in the Legislature. 

Both have continuously blamed the other for politicizing an incident several months ago at the final summer concert series event, when chamber members were barred from entering the concert. Chamber members said they had permission from the local Veterans of Foreign War post, which participates in putting on the concerts, but Anker said she had only received word that they wanted to attend the day before, and that they did not have space for them. The chamber was allowed a single table at the concert, she added. Pollakusky said it was unfair she was able to attend and “campaign” at the concert while disallowing others.

This post has been amended from how it appeared in the Village Beacon Record to clarify Anker’s position on informational material for services provided by the county.

Steve Bellone (D), John Kennedy Jr. (R) and Greg Fischer (L) are facing off for Suffolk County exec. Photos by David Luces

It is a three-man race for the Suffolk County executive seat this year. Incumbent Steve Bellone (D) is vying to secure a final term after coming into office in 2012. Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) and Libertarian candidate Greg Fischer, from Calverton, are looking to unseat Bellone in this year’s election. 

Some topics discussed were the county finances, the opioid and MS-13 situations and Suffolk’s water quality. 

Suffolk County finances

The status of the county’s finances continues to be a pressing issue since Thomas DiNapoli (D), the New York State comptroller, released a report saying Suffolk was under the most “significant fiscal stress” of any county — with Nassau — in the state in 2018 for the second year in a row. Suffolk had an operating deficit of about $26.5 million and a general fund balance deficit of $285 million. 

“When I came into office in 2012 the county was on the brink of bankruptcy, we had a $500 million accumulated deficit.”

— Steve Bellone

Bellone touted since he took office seven years ago, he has made the county government more streamlined, fully eliminated the existing operating deficit and has helped achieve an operating surplus for two consecutive years.

“When I came into office in 2012 the county was on the brink of bankruptcy, we had a $500 million accumulated deficit,” he said. “The county government was completely dysfunctional. Everyone was saying we were heading in the same direction as Nassau County, we were going to have a control board. I told them that was not going to happen, and we made the tough decisions.”

Since Bellone took office, the county government has cut close to 1,300 municipal jobs looking to reduce expenditures. 

Kennedy, who has been the county comptroller for the past five years, said his office has been auditing aggressively, has saved the county upward of $56 million and helped refinance its pipeline debt. He said the county is currently $883 million in operating debt and has a $91 million general fund balance deficit. 

The longtime Suffolk politician argued that the county would probably have to cut back at least $50-60 million from the current operating budget. 

“There’s things in life, you have your wants and your needs — that’s where we are at [right now],” he said. “We have departments that are not running properly, we have to consolidate.”

Kennedy said he would look to implement percentage decreases across the board for contract agencies and in some cases suspend services, similarly to what the county Legislature did in 2008 in the midst of a recession. 

“I am running based on the 15 years of public service — I think I can put us back to balance,” he said.

Fischer put it simply that the county is no different than a big bankrupt company. 

“We are rated lower than Nassau County, which has financial control boards,” he said. “We can’t rely on the state for anything right now.”

If elected, Fischer would freeze further increases in spending immediately as well as freeze future hiring and begin cross-training county employees.

“This is something that has to be done now,” he said. 

Opioids/MS-13 

On opioids, Kennedy said the county has had an addiction issue long before oxycodone was ever cooked up, mentioning morphine, methadone and crystal meth that have been a concern since the late ’80s. 

He said treatment for addicts is one of his main concerns. 

“We have fewer treatment beds in Suffolk County than five to 10 years ago,” Kennedy said. “Availability of treatment beds is the most pressing need right now.”

“I am running based on the 15 years of public service — I think I can put us back to balance.”

— John Kennedy Jr.

Many Republicans have criticized the Bellone administration for the closure and sale of the Foley Center in Yaphank, which they contend would have helped in the fight against the opioid crisis.

The county comptroller said that the governor has to be more proactive in helping the county. In addition, he said law enforcement needs to be more effective. 

Fischer said he lost his brother to heroin and is acutely aware of what is going on in the fight. 

“This is horribly addictive stuff — I believe in ‘scared straight’ programs, bringing in junkies into schools and scaring the crap out of kids,” he said. “I do want more treatment and prevention not just more cops.” 

The county executive maintained a comprehensive approach is the only way to solve the opioids crisis. 

He agreed with Kennedy and Fischer that local law enforcement plays a big part, but that prevention is just as important. 

Bellone touted partnerships with community-based groups and schools and opening DASH, a substance abuse and mental health center in Hauppauge, that is seeing patients 24/7. 

“The inability to provide adequate treatment has been a failure of our country,” he said. “Once you become addicted it is very hard to extricate yourself from it. We have made progress — the state has helped us.”

He also mentioned that the county has decided to sue the people responsible for the opioid epidemic. 

“Though we can’t restore the lives lost, the Sackler family [which controls Purdue Pharma] should be made to pay,” he said. 

On MS-13, Bellone said the Suffolk County Police Department has led the fight against the gang and has helped in getting the lowest crime rate in the history of the county. 

Kennedy and Fischer contend that it is the federal government’s involvement that has swayed the tide in the fight. Though all three candidates agree that while strides have been made, there needs to be continued law enforcement efforts from both the local and federal levels. 

Suffolk’s water quality

Bellone called water quality “the most significant issue of our time in Suffolk County.” 

“Climate change will have certain impacts, but if we don’t address water quality, we are sacrificing the future of the county — we cannot sustain what this place is without protecting water,” he said. 

Bellone said water quality is not only vital for the county’s economy but also to local tourism which brings in billions of dollars each year. 

“It is one of the reasons why people live here and for the quality of life,” he said. 

The county executive defended his septic improvement program which he launched in 2017, saying it has allowed homeowners to replace outdated septic systems and cesspools. He also mentioned that it has helped reduce contaminants in the groundwater.

“We have departments that are not running properly, we have to consolidate.”

— John Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy said his main concern is to continue to identify any suspected contaminants in our groundwater. He supports the Suffolk County Water Authority’s efforts to identify and remove 1,4-dioxane. 

“We need to raise funding to install 31 wells [throughout the county],” he said. 

Another of his concerns is stormwater runoff prevention, which he said, to him, the jury is still out on the advanced septic system, adding that four to six systems are not working properly. 

Fischer said he would propose a “100 projects in 100 weeks” plan if elected, adding there are some things the county could implement right now. 

“I would put a sizable fee or ban on high nitrogen fertilizer — this is dangerous stuff,” he said. 

The Libertarian candidate criticized Bellone’s advanced septic system program, calling it a complete failure and needs to be put into moratorium until it is fixed. 

Fischer also proposed changes to water codes, mentioning gray water — or the water that comes out of baths, sinks and other appliances — and setting certain mandates for new construction.