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Suffolk County

The No.1-seeded Mount Sinai girls’ softball team topped No. 4 Islip, 5-2 Saturday, for the team’s first Suffolk County Class A title in school history.

Senior Cassandra Wilson pitched the first three innings and left with a 4-1 lead after freshman infielder Love Drumgole evened the score at 1-1 with a sacrifice fly in the first inning, followed by sophomore first baseman Angela Bukofsky’s RBI double in the bottom of the third and senior outfielder Emily Solomos two-run double right after.

Eighth-grade pitcher Julia Golino, who went four innings, entered the game with two Islip opponents on base and no outs in the fourth, and escaped the inning thanks to senior Julia Gallo’s leaping catch at second.

Mount Sinai, which is now 21-2, and finished the regular season at an almost perfect 17-1 to claim the League V title, moves on to Long Island championship game Friday at St. Joseph’s College at 3:30 p.m.

County Executive Steve Bellone cites increased savings for taxpayers

Steve Bellone, Barry Paul and John Kennedy, Jr. spotted at a recent press event. Photo from Suffolk County

The merger of the offices of Suffolk County treasurer and the Suffolk County comptroller is being moved up by two years — a move Executive Steve Bellone’s office claims will save taxpayers even more money than originally anticipated.

The treasurer’s office will be folded into the comptroller’s office on Jan. 1, 2016 instead of a planned 2018 deadline, and the groundwork for the transition has already begun, with changes in the treasurer’s office implemented as early as January this year.

A whopping 62 percent of Suffolk County voters overwhelmingly supported a referendum to combine the two offices in a vote , and ever since then, plans have been put into action to complete the merger.

Merging the departments is expected to save taxpayers more than $3 million, according to Bellone’s office in a statement. Moving the merger up by two years saves more money because the county can eliminate positions sooner. Also, implementing new human resources software will allow the county to realize more savings.

The merger includes abolishing the treasurer’s position, as well as two deputy treasurer positions. Five positions have already been eliminated from the treasurer’s office. These positions included staff members who had retired or left the office and were not replaced, since the positions were deemed no longer necessary. 

Interim Treasurer Barry Paul has been spearheading the merger, and it is the main reason he was brought into the position. Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone nominated Paul to the post when previous Treasurer Angie Carpenter was named Islip Town supervisor and left the office in early January of this year.

Bellone has worked with Paul and Comptroller John M. Kennedy Jr., whose two offices will become one. However, at first, Kennedy was not in favor of the merger. During Kennedy’s campaign for comptroller last year, he strongly opposed the referendum and the merger.

“I had concerns with the separation of functions and the new oversight of the two offices,” Kennedy said. Once he was elected into office and realized the public’s support for the move at the polls, Kennedy said he altered his point of view.

“I try to be guided by the will of my constituents, and they wanted to see consolidation so I am now on board,” Kennedy said.

Originally the merger was scheduled to be complete in January 2018, since Carpenter’s term as treasurer was from 2015 to 2017. Once Carpenter stepped down, there was an opportunity to bring on Paul and speed up the process.

Previously, Paul was a Bellone staffer, and once he finishes overseeing the merger of the treasurer’s office with the comptroller’s office, he will return to his post there. For Paul, the treasurer appointment was always a short-term assignment.

“All existing personnel from the treasurer’s office will go under Kennedy, and Kennedy has really embraced that,” Suffolk County Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider, who has worked on the merger as well, said in a phone interview. “This merger will save taxpayers money, while delivering better services.”

Another place that the treasurer’s office has been able to save money is with regards to a backlog of providing tax refunds. As of May 14, the backlog tax refunds were reduced by a third, coming down to 7,810, whereas over a month before, the number of backlog tax refunds was 11,830, according to Bellone’s office.

The backlog is expected to be completely eliminated by July, and will save the taxpayers more than a million dollars in reduced interests costs annually.

The new merged office will also host Munis software in the county’s IT system, which will save another $150,000 to $200,000 dollars. Munis is an integrated enterprise resource planning system that manages all core functions, including financials, human resources, citizen services and revenues.

In a statement, Paul said he has been following Bellone’s mandate to make the treasurer’s office as efficient as possible, and is confident in this timeline and the work his office has been doing to save taxpayer dollars.

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Thanks to legislation introduced by Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), the county could be the next municipality in the nation to create safe spots — public locations where residents can exchange goods and conduct private sales.

Similar safe havens have been created throughout the United States — in Georgia, Missouri and Connecticut, for example — in response to crimes committed against people using websites like Craigslist to buy and sell goods. While the majority of Craigslist transactions occur without incident, there is always the chance of someone taking advantage of the situation, whether it be robbing the other person in the transaction or physically harming them in some way.

We applaud Muratore, a former Suffolk County police officer, for looking into this simple solution to deter unscrupulous individuals from harming others.

But if the county does move forward with this idea, we hope the locations will be in active places; be monitored by surveillance; be heavily signed, notifying visitors that it is a safe spot and is being monitored; and provide residents with safety tips for engaging in such exchanges in an effort to be even more proactive than reactive.

As Muratore said, “Technology is changing the way people are doing business,” and we have to change with it.

They waited nearly 365 days for this moment, and the redemption was sweet.

The Mount Sinai girls’ lacrosse team rattled off four unanswered goals in the first half en route to a 7-4 win over Bayport-Blue Point Tuesday to claim the Suffolk County Class C title.

After going undefeated at 14-0 in Division II last season, the girls made it to the same spot on the same Dowling College field and lost, 11-9, to the same Phantoms team.

This year, after that loss, and especially after falling to St. Anthony’s just weeks before the big game by one point, for their second loss in the last three seasons, the girls had a different mind-set.

“Since we never lost, a lot of our girls didn’t think it was possible for us to lose — losing opened a lot of the eyes of the younger girls,” senior attack and midfielder Kasey Mitchell said. “Our most important thing was to come back this year more confident than cocky.”

Still, Mitchell was not going to let her team fall to the Phantoms again.

“We couldn’t lose,” she said, laughing through her smile as she thought about the redemption win. “I was not leaving here if we lost; it wasn’t happening.”

Sophomore goalkeeper Hannah Van Middelem opened the first with a big stop before freshman attack Meaghan Tyrrell scored off an assist from Mitchell, for the team’s first goal with the game less than five minutes old.

Van Middelem came through with another save, and on the next scoring play, Tyrrell passed the ball from behind the net to senior midfielder and co-captain Sydney Pirreca, who charged her way up centerfield for the score and a 2-0 advantage.

“We used that motivation from losing last year — that hurt, that pain — and we used it for this game today, for sure,” Pirreca said. “From the start, I was saying that we had to come out fast, we had to come out strong … That scares any team, and that keeps our confidence up.”

Freshman attack Camryn Harloff was next to score for the Mustangs, and Mitchell followed with a free position shot past the keeper for a 4-0 lead.

Minutes later, Van Middelem made another save.

“I felt confident in net, and everyone else played great, so it helps with the confidence,” said the goalkeeper, who made five of her six saves in the first half. “Our defense played great today.”

With 1:42 left to play in the half, Bayport-Blue Point scored its first goal of the game, and with 9.7 seconds left, Van Middelem made another stop to keep the score 4-1 heading into the halftime break.

“We went 365 days and 360 degrees,” Mount Sinai head coach Al Bertolone said. “I left my heart out on this field last year and it’s been a long year. You have to get back here and you have to redeem yourself a little, and I thought they did a great job.”

The Mustangs opened the second by adding onto their advantage, when Pirreca passed the ball to junior midfielder Rebecca Lynch for the good goal.

The game then went scoreless for over 10 minutes, until senior co-captain Mary Ellen Carron broke the ice for the Mustangs when, after getting double-teamed behind the cage, the midfielder raced around the net and fired her shot straight into an empty net.

Mitchell followed with another free position goal into a still empty net, as the Phantoms pulled the goaltender out to midfield.

“Everything we’ve done the last 365 days was to get back here,” Mitchell said. “We had so many underclassmen step up and we changed a lot as a team. We’re not the same team as last year and that’s why the outcome was different.”

Despite a small letdown where the Phantoms tallied three unanswered goals to end the scoring for the game, the Mustangs had already built up a 7-1 advantage to seal the win.

Mount Sinai will travel to Adelphi University on Saturday to take on Cold Spring Harbor in the Long Island Championship game, at 2:30 p.m.

“This is definitely a confidence booster,” Pirreca said. “We have a lot of respect for the Nassau teams, but if we come out and play our game, we’re going to come out strong; just as we always do.”

Suffolk County Police Department to examine feasibility

Legislator Tom Muratore, center. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Following in the footsteps of municipalities across the nation, the Suffolk County Legislature has agreed to explore creating safe spots where residents could conduct private sales transactions like those from websites like Craigslist.

County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) introduced legislation that would direct the Suffolk County Police Department to study the feasibility of creating the safe spots. The Legislature adopted the bill on May 12, and the findings will be reported to the Legislature within 120 days.

“Technology is changing the way people are doing business,” Muratore said in a phone interview.

The former Suffolk County police officer said he drafted the resolution after hearing about a number of violent crimes committed against people who posted or responded to advertisements on Craigslist.

In January, police charged a man who allegedly killed a Georgia couple looking to buy a vintage car, news reports said. In March, a Colorado woman allegedly stabbed and removed the fetus of a woman who was seven months pregnant and had gone to the suspect’s home in response to an ad.

While the national incidents referenced in the legislation are particularly vicious, there are some cases of misconduct closer to home.

Nearly two months ago, Suffolk County police arrested and charged a 24-year-old Medford man with fourth-degree grand larceny after he allegedly stole a quad from a Centereach resident who had posted the vehicle for sale on Craigslist. Police said the suspect responded to the ad and drove off with quad.

Suffolk County wouldn’t be the first to create such spots. The safe havens — sometimes at police departments or in monitored precinct parking lots — have been set up in Columbia, Mo., Hartford, Conn., and in numerous Georgia towns, to name a few.

“If they can do it, why can’t a major police department do something like that,” Muratore said.

The legislator said precinct parking lots, which could be monitored by closed-circuit cameras, would be good locations for the spots, as there are seven precincts spread across the county, plus the department’s headquarters in Yaphank. The study will also examine any equipment and personnel costs associated with establishing the locations, he said.

According to Craigslist’s website, the majority of users are “trustworthy” and “well-intentioned” and the incidence of violent crimes is “extremely low.”

Craigslist offers some guidelines when meeting someone for the first time. The site said meetings should take place in a public place as opposed to a private home; users should take precautions when selling expensive items; tell someone where they are going; and consider having someone accompany them. In addition, it encourages people to make high-value exchanges at a local police station.

SCPD Deputy Chief Kevin Fallon said Tuesday that the department could not comment at this point, but would communicate findings once a report is complete.

Photo from Hallockville Museum Farm

By Ellen Barcel

Say New York and most people think of skyscrapers or suburbia, but, yes, Suffolk County leads the state in the value of its agricultural sales. Its history as an agricultural county goes back to the earliest colonists.

Actually, it even goes back beyond that to the Native Americans who grew corn, beans and squash before the European colonists arrived. And what goes with farms? — animals that provide farmers with meat and fiber for their clothing.

This coming weekend, Hallockville Museum Farm in Riverhead will be holding its sixth annual Fleece and Fiber Fair. The event, held on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., will have a variety of ongoing demonstrations and activities. Besides livestock and animal displays, there will be sheep herding and sheep and llama shearing.

Setauket resident Judianne Davis-Van Nostrand will be demonstrating herding of sheep with her dogs at the fair. “I fell into it,” she said. “I was a zookeeper [whose] love for animals was prominent. I got my first border collie about 10 years ago,” she added. But, she wondered, what would a border collie be without sheep to herd. A farmer gave her dog Lucy an instinct test for herding. She failed the first two, but the third was a charm.

Davis-Van Nostrand kept her first three sheep at Cornell Cooperative Extension. Half of her flock, which has grown considerably (she has 28 now), is at Hallockville. Last year, she and her business partner, Matt Pendleton, started Long Island Sound Sheep. “The sheep we have [Kathadin] are not wool sheep. These sheep are strictly bred for meat — they’re not gamey.” Kathadin sheep were developed in the U.S. for their superior meat quality. Davis-Van Nostrand noted that these sheep have hair, not wool, and therefore don’t require shearing.

But, being a shepherdess is not her main occupation. “I work at Stony Brook University in the Department of Neurosurgery doing Alzheimer’s research — molecular biology.” She added that her husband, William Van Nostrand, is a tenured professor at SBU where they are doing “basic science looking at the mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease.”  Davis-Van Nostrand is a senior research support specialist in the department. She said that being a shepherdess “is a part-time endeavor, also my passion. It fills my need to be outside.”  This very busy lady added “I [also] have a nine-year-old daughter.”

Her work in science becomes evident in looking at her second border collie’s name, TeeCA, standing for terms in the DNA molecule, thymine, cytosine and adenine. She just came back from England where she was helping a friend lambing his sheep. She brought with her the newest addition to her canine crew, a 15-week-old puppy named Fergie. All three of her dogs will be at the demonstration this weekend along with Pendleton and his herding dog Tilly.

Visitors at the fair will also see spinning, knitting, weaving, rug hooking and needle-felting demonstrations. New this year is a needle-felting workshop on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.. Advance registration is required for the workshop. The $22 workshop fee includes admission to the fair.

Doing a shearing demonstration of both sheep and llamas will be Long Islander Tabbethia Haubold-Magee of Long Island Livestock Co., one of the sponsors of the fair. The fair is also sponsored by Vogue Knitting. Proceeds from the fair will help to support the not-for-profit Hallockville Museum Farm.

The fair will also include historic tours of the farm as well as demonstrations of basket making and quilts.

Twenty vendors will be at the fair selling hand-crafted yarns, fiber arts supplies and finished products including soap made from the lanolin of sheep’s wool. Local food vendors will make lunch available, and the Hallockville Bake Shop will be selling homemade baked goods.

Hallockville Museum Farm is located at 6038 Sound Ave., Riverhead. Admission is $6 adults, $4 ages 5 to 12, free under 5. For further information, call 631-298-5292 or visit www.hallockville.com.

Republican Party establishes new Hispanic alliance

Latinos congregate at Xavier Palacios’ law office in Huntington Station last year to watch President Barack Obama announcing executive orders on immigration. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Republicans are vying for the votes of Suffolk’s Latinos.

The county GOP committee announced in a press release last week that for the first time in its history, it would create a Hispanic alliance tasked with registering Latino voters and recruiting potential candidates to run for office.

“For far too long, the political left has taken the Hispanic community for granted and recent polls indicate a growing frustration with the [Democratic] Party’s lack of family values and understanding of small business,” GOP chairman John Jay LaValle said in the statement.

Republicans are seeking to tap into a growing Latino electorate in Suffolk County, the statement said.

According to Nick LaLota, the Republican commissioner of the Suffolk County Board of Elections, Latinos comprise about 7.8 percent of Suffolk County’s 907,000 total registered voters this year. That’s up from 5.82 percent in 2006, he said.

When drawing up the figures, BOE officials analyzed the last names of voters to determine which individuals have “Hispanic-oriented” names, LaLota said. And while it’s not an “exact science,” it gives officials an idea of the growth of the population.

Two Hispanic Republicans — Brookhaven’s Jose Nunez and Victoria Serpa of Islip — will co-chair the Suffolk County Republican Hispanic Alliance, LaValle said. When reached this week, Nunez said there was a great opportunity for the Republicans to attract Hispanic voters, who traditionally lean Democratic.

“We believe that they have the same core values — family, business,” he said. “They’re very conservative. There’s a lot of religion.”

But as far as Suffolk County Democratic Chairman Rich Schaffer is concerned, the Republicans are late to the party. He noted the Democrats have backed several Hispanic individuals who were elected.

“It’s about time,” Schaffer said. “We welcome them to finally recognizing that the Hispanic population is an important part of our county.”

Nunez said the GOP’s new alliance would also serve an educational purpose — engaging Latino voters in a political dialogue and perhaps dispelling fears of the political process that some may have learned in their native countries.

It’s “smart” for Republicans to be reaching out to Hispanic voters, according to Xavier Palacios, a Huntington resident, school board member and co-founder of the Friends of Huntington Station Latin Quarter — a group established to revitalize Huntington Station through business development, mentorship, vocational training and other programs. The No. 1 issue on the minds of Hispanics, Palacios said, is immigration reform, and Republicans need to address the issue head-on if they’re going to attract Latino voters.

“I think it can no longer be the hot potato,” he said. “A solution to real immigration reform needs to be had.”

Not everyone thinks that Latinos care most about the immigration issue. Nunez said there are many Latinos out there who feel people should arrive and settle in the country through legal channels. He also said immigration was a federal issue, not a local one.

Other issues on the local level are of importance to Latinos too. Palacios said Republicans and Democrats would be smart to focus on economic issues, as many Latinos are staggered in professions or can’t afford college. Immigrants come here to fulfill the American Dream, something that appears to be becoming more challenging.

“Folks nowadays, in my view, are losing that dream,” he said.

Photo from CAC

By Karen Jillian

On Sunday, May 17, at 4 p.m., the Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington, will host the 9th Annual First Exposure Student Film Festival, a program curated by professional filmmakers from the Suffolk County Film Commission. The event, which will feature the “best of the best” high school short narrative, documentary and animated films, will include a screening of the films and a reception for the filmmakers and members of the audience.

Each year, for the past nine years, Long Island high schools are requested to submit films by their students that were done throughout the year as school projects. This year approximately 28 high schools submitted hundreds of films. The films, according to Skolnick, are “whittled down to a manageable number by a jury of people from the Long Island film industry.”  This is done at the Long Island Media Arts Showcase at Five Towns College in Dix Hills. The jury picks from the hundreds that compete, but only a handful make the cut into the First Exposure event.

The winners’ films are shown at the showcase, and they are awarded a certificate and a Cinema Arts membership. Those at the Cinema Arts Centre hope the winners use the membership to “view many of their films to expand their cinematic talents and become better filmmakers,” says Skolnick.

“Long Island is a hotbed of filmmaking. It is just a matter of time before a student establishes a name for him or herself as a major filmmaker!” — Dylan Skolnick, co-director of the Huntington Cinema Arts Centre

There are many types of shorts created such as dramas, comedies, horror films and Public Service Announcements dealing with prevalent subjects such as drunk driving and bullying.

Skolnick says it is not only winning that is important but the process itself. Many of these young filmmakers go on to schools such as the University of Southern California, SUNY Purchase and New York University. Some will also go on to wonderful careers in filmmaking.

Those that do not win entrance into the festival have still done “important work in education and character building by making their films and attempting to be one of the few to enter into the film festival. The skills they acquired participating in these projects and this contest will be helpful in future endeavors,” he added.

While some schools can provide better equipment with which the students can work, students from less well-equipped schools make a good showing as well. Proudly, Skolnick proclaims, there is diversity among the schools participating. “Money can buy a lot of equipment but it cannot buy imagination. The kids make up for their schools not having deep pockets,” Skolnick said.

Come to the Huntington Cinema Art Centre on Sunday, and perhaps you will see a film made by a student who was inspired by the Long Island environment and will follow in the footsteps of some other talented Long Island filmmakers. According to Susan Finkelstein, director of publicity and promotions at the Cinema Arts Centre, “past winners have gone on to … be featured at the Hamptons Film Festival.”

Admission is free and refreshments will be served.The audience can chat with the young filmmaking students after the screening. For more information, call 631-423-7611 or visit www.cinemaartscentre.org.

Some of Toni Frissell’s work includes photographs taken of the Kennedy family. Photo from Leighton H. Coleman III

By Jenni Culkin

The artistic photography of the late North Shore resident Toni Frissell will be on display at the Village Hall in her hometown village of Head of the Harbor from May 29 to June 11. The Village Hall will be featuring some of Frissell’s rarest works from private collections.

Frissell was a prominent photographer on the North Shore of Long Island throughout the 20th century. Her work in photography included fashion pieces, wedding snapshots and various photojournalistic photos.

“She had a very good eye and a sense of style,” said Leighton H. Coleman III, the village historian for the village of Head of the Harbor. “They were very personal and engaging photos.”

Frissell also used her photographic talents to illustrate children’s books throughout the 1940s. According to Coleman, these books have become extremely valuable and highly sought after by collectors.

Frissell’s work was featured in vintage magazines such as Vogue and Life.

“She had her own career and she was a trailblazer in her career,” Coleman said in an interview last week.

Visitors can also expect to learn more about Frissell during their time at the event. A micro-exhibit of the history of the Frissell family, photographs of Frissell by other famous photographers and  a copy of “Toni Frissell: Photographs 1933-1967” authored by her daughter will be available to view throughout the exhibit.

Some of Frissell’s family members and former sitters will be attending the exhibit. Her granddaughter, who followed in Frissell’s footsteps, will be one of the people in attendance.

The Village Hall will begin hosting the historic exhibit on May 29 with an opening reception at 5 p.m. The exhibit will be open to the public every afternoon through June 11.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone shakes hands with a veteran after signing two bills into law, as other officials look on. Photo by Rohma Abbas

A roomful of veterans and lawmakers gathered in Northport on Monday morning to salute the signing of two new Suffolk County bills aimed at protecting veterans and the public against acts of stolen valor.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) signed the legislation, which was spearheaded by Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport), into law. One of the bills makes it illegal for individuals to fraudulently represent themselves as decorated veterans to members of the public in order to solicit donations or obtain money, property or other benefits. The law makes it a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or one year in prison.

The second law imposes stiffer requirements on veteran nonprofit groups that solicit donations in Suffolk County. Such groups will be required to disseminate financial information to the public about how their fundraising dollars are being spent.

The laws were born out of a joint effort of many veterans, Spencer said, namely John Cooney, the commander of the Northport American Legion Post 694 and Tom Kehoe, former Northport Village Board. Both men held Spencer’s “feet to the fire” to get the legislation drafted, particularly after what Cooney described as instances in Huntington Town in which individuals fraudulently represented themselves as veterans for personal gain.

“The needs of our veterans and the desire to give on part of our residents can create vulnerability, as organizations and individuals have sought to take advantage, to profit from these circumstances,” Spencer told an audience of veterans at the Northport American Legion. “The two bills that we sign here today will work in conjunction to ensure our charitable dollars go where they should go — to support our veterans.”

A number of local leaders attended the conference, including Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills), Supervisor Frank Petrone (D), Councilman Gene Cook (I), Northport Village Mayor George Doll and Northport Village Police Chief Ric Bruckenthal. The village police chief lost his son, Nathan Bruckenthal, a U.S. Coast Guardsman, who was killed in a terrorist-suicide bombing in Iraq 11 years ago this week.

“Why are we here today?” Bellone, who is also a veteran, said. “Because the notion that someone would step forward and put themselves out as a veteran of this country in order to raise money to benefit themselves is an absolute disgrace and it is something that we cannot under any circumstances tolerate. And it’s a disgrace when you have young men like [Nathan] Bruckenthal, who has family who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country and you have men like that all across our country.”

Nonprofit groups seeking to solicit donations on behalf of veterans must register with the county’s Veterans Services Agency before doing so, and that process would be enhanced under this new legislation. Those groups would now have to submit information on how the funds they’ve raised benefited veterans, and they would need to provide a slew of new documents, including federal and state tax returns and the names of the group’s board of directors. The Office of the Suffolk County Comptroller would work with the Veterans Services Agency to review the information, and the agency would ultimately decide whether to approve or deny an application.

Individuals would be barred from fraudulently representing records of military service, and anyone who makes mention of their military service must provide, upon demand, proof in the form of credentials or identification of their veteran status. The Veterans Services Agency can deny or revoke a group’s registration certificate if it’s deemed that someone from the group violated the federal Stolen Valor Act.

“This is a great example of veterans coming together and working with our committed legislators to provide and protect,” Cooney said. “To protect the valor and the integrity of those who have served. And to ensure that funds go to those veterans that legitimately need assistance.”

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