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Town Hall

Classic car owners cruised into the parking lot at Brookhaven Town Hall last weekend to not only show off their collection of vintage hot rods, trucks and wacky automobiles, but their hearts, too.

At the town’s annual Charity Car and Motorcycle Show Nov. 12 — a partnership between the Brookhaven Youth Bureau and different classic car, truck and motorcycle clubs throughout Long Island — more than 300 vehicles of all shapes, makes and models were on display for residents in an effort to gather nonperishable food and unwrapped toy donations for families in need.

This year’s event raised 1,500 pounds of food, including canned soups, tuna and boxes of rice, which were transported by the town’s charity-based INTERFACE program to its Thanksgiving Food Drive, and will go directly to residents that need it most. By the end of the day, residents filled 25 big garbage bags with toys for children to open next month.

“This really helps allow people to have a very merry Christmas and a happy holiday,” said Sound Beach resident Dan Ryan, a member of the Long Island Chapter of the American Truck Historical Society, one of the event’s main groups that has helped collect donations since it first began about 12 years ago. “It’s just one day out of the year but it makes a big difference in people’s lives, especially kids. The crowds here are really caring people. They come out and give what they can.”

Maxine Kleedorfer, the event’s chairperson and a member of East End Olds Club, said of the day: “This is still so amazing to me. It’s Long Islanders giving to Long Islanders.”

Other organizations represented at the all-day free event were Long Island Moose Classic Car Club, the Long Island and New York City Oldsmobile Club and Long Island Street Rod Association, as well as independent car owners, who showcased everything from old Chevy Coupes to Lincoln Continentals to a 1981 Checker Taxi Cab.

Residents perusing the variety of wheels in the parking lot were treated to live music from local bands, free hot dogs and beverages, 50/50 raffle prizes and even a special visit from Santa Claus, who rolled up in an antique LaFrance Brockway Torpedo fire truck to meet with the kids and ask what they wanted for Christmas.

Adam Navarro, a vintage car collector from Centereach, said while he was happy to see so much generosity in the air that day, it didn’t surprise him all that much.

“One of the biggest things about car culture is that those involved are always giving back to the community,” Navarro said. “So you come out here, look at some great cars, sip hot chocolate, meet some friends and at the same time help out the community. You can’t get better than that.”

Joe Morgani from Mastic, who brought along his classic Corvette and several cans of soups and vegetables, called the event a win-win.

“The cars are amazing, we have the band and everything, and it all brings people together to help other people,” he said. “We need more charities like this. I love it.”

Sitting in front of a blue 1958 Chevy Bel Air was the car’s original owner, Lake Ronkonkoma’s Karl Krumsick. His wife Carol said he bought it when he got home from serving in the Korean War. The two went on their first date in the car and drove off in it after they got married.

“We come to this show every year because we love to donate to the needy,” Carol Krumsick said. “We brought a bunch of toys and canned goods. It’s wonderful here.”

Smithtown United Civic Association published the above master plan aimed at revitalizing Main Street and the downtown area on its Facebook page Oct. 6. Photo from Smithtown United Civic Association

A small group of Smithtown citizens have come together to draft and present a plan they hope may lead to big changes for Main Street.

The Smithtown United Civic Association unveiled a detailed conceptual plan for downtown revitalization Oct. 6 on its Facebook page. The group is asking residents to review the proposal and provide feedback via social media before they present it to town officials.

Timothy Small, president of Smithtown United, said the organization’s goal is to give local residents a voice in the future of their town. It was formed when Smithtown residents came together earlier this year after two events: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) allocated $20 million for sewers in Smithtown and the proposed sale of Smithtown school district administration headquarters on New York Avenue to the town for a sewer treatment plant to support a condominium development. Small said the two events set in motion real opportunity for revitalization of the town.

“If you look at the downtown areas of Smithtown, Kings Park and St. James, they are tired looking,” he said. “There’s a lot of vacant shops and properties. We live in a wonderful town. The schools are wonderful, we love our homes, but it’s our downtown business districts that are deeply suffering.”

Small, a retired engineer who held an executive position at a utility company, said for approximately six months the group assessed the community needs and drew inspiration from surrounding towns including Huntington, Patchogue, Sayville, Bay Shore, Farmingdale and Babylon for changes they’d like to see in Smithtown.

Smithtown United’s plan for the western downtown area focuses on several key points including consolidation of the town offices into the New York Avenue school building and retaining the sports field behind it for public use.

“It’s the last green space that remains in all of downtown,” Small said. “I would consider that an anchor for the western edge of redevelopment. It would be tragic to see that property lost to dense development.”

The civic supports the town’s acquisition of the property in exchange for selling off its other buildings scattered across the business district, but discussions of the deal have been tabled by the Smithtown school officials. The plan also proposes several existing downtown storefronts be made into two-story, mixed-use buildings with retail on the first floor and apartments above. These housing options, according to Small, would be attractive to young adults and senior citizens. Behind the existing New York Avenue school district property, the plan calls for construction of a new sports and community center.

“We need a place for our kids to go in the evening,” Small said. “There needs to be a community space for our residents and young adults.”

The conceptual design also calls for several changes to Smithtown’s existing roadways, including a rotary at the intersection of Main Street and New York Avenue and rerouting Edgewater Avenue to run parallel to Main Street. This would cause Edgewater Avenue to empty onto Maple Avenue, and there would be a new set of village townhouses built on the southwest corner of the new intersection.

To further increase available housing, the proposed plan suggests the construction of three-story, transit-oriented housing near the Long Island Rail Road train station and municipal parking lots.

Initial feedback on the plan from residents on the civic’s Facebook page has been a mix of positive and negative, along with offers to help refine it. Supporters have praised the organization for taking action, while critics expressed traffic concerns.

“Main Street is already undersized for what it is used for,” said John McCormick, 29, of Smithtown. “[The] parking does not look to be sufficient for customers of the first-floor shops and people renting out upstairs apartments.”

McCormick, a young homeowner, feared adding townhouses and apartments would change the character of the local community and the plan’s possible impact on the school district.

Smithtown resident Michael Tarquinio, 20, said the plan was a step in the right direction but needed to be more innovative.

“They need to stop thinking with a Robert Moses mind-set,” Tarquinio said, who is studying environmental science at the University of Maine. “I’m all for it, but you can’t wipe out your heritage and start fresh. You need to know where you came from to know where you are going.”

He said he believes successful downtown revitalization will require the civic to work with town, county and state officials to improve roadways and mass transportation options to reduce traffic.

Small said he agreed the proposed overhaul of both the business and residential space in downtown Smithtown required cooperation at several levels of government. It would only be possible if sewers can be brought to the downtown area.

“Anyone who is going to invest money into redevelopment won’t unless there is adequate sanitary sewer conditions,” Small said. “It’s essential.”

The civic group has tentative plans to present its proposal to Smithtown officials at the Oct. 26 town board meeting at 7 p.m. at town hall.

Deer hunting via long bow has been a controversial topic in Huntington Town since first permitted in September 2015. Stock photo

Huntington Town Hall was as tense as a drawn bowstring as residents agreed to disagree on bow hunting as a means to address deer overpopulation.

The Town Board held its public hearing Sept. 19 on proposed changes to rules regulating the use of longbows for hunting.

The proposed changes, sponsored by Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D), take aim at further restricting the use of a long bow under the town’s firearm regulations, not directly regulating deer hunting, which falls under the oversight of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

One major change would expand the definition of what is considered a dwelling to include farm buildings, school buildings, school playgrounds, public structures,  occupied factories or churches, as hunters would be prohibited from firing an arrow within 150-feet of these structures.

Diana Cherryholmes, an Eaton’s Neck resident of 15 years, said she has concerns about the potential of hunters accidentally shooting a resident, their children or pets.

“I’m very uncomfortable during deer hunting season taking a walk…”

— Diana Cherryholmes

“Currently, I’m very uncomfortable during deer hunting season taking a walk, riding my bike and I’m scared for the kids playing outside,” Cherryholmes said.

Her concerns were echoed by  Eaton’s Neck residents Charlotte Koons and Christine Ballow. Town officials first voted to permit bow hunting in September 2015 to see if it would help address issues of deer overpopulation in the shoreline communities. The proposed changes are in response to safety concerns raised by community residents about unknown persons traveling through properties and arrows being fired in close proximity to houses and people.

“I think this is a trial that didn’t work,” Ballow said. “I think the 150-foot setback is hard to comply with given the density that we have. [The] density is not right for this type of hunting in this type of situation.”

Doug Whitcomb, speaking on behalf of Eaton Harbors Corporation civic group, said hunters realize there are additional efforts that must be made in a small community  where they must interact with neighbors who don’t agree with the sport.

“We are challenged by it as well,” Whitcomb said. “We similarly feel compromised when we have people around us when we’ve been in the woods since 5 a.m. trying to do a service to the community.”

Mike Lewis, a volunteer for NYSDEC who has taught hunter education classes since 2006, told town officials the five-year average for hunting-related accidental shooting incidents in New York is 20 to 25 people a year — a total for hunters using firearms, shotguns, pistols and bows.

“The majority of these incidents are two-party accidents where two or more people are hunting in close proximity and someone makes a mistake,” Lewis said.

He said there has only been one reported accident which involved an accidental shooting while long bow hunting, involving an elderly father and son pair. During that incident the father mistook his son for a deer and shot him in the leg, resulting in a minor injury.

“To understand our frustration and fears, understand we are taking part in an activity that’s as old as mankind itself.”

— John Marcinka

“If you put in your time and practice, you can tell a deer with antlers from a female with no antlers, or someone’s cat, dog or child,” Lewis said. “The last thing anyone wants to see is any innocent person get hurt.”

Several avid deer hunters spoke out to ask town officials to continue to permit bow hunting, despite the regulatory changes, believing they provide a valuable community service.

“Your arrow is like a surgical utensil as it pierces right through, and is the most humane way of taking out a deer,” said Joseph Wine, a hunter from Eaton’s Neck. “I think hunting is one of the best ways to control the deer. It’s free and it’s cheap.”

Huntington hunter John Marcinka requested additional clarification from the board on the proposed change that would require hunters to provide written notification to the town’s Department of Public Safety and local police departments prior to beginning a hunt.

“To understand our frustration and fears, understand we are taking part in an activity that’s as old as mankind itself,” Marcinka said. “When we’ve gone hunting on other people’s property in the past, we get permission from the farmer or landowner and it’s done with a handshake and nothing in writing.”

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) directed Marcinka and other hunters to speak with the town attorney to work out specifics on how the written notice must be sent to property owners, how far in advance, and how frequently.

Town board members did not vote on the proposed changes Sept. 19. Their next town board meeting is not until Oct. 17, after the Oct. 1 start of the 2017 hunting season.

“I support amending the law as moving forward to a more permanent solution for relationships between people who don’t want deer hunting, like myself, and the hunters,” Cherryholmes said. “There must be a solution to help control the deer population and for the residents to have peace of mind.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilman Dan Panico, on left, with the new food scrap composters. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

As far as the Town of Brookhaven is concerned, going green is not just a casual practice — it’s a moral obligation to ensure Long Island’s future.

In the last few months, Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and members of the town board have launched a series of environmentally friendly initiatives and continued ongoing efforts that encourage local residents to
reduce their carbon footprints and preserve the serenity of their surroundings.

“Whenever there are ways to benefit the environment, I’m 100 percent involved [and] I’m blessed by an extremely supportive town board,” Romaine said, highlighting an especially strong partnership with Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point). “I don’t want to say Jane is my environmental soulmate, but she and I are on the exact same page. She is one of my cheerleaders in every manner, shape or form.”

Other environmental actions taken by Brookhaven:

– A 127-acre solar farm called Shoreham Solar Commons will be constructed on the recently closed Tallgrass Golf Course.

– The extension of the Pine Barrens to include 800 acres of national property around the former Shoreham nuclear plant will go forward upon Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) signed authorization.

A multiyear project to convert all 40,000 of Brookhaven’s streetlights to LED bulbs has begun with 5,000 already converted.

– Through a partnership with U.S Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the town has secured funding to fix stormwater infrastructures along the North Shore, from Miller Place to Shoreham.

– A center at Ceder Beach in Mount Sinai  has been established to grow millions of oysters and sea clams that filter and clean the water.

In May, Bonner held her fifth bi-annual Go Green event at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai. It’s the town’s biggest recycling event where residents can dispose of unwanted medication and prescriptions and recycle old TVs and computers, as well as paper. The e-waste drive gathered 15,000 pounds of electronic waste and shredded 13,580 pounds of paper products and 26 boxes of unwanted pharmaceutical drugs, according to the town.

The councilwoman also hosted a Homeowner’s Guide to Energy Efficiency forum at the center later in the month, educating residents on how to get a free energy audit, affordable home energy improvements and save $1,000 a year on home energy bills. Through this effort, less fossil fuels are used to heat and light homes.

“We take it very seriously,” Bonner said of the town’s green initiatives. “We have a moral obligation to be good stewards of the Earth and this transcends party lines. Regardless of party affiliation, we all know we can do a better job of taking care of the planet.”

Aside from providing free compost and mulch to residents at Brookhaven Town Hall, officials also recently utilized a $5,000 grant to rip up the back lawn of the property to plant and restore native Long Island grasses, from which seeds can be collected and used.

In June, the town officially authorized the nonprofit Art & Nature Group Inc. to transform Brookhaven’s historic Washington Lodge property into a community nature center that offers environmental education programs.

Romaine and Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville) organized Brookhaven’s Food Scrap Composting pilot program at town hall last month, with hopes to expand it as a townwide initiative.

Through the program, town employees can deposit food waste, such as banana peels and coffee grinds, into organic material collection containers placed throughout the buildings, which are then collected and composted to be used for garden beds around town buildings.

“We must provide alternative waste management solutions like these if we are going to provide a cleaner, greener earth for future generations,” Panico said in a statement.

Lee Zeldin, center, announces his support of two House bills to help addicts and prevent others from using drugs. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

This past weekend 1st Congressional District U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) hosted town hall events in Riverhead, Farmingville and Smithtown. Ordinarily, an elected official meeting face to face with constituents shouldn’t be breaking news. When it comes to Zeldin, however, holding these town halls is noteworthy because of how hard some voters pleaded with him in the past few months to participate in an open forum as he did April 23.

Before these, he held a phone town hall, which left several constituents upset with the restricting nature of the conversation. Only a handful of questions could be asked, and were submitted prior to the phone call, with thousands listening in. And, of course, there was no face time.

We commend Zeldin for listening to the concerns of the people who elected him as their representative all day Sunday, knowing he would face many angry residents.

Firsthand accounts of the three meetings returned a mixed bag of reviews. Many were happy to have had the chance to hear Zeldin speak about issues important to them, though others were still unsatisfied because questions for some of the meetings were screened ahead of time and selected by moderators.

Holding three town halls was a great step by a congressman who is obviously liked in his district. Nearly 60 percent of the district selected Zeldin on Election Day. He proved he is capable of standing in front of a partially hostile crowd and contributing to a productive dialogue, while the 40 percent of voters who didn’t select him and have been behaving like “liberal obstructionists,” as Zeldin has dubbed them, proved they’re capable of participating in a civilized conversation completely devoid of danger to the congressman.

This was a first step by both sides, but more work is clearly left to be done before midterm elections in November 2018. Let’s keep the ball rolling and keep the dialogue open.

Lee Zeldin meets with constituents in East Patchogue. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding and Alex Petroski

Hundreds of concerned constituents on both sides of the aisle gathered inside the Hagerman Fire Department in East Patchogue March 3, set up at scattered round tables, waiting to hear their names called to meet with U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

In another room, the congressman was holding mobile office hours and meeting with five to six people at a time, grouped according to the topics they wanted to discuss, to hear the issues of the people he represents, which ranged from health care and what’s to come of the Affordable Care Act, abortion and the congressman’s stance to defund Planned Parenthood, immigration, the environment, and tax reform.

Constituent questions are sorted for Lee Zeldin’s mobile office hours. Photo by Kevin Redding

Despite demands from various local groups to host an in-person town hall in recent weeks, Zeldin has committed to these individualized and small-group meetings to avoid what he’s called the “liberal obstruction” of town halls that have taken place around the United States.

Tehmina Tirmizi, a student at Stony Brook University, said she hoped to talk to Zeldin about the rhetoric of President Donald Trump (R) and his administration, which, she feels, supports bigotry and fear of minorities.

“[They] incite hatred, anger, stress, depression and a lot of people have been hurt and are hurting inside and they should be keeping the peace,” she said. “They can’t just say something, have people react to it and then go and hide somewhere. I’d love to see Zeldin make a statement and come out against [the rhetoric] and he has yet to do that.”

Wading River resident Jim Lupis was there on behalf of a pro-life group to encourage Zeldin to defund Planned Parenthood.

“Taxpayer’s money shouldn’t be used to perform abortions, and murdering innocent children should be totally illegal,” Lupis said. “Zeldin has a strong voting record against Planned Parenthood and I want to speak to him about staying the course and defunding such an evil thing.”

Eastport resident Penny Mintz said, on top of being concerned about Citizens United and “the takeover of the wholesale purchase of government by big corporations,” she wanted to talk about the elimination of consumer protections, environment and healthcare.

“I have no hope of actually speaking to him … I’m only here so that he knows there are all these people who care enough and are watching him, and he can’t abandon us for corporate interests.”

—Penny Mintz

“I have no hope of actually speaking to him … I’m only here so that he knows there are all these people who care enough and are watching him, and he can’t abandon us for corporate interests,” Mintz said. “I wish he would back down from Trump and the policies the president is imposing.”

Just a few tables away, Hampton Bays resident Mark Raschke said he wanted to meet Zeldin, give him support, tell him he voted for him, and let him know he liked the way he supported Trump. Port Jefferson Station resident and military veteran Ed Bednarek wants to know where his congressman feels the country is going to go under the Trump administration, and when “the liberals are going to stop fighting and start getting on board and work with us as a team,” also calling for veterans to take priority over immigrants.

Ira Silverberg, of Bellport, said he wanted to challenge the congressman on a voting record that is “not protecting the environment of Long Island as well as he says it is.”

When asked how he felt about the mobile office hours in comparison to an in-person town hall meeting, Silverberg said “this format has disenfranchised 85 percent of the people who have shown up and is too controlling and inadequate to deal with the needs of the diverse, concerned community.”

For Cindy Morris, from Stony Brook, who wished to speak with Zeldin about the civil liberties she felt had been under attack as of late, she said the mobile office hours format “does not work.”

“We are all just talking amongst ourselves … [Zeldin’s] staff isn’t even circulating and coming out to talk to us,” Morris said. “I look at this room and I see diversity, so this is an opportunity for him to really meet with his constituency and not just meet with the people who pay for him to win elections. We aren’t protesters, we’re passionate citizens.”

Anna Hayward, a Stony Brook University professor, echoed Morris’s feelings.

“In a town hall format, he could hear our issues but we can also hear other people’s issues…we’re a very respectful, educated, and well-mannered community and I don’t think he needs to worry about people screaming at him and attacking him,” she said.

Zeldin supporters line the street waiting for a chance to speak to the congressman. Photo by Kevin Redding

Conversely, Nancy Beltran of Holtsville stands by Zeldin’s decision to not hold such a public forum.

“There’s no risk of chanting and screaming and bullying in a group setting so it avoids all of that, he’s doing the right thing by trying to hear the people without all that noise,” Beltran said.

Outside the fire department, dozens of people — supporters of Zeldin on one side holding up signs that read “Thank You Lee Zeldin for doing what we elected you to do” and opponents of Zeldin on the other with signs that read “Lee Let’s Talk” — stood to voice their concerns.

“I’m very passionate about supporting Lee Zeldin…he’s a stand up guy, he listens to people, educates himself and is not just a go-with-the-political-winds [leader],” Patchogue resident Heather Martwello said.

Mary Casey, who stood in opposition of Zeldin, questioned his moral courage in not wanting to hold a town hall meeting.

“His reported reason is that it just descends into screaming and yelling and it’s useless but I think it’s because he wants to maintain that aura of being right and if you have people screaming at you, you can’t be in control,” she said.

Zeldin’s aversion to holding a traditional in-person town hall has left many in his district angered, despite mobile office hours and an hour-long telephone town hall in February.

A group called Project Free Knowledge hosted an event called The People’s Town Hall March 4 in at the Performing Arts Studio in Port Jefferson, which featured a Zeldin impersonator, repeated potshots at the congressman and a foil called The People’s Candidate. The show was meant to serve as political satire, though one of the organizers behind the production said the group intended to deliver a serious message through the performance.

“… [Lee Zeldin] needs to prescreen people’s questions, he’s incredibly controlling about the conditions in which it happens, and it’s clear he doesn’t want a general town hall with community moderators because he’s not actually prepared to stand accountable for the things that he’s doing.”

—Anna Sitzmann

Anna Sitzmann, a member of the Project Free Knowledge team and a participant in the performance, said the group’s mission was to be both informative to those in attendance while also being critical of Zeldin.

Sitzmann said this was the first time the group has branched out into “political theater,” a phrase she said she’s often heard Zeldin use to describe activist demonstrations. She added the group met with Zeldin about three weeks ago and asked him to host a community-moderated, live town hall, which he declined. Sitzmann said that’s when the group decided to put on their own town hall.

“Zeldin has certainly met with constituents personally, but as we made reference to, he won’t do it for more than half an hour, he needs to prescreen people’s questions, he’s incredibly controlling about the conditions in which it happens, and it’s clear he doesn’t want a general town hall with community moderators because he’s not actually prepared to stand accountable for the things that he’s doing,” Sitzmann said in an interview after the performance. She added Zeldin was invited to attend the event but she received an “unbelievably disrespectful response.”

A spokeswoman for the congressman, Jennifer DiSiena, responded to Sitzmann’s claim in an email, saying she’s not sure what Sitzmann was referring to and called the performance “unbelievably disrespectful.” DiSiena took issue with much of the content of the show.

“Congressman Zeldin will meet with any constituent interested in a productive, substantive exchange of ideas,” she said. “He has even met with the protesters involved in setting up that Mock Town Hall. He is not interested in the type of political theater that this group of liberal obstructionists is interested in promoting. The country faces real challenges and Zeldin will remain focused on working across the aisle to constructively find solutions. Requesting a town hall for the purpose of disrupting the town hall without any sense of decorum or decency is wrong and will not be taken seriously.”

Sitzmann said she’s not concerned about the possibility of the performance adding to an already heated political discourse, which seems to be swallowing whole the district and country alike.

“If I’m stoking the flames of Zeldin’s fire, fine,” she said. “I admit that a lot of people that voted for Lee Zeldin or voted for Donald Trump were upset about things that they ought to have been upset about, but I think the Republican party and especially President Trump have harnessed that anger and misdirected it towards things that don’t deserve the blame, such as minorities and global cooperation, while as a way of hiding the real cause of the problem, which is the kind of economic advantage seeking that both of them partake in.”

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi speaks during a town hall Feb. 23. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding & Alex Petroski

President Donald Trump’s (R) first month in office and items on his agenda thus far have sparked an activist uprising in blue and red districts alike across the United States. Thursday, two North Shore congressmen made themselves available to concerned constituents, though the formats were different.

First congressional district U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and 3rd congressional district U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) each hosted town hall events Feb. 23 to discuss issues with the people they represent, a trend that has caught on for leaders in nearly all 50 states in the weeks since Inauguration Day. Suozzi hosted nearly 400 residents at Mid Island Y Jewish Community Center in Plainview for about two and a half hours. Zeldin spoke directly to voters in their homes in a telephone town hall.

Suozzi listens to a question during a town hall Feb. 23. Photo by Kevin Redding

According to Zeldin, more than 9,000 people sat in on the hour-long call, which featured questions and interactive polls. More than 1,000 others streamed it online. The congressman began the call with an opening statement lasting nearly five minutes, which touched on improving American safety at home and abroad; growing the local economy; supporting veterans and first responders; improving education; repairing infrastructure; repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act; and safeguarding the environment. He then answered 10 questions from a combination of callers and those streaming the conversation on the internet, submitting written questions.

Groups of constituents have lobbied the congressman to host an in-person town hall in recent weeks, but have been unsuccessful. Changes have also been made to his office hour availability, which he attributed earlier in February to the actions of “liberal obstructionists.” Zeldin justified the decision to hold a telephone town hall rather than a conventional one during the call.

“For years telephone town halls have allowed me to reach the maximum amount of constituents interested in constructive dialogue,” he said. “This is a modern way to bring a town hall directly to your home.”

He evaluated the effectiveness of the format in an email through spokeswoman Jennifer DiSiena the following day.

“These outreach efforts with the public have proven to be extremely effective and allow him to productively reach the maximum amount of constituents who are interested in constructive dialogue,” she said. “It is true that liberal obstructionists cannot disrupt the call.”

A Facebook group called “Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin,” set up by constituents attempting to speak to the congressman face-to-face, which has more than 2,000 members, followed along with the call and held a discussion regarding Zeldin’s responses on the page. Several posters said they registered to be called on Zeldin’s website, but never received it, or received it after its commencement at 7 p.m.

A screen shot of the website used to stream Zeldin’s telephone town hall Feb. 23. Image from Zeldin’s website

A post asking if any questions were not addressed during the call received more than 100 responses. One constituent asked if the congressman would put pressure on the House Oversight Committee to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia. Another asked about the shrinking middle class and growing income inequality. Someone else asked, “What will Zeldin do to assure females have safe affordable birth control/reproductive rights?”

Zeldin was asked on the call, among several other questions, about his stance on the Trump administration’s reversal of transgender bathroom guidelines set by the Obama administration — he said he supported the reversal. Another question involved Trump’s slow response to anti-Semitic violence and demonstrations across the U.S. since election day — which Zeldin condemned, though added he appreciated Trump speaking up this week. Several questions came in concerning the ACA and what will take its place once repealed — the congressman said he supported the proposed Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, coverage for those with preexisting conditions, allowing kids to stay on parents’ plans until age 26, and would support a voucher program for veterans.

DiSiena addressed Zeldin’s plans going forward regarding a traditional town hall.

“Way too many of the people at the moment requesting town halls across the country are doing so with the purpose of disrupting the town hall without any interest at all in decorum,” she said.

Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Arizona), who was shot during an outdoor, public meeting with constituents in 2011, called on members of Congress to “face their constituents” and hold town halls in a tweet Feb. 23.

DiSiena said Zeldin is open to small meetings, though no in-person town hall is currently planned. DiSiena disclosed results of one of the five poll questions Zeldin posed to listeners during the call, showing most constituents, 23 percent, are concerned about health care above all other issues.

Conversely, Suozzi stood and engaged a large crowd of residents and activists, answering more than 30 questions on a variety of hot topics, including the repeal of the ACA, the relationship between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Trump’s travel restriction executive order. He also voiced his disapproval of what’s happening in the White House, and called on those in attendance to “not hate Trump supporters” and instead turn their anger into something productive.

Seven-year-old Zachary Aquino asks Suozzi a question during a town hall Feb. 23. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I think this is as American as you can get … this is so inspiring and this country needs this type of engagement,” Suozzi told the crowd, saying in all his years of holding town hall meetings — both as a congressional candidate and mayor of Glen Cove — he’s never seen an attendance like what he had.

“We need to take all this energy and excitement that we’ve got and use it in a constructive fashion … to work together to win the battles,” he said. “Write letters to the editor, attend issues meetings, run for office, support people for local office. What we really need are reasonable Americans that will put their country before their party to help us to get Congressional support on [issues]. Don’t underestimate what’s working.”

A civil discourse on ideas and plenty of smiles and laughs, Suozzi’s session had a different tone than the heated ones across the country, in which angry constituents waged vocal war against Republican representatives.

Suozzi began the gathering by telling attendees — some of whom represented local activist groups like North Shore Indivisible, MoveOn.org, and Science Advocacy of Long Island — to be respectful and direct all comments to him.

Attendees raised questions about Trump’s ties to Russia, the release of the commander-in-chief’s taxes, gun violence, immigration, climate change and the state of health care.

One attendee, Jessica Meyer, who has cerebral palsy, asked the congressman if he would help those like her who fear people with disabilities might lose benefits with the potential repeal of the ACA.

“People with disabilities are getting lost in this conversation,” she said.

Suozzi responded to her concerns.

“I want you to know that I will fight tooth and nail to protect you, personally, and everybody in your situation, and I want to hear from everybody in this room who’s going to fight to protect Jessica,” Suozzi said.

Harry Arlin, a World War II and Korean War veteran from Huntington, said he lived briefly under Adolf Hitler in Germany and Joseph Stalin in Russia, though fled both countries.

“I’m too old to run again,” he said.

Seven-year-old Zachary Aquino echoed Arlin’s sentiments.

“I don’t think this is right having Trump as president, I think it’s really bad,” he said. “I don’t know how this happened — how we got stuck in this mess — but it’s good that we’re here today … this is a really valuable time. Fighting against Trump is very good. We’ve got to do this.”

A screen shot of the Let’s Visit Lee Zeldin Facebook page. Image from Facebook

When asked what he was going to do to restore one attendee’s faith in “American exceptionalism,” Suozzi pointed around the room.

“This is it — this is people who believe and should not walk out of here with anything but a stronger belief that by being involved, you can actually have an impact on things,” he said.

The White House has made claims recently to suggest some activists attending town halls are being paid to be there and rile up crowds, a sentiment which Zeldin echoed in a Feb. 18 Facebook post.

“Liberal obstructionists are disrupting, resisting and destructing public events all around America,” he wrote. “Our neighbors want to actually engage in substantive, productive, constructive dialogue, and the liberal obstructionists are spitting on them with their shameful shows for their own political theater.”

Public hearing at Town Hall will be Farmingville Feb. 6 at 4 p.m.

Rendering of the shopping center. Image from Brookhaven Town

Setauket developer Parviz Farahzad applied to the Brookhaven Town Planning Board for site plan approval to construct a 24,873 square foot retail center, known as Stony Brook Square LLC. The proposed shopping center is located on Route 25A near the Stony Brook railroad station. The plan includes site improvements for parking, lighting, drainage and landscaping.

J. Timothy Shea Jr., a partner in the real estate group of Certilman, Balin, Adler & Hyman LLP, represented Farahzad and Stony Brook Square at a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing Dec. 14. The developer requested front yard setback variances for three of the proposed buildings as well as an addition to an existing building, from the required 25 feet to 11.5 feet; and a height variance for one of the buildings, from a permitted 35-foot height to a 60-foot height. The extra height will be used to raise a clock tower in the middle building at the rear of the center.

“We thought it was a nice feature,” Shea said during the proceedings.

A list of 10 recommendations made by the 25A Corridor Citizens Advisory Committee were read into the hearing record.

Eight homeowners or residents spoke in the public comment portion of the hearing. They expressed concerns regarding traffic safety on the busy road, environmental issues and the viability of adding retail space when there are so many unoccupied stores in the area.

“My first concern is safety,” Professor Erez Zadok of Stony Brook said. “On this stretch of road … people drive fast; over the limit. It’s dark. Additional traffic will make things worse.” He spoke of environmental concerns as well and questioned the need for additional retail space. The nearby Three Village Shopping Plaza currently has four available spaces according to Kristen Moore, spokesperson for Brixmor Properties, and there are three vacant units just down the street.

Several people spoke out against the granting of a variance that would nearly double the permitted height of the proposed clock tower.

Michael Vaeth viewed the tower as a marketing ploy.

“Currently, especially in the winter months, I have a view of the university and the train station,” he said. “I’m objecting to the 60-foot height. That would be the tallest building in all of the Three Villages — including Ward Melville High School.”

Vaeth’s neighbor Maureen Bybee said she didn’t see the need for the clock tower.

“I want to express my objection and opposition to the clock tower. It doesn’t seem to add anything … and it certainly will have an effect on the neighbors,” she said.

David Pauldy also asked the board to reject the height variance for the tower.

“It would have an effect on the neighborhood behind it,” he said. “It would be extremely visible and it would change the character of the neighborhood.”

The zoning board is allowed 62 days to rule on the request for variances, which gives the board until Feb. 14 to make its decision whether or not to grant the variances.

A public hearing is scheduled Feb. 6 at 4 p.m. at Brookhaven Town Hall in the board meeting room for residents and business owners to continue to voice their opinions on this development.

Former Brookhaven Town councilwoman and environmental activist Regina “Reggie” Seltzer “died overlooking the gardens she ardently tended and the Great South Bay, two of her favorite places,” read a death notice in the New York Times July 1.

She died at her Bellport home June 29 at the age of 86.

Seltzer is survived by her son Eric, his wife Nealle and three granddaughters: Veronica, Jean and Bryn.

Reggie Seltzer left behind a legacy of good works.

In 1979, Seltzer was named Woman of the Year in Environment by this newspaper.

At that time, she was recognized by Cathy McKeen, who wrote: “Since she won a seat on Brookhaven’s Town Board four years ago Regina Seltzer has been an advocate of protecting the environment.”

Village Times honoree Regina Seltzer. Photo from Sherry Binnington
Village Times honoree Regina Seltzer. Photo from Sherry Binnington

McKeen went on to list her many accomplishments, among them the creation of the town’s Department of Environmental Protection, advocating zoning reform to address haphazard planning and growth and a new sanitary code.

Seltzer was born to Jewish parents in Poland in 1929. Three years later, seeing the injustice and brutality inflicted upon Jews in their town — and fearing what would follow — her parents left Poland, bound for Palestine. In 1937, they followed family and immigrated to New York.

As an adult, Seltzer first worked as a school teacher and librarian, according to Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward Romaine (R), who eulogized her at the start of the June 30 town board meeting.

She was a councilwoman and member of the town’s planning board. She had returned to school to earn a law degree in her 50s and worked on many environmental issues, often pro bono. She was a true civic leader, Romaine said.

“[Reggie] made a huge difference in the Town of Brookhaven,” said Romaine. “She was brighter than light, easy to work with, principled, honest, straightforward — someone that we’ll all miss in this town government. … I’ve ordered flags at Town Hall to fly at half mast in her honor.”

Friends and colleagues also expressed their grief at the board meeting. Sherry Binnington, of Bellport, met Seltzer in the 1960s, when they became neighbors.

“Reggie Seltzer was a genuine person who had a conscience and was concerned about other people,” Binnington said during the public participation part of the meeting. “She believed that you should try to do everything you can when you see things that are not right.”

Another activist and friend, MaryAnn Johnston, had this to say, “When I first started working as an activist, Reggie was a source of constant encouragement and inspiration.

“She taught me how to do this work … with an uplifted heart. And to celebrate the victories — that they’d be few and far between, but that when you did the job well, they would matter and they would last. It would be what you left behind.”

Kathy Horan mugshot from SCPD

Update, 2.29.16: Police have reported that Lynn May, the 58-year-old Lake Grove resident who was standing by her parked car during the hit-and-run, has died of her injuries sustained in the crash.

Police said a woman drove away after fatally striking one man with her car and seriously injuring three others on Friday night.

The 61-year-old Medford resident, Kathy Horan, was allegedly driving east on Granny Road at about 8:20 p.m. and, shortly down the road from Brookhaven Town Hall, hit Peter Quoma, a 28-year-old from Selden who had gotten out of his own car because he had hit a parked vehicle.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, the hit from Horan’s 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe was fatal for Quoma, and also injured the two passengers still inside his 1997 Nissan Maxima as well as the owner of the parked car, who was standing next to it.

Quoma was pronounced dead at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center in East Patchogue, police said, while the two passengers, one male and one female, were treated for minor injuries at Stony Brook University Hospital. Police said the parked car’s owner, 58-year-old Lynn May from Lake Grove, was being treated for serious injuries at Brookhaven Memorial.

Horan, who was not hurt, was charged with leaving the scene of an incident involving a fatality and with leaving the scene of one involving physical injury. She was arraigned on Saturday.

Attorney information for the suspect was not immediately available.

Anyone with information is asked to call the SCPD’s Vehicular Crime Unit at 631-852-6555.

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