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Town of Huntington

Town to send letter to New York State comptroller asking for review of town's finances

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci said the town will send a letter to the state comptroller's office asking for a review of the town's finances. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh.

A request by Huntington’s new town board to have the state comptroller review the town’s finances was met with criticism.

Huntington Town Board voted 4-1 at its Jan. 3 meeting to go forward with a request to New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (D) to conduct a review and audit of the town’s finances, policies and procedures. Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) was the sole vote against the measure.

“I just think this is a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money,” he said. “I think it’s a shot at the prior administration that had healthy financials and won a number of awards each year for the records we keep and our finances.”

In December, the Town of Huntington received its 17th consecutive certificate of achievement for excellence in financial reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association.  The nonprofit professional association serving nearly 18,000 government financial professionals across North America, had reviewed the town’s comprehensive financial report for the year ending Dec. 31, 2016.

I just think this is a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money.”
— Mark Cuthbertson

Councilman Eugene Cook (R), who sponsored the audit resolution, denied that it was a strike against former Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and his practices, but rather a way to provide for a fresh start.

“Any business owner knows if they are buying a new business and going into a new business, they want to check all the records,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Cuthbertson suggested given the lengthy time and funds it would require for the state to audit the town, the new administration and town officials would be better served by studying the town’s yearly internal audits performed by an outside contractor.

Cook sponsored a similar resolution in 2012 calling for state review, but it failed to gain the board’s approval. Petrone then offered a revised resolution that was approved, and ultimately resulted in a 2013 audit conducted by the state comptroller.

The 2013 audit report, which reviewed the town’s finances from Jan. 1, 2011, to May 31, 2012, found issues with the town’s ability to track overtime hours and paid leave for town employees adequately.

“We found that the town may have higher payroll costs than necessary because town officials did not monitor and control these costs,” states the 2013 audit’s summary findings.

Any business owner knows if they are buying a new business and going into a new business, they want to check all the records.”
— Gene Cook

The state comptroller’s office also found the town was awarding contracts to attorneys without going through the standard bidding process and then paid without providing detailed invoices in some cases. Recommendations were made and discussed between state and Huntington officials on corrective actions to be made.

“While serving as an affirmation of the policies that have helped Huntington maintain its AAA bond rating, we also appreciate the audit’s insight on how to make Huntington’s government operate even more efficiently,” Petrone had said in his response to the 2013 audit. “We will consider changes to implement the recommendations we have not already put into place.”

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D), who worked for the town prior to 2013 and was sworn in to sit on the town board this month, voted in favor of requesting the state comptroller’s office perform an audit, though she said the measure was not necessary.

“I welcome an audit, but I don’t think it’s going to happen,” the councilwoman said. “If there is one, I think it will prove we run a tight ship.”

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said the resolution merely sends a letter to the state comptroller’s office to review the town’s financials “if they feel it is necessary,” to indicate the town would be both willing and cooperative in the process.

6,000-square-foot home would be built on Cuba Hill Road in Greenlawn

A conceptual rendering of the proposed K.I.D.S. Plus adult group home in Greenlawn. Photo from Facebook

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A Northport advocate and Cuba Hill Road residents will have additional time to reach an understanding over a proposed Greenlawn adult home.

Huntington Town Board voted to unanimously Jan. 3 to extend the time to make a decision on whether K.I.D.S. Plus Inc. should receive a special use permit to operate an adult home off Cuba Hill Road for those with physical and developmental disabilities age 21 and over.

Dozens of residents have spoken up with concerns about the proposed 6,000 square-foot building since the town’s Oct. 17 public hearing, citing concerns about traffic, landscaping, overall size of the home and density of group homes in the area.

“The homes tend not to be very large; the properties are large, that’s why we like to live there,” said Taylor McLam in October, a Cuba Hill Road homeowner who said his residence is approximately 1,200 square feet by comparison. “Seven times the size of my house seems a little much.”

Cuba Hill resident John Wilson presented the town with a petition signed by approximately 30 residents at their Jan. 3 meeting.

“One of the conditions is it shouldn’t change the character of the neighborhood,” he said. “This neighborhood is a section of Cuba Hill Road between Manor and Little Plains Road, that isn’t very built up. The houses are generally on more than an acre.”

A conceptual sketch of the interior layout of K.I.D.S. Plus proposed Greenlawn home for individuals with physical and developmental disabilities. Rendering from K.I.D.S. Plus.

K.I.D.S. Plus founder Tammie Murphy Topel, a Northport resident, said she has hosted two community meetings since October 2017 to hear and address the Greenlawn residents’ concerns, in addition to one-on-one meetings. Based on their feedback, Murphy Topel said she’s made revisions to her proposed building plans.

“We want to know what’s going on in the community, we want to be good neighbors,” she said. “We don’t want to be adversarial in any way.”

One of the most cited issues, according to Murphy Topel, was the appearance of the originally planned 26-foot-wide driveway for vehicles. After speaking with Huntington officials, changes have been made to narrow that to 20 feet, the width of a standard two-car
garage, according to Murphy Topel.

She said significant work has been put into the landscaping of the outside of the building, sharing an artistic rendering showing a variety of indigenous trees planted postconstruction to help obscure view of the building from Cuba Hill Road and its neighbors. The outdoor lighting will feature gooseneck barn lamps to direct the light downward instead of out, according to
Murphy Topel, with some subtle ground lighting along the driveway.

Murphy Topel hopes to share these new renderings and changes with concerned Greenlawn residents at a community meeting set for Jan. 19, from 7 to 9 p.m. at Harborfields Public Library. She said she has invited all town board members, town planning officials and any residents.

One thing she won’t consider is downsizing the 6,000-square-foot size of the home featuring suites for eight individuals, she said, which is all one level.

“These are people with disabilities looking at this as a forever home,” Murphy Topel said. “We are looking into the future when there will be ambulatory issues. We don’t want them to be navigating stairs.”

Even the K.I.D.S. Plus founder had to admit though, the parcel she purchased  on Cuba Hill Road is less than ideal for constructing the home, due to its hilly nature, the amount of grading and retaining walls that will be required.

“By designation in the [town] code, we have to have a two-acre piece of property and in the town of Huntington, there’s not a whole lot of two-acre pieces of property that are affordable,” Murphy Topel said. “If someone else can find me a two-acre piece of property for $400,000, I would take it, flip this land and build elsewhere.”

A look at Port Jefferson Harbor from the Village Center during Winter Storm Grayson as blizzard-force winds and more than a foot of snow pound the coast Jan. 4. Photo from Margot Garant

Winter Storm Grayson arrived early Jan. 4 and pounded Port Jefferson, and the surrounding areas to the tune of more than 16 inches of snow.

The storm was officially categorized as a blizzard by the New York office of the National Weather Service, with sustained winds or frequent gusts greater than 35 mph, “considerable” falling and blowing snow, visibility of less than a quarter of a mile and more than three hours of duration. Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Luppinacci (R), Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) declared states of emergency for each of their respective jurisdictions.

“This storm was actually worse than predicted for us,” Bellone said during a briefing Jan. 5. “We saw up to 16 inches of snow in certain parts of the county. This was, as we discussed, a very difficult and challenging storm because of all the conditions — high rate of snowfall, very rapid rate and high winds. It made it very difficult. I want to thank all of those who heeded our calls to stay off the roads yesterday. There were far too many people on the roads. The result was hundreds of motorists ended up stranded.”

Based on unofficial observations taken Jan. 4 and 5, the highest snowfall total reported by the New York NWS office was in Terryville, where 16.4 inches of snow fell during the storm. Suffolk County appeared to take the brunt of Grayson’s wrath according to the NWS data, not only in actual snowfall, but also as the home to the highest wind gusts in the state during the storm, with gusts exceeding 60 mph.

Despite the substantial snowfall totals, Main Street in Port Jeff Village was up and running and open for business Friday morning, according to Garant, who said the village’s Department of Public Works did an “A++” job in an email.

“We have a good system and a great team in place,” she said, adding she was thrilled with how quickly village streets were passable. “The community really makes this possible for us by staying home and avoiding parking on the snow emergency streets.”

Steve Gallagher, the village’s DPW superintendent, said 22 village DPW employees worked using nine trucks equipped with plows and nine trucks with both plows and sanders to clear the streets. He estimated the village used between 150 and 200 tons of salt and sand mix to mitigate the impact of road and sidewalk icing. He reiterated Garant’s point that cooperation from the public is critical in returning the village back to business as usual following a storm.

“Village roads were passable at all times thanks to the dedication and commitment of the men in the DPW,” he said. “People staying off the roads and not parking in the streets would help expedite the clearing of the roads and allow a better job.”

PSEG Long Island reported 97 percent of the 21,700 of its customers who lost power as a result of the storm had their service restored by 9 p.m. Jan. 5.

“Our goal, always, is to restore power as quickly and safely as possible,” a spokesperson for the utility said in a press release. “We ask our customers for a fair amount of patience and to know we will be there just as soon as it is safe.”

The storm came in the midst of a record-setting stretch of below freezing temperatures, according to the NWS. A streak of 13 straight days with a maximum temperature below 32 degrees Fahrenheit measured at Long Island McArthur Airport in Islip was snapped Jan. 9. The 13-day duration was the second longest period of below freezing temperatures reported at the airport since 1963.

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci outlines his vision of a new direction for Huntington at his inauguration Jan. 2. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) has been officially sworn in as Huntington’s 80th supervisor, as of his first full day in office Jan. 2.

His oath of office was administered
moments after the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Day by Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia at his cousin’s Commack restaurant in front of his family and close friends on his grandfather’s Bible from Calabria, Italy.

Hundreds of Huntington residents and elected officials later watched Lupinacci retake the oath at the official Inauguration Ceremony Jan. 2 held at his high school alma mater, Walt Whitman High School in Huntington Station. Lupinacci took the oath of office, and oaths were administered to re-elected Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D), newcomer Councilman Ed Smyth (R) and Highway Superintendent Kevin Orelli (D).

This night has been a long time coming, a night when we return town government to the control of those with a clear vision of what defines our suburban lifestyles,” he said. “This is the night in which we begin putting into action our mandate to preserve the keys to what has made Huntington such a desirable community over the years to live, work and raise a family.”

Raia presented the new supervisor with the town’s chain of office, a 1-pound, 11-ounce ceremonial piece made of wampum and several medallions.

Chad Lupinacci takes the oath of office as Huntington’s newly elected town supervisor Jan. 2 Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

In his inaugural address, Lupinacci outlined staff and policy changes he intends to make over the upcoming months, particularly plans to hire a new economic policy adviser to oversee business matters in the town.

“We want to make sure that we are always open for business and work hard to create all the jobs we can, while maintaining the jobs that are here,” Lupinacci said.

The Jan. 3 town board meeting will see the appointment of a new town attorney and set dates for 2018 town board meetings — increasing the number to two every month, one in the afternoon and one in the evening. In coming weeks, Lupinacci said he plans to further consider scheduling the meetings at different locations across the town, instead of Town Hall only.

The new supervisor’s top priorities include increasing the town’s use of social media and passing term limits for the town’s elected officials. Councilman Gene Cook (R) pulled his proposal to create a three-term limit on all town officials, including the town clerk and receiver of taxes, at the Dec. 13 town board meeting before it could be voted on.

The town recently received $1.7 million in state funds to construct a parking garage in Huntington village, which Lupinacci said he plans to push forward with in coming months.

These new town positions and policies are part of Lupinacci’s campaign promise of “a new direction” for Huntington, which he elaborated on Tuesday night.

“It does not mean tearing everything down and starting over. It does not mean undoing everything that the town government has done over the past 24 years,” he said, calling for a round of applause for former Supervisor Frank Petrone (D). “But a new direction does mean identifying those policies, programs and procedures that should remain and building on them, while identifying those that do need to be changed and changing them as quickly as possible.”

Former Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) left a white elephant on Lupinacci’s desk as a token of good luck. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

One thing that will remain unchanged, Lupinacci announced Patricia DelCol has agreed to stay on as his deputy supervisor — an announcement met by a round of applause.

Cuthbertson, who served as a councilman for 20 years under Petrone, welcomed Lupinacci into the town after taking his oath of office.

“We take a new beginning today with Supervisor Lupinacci and the new administration,” Cuthbertson said. “I heard a lot about new beginnings in the campaign, and I can tell you that if new beginnings mean we continue to look at how we can continue to improve how we deliver town services and manage town government, I’m all for new beginnings. There’s always room for improvement at all levels of government.”

Particularly, Cuthbertson said he expects the new town board will have to tackle the issues of how to help local businesses stand up to competition against internet retailers and affordable housing for both millenials and seniors.

“When we make the tough decisions, we really do move our town forward and it has a lasting and positive impact.” Cuthbertson said. “It’s something I hope we will do in the coming four years.”

A small white elephant figurine was left sitting on Lupinacci’s desk by Petrone, as his way of wishing the new supervisor and his administration good luck.

Former Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards won the Democratic town supervisor primary. File photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Town of Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) learned a lot about herself in 2017. For one, she’s not a politician.

The 56-year-old Huntington native, who lost to state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) in the November race for town supervisor, will not be returning to the town board Jan. 1. But she is proud of the campaign she led and the community-oriented issues it centered on.

Edwards ran for Huntington’s top seat instead of taking the admittedly safer route of running as an incumbent for re-election to the town board. When asked why, she repeatedly said, “This is not about me. This is about what I believe is best for Huntington.”

She has always seen herself as a community advocate and public servant, first and foremost, a trait noticed and respected by those she has served.

Tracey Edward (D) was first elected to Huntington Town Board in 2012.

“At the end of the day, I’m a community advocate,” Edwards said. “The nastiness and personal attacks in elections were never things I was ever interested in. I want to help people and our town. True public servants don’t stop doing that just because they lose an election.”

In junior high school, she got her official start in community service as a candy striper at Huntington Hospital. She was encouraged to give back to the community by her father — a narcotics detective on the town’s former police force — and mother, Dolores Thompson, a Huntington activist still going strong today.

Edwards has served on the board of directors of the Long Island Association in Melville and is the Long Island regional director of the NAACP — a post she said she looks forward to returning to.

As councilwoman and supervisor candidate, she focused on making Huntington a more inclusive place for everybody, regardless of age, race, gender or economic bracket.

“We have a very robust, diverse and unique town that is filled with wonderful neighborhoods and great communities,” Edwards said. “There’s no place else I would rather live. While I wish Chad Lupinacci the best, I’ll be keeping my eye on him to make sure this town continues to move in the right direction for all.”


True public servants don’t stop doing that just because they lose an election.

— Tracey Edwards

During her four years in office, Edwards has worked alongside Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) to expand affordable housing legislation for millennials and first-time home buyers and has been hands-on with youth-based programs that focus on character building, recreation and tackling the drug problem. She created a special annual luncheon, dubbed Memories of Huntington, to honor seniors age 75 or older, who have lived in town for more than 50 years, for their contributions to Huntington’s history.

“Tracey is not a politician’s politician … she’s for the people,” said Jo Ann Veit, a member of the Senior Reunion committee. “People love her because she’s there for them and she gives you that feeling that she’s there for you, thinking about you and the town, and what would be best for the seniors in the town. When people leave that reunion, they’re all so pleased with Tracey and how genuine she is. She has been a wonderful councilwoman.”

Bob Santo, commander of Greenlawn American Legion Post 1244, has gotten the same sense of sincerity from Edwards in the years they’ve known each other.

“The first time I met Tracey was during a parade in Huntington Station and she was on the back of a motorcycle being ridden by one of our American Legion motorcycle [members] — she was having a grand old time,” Santo said, laughing. “With Tracey, what you see is what you get, and what she says is what she means. She’s never trying to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes.”

Councilwomen Susan Berland and Councilwoman Tracey Edwards spotted at the parade on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015 . Photo by Stephen Jimenez

Santo praised the councilwoman for spearheading the Huntington Opportunity Resource Center, a program that offers assistance with résumé preparation, job searches, career options and job training access for unemployed and low-income residents, many of whom are veterans.

Edwards said her proudest accomplishment has been her ability to turn difficult times in her life into something beneficial to those around her. Upon being diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2016, she was determined not to miss a single board meeting and scheduled her chemotherapy, radiation and surgery sessions around them.

When she finally became cancer-free, Edwards, who said she goes for breast cancer screenings once a year, realized there were probably so many women out there who may not be aware of the importance of screenings or have access to health care.

She partnered with Huntington Hospital-Northwell Health to host an education program on preventative screening exams, risk assessment, nutrition and information for free breast cancer screenings at Huntington Town Hall.

She also helped to rewrite the town’s ethics code to make town hall a more transparent place for residents.

NAACP New York State Conference president, Hazel Dukes, commended Edwards for fighting for the rights of all people, regardless of race, creed or color.


She didn’t want to go back as a councilwoman and why would she? You don’t go backward, you keep going forward.

— Dolores Thompson

“I know that Tracey Edwards is a committed and dedicated public servant,” Dukes said. “She truly brings conviction to the cause of equality and justice for all people. She’s embodied that in her professional life, as a worker in the NAACP and her political life.”

Edward’s work ethic comes as no surprise to her mother, Dolores Thompson.

“This year she’s had the initiative and aggressiveness and guts, in plain old English, to run for supervisor in this special community,” Thompson said. “She’s a trooper, a very strong woman who speaks her mind, and I’m very sure she will do something even better for this community as she progresses. She didn’t want to go back as a councilwoman and why would she? You don’t go backward, you keep going forward.”

Edwards, who lives in Dix Hills with her husband, was recognized by outgoing
Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) during a town board meeting Dec. 13.

“Four years ago, we were blessed with a person that I have never, ever encountered someone with more energy and the ability to move in and create change,” Petrone said. “A woman who has given so much in the short, short four years to the Town of Huntington and its residents … Tracey Edwards, we the members of the Huntington Town Board on behalf of the residents of Huntington wish to extend our sincere thanks to you for service to our community.”

Edwards thanked members of the community and assured all in the room her journey isn’t over.

“You haven’t heard the last of me,” she said. “You have not.”

Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone is honored by the Suffolk County Legislature for retiring after 40 years as a public official. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said his farewells as the prominent leader of the Town of Huntington, but not without — as he said it best and “straight” — a crypt and an alleyway.

Petrone led his final town board meeting Dec. 13 as he was honored and recognized by his fellow council members and residents for his 24 years of service as town supervisor. Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia presented the town’s chain of office, a 1-pound, 11-ounce chain featuring several medallions including some made of wampum, for Petrone to wear on the momentous occasion.

Supervisor gives one final farewell address to residents

Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) offered a public farewell speech to residents at the Dec. 13 town board meeting, upon receiving accolades for his accomplishments after 24 years of service. Below is an extended excerpt of his remarks:

Thank you all. It’s been a real experience, a real trip — if I can call it that — a highlight in my life. Actually 24 years is a career in itself, and it’s been made possible because of you.

I give it to you straight. Some people never liked it, didn’t like it,  but it’s always been given to you straight on how I felt and what I thought was best for the entire community or residents at large. Sometimes, maybe, I was not all right, and I made sure it changed and we changed that. You guided me and you gave me that opportunity. I am a rich man, as a result of this, a very rich man full of heart and love you have given me. I share you inside, all of you. I shared a board with 20-somewhat council people. I could share some stories, but I won’t.

But, I think I want to thank this board for really capping this career for me. We’ve really reached new heights during these past several years. I’ve thanked each and every one of them. I’ve given them awards tonight and everything that was said is true — all those pieces add up. Mark [Cuthbertson] has been a partner for 20 years, someone who suffered with me through tough financial times right there plugging along and making the hard decisions that I will forever be grateful for.

It’s not by myself, it was done with other people. I mentioned my board members who are leaving and their accomplishments. I want to thank Gene Cook for all he’s done and everything that he means. I’ve learned some good lessons from Gene. You are going to go forward now. You have a new team to work with, and I think you are excited for that. I think we are all excited there’s a team coming in that’s going to bring Huntington to other heights, which is so very, very important. We’re thankful for that, that’s what service is all about. We should be thankful.

“It’s been a real experience, a real trip — if I can call it that — a highlight in my life, actually, 24 years is a career in itself, and it’s been made possible because of you,” Petrone said. “I am a rich man, as a result of this, a very rich man full of heart and love that you have given me.”

The outgoing supervisor joked he feared Raia was going to present him with an urn or burial plot. Petrone explained when he expanded the town clerk’s archival vault he had promised to do so on one condition: a future spot set aside for his urn.

“We will still have that available, but you have many long years ahead of you,” Raia said.

Petrone was praised by Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D), who has served alongside him for 20 years, for taking the town, which was on the brink of bankruptcy when he took office in 1994, to fiscal stability.

“He is a consistent builder, a mentor; he is someone who put his heart into the job and gave of himself,” Cuthbertson said. “I believe in my heart of hearts this town is so much better for his service.”

The town board members gave a proclamation to the outgoing supervisor that they will rename Irwin Place, the alleyway adjacent to town hall, Frank P. Petrone Way, in honor of Petrone’s accomplishments.

“Such a record of accomplishments warrants a special recognition to cement Supervisor Petrone’s legacy and inform future generations of how much of a debt we owe Supervisor Petrone,” Cuthbertson said. “Such a recognition would traditionally take the form of naming a street after the deserving person. However, a clear policy was set by Petrone to reserve street naming for the deceased, which he fortunately is not.”

Renaming Irwin Place was chosen as Petrone was well known for his habit of parking his car on alleyway, carefully pulling it up onto the sidewalk alongside the building.

“Seeing Supervisor Petrone’s personal car parked in his special spot was a visual signal to all who visit town hall that their government was open for business,” Cuthbertson said.

Petrone thanked each member of the town council for serving with him, including Raia, and noted that even his wife Pat, was in the audience attending her very first town board meeting. He received a standing ovation in recognition of his more than two decades in office.

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) was joined by Legislators Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) and Lou D’Amaro (D-Huntington Station) to give Petrone a proclamation at the Dec. 19 county legislative meeting for his 24 years as town supervisor and more than 40 years of public service as an elected official.

Petrone wears Huntington’s chain of office. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“I can say without hesitation that in just about every conversation I’ve had over the last 12 years with residents in my community and in the greater Huntington community, they say ‘Things might be tough out there but in this town, things are pretty good,’” Stern said. “Some part of that is due to the leadership and steady hand of Supervisor Petrone for so many years.”

Petrone was lauded by the legislators for his sound fiscal management, innovative and affordable housing projects, preservation of open space and launching a revitalization of Huntington Station.

“Supervisor Petrone is a role model for all of us,” D’Amaro said. “I will always remember if you went to him and you needed something, and you needed to work together he was always cooperative, always willing to help no matter what the issue was … Mr. Supervisor, I wish you the best of luck in the future.”

Petrone said his first plans upon retirement are spending the next few months at his Florida home with his wife, and enjoying time with his first grandchild.

Huntington councilwoman Susan Berland, second from right, attended at her last board meeting as an elected town official Dec. 13. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington Councilwoman Susan Berland’s (D) 11th-hour resignation caused the outgoing Democratic board to make a last-minute appointment to fill her seat as its final group action.

Joan Cergol, a registered Democrat and town employee, was appointed to replace Berland, who resigned from her position effective immediately at 10:43 p.m. at the Dec. 13 town board meeting.

A lifelong Huntington resident, Cergol has served as the town’s director of the Huntington Community Development Agency, executive director of the Economic Development Corp., and executive director of the Local Development Corp.

“The voters who placed me on this town board in five successive elections deserve to have someone whose qualifications, focus and accomplishments are coordinated with mine, who is dedicated to serving public interest over any political or individual pressures, and who will continue to represent them on this board,” Berland said in presenting Cergol.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) called for Cergol’s immediate appointment, despite the objections of Councilman Eugene Cook, the lone Republican on the board.

“I absolutely think this is the wrong thing to do,” Cook said. “The voters of the Town of Huntington went out and voted for a new direction coming in. You are taking that away from them. This should be going out to a new board.”

As Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) is retiring, the political majority of the board will flip come Jan. 1, 2018 from longtime Democratic control over to the hands of the Republicans. Supervisor-elect Chad Lupinacci (R) and Republican Ed Smyth will take over the seats held by Petrone and Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) respectively. Edwards will leave the board in January after running an unsuccessful campaign for town supervisor against Lupinacci.

“I believe Councilwoman Berland was elected as a Democrat,” Cuthbertson said in defense of Cergol’s appointment. “This board has every right to choose her replacement based on her resignation, whether registered Democrat or not, and we’re entitled to fill that vacancy. It’s the responsible thing to do.”

Cuthbertson was supported by his outgoing political party members Petrone and Edwards.

“Joan has worked with all members of the board and she’s noted for being someone who is nonpartisan when it comes to her activities in town hall and her actions as a professional,” Petrone said. “I echo, as outgoing supervisor, I would have been delighted to serve with Joan Cergol.”

Cergol will serve in Berland’s place through November 2018. Then Cergol will have to run for election to serve the remaining year of Berland’s term through December 2019, in accordance with state law.

Berland, who was elected in November to represent the 16th District in the Suffolk County Legislature, will begin her two-year term Jan. 1, 2018. She has served for 16 years on the Huntington town board.

“I have always strived to do the best job possible and made decisions not political, but in the best interests of the people,” she said in a farewell address. “Please know I am always just a phone call away and my heart will always be with the people of Huntington.”

The newly renovated Commack Public Library's children area is brightly lit with LED lighting. Photo by Ola Wilk/Wilk Marketing Communications

Commack residents may have to look twice to find the sleek and modern entrance of the newly renovated Commack Public Library. Hint, there’s a brand new entrance.

The Commack Public Library celebrated its grand reopening Dec. 6 after completing a $8.5 million renovation and expansion. The Hauppauge Road building was aged and out-of-date with state safety codes, according to its Director Laurie Rosenthal, as it had not undergone any significant upgrades since its construction in 1976.

Rosenthal, the library’s director for more than 15 years, said “I’m really excited to be home … this library is like a second home to me and many of our patrons.”

The Commack Public LIbrary celebrated its grand reopening Dec. 2. Photo fromWilk Marketing Communications.

The newly renovated building was designed by Beatty Harvey Coco (BHC) Architects of Hauppauge to be more consistent with the modern technological era and more community friendly by providing more space for programs.

“In the beginning of the design phase, the library’s leadership defined the functional requirements for the renovation, which included expanding the dedicated spaces for children and young adults, enlarging event and community facilities, specifying more comfortable furniture, improving telecommunications and audiovisual technology, and increasing the visibility of the building’s main entrance,” said Christopher Sepp, a senior associate for BHC. “These requirements reflected the new role of the library as a community and social center for residents.”

The main entrance of the library was moved from the intersection of Commack Road and Hauppauge Road to the side of the building facing the parking lot to make the building more accessible and safer for visitors.

The former community room was expanded from 1,203 to 1,735 square feet in order to accommodate more patrons into its programs, the library director said. In addition, a new audiovisual system and movable curtain wall partition was installed to allow more than one program to be held at a time.

What Rosenthal likes to call the “coffee cup,” a brightly LED-lit entrance to the new children’s section, features soft furniture with lounge seating, train and brick play stations and colored LED lighting strips radiating out from the central ceiling that change colors based on themes and events. The library director said new iPads in protective cases will be available to allow
children to interact with technology as well as a sensory area, or quiet low-lighting room specifically designed for children with sensory and auditory needs.

The entrance to the Commack Public LIbrary was relocated and given a facelift during the $8.5 million building renovation. Photo from Wilk Marketing Communications

Young adults have been given a 620-square-foot space off the main floor of the library which features age-appropriate reading, its own computer terminals and a booth like seating area with television and comfortable chairs where teens are invited to do homework or relax.

Throughout the library, there are varied tables, and study areas have their own built-in electrical units with Wi-Fi connections possible to allow residents to come in, sit down and connect anywhere, Rosenthal said.

In addition to the extensive redesign of the building, Islandia-based general contractor Stalco Construction made sure it was more energy efficient.

“All of the work was done with the use of sustainable and energy-efficient systems and materials to significantly improve the building’s operational efficiency, save money for years to come, and prevent the release of volatile organic compounds that could impact indoor air quality,” said Jason Vasquez, Stalco’s project manager.

The rebuild included installation of a new high-efficiency heating ventilation and air conditioning system and LED lighting fixtures throughout the library to reduce energy for lighting to one-third its prior rate. Other features include a new elevator for handicapped accessibility and fire sprinklers to bring it into compliance with state fire codes.

All Commack residents, regardless of township, are invited to come in to see or tour the library, Rosenthal said. Any Suffolk County resident with a library card can check out materials, she said, with some exceptions, as high-demand items are only for library district taxpayers.

A screenshot of Huntington Supervisor-elect Chad Lupinacci's transition team website Dec. 6.

The Town of Huntington’s first major change of leadership in more than 20 years is getting underway.

Huntington’s Supervisor-elect Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) announced the launch of the New Direction Transition Team website Nov. 30, for individuals interested in applying for town personnel openings during the transition period.

“In an attempt to keep the hiring process transparent and evaluate all options in personnel matters, I have launched the New Direction Transition Team website,” Lupinacci said in a press statement.

The website, www.Chad2017.com, was inspired by similar ones constructed by recent presidential administrations and Nassau County Executive-elect Laura Curran (D), according to spokesman Brian Finnegan. Those interested may submit a cover letter and resume, then select from more than 15 town departments for which they are interested in working. There are no plans at this time to list specific job openings or descriptions, according to Finnegan. Applicants will not be asked for their political party affiliation.

“Regardless of party affiliation, the supervisor-elect plans on vetting and considering all qualified candidates based on merit,” Finnegan said. “He takes great pride in the fact he’s worked beneath several bipartisan administrations.”

At the town’s unveiling of Huntington Station community center plans Nov. 25, Lupinacci spoke about how his first public service position was working as a laborer under former town Highway Supervisor William Naughton (D). He left the town to become a communications liaison for late Republican State Assemblyman Jim Conte, who represented the 10th district for 24 years. Lupinacci was elected to his first political office in 2012, when he took over Conte’s vacated seat.

“Now, no matter your party affiliation or vote at the ballot box, is the time to work together, get things done, check politics at the door and put people first,” reads Lupinacci’s transition website.

The state assemblyman defeated Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) receiving nearly 54 percent of the votes. He takes office Jan. 1 from resigning Supervisor Frank Petrone (D).

Lupinacci’s move back to town government will leave an open state assembly seat for 10th district residents, which spans from Lloyd Harbor south along state Route 108/Plainview Road to SUNY Farmingdale State College, and as far east as Elwood. It is unclear who will take his place as Lupinacci’s term doesn’t expire until Dec. 31, 2018.

“Shortly after the first of the year we will have a screening process to interview potential candidates to fill that seat,” said Toni Tepe, chairwoman of the Huntington Republican Committee.

Under New York State Senate law pertaining to public officers, “A special election shall not be held … to fill a vacancy in the office of state senator or in the office of member of assembly, unless the vacancy occurs before the first day of April of the last year of the term of office. … If a special election to fill an office shall not be held as required by law, the office shall be filled at the next general election.”

Tepe said the decision on whether or not a special election will be held to fill Lupinacci’s state office will ultimately be made by state Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

A conceputal rendering of what the building will look like. Image from Town of Huntington

A lifelong Huntington Station resident and politician remembered as a “pillar of the community” will have a building named in his memory.

Town of Huntington officials unveiled conceptual plans for the transformation of the former New York State Armory on East 5th Avenue into the James D. Conte Community Center.

Former Assemblyman James Conte was a lifelong Huntington Station resident. File photo

“We’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time,” Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said at the Nov. 25 ceremony. “As many of you know, Jimmy worked very hard to retain this facility for the residents of the Town of Huntington. We know that his special love when he served in the assembly was for Huntington Station.”

Conte, a former state assemblyman who represented the 10th district for 24 years, died October 2012 of T-cell lymphoma. He achieved the status of minority leader pro tem, the Republican’s second highest-ranking post, and was a strong proponent of organ donation, having undergone two kidney transplants himself.

“Jimmy was involved in everything,” said state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), a colleague of Conte. “He made this town a better place — he continues to make it a better place, and I can’t wait to see the end product here that will be a testament to him and his family.”

The late assemblyman was instrumental in getting the state to transfer ownership of the decommissioned building over to the Town of Huntington, according to Petrone, with the intention of the space being used  as a community center.

Earlier this year, the town board retained the Holbrook-based firm Savik & Murray to engineer and design proposals for the building. The town’s 2018 budget has designated $3.75 million for the first phase of the project in addition to acquiring a $1.5 million state grant.

Residents are eager to get a first look at the building plans. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“This past year, as a town board member, working on and consulting with the architects on the design of this project, it has really been a labor of love,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “They came in with some ideas that were outside of the box. We’ve tweaked what they had. I think the final product is something that probably still needs work, but is something that is a really good start.”

The conceptual plans propose the 22,500-square-foot building be repurposed with space for uses such as arts and crafts, a computer lab, a recording studio, an all-purpose gymnasium, a strength training facility, CrossFit center, rock climbing arena, a community meeting space, a multipurpose room, classrooms, office space and an elevated indoor running and walking track. The town has also promised the Greenlawn American Legion Post 1244 a designated area to run as a veterans canteen.

“A couple of months ago my mother and I went down to Town Hall to view the plans that are going to be on display today, and we were just blown away,” said Conte’s daughter Sarah. “This is exactly what my father would have wanted for this community. Myself and my family are so honored to be here and to have this named after him. We know he would be honored as well.”

The architects have suggested possible outdoor uses for the 3.6-acre site including an amphitheater, meditation gardens, a spiritual walkway and bench seating.

The Conte family and town officials unveil the sign naming the future James D. Conte Community Center. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“[My father] would be jumping up and down and dancing in this room if he knew Huntington Station was going to get a project this big,” said Conte’s daughter Samantha. “He valued the community. He knew the value of what a building like this could offer.”

The town has estimated the entire project will cost $10 million and aims to have it completed by 2019. Oversight of its construction will be transferred to the incoming town board helmed by current state assemblyman and Supervisor-elect Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station). Lupinacci previously worked as a community liaison for Conte before taking over his state office in 2012.

“We know even though he is gone his legacy will continue with his family and the many generations of children that will walk through this building, and of course, the veterans who will have a special place on Fifth Street,” Lupinacci said. “We know his legacy will continue for many generations after we’re all gone.”

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