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Town of Huntington

From left, Tom Kehoe with Reggie Tuthill, owner of Oysterponds Shellfish in Orient. Kehoe will serve as trade adviser after establishing an international market for oysters and shellfish. Photo from Tom Kehoe

Local businessman and Village of Northport trustee Tom Kehoe has been appointed an adviser to the Trump administration on international trade in the seafood industry.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue appointed Kehoe to serve on the USDA’s Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee for Trade in Animals and Animal Products. The group consists of 140 private-sector members, who will offer input on negotiating and enforcing new and existing trade agreements. Kehoe is the only individual representing the seafood industry. 

Kehoe said that he is honored and humbled that the Department of Agriculture has selected him to serve.

“The sustainability and success of the seafood and agriculture industries is vital to the health and safety of all Americans,” Kehoe said. “I look forward to sharing my expertise in international trade and insight on where American trade policy needs to go in order for American businesses to thrive in international markets.”

Congress established the advisory committee system in 1974 to ensure that U.S. agricultural trade policy objectives reflect U.S. public- and private-sector commercial and economic interests. Perdue and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer jointly manage the committee.

Kehoe, a native New Yorker, initially got into the seafood business in 1975 in Maine with lobsters. He worked on a daily basis from 1975 to 2017 with fish and fishermen, but now deals largely with importing and exporting seafood. In 1992, Kehoe and business partner Roger Boccio opened K & B Seafood, an East Northport fish market. In 2008, they established Seaflight Logistics, a fish wholesaler that transported food both nationally and internationally. The fishmongers expanded their operation after attending an international fish market and finding a growing market for oysters and shellfish in China and Moscow. Kehoe is currently the CEO of Kingsbridge Strategies Inc., an import/export firm experienced in public policy and business consulting. The international seafood trade remains an important aspect of his operation.

“Working with small businesses, large businesses, and eventually growing my own company into an international business, I have a unique understanding of the needs of Long Island and New York’s businesses — as well as businesses nationwide who rely on international trade — and I look forward to representing these interests on this committee,” Kehoe said.

One of Kehoe’s biggest customers for 25 years has been the Grand Central Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station. Sandy Ingber is the executive chef there and part owner of the restaurant. He said that Kehoe’s appointment will help him. In the summer, Ingber said the Oyster Bar offers 20 different types of oysters and each day serves as many 4,000 oysters on the half shell.  

“Tom is an honest man and knowledgeable about the seafood industry,” he said. “I’m excited about getting European oysters here in America.” 

Kehoe is also a representative on the U.S. Department of Commerce, New York District Export Council. He formerly served as the president, vice president and director of the East Coast Shellfish Growers Association. Kehoe is a former Northport police commissioner and deputy mayor. Kehoe currently serves as the village’s commissioner of commerce, his third stint at the post. Kehoe’s term with the USDA will expire in 2023.

Children enjoy the grand opening of Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park in Elwood. Photo by Kyle Barr

With weekend heat expected to reach the high 90’s plus humidity that could make it feel like well over 100 degrees, towns across the North Shore are offering ways for residents to help beat the heat.

Brookhaven

Brookhaven town is offering extended hours for pools and beaches for the weekend of July 20 through 21.

The Centereach and Holtsville town pools will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Meanwhile all beaches including:

  • Cedar Beach – Harbor Beach Road, Mount Sinai
  • Corey Beach – Corey Avenue,, Blue Point
  • Shirley Beach – Grandview Avenue., Shirley (spray park)
  • Shoreham Beach – North Country Road, Shoreham
  • West Meadow Beach – 100 Trustees Road, Stony Brook (spray park)
  • Webby’s Beach – Laura Lee Drive, Center Moriches

Will be open until 7 p.m. both days.

More information can be found at: https://www.brookhavenny.gov/216/Parks-Recreation

Smithtown

On Friday,  July 19,  the Smithtown Senior Center will operate as a cooling station until 5 p.m. The Public Safety with support staff from the Smithtown Senior Citizens Department and Senior Transportation to operate the Senior Citizens Center as a cooling center, for seniors without air conditioning over the weekend. 

All residents are advised to take extra precautions for themselves, elderly family members, children and pets for the duration of the heat watch. 

“It’s  going to be dangerously hot over the weekend,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim said in a release. “ We want to ensure the health and quality of life for our elderly residents… It is with this in mind, that our Public Safety Department has made special arrangements to make sure our seniors have a cool place to enjoy the weekend.” 

Seniors can make arrangements ahead of time by contacting the Senior Citizens Department today or tomorrow at (631) 360-7616. After 5 p.m. Friday, arrangements to use the senior center should be made so by calling Public Safety at 631-360-7553. If a senior citizen does not have transportation, the public safety department said it will make travel arrangements at the time of the call. Residents are asked to check on elderly neighbors and pass along this information ahead of the weekend. 

Huntington

The Town of Huntington is offering extended hours at its Elwood spray park and Dix Hills pool.

Extended hours at the Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park at Elwood Park on Cuba Hill Road are as follows, with weather-permitting: 

  • Friday, July 19: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (usual hours due to camp programming at the park)
  • Saturday, July 20: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 21: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The park will be waiving the Recreation Photo ID Card requirement for Town residents only for the weekend heat wave, though residents must show another form photo ID proving residence to enter the spray pad.

Otherwise, the Dix Hills Park Pool, located at 575 Vanderbilt Parkway, are now:

  • Friday, July 19: 12:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. (usual hours due to scheduled swimming lessons at the pool)
  • Saturday, July 20: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 21: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Non-residents accompanied by a town resident may use the pool by paying the daily Non-ID Card holder fee.

 Pool Admission Fees with Recreation Photo ID Card, are children (under 13) – $5; teens (13 – 17) – $6; adults (18 and older) – $7; sr. citizen / disabled – $4.50.

Pool Admission Fee (without Recreation Photo ID Card): $15 per person.

Pool Membership: Family Membership – $250/season; Individual Membership – $100/season; Sr. Citizen/Disabled – $50/season.

Otherwise, all Town Beaches will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (usual hours) during the weekend heatwave. These include:

  • Asharoken Beach, Eaton’s Neck Road, Northport
  • Centerport Beach, Little Neck Road, Centerport
  • Crab Meadow Beach, Waterside Avenue, Northport
  • Crescent Beach, Crescent Beach Drive, Huntington Bay
  • Fleets Cove Beach, Fleets Cove Road, Centerport
  • Gold Star Battalion Beach, West Shore Road, Huntington
  • Hobart Beach, Eaton’s Neck Road, Eaton’s Neck
  • Quentin Sammis/West Neck Beach, West Neck Road, Lloyd Harbor
  • Geissler’s Beach, (fishing only), Makamah Road, Northport

Huntington town board listens to residents complaints at a March 5 meeting. Photo by David Luces

Many Huntington residents rely on income from accessory apartments to help offset high property taxes. The Town of Huntington has proposed legislation that would change rental rules. In some cases, the new rules are more lenient, making it easier for people to rent space in their home.  But the proposals also include a ban on basement apartments, unless a valid dwelling unit permit already exists. 

The fate of these accessory apartments has proved to be a contentious issue and residents have been debating the pros and cons of such a change in May and June at two town board meetings. 

“This could create cramped and unsafe living conditions.”

— Hector Gavilla

At a May 30 public hearing, a change in local zoning law was discussed and would reduce the lot size requirement for accessory apartments from 7,500 square feet to 5,000. The frontage requirement for an apartment would change from 75 feet to 50 feet. 

Hector Gavilla, a real estate broker in the town for the past 16 years, spoke at the hearing and sent a letter stating that high property taxes are the real problem that needs to be addressed. He also said it is a false narrative to tell people that these changes in the law will lower the rates for apartment rentals. He argued that the changes in law could harm more people than it would help. 

“[The proposal] this will allow too many people to occupy much smaller dwellings,” he said. “This could create cramped and unsafe living conditions.” 

Town records show that the town unanimously approved a resolution to ban basement apartments without a valid permit.

At a June town board meeting, a proposal to ban all basement and cellar apartments, unless a valid permit already exists or is pending with an already-filed application, was put on the table as well as changes to short-term rental rules.  Some residents argued that the ban would negatively impact lower-income homeowners. Others said basement apartments are a safety concern and potentially hazardous, because the space is prone to mold and carbon monoxide leaks. 

Huntington resident Dale Gifford said she is in favor of the ban on basement apartments in the town. 

“Expert environmentalists have come from out of town to lend their voices to educate the public and the board on the damages caused by overdevelopment and overcrowding,” she said. “Nitrate seeps through the soil from stressed cesspools and gets picked up by the heavy rain.” 

John Esposito had similar sentiments on the legislation, stating that it is a no-brainer. Accessory apartments, he said, can be especially hazardous to EMT and emergency response workers due to possible carbon monoxide issues that can occur in basements. 

“This a step in the right direction. Myself and others object to the overdevelopment, zoning of multiple apartment units and the apartments behind Stop and Shop,” he said. “This will give us a better quality of life [in the town].”

Conrad Ege, a Huntington resident, opposed the legislation, saying it was too much of a financial burden. 

“It would make it harder for them to pay some lines of credit, to pay taxes, to pay for other improvements that are necessary on their home and it would just make it more difficult for them to live here,” he said. 

Despite being opposed to the accessory apartment ban, Ege said he supports the legislation that would put limitations on short-term rentals in the town. 

Roger Weaving Jr., president of the Huntington Township Housing Coalition, stated he is in favor of the bill, but asked the board to clarify what they meant by accessory dwelling units. Certain style homes, such as high ranches, could cause some confusion.  He stressed that high ranches should be able to continue to have accessory dwellings.

We are here with concerns and the town is simply putting Band-aids on our problems. The change to 90 days is a start, but we really have a way to go.”

— Justine Aaronson

With the popularity of Airbnb, residents have complained that these short-term rentals have negatively impacted their quality of life. In April, the town board voted to reduce the number of days that a homeowner can engage in short-term rental agreements from 120 days a year to 90 days. Some residents said that the limit is not enough. Justine Aaronson, a Dix Hills resident, complained that accessory apartments affect quality of life. She told the town board of an incident where a stranger’s car with out-of-state plates was parked on their driveway around midnight. Concerned, she called the police and later found out that the individual was staying in a neighbor’s rental unit. 

“I want the Town of Huntington to protect the quality of life in residential communities,” she said. “We are here with concerns and the town is simply putting Band-aids on our problems. The change to 90 days is a start, but we really have a way to go.”

“We’re talking about a win-win-win situation with these amendments as they will make it possible for our older residents to age in place, allow our younger residents to attain the dream of homeownership, all while giving the town a means by which to directly regulate, in many cases, previously illegal rental housing,” said Councilwoman Joan Cergol. “My prior sixteen years in Huntington Town government specializing in economic and community development have deeply sensitized me to the very real financial challenges and housing needs our residents face every day. I’m so gratified to be in a position to answer this call.”

The next public hearing is scheduled for July 16 at 2 p.m.

This past weekend, several parts of Long Island was hit by an unexpected flash wind and rain storm that took down numerous large trees, branches and electric wires across parts of Long Island. In the Town of Huntington, much of the northern and eastern parts of town were affected.

Over 80,000 homes and businesses across Long Island lost power due to the storms. 26,000, nearly one third of the total power outages, were spread across Huntington, Smithtown and Islip.

Huntington’s Highway, General Services and Maritime Services Departments worked through the night to clear roads and waterways of hazards created by the storm, working on over 750 service tickets.

Crews from Nassau County, upstate New York and out of state, including 48 Con Edison personnel and approximately 400 tree trim and line workers assisted.

General services crew leaders are completing damage assessment at all

Huntington town facilities and parks, municipal & commuter parking lots.

Tree and limb removal will take place at Veterans Park, Henry Ingraham Preserve, Heckscher Park, Caravan Park, Elwood Park, William Byrne Park, Cedar Road Park, Commack Park, Dix Hills Park & Golf course, and the Washington Drive Parking Lot.

The most extensive damage is at Crab Meadow Golf Course where approximately 35 trees are down, and hundreds of broken branches are on the ground or hanging in trees. The golf course is currently closed, and officials hope to have it opened for play by this Wednesday,  June 3, even though tree removal operations will continue for several weeks.

The Dix Hills Pool was closed July 1 due to a power outage.

Officials said they expected half of all outages would have been restored by July 1 and 95% restored by midnight, July 2.

To report a downed wire and receive status updates on power call PSEG Long Island’s 24-hour Electric Service number at 1-800-490-0075.

To report downed trees blocking roads or branches suspended over roads, contact the Highway Department at (631) 499-0444 or huntingtonny.gov/highway.

Residents without power can keep cool at these Town of Huntington facilities:

  • Senior Center at 423 Park Avenue in Huntington from Monday to Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Dix Hills Ice Rink at 575 Vanderbilt Parkway, open until 8 p.m. and opening at 6 AM.
  • Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park at Elwood Park on Cuba Hill Road in Elwood is open 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. seven days a week, with extended hours, opening at 10 a.m. for special needs children Tuesdays and Thursdays, including the 4th of July.

Four Seasons spa in Huntington. Photo by Donna Deedy

Suffolk County Police arrested two Flushing women June 20 during a raid at a massage parlor in Huntington.

In response to community complaints, Suffolk County Police 2nd Precinct Crime Section officers, assisted by the Town of Huntington Public Safety’s criminal intelligence detectives and 2nd Squad detectives, conducted an investigation into illegal activity at the Four Seasons Spa, located at 367 West Jericho Turnpike at around 5:35 p.m.

Jing Mei Zou, 50, of Flushing, and Qiong Zhou, 55, of Flushing, were arrested and charged with two counts of prostitution and two counts of unauthorized practice of a profession. There were no customers in the business at the time the search warrant was executed, according to police. No other arrests were made. Business records and massage tables were seized as part of the search and the policy say that the investigation is ongoing.

The Town of Huntington does not have the authority to shut down the spa, but issued five summonses for building violations that include illegal signs, public nuisance, interior alterations without a certificate of occupancy and plumbing without necessary permits. 

The doors were locked, but the business still posts its telephone number on the door. A business using the same phone number and address still advertises massage services on a website longisland.bedpage.com, posted on May 8. 

Zou and Zhou pleaded guilty to one count of attempted unauthorized practice of a profession a misdemeanor, and were sentenced to one year probation.

Suffolk County police have previously conducted similar raids and investigations, particularly in 2017, for prostitution at massage parlors. 

After an extensive search for technology, the Town of Huntington now offers closed captions for town meetings. The screen shot above is from the May 29 town board meeting, where the benefits of organ and tissue donation were discussed. Image provided by Councilwoman Cergol’s office.

Civic engagement just became easier for hearing-impaired Huntington residents. The town announced the debut of real-time closed captioning of town board, planning board and zoning board appeals meetings for viewing on the town’s website and government access television channel.

“This is an important expansion of both the town’s transparency of government actions and its ability to better serve the disabled community,” said Councilwoman Joan Cergol, who initiated in early 2018 live-streaming of the meetings. 

“As a member of Huntington’s Citizens Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities, I want to thank Councilwoman Cergol and her staff for meeting with us and quickly acting on the committee’s suggestion to add closed captioning to town meeting videos,” said committee member Len Urban. “People like myself with a hearing loss depend on closed captioning to enjoy television, movies and also to keep informed.  We can now follow the comments, conversations and debates at Town Hall easily at home without the frustrations of not hearing clearly.”   

When Cergol met with the committee, committee members cited two actions they wanted the town to pursue: expanding HART bus paratransit service to take residents to doctor’s appointments at two medical facilities on the east side of Commack Road, and adding closed captioning to the town meeting broadcasts.

Cergol contacted the town’s Department of Transportation, which agreed to a pilot program expanding the HART paratransit service to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center at 650 Commack Road, Commack and to both the St. Catherine and St. Charles Health and Wellness Center and Stony Brook Advanced Specialty Care at 500 Commack Road. 

The process that led to closed captioning was more involved. A search of other municipalities that provided closed captioning found that some used a paid service in which people listened to the meetings and added the captions, not necessarily in real time.

The town’s Information Technology Department, however, said it preferred to seek a piece of speech-to-text equipment that would be more cost-effective and allow instantaneous translations. The issues centered on both cost and accuracy. Cergol’s staff began contacting governments throughout the United States, which led to conversations with officials in Austin, Texas, whose captions appeared to meet the accuracy test. They identified the equipment they used and the manufacturer — a company, as it turned out, headquartered in Farmingdale.

“I’m proud to say our nationwide search led us right back to Long Island,” Cergol said.

Cergol’s staff passed that information on to the Information Technology Department, which arranged to borrow the device for a test. When that test met the town’s standards and was then favorably reviewed by a hearing-impaired member of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee, the decision was made to purchase the equipment, at no cost to taxpayers. Cergol tapped the franchise fees paid to the town by Altice and Verizon to fund the equipment purchase and associated monthly usage fees.

“I want to thank Citizens Advisory Committee for Persons with Disabilities member Len Urban for beta-testing the closed captioning technology on behalf of the town’s hearing-impaired community, and committee chair Marianne Iannaccone and her committee members for their very important role in sensitizing us to the barriers they confront so we can do all we can to remove them,” concluded Cergol.

The meetings can be viewed on the town’s government access channels, Optimum Channel 18 and FiOS Channel 38, or on the town’s website at www.huntingtonny.gov/meetings.

Juvenile clams maturing in Brookhaven’s hatchery. File photo by Alex Petroski

The Town of Huntington and the State Department of Environmental Conservation have separate rules and regulations related to shellfishing, which may confuse some people. Erica Ringewald, a spokesperson for the DEC agreed to answer a few general questions about shellfish harvesting in local bays and harbors. 

Are diesel boats dredging or sail dredging in Huntington Harbor and have they “stolen” millions of dollars’ worth of clams and oysters? Does the state punish this? 

The Town of Huntington has jurisdiction over the method of shellfish harvesting in town waters, which comprise Huntington Bay, Hunting Harbor, Centerport Harbor and Northport Harbor. Shellfish harvesting, regardless of method, is prohibited by DEC in Huntington Harbor, which is closed to the taking of shellfish year-round. 

Has shellfish dredging been identified as a problem?

DEC’s Division of Law Enforcement responds to a few complaints each year, particularly in winter, and often works with the Town of Huntington to investigate depending on the type of complaint made and where the alleged harvesting may be taking place. DEC has not received reports of the illegal harvest of millions of dollars of shellfish at this location.

Fines for violations include: 

First offense for taking shellfish in closed section ranges from $250 to 1,000 (misdemeanor) and value of shellfish illegally taken can be added to the fine. First offense for taking shellfish by mechanical means ranges from $250 to 1,000 (misdemeanor) and the subject could lose the boat and all equipment. In addition, two convictions within a five-year period would result in mandatory license revocation and an administrative suspension of up to 6 months.

Are there different rules and catch limits for commercial vs. recreational shellfish harvesting? 

No permit is required for recreational shellfish harvesting from state lands. Local towns have additional restrictions on catch limits, size limits, season, type of gear and may require residency and additional permits. Recreational harvesters are required to check with the local town they are harvesting from for specific information.

Commercial shellfish harvesters are required to obtain a New York State Shellfish Digger Permit. This permit allows only the permit holder to harvest, cull, sort or tag clams, oysters, mussels and scallops taken from certified or open waters for commercial purposes. An additional Shellfish Digger Vessel Endorsement is required to allow a Shellfish Digger Permit holder to endorse his or her permit to a single vessel which covers all people on board the vessel while harvesting, culling, sorting or tagging hard clams and oysters. For state shellfish harvest limits visit www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/29870.html.

How long has shellfishing been prohibited in Huntington Harbor?

Huntington Bay is certified (open) for the harvest of shellfish. Approximately 50 percent of Huntington Harbor (southernmost portion) was closed to shellfish harvesting in 1975. The harbor was entirely closed to shellfish harvesting by 1986. For information on shellfish closures in Huntington Harbor, refer to www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/103483.html#Huntington_Harbor11.

A high majority of people—95% nationwide—support organ donation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Yet, only 29% of adults in New York have actually enrolled in the state's program. Left to right: Mark Cuthbertson, Christian Siems and Michele Martines raise awareness to improve organ and tissue donor rates. Go to Mydmv at dmv.ny.gov to register.

It’s as simple as signing a box on the back of your state driver’s license. Yet, New York ranks dead last in the country for the percentage of residents registered as organ donors, according to LiveOnNY, a nonprofit organization helping New Yorkers live on through organ and tissue donation.

The people in Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson’s (D) office know firsthand how critical it is to participate in the program. Both Cuthbertson and his legislative aide Michele Martines have children that needed transplants. Their ordeal has motivated them to spread the word about the importance of signing the organ donation registry.

“You can save a life,” said Martines.

In 2015, her 21-year-old son Christian received a heart transplant. He was diagnosed at age 18 with dilated cardiomyopathy and suffered cardiac arrest about a year later. Luckily for Christian and his mother, they ultimately received a call that they found a donor. Martines said many are not that lucky and die waiting for a donor.

“We didn’t know at the time that the left side of his heart had failed and if he didn’t get the call for his heart he would have passed away that night.”

Every 18 hours a New Yorker dies waiting for a donor, she said. “In New York it can take up to seven years to receive a kidney or liver transplant.”

Cuthbertson also has been affected personally by organ transplants. His son, Hunter was diagnosed in 2016 with aplastic anemia during a precollege physical. The condition causes a failure of the bone marrow to produce the necessary amount of red blood cells. The chance of finding a perfect match in bone marrow with a relative is only 20 percent, but he found that his brother was a perfect match. In 2017, Hunter received a bone marrow transplant.

“I was elated when I learned he was a match, I dropped to my knees and I was crying,” Hunter said in a May 2018 Times of Huntington article.

Despite efforts in recent years to improve the rate of organ donations, New York still lags behind the rest of the country.  Only 32 percent of New York State residents are signed up as organ donors. The nationwide average is 56 percent.

Since his surgery, Christian has taken up public speaking to local schools and advocating the need for organ donors.

“We need to educate more people about organ transplants,” Martines said. “Christian goes out and talks to kids and tells them his story.”

And the Town of Huntington has moved to the forefront of advocating the need for more donors on the registry. Beginning in 2018, the town began hosting a 5k Run to Save Lives, which highlights the statewide problem. Participants at this year’s event helped raise $11,000. All proceeds went to three nonprofits that handle and advocate organ and tissue donations:  LiveOnNY, Be the Match and Team Liberty.

Dr. Alan Gass, medical director of heart transplant and mechanical circulatory support at Westchester Medical Center oversaw Christian’s transplant surgery. He said there needs to be more education about organ donations.  He wants people to know that transplants work and it’s not just the rich and famous who receive organs.

“Most patients live on for decades after getting a transplant,” he said.  “Being a donor is the ultimate way of giving back.”

Martines said she hopes the work she and others are doing will eliminate misconceptions and help increase the number of people who sign up to be donors. “We’ll continue to try and make a difference here,” she said. “My son is alive because of a total stranger.”

Huntington Harbormaster Fred Uvena gives a tour of accident-prone sites. File Photo by Kyle Barr

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) decided to postpone voting on the town’s new mooring policy after the May 29 public hearing on the issue at Town Hall. 

“The supervisor felt the board needed additional time to contemplate the code changes and accompanying rate increases,” said Lauren Lembo, public information officer for Lupinacci, in response to an email inquiry.

The Wednesday afternoon meeting attracted a large number of speakers opposed to the changes.  Many complaints centered on the additional fees and insurance requirements.  Residents who spoke thought that visiting yachts should be responsible for absorbing additional costs, rather than taxpaying residents. 

The proposed mooring resolution as currently drafted aims to accomplish the following:

• Prevent irresponsible boat ownership and irresponsible boating.

 • Place liability for all costs incurred by the town in removing, storing and disposing of unseaworthy and wrecked vessels on the owner or person responsible for the vessel. 

 • Increase required insurance limits for vessel wreck removal and pollution mitigation; assure those who have concerns that this will, in fact, not require the Town to be named as an additional insured.

 • Lower the cost of transient commercial mooring permits from $200 to $40 to help the local maritime economy.

• Allow the 40 or so commercial baymen who operate in Huntington’s waterways to have their mooring permit included with the issuance or renewal of their commercial license, making it easier to do business in the Town of Huntington.

• Establish a nominal $40 season permit fee to be deposited into the board of trustees account. Non-residents already pay $200 for the same season permit to help cover the costs of vessel wreck removal, pollution mitigation, and remediation of navigational safety hazards.  The fees would also be used to help fund building a database to help the town identify who owns the boats on town moorings in the harbor, so the town can hold violators responsible for hazardous boating safety conditions.

“Our maritime and harbormaster staff often remove debris from the water—dislodged docks from Connecticut, wrecked and abandoned vessels in our own waterways and other hazards that can cause harm to life and property near our shorelines,” Lupinacci said at the meeting. “The town spent over $50,000 last year removing derelict and abandoned boats in an effort to keep the harbor safe to navigate and protect our water quality. Taxpayers should not be on the hook for the consequences of irresponsible boat ownership.”

Northport power plant. File photo

One year ago, the Town of Huntington’s board members considered eminent domain proceedings for the Northport power plant as a potential outcome to LIPA’s tax lawsuit against the Town of Huntington.  

A newly released report on the topic, prepared by the town attorney and several other town departments, now suggests the legal obstacles just may be too great for the town to overcome.

“Let’s take it, let’s take it now.”

— Eugene Cook

The report notes that eminent domain proceedings would render the power  plant property exempt from taxes, a situation that would result in the loss of $55 million in taxes to the Northport-East Northport school district.

Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) found this aspect of the situation to be unacceptable.

“After reading the thorough report prepared by the town attorney, it is my position that eminent domain of the Northport power plant would not be feasible and would actually harm the Northport-East Northport school district, as well as taxpayers in the Town of Huntington, by making the property tax-exempt,” he said. 

Some board members, however, still support the idea of establishing a municipal utility through eminent domain proceedings.

“Let’s take it, let’s take it now,” Councilman Eugene Cook (I) said in a telephone interview. “We can lower taxes; we can reduce energy costs.” 

Cook estimates that the plant will likely be used for another 20 to 30 years, and he said that it may become a more important part of the state’s energy plan when Indian Point nuclear power plant closes next year. He’s undeterred by the report.

The detailed legal and financial challenges outlined in the report cite a range of laws, legal opinions and case law to support its findings.

“There is no doubt that General Municipal Law Section 360 authorizes municipalities to own and operate a power-generating facility,” the report states. “However, the grant of authority in Section 360 is limited.”

A main sticking point: The town can generate electricity for itself and its residents. But using only a fraction of the energy that it generates — and selling the rest to a public utility — is legally questionable. The report based this conclusion on a 1989 legal opinion of New York State’s attorney general, which reportedly states that a municipality cannot own and operate a power plant for the sole purpose of selling power to a public utility.

Using the current situation as an example, the report indicates the Town of Huntington would use approximately 15 percent of the energy generated by the Northport power plant, leaving a surplus of 85 percent. The courts would need to determine whether or not the arrangement would be legally acceptable, as stated in the report. 

Power of the LIPA statute

Town attorney Nick Ciappetta said the town does not need permission to file eminent domain proceedings to acquire the Northport plant, but he added it’s unclear in LIPA’s Power Supply Agreement with National Grid if the town can step into National Grid’s shoes.

Additionally, the LIPA agreement may also prohibit a local municipality from owning, condemning and operating a power plant in any part of the former LILCO’s service area.  

“My focus is on passing legislation that would protect taxpayers across Long Island from LIPA’s nonsensical attempts to destroy communities.”

— Jim Gaughran

“A municipality located within LILCO’s former service area may not establish a public utility service to provide gas or electric power without LIPA’s agreement,” the report states, citing a 1999 attorney general legal opinion.

LIPA spokesman Sid Nathan did not respond to phone calls or questions submitted via email regarding the Northport power plant, but in a May 9, 2018, Times of Huntington-Northport report on the eminent domain proposal, the utility’s spokesperson said that LIPA’s annual $80 million in property taxes for the Northport power plant exceeds its revenue, potentially rendering the decision not in the public’s interest.

If the town board majority remains interested in pursuing the eminent domain option, the next step, as described in the report, would be for the town to hire an accounting firm to analyze the public benefit of operating the power station.  

Financial challenges

The Northport board of education weighed in on the loss and determined that it would have to dramatically reduce staff at all levels, eliminate proposed capital improvements, eliminate extra-curricular and academic offerings and significantly increase class size, among other measures.

“Assuming that the town’s operation of the power plant results in a net profit, there does not appear to be a legal mechanism to make the school district whole,” the report states.

This past spring NY State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) introduced legislation (§4452a)that aims to supplement school districts and government entities impacted by LIPA’s tax suit with additional state funds. The bills, though, still require support from the state legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

“I stand fully behind the Town of Huntington in their lawsuit with LIPA and I have led the fight in Albany to protect taxpayers threatened by LIPA’s wreckless lawsuits, introducing and passing bills that would do just that,” Gaughran said. “My focus is on passing legislation that would protect taxpayers across Long Island from LIPA’s nonsensical attempts to destroy communities.”

If Gaughran’s bills pass and the board votes to move forward, the report also notes a majority of town voters would still need to approve a public referendum to acquire the power plant. 

“This would be a tall order as the power plant lies exclusively within the confines of the Northport-East Northport school district and voters outside of that school district might deem such an acquisition too provincial and/or not in their best interests,” the report states.

Paul Darrigo, a Northport resident who has garnered more than 4,500 supporters through a Facebook campaign Concerned Taxpayers Against LIPA, said he is not yet prepared to comment on the complex idea of taking over the power plant through eminent domain. 

The deal, if it gets the green light from board members, the courts and the community, would also be dependent upon the town’s ability to borrow money or issue bonds to finance a municipal utility. If it all worked out, the project would “at a minimum,” reportedly double the town’s outstanding debt.  

The Northport power plant, the largest power generating station on Long Island, is owned by National Grid, a multinational business located in the United Kingdom. The plant and its four generating units and support facilities sit on 275 acres along Long Island’s North Shore. The town estimates the value of the property at $3.4 billion and receives $84 million in taxes. The plant burns both oil and gas and is regarded as a major air polluter. Both the American Lung Association and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation have found its ozone emissions, a powerful respiratory irritant, to be a serious public health concern.