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Town of Smithtown

Town's 2018 capital budget of $9.5 million features Lake Avenue revitalization in St. James

A plan for what Lake Avenue would look like post-revitalization. Photos from the Lake Avenue renovation capital project report, prepared by the Smithtown Planning Department

With the adoption of more than $30 million in  capital plans Tuesday, Smithtown officials hope to be looking at a robust future.

Smithtown Town Board approved its 2018 capital budget of $9.5 million — $8.8 million is bonded — and a proposed 2019-22 capital plan — totaling $20.8 million.

The majority of the 2018 capital budget funds St. James downtown business district improvements, with $4.6 million in bonds set aside for the revitalization of Lake Avenue, of which $2.4 million will fund water main replacement.

2018 Capital Budget

For 2018, town officials have set aside funding to completely revise the town code — $300,000 — and update the town’s master plan on a budget of $500,000. Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said these will serve as “blueprints for all downtown revitalization throughout Smithtown.”

We cannot move forward without modernizing the town codes, zoning and planning. It is the first big step in making downtown revitalization a reality.”
— Ed Wehrheim

“Without these two items, downtown revitalization is merely a concept,” Wehrheim said. “We cannot move forward without modernizing the town codes, zoning and planning. It is the first big step in making downtown revitalization a reality.”

Wehrheim said the town’s existing master plan was written in-house at least 10 years ago.

Bouncing off the success of a recent market analysis study by an outside urban planner of what was needed to revitalize downtown Kings Park — that broke down the pros and cons of different sections of the hamlet — the town will issue a request for proposals to bring in a new set of eyes to evaluate and suggest improvements to the existing plan.

“The master plan is essentially going to be that, but times 10 or 20,” town spokeswoman Nicole Garguilo said. “It’s geared toward figuring out where the town is going to be decades down the line and the focus of progress for this new administration. It’s really the start of making this town more small business friendly and civic minded.”

Once the results of the evaluation are collected, Wehrheim and other council members will pick and choose what improvements work best for Smithtown.

“We want to hear what they think we need to move forward in the business districts and the rest of the town going into the future,” Wehrheim said.

While discussing the recodification plans, Councilman Thomas McCarthy (R) said, “This is going to bring things into the 21st century.”

“There are so many things, and this is just the beginning”
— Tom McCarthy

“It’s going to streamline things and help residents, help small businesses,” McCarthy said. “It’s been decades now and there’s no reason to make people have to — as I like to say — ‘spit blood’ just to get a permit. Right now they have to go to the board of zoning appeals and planning boards for things approved 95 to 100 percent of the time.”

2019-22 Capital Plan 

Among its planned projects for 2019-22, the town will look to fund $2.2 million in improvements at various town parks: Flynn Memorial Park in Commack to turn it into a premiere Long Island sports park; $500,000 in renovations to Gaynor Park in St. James that include new tennis and basketball courts, a playground with improved surfacing, installation of refurbished, handicap-accessible bathrooms; and new surfacing in the waterpark at Veterans Memorial Park in St. James.

The town also plans to add steps leading to the gazebo at Nesconset Chamber of Commerce, install LED lighting in Maple Avenue Park in Smithtown, repave and landscape the Bellemeade Avenue parking area and replace its deteriorating showmobile. New highway equipment will be purchased, including yard generators for Smithtown and Kings Park.

“There are so many things, and this is just the beginning,” McCarthy said.

The Kindness for the Keely Family mailbox is traveling through Smithtown. Photo from St. James Elementary School PTA

This February, the St. James and greater Smithtown community is focused on sharing words of love and support to help one family through a difficult time.

One by one, cards and small care packages are finding their way to a pink and white mailbox, painted with the words “Kindness for the Keely family.” Each Friday, this mailbox, created by St. James Elementary Parent-Teacher Association, will be delivered to the family of Paige Keely.

Paige Keeley. Photo from St. James Funeral Home

The 6-year-old Paige —  nicknamed “Paigey Bean” — was a first-grader at St. James Elementary School who died of a rare brain condition Jan. 8. Her parents, Tom and Gina Keely, are active members of the St. James community and have two other children, Maeve and Ronan.

“A big concern for all of us is once everything dies down and the dust settles, that the Keelys still feel supported by the community,” said Celina Murphy, president of St. James Elementary PTA. “No one’s forgotten them, we’re all still here.”

Pink ribbons can be spotted across the Smithtown Central School District tied to signs, poles, trees and even in high school cheerleaders’ hair in memory of Paige in the days after her death.

Business owners reached out to show their support. Commack resident Nicole Helfman, owner of Creative Cutz Design, made 350 vinyl decals for the school district so they could be put up in car windows and glass storefronts.

“For anyone who has kids, knows kids or is a teacher, it just hits home,” Helfman said. “People want to help out.”

Now, PTA members are passing a mailbox between buildings to collect donations of sympathy cards, gift cards, restaurant certificates, small care packages and other well wishes from community members for the Keely family. It will be at Nesaquake Middle School through Feb. 9, followed by Smithtown High School West from Feb. 12 to 16.

“The outpouring has been tremendous from the community both within the district and community at large,” said Mary Grace Lynch, principal of St. James Elementary School. “Within the district, the teachers, staff and administration have been incredibly supportive of the Keely family.”

Those who wish to send a sympathy card or donation, but do not have children in the school, can mail packages clearly marked “Kindness for Keely” to St. James Elementary School at 580 Lake Ave., St. James, NY 11780.

Lynch said the school will be constructing a butterfly garden in memory of Paige at the family’s request, once they are ready. The principal said she is confident with the number of Scout troops, high school teams and clubs who have reached out asking how to honor Paige’s memory. There will be no shortage of hands and support to construct the garden.

“That little girl has impacted so many, many people in her six short years of life,” Lynch said. “She’s had a profound and lasting effect on the community.”

The Kindness for Keely mailbox will be at: Accompsett Elementary School, Feb. 26 to March 3; Tackan Elementary, March 5 to 9; Mills Pond Elementary, March 12 to 16; Smithtown Elementary, March 19 to 23; Dogwood Elementary, March 26 to 30; High School East, April 9 to 13;  Mount Pleasant Elementary; April 16 to 20; Accompsett Middle School, April 23 to 27; and Great Hollow Middle School, April 30 to May 4.

Dredging crew rescues five town employees from frigid waters after boat capsized

Gibson & Cushman dredgers Keith Ramsey and Che Daniels accept proclamations for helping rescuing five Town of Smithtown employees including Joseph Link, on right. Photo by Kevin Redding.

A Bay Shore-based dredging crew sprung into action while working on the Nissequogue River in December when a boat capsized, hurling five Town of Smithtown employees into the frigid waters. For their heroic efforts, the seven-man crew, responding medical professionals and first responders, were honored by Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) during a special ceremony at town hall Jan. 30.

“A first responder’s primary duty is to protect all others before self,” Wehrheim said before presenting plaques to the heroes. “But, when unforeseen conditions put the lives of first responders at risk, who protects them?”

I was just trying to keep my head above the surface.”

— Joseph Link

It started out as a routine day for three bay constables and two parks employees as they steered their vessel around the head of the river Dec. 12 removing buoys. While attempting to pull a seventh buoy from the water, however, a rogue wave came crashing in from Long Island Sound. It flooded the boat, overturning it in a matter of seconds. All five employees struggled to swim the 40-feet to shore against the rough current.

“I couldn’t get anywhere, the waters were way too strong,” said Joseph Link, of one of the rescued employees. Link said he wasn’t wearing a life jacket at the time as it obstructed his work. “I was just trying to keep my head above the surface.”

Sgt. Charles Malloy, a senior bay constable, said he faced different dangers when he was knocked overboard.

“I was swimming away from the rear of the boat because the motors were still engaged and the propellers were still spinning and within arm’s reach,” Malloy said.

Luckily, members from Gibson & Cushman Dredging Company were about 500 yards away when the accident occurred, setting up equipment by the river’s bluff. Once they saw the boat capsize, the crew acted quickly.

“We just grabbed some lines or whatever else we could find and started throwing them out to pull them toward us,” said dredger Keith Ramsey.

They yanked four of the five stranded employees onto their boat. One member, Dan Landauer, managed to swim back to shore on his own.

“It was just our reaction,” said dredger Che Daniels. “We saw that people were in the water. The water was cold, like 40 degrees [Fahrenheit]. The wind was blowing. We were just doing what we would do for anybody on our crew if something were to happen like that.”

Upon reaching the shore, Kings Park volunteer firefighters and Kings Park EMS responders rushed to the scene. Two men were treated for hypothermia and exposure. All were transported to St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center and out of the hospital within an hour without any lasting injuries.

We were just doing what we would do for anybody on our crew if something were to happen like that.”

— Che Daniels

Paul Taglienti, director of emergency medical service at St. Catherine’s, was honored during the ceremony. He said his staff’s job had been about 95 percent done for them. “This was a circumstance where I think everything was done pretty much ideally,” Taglienti said. “They were rescued very quickly and we just kept an eye on them to make sure everyone was OK.”

Wehrheim was joined by town council members Lisa Inzerillo (R) and Tom McCarthy (R), to present proclamations to all seven members of Gibson & Cushman — Daniel Engel, Daniels, Michael Lake, Jordy Johnson, Joseph Johnson, Ramsey and Peter Wadelton — although only Ramsey and Daniels were on hand to accept them. 

“I was glad when I heard they helped out, but I also would expect that from them,” said Matthew Grant, supervisor of the dredging crew’s project. “If something happens, we help out. Not many people are out on the water at that time of year, so it was a good thing we were there.”

Those rescued echoed the sentiment.

“If it wasn’t for the dredge crew — use your imagination,” Malloy said. “The outcome would’ve been far more tragic.”

Landauer also expressed his gratitude.

“There wasn’t a hiccup in anything they did, they saw us and boom — they jumped right on it,” he said. “I hope they never have to do it again, but I’m very glad that they were there that day.”

Smithtown United Civic Association member Mark Mancini. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A conceptual plan for revitalizing downtown Smithtown has community support, but faces a number of serious challenges.

Smithtown United Civic Association debuted its proposal for western Main Street’s revitalization Jan. 25 before the Smithtown Town Board to find solid community backing. Yet, elected officials and business leaders note there are serious challenges to its implementation.

Mark Mancini, a Smithtown resident and architect, presented Smithtown United’s conceptual design for Main Street which focuses on the preservation of the Smithtown school district’s New York Avenue administrative building and its fields. Public outcry halted plans to demolish the building for a 251-unit apartment complex in 2017.

“It became pretty clear that we have to take steps first as a community to make something happen on Main Street that we all can deal with,” Mancini said. “We are going to develop no matter what you might think or what you may want. Everything changes.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) assigned $20 million from the state budget for the installation of sewer mains in Smithtown, which Mancini said brings opportunity for development that residents need to have their say.

The first step in the civic association’s plan is to preserve the New York Avenue building and its property as open green space.

“I consider it a diamond in the rough in the Smithtown downtown Main Street area,” said Bob Hughes, one of the 10 members of Smithtown United. “I would like to see it as a downtown central park, to make it a destination.”

Pasquale LaManna, president of the Smithtown Kickers Soccer Club board, said he backed the proposal as it preserves the fields for recreational use. LaManna said the Smithtown Kickers is the third largest soccer club on Long Island with more than 2,000 children who play at New York Avenue.

“It’s extremely vital for us to have the green space,” he said.

Smithtown United calls for Smithtown elected officials to purchase the New York Avenue building from the Smithtown school district and use it to consolidate all town departments and services in one location.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said negotiations between the town and school district over the potential sale of the New York Avenue property had broken down in late 2017, after an appraisal determined a fair market price would be $6.8 million. The supervisor was hopeful that these negotiations could be picked up in the future.

“If the community in that area is amicable to having those discussions about developing the property, I think the school board would get back engaged,” Wehrheim said.

Other key components of the revitalization plan call for the construction of mixed-use retail stores with apartments above on the south side of Main Street with transit-oriented housing alongside the Smithtown Long Island Rail Road station.

Jack Kulka, a real estate developer and founder of Hauppauge Industrial Association, strongly supported the construction of apartments in a new “mixed imaginative zoning” code.

“If you are serious about revitalizing downtown Smithtown, you are going to have to increase the density of population in downtown Smithtown,” he said. “You need to have creativity. I think the concept, which is very important, of having residential next to the train station … has to come to Smithtown.”

Kulka stressed that Smithtown United’s plan would not work if town officials didn’t utilize the $20 million set aside by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to install sewers in Smithtown. Wehrheim agreed on the importance of sewers, stating that it is moving forward, but said he has also scheduled meetings with different developers in February.

“I have meetings set up with a couple developers, whose names I cannot divulge, to see if there are other developers that now have an interest in looking at the conceptual plan Smithtown United drew up and see if it’s feasible to embark on a project,” Wehrheim said. “That’s the first step.”

Presentations to be held on Kings Park market analysis, Smithtown United's Main Street proposal

Smithtown United Civic Association will publicly present its proposal to revitalize western Main Street Jan. 25, 7 p.m. at town hall. Rendering courtesy of Smithtown United Civic Association.

Smithtown’s new town administration is pushing forward with a strong emphasis on downtown revitalization for 2018.

A special report and final marketing analysis of downtown Kings Park will be unveiled at the Jan. 25 town board meeting set for 7 p.m. at town hall.

Larisa Ortiz Associates, a Jackson Heights-based market analysis and community-based planning firm that put together the report, gave an initial presentation to Kings Park community members in November 2017, but has since updated it with further input and recommendations from residents.

“As a result of this preliminary research, we have a greater understanding of the key elements, marketing opportunities and how to implement a plan that will deliver a thriving downtown business district,” said Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R), who resides in Kings Park.

Key findings expected to be discussed include how there’s sufficient demand to support additional retail spaces, the critical role of restaurants and bars, and improvements to walkability. The market analysis findings also suggest adding new residential buildings to Kings Park, if sewer improvements can be made, to increase the spending power of its local economy.

Tony Tanzi, president of Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, said the preliminary report in November was encouraging news for Kings Park.

“It’s actually quite eye-opening some of the things it found, some of what we had suspected it proved out,” Tanzi said. “It’s educational in that you’ll learn a good bit about what the potential can be for Kings Park and other hamlets in Smithtown overall.”

The hamlet of St. James and its residents may take a particular interest in the Kings Park analysis, as they push forward with their own downtown revitalization project. The Community Association of Greater St. James invited Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, as a guest speaker at its Jan. 22 general meeting.

“You will have to have some hard discussions on what you want your business district to look like,” Alexander said to St. James residents. “You need to create clarity on what you want your downtown to be.”

Smithtown Town Board approved a $2.3 million bond at its Jan. 9 board of water commissioners meeting to replace water mains along Lake Avenue, the first step toward reconstruction of the Lake Avenue business district. Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) said the water main installation is slated to start May 1, with the goal of installation by June 30 and road reconstruction starting in July.

“I think everyone has the same idea about St. James downtown,” Nowick said. “It’s not multilevel housing but an active, vibrant downtown.”

Breathing new life into a downtown business district is also the aim of Smithtown United Civic Association. President Timothy Small will also publicly present the civic group’s proposed plan for the New York
Avenue Smithtown school district property and western Smithtown Main Street to the town board Jan. 25.

Smithtown United’s plan for the downtown area focuses on key points including consolidation of the town offices into the New York Avenue school building, retaining the sports fields for public use, road improvements and construction of transit-oriented housing. The group is seeking public feedback on the
proposed plans.

A fearless Long Island deer forages for food. Photo by Rohma Abbas

An East Quogue-based hunting group is taking aim at Smithtown town code that regulates the use of firearms, including longbows.

Hunters for Deer filed a lawsuit against the Town of Smithtown in New York State Supreme Court last month, claiming the town’s required firearms code is illegal and inconsistent with state regulations set by the Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The town is stepping on the DEC’s toes,” said Michael Tessitore, president of Hunters for Deer. “We are saying that we already have laws being regulated by the DEC, the town is muddying the waters.”

Tessitore said he and his fellow hunters take issue with the town’s definition of a firearm because it differs from the DEC’s definition and increases the required setback, or distance hunters can be from a dwelling.

Under Section 160 of town code, Smithtown defines a firearm as “a weapon which acts by force of gunpowder or from which a shot is discharged by force of an explosion, as well as an air rifle, an air gun, a BB gun, a slingshot and a bow and arrow.” It was last updated in January 1990.

By comparison, the DEC’s regulations recognize rifles, pistols, shotguns and specific types of airguns as firearms, but doesn’t include longbows which are used for deer hunting.

Due to this difference, Hunters for Deer is suing saying the Town of Smithtown’s required 500-foot setback from the nearest dwelling to discharge a firearm is illegal, citing that New York State reduced the setback for longbows from 500 to 150 feet in 2014.

The difference in the laws illegally restrains hunters from shooting deer within Smithtown or face possible prosecution, according to the lawsuit filed Dec. 7, and denies them their civil right to participate in hunting activity.

“I have a lot of property owners from Smithtown who call me and ask me to hunt their property, but when they find out the setback they don’t want to do it,” Tessitore said. “It causes the property owners to not want to cause any conflict with their community and get tickets for an otherwise legal activity.”

Christian Killoran, a Westhampton Beach attorney representing Hunters for Deer, sent a letter to the Town of Smithtown advising it of the issues with its code, according to Tessitore, but no action was taken.

Nicole Garguilo, newly appointed town spokeswoman, said that town attorney Matthew Jakubowski was unable to comment on pending litigation.

The town’s response to the lawsuit filed Dec. 18 stated the town was advised of the hunting organization’s position, but its “actions were lawful and within statutory constitutional authority.”

Tessitore said his group previously filed a lawsuit against the Village of Sag Harbor when it attempted to make a law that would have banned hunting within its borders, getting village officials to revisit and later change it. Tessitore said he hopes this lawsuit will have similar effect on the Town of Smithtown, causing town offices to amend town code to be more inline with the state DEC’s regulations.

“The only way to get a municipality’s attention is through a lawsuit and let a court decide who is right and who is wrong,” he said.

Smithtown resident Tom Lohmann takes the oath of office after accepting appointment to Smithtown Town Board. Photo by Kevin Redding

To the surprise of some residents at a Smithtown board meeting last week, Tom Lohmann was sworn in to the town council position he ran unsuccessfully for in November.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R), whose campaign team included Lohmann and Nesconset resident Robert Doyle, said in a statement that after “vetting multiple candidates” and sifting through four resumes, Lohmann emerged the clear winner based on his credentials.

Lohmann, a Smithtown resident, is a former member of the New York City Police Department and current investigator for the county district attorney’s  insurance crime bureau. Wehrheim said the new counilman has shown an ability to maintain confidential information, a knowledge of town laws and codes, and a deep understanding of what the residents want.

“I did not feel there was a rush to appoint anybody.”

— Lynn Nowick

“Ultimately, the deciding factor was in choosing an individual who would work the most cohesively together with the entire town council,” the supervisor said.

But not everyone agrees with the town board on this decision, including one of its own.

Councilwoman Lynn Nowick (R) abstained from voting on the appointment Jan. 9, saying she felt as though there should have been a more thorough vetting process. The councilwoman said she felt there should have been open interviews conducted with all interested candidates during one of the board’s work sessions.

In fact, Nowick said “there was no process” or any townwide notification that the council was accepting resumes for the position. She also said she wanted to hear community input before a decision was made.

“I did not feel there was a rush to appoint anybody,” Nowick said. “It was only Jan. 9. I’m certain we could’ve survived for a few weeks … I would like to have met as a group and interviewed [prospective candidates].”

Among those who spoke out against Lohmann’s appointment was Robert Souto, of Nesconset. Souto said he felt the position should have gone to Democrat Amy Fortunato instead as she placed third in the general election, behind the two incumbents, receiving 17.6 percent of the votes. He asked board members “what was going on” with their decision to appoint Lohmann.

“This is out in public now and it just doesn’t look good,” Souto said. “It seems to be tainted. It’s not a good way to start out.”

Ed Maher, chairman of the Smithtown Democratic Committee, said to the best of his knowledge, there was no official request by the town for applications to fill the position and he was never contacted about a vetting process.

He said Fortunato sent her resume in for consideration, but did so unsolicited, separate from the Democratic committee. Fortunato said she didn’t receive any response from Wehrheim or the town after submitting her resume.

“I think that the Republicans in town made the decision that Tom Lohmann was going to be appointed and they went and did it,” Maher said. “I don’t want to see the town return to where the town’s Republican Committee seems to be making the decisions of who gets to be in town government.”

“This is out in public now and it just doesn’t look good. It seems to be tainted. It’s not a good way to start out.”

— Robert Souto

The party chair said he is hopeful that the Democratic party will be represented on the town board after the town council elections this November.

Joseph Saggese, a St. James resident and Certified Public Accountant, also submitted an application for the open town board seat. Saggese has served on the Smithtown Central School District’s board of education for seven years and has been on the Smithtown Board of Ethics for six years. A registered Republican, Saggese said he was encouraged by other Smithtown Republicans to apply.

“I spoke with Ed Wehrheim and he told me he was going with Lohmann,” Saggese said. “He has a loyalty to the guy that ran with him. I understand loyalty, but there are other ways to repay loyalty. I wish him and everyone else luck though.”

Nicole Garguilo, town spokeswoman, said Lohmann was appointed because he brought a much-needed law enforcement background to the table. She said it was felt he will be an asset when it comes to interacting with the 4th Precinct, emergency medical services and tackling the opioid problem.

Lohmann has been appointed to serve through Dec. 31,  and will have to run a campaign for re-election this November if he wishes to serve the remaining year of Wehrheim’s council seat from Jan.. 1 to Dec. 31, 2019.

Smithtown resident Tom Lohmann takes the oath of office after accepting appointment to Smithtown Town Board. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Sara-Megan Walsh

In Smithtown, a new year brings with it new chances.

Almost two months after Tom Lohmann (C) was trounced in the race for Smithtown Town Board, the former New York City Police Department member was sworn in to fill the vacant council seat left by new supervisor, Ed Wehrheim (R).

Lohmann, 60, a special investigator for the Suffolk district attorney, came in sixth place receiving 9.31 percent of the votes as candidate on the Conservative ticket Nov. 7. He was appointed councilman at the Jan. 9 town board meeting.

His appointment officially took effect Jan. 10, and he will serve through Dec. 31. Lohmann will need to campaign in November if he wishes to fill the remaining year of Wehrheim’s term through December 2019.

Tom Lohmann. Photo by Johnny Cirillo

“I wasn’t expecting this,” Lohmann said of his appointment by Wehrheim, rumblings of which were heard at the end of December. “It’s a big privilege and I’m honored that the board saw fit to give me this opportunity. Over the next 11 months, the people in this town will see the type of person that I am — my word is my bond and I look forward to working for the people in this community.”

Lohmann said he intends to make good on his campaign promises to revise and update Smithtown’s “antiquated” code and redevelop a comprehensive master plan to include all hamlets, in consultation with civic groups and local businesses, to create a better, more transparent government. During the campaign, he said he would like to start up quarterly community meetings in different hamlets so town officials could sit with residents to gauge their concerns and get feedback. He will also be the only town councilmember from Smithtown as the others reside in St. James and Kings Park.

During the meeting, three members of the board — Wehrheim, Lisa Inzerillo (R) and Thomas McCarthy (R) — voted to appoint Lohmann with councilman Lynn Nowick (R) abstaining. Nowick said she wanted an
opportunity to vet all the interested parties for the position and hear community input before making her decision. The town board had about four résumés for the council seat to review, Wehrheim said.

“I would like to have had a longer, more thorough vetting process,” Nowick said. “I wanted to first hear the public possibly at this meeting or the second meeting this month, because I answer to them. But I have no problem with Mr. Lohmann. We’ll work together fine.”

Many residents took to the podium to confront Wehrheim and the rest of the board about their decision to appoint Lohmann instead of Democratic candidate Amy Fortunato. Fortunato placed third in the general election, behind the two incumbents in the election with 17.60 percent of the votes.

“Amy received almost double the amount of votes as Mr. Lohmann,” said Maria LaMalfa, a Smithtown resident of 33 years. “We have 23,000 Democrats, 35,000 Republicans and 2,000 minor party registered voters and we all want the same things in our town. I think the way to accomplish what we want is to work together as a coalition. We have not had that in all the years I’ve lived here.”

“I would like to have had a longer, more thorough vetting process”
—Lynne Nowick

Another resident, Elizabeth Isabella, echoed these concerns.

“I hope in the future we can dialogue across party lines and I want you to know I do congratulate you, but I am very disappointed that Amy’s votes were not taken into consideration,” Isabella said. “And I do wonder what the conversation was as you made your decision.”

Wehrheim pointed out that two major appointments made to the Conservation Board made earlier in the meeting were given to Democrats.

“We do intend to work across party lines,” Wehrheim responded.

Following the meeting, the new supervisor further defended his decision to bring Lohmann aboard, claiming he was a perfect fit for the board.

“We needed to find someone who is thinking the way we’re thinking moving forward so the government can be cohesive and all on the same page,” Wehrheim said. “I also believe there’s a distinct advantage of having someone on this board with a law enforcement background. I think he’ll be an asset when it comes to interacting with [police] and dealing with the opioid epidemic.

Smithtown Supervisor Pat Vecchio surrounding by council members leading after his last town board meeting.

Smithtown residents crowded the town board meeting room to standing room only, trailing down the staircase, waiting patiently in line for one last chance to speak. The three-minute limit for public speakers forgotten, as they came to say farewell and thank you to Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R).

Vecchio led his last town board meeting Dec. 12 marking the end of his 40 years in office.

“Supervisor Vecchio, today is certainly a historic occasion,” said Brad Harris, town historian and former councilman for 12 years. “You’ve been my supervisor for 40 years. That fact in itself is remarkable and historic as it makes you the longest serving supervisor in our town’s history, probably in the state, and probably in the nation … you’ve made Smithtown a model for others to follow.”

Many former town employees, former council members, politicians and residents could recall distinctly the first time they met Vecchio, some dating back to when he first took office in 1978.

“I met him 40 years ago when he was first running for election, I did not vote for him,” admitted Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R-St. James). “I’m sorry I did not because the supervisor, along with the help of the town boards along the way, made this the best town in the United States.”

Suffolk County legislators Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) and Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) presented Vecchio with a county proclamation for his work.

“You have always done what you thought was right for the people,” Kennedy said. “I am proud you have been my supervisor. I know you will stay involved. I know you will put your two cents in at every opportunity you get and I am glad.”

“The best measure is: Did you leave the town better than those before you? The answer is absolutely yes.”

— Mike Fitzpatrick

Trotta noted that as the supervisor leaves office the Town of Smithtown is not in debt, but rather has a budgetary surplus.

“This town is in such good financial shape, it is all because of you,” he said. “You should be a model for every other town in the country, the nation, the state and certainly in this county.”

More than a few suggested to Vecchio if he was not interested in retiring, he could offer his services as a budgetary consultant to Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D).

“Your service to Smithtown has been honorable and you are notoriously thrifty,” said Amy Fortunato, a Smithtown resident who campaigned unsuccessfully for a seat on town board this November.

Others lauded his focus on residents and tenacity in solving issues affecting Smithtown.

“Seniors are important and are often the forgotten ones,” said Rose Palazzolo, a St. James resident and president of the town’s Senior Center. “You have never forgotten the seniors.”

Even residents who found themselves at odds with Vecchio came forward to express their respect for his years of service.

“We didn’t always agree on things, in fact we disagreed a heck of a lot more than we agreed on things,” said Tony Tanzi, president of Kings Park Chamber of Commerce. “I always respected his opinion, and I know in my heart he always truly believed in what he was doing and put the town first.”

Tanzi noted that Vecchio would always be remembered as Mr. Supervisor.

Those who served on Smithtown town board over the years remembered Vecchio as a mentor with conviction.

“There are two figures in my life who have had the most influence in my political career, one of course is my father, and the other is you,” said state Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James).

“I want you to know that I have big shoes to fill, and I’m fully aware of that.”

— Ed Wehrheim

During his time in town office, Fitzpatrick said he recalls that the only victory he ever had against Vecchio on policies was the installation of a water slide at the pools in Smithtown Landing Country Club.

“The best measure is: Did you leave the town better than those before you?,” he said. “The answer is absolutely yes.”

Former town Councilwoman Pat Biancaniello laughed slightly, saying she never got a victory against Vecchio while in office but sometimes managed to get him to shift, or slide, opinions.

“Even though we’ve had differences and you didn’t take me from crayons to perfume, you took me from budgets to environment …” Biancaniello said, tearfully referencing the movie “To Sir, with Love.” “I want to thank you for how much you meant to me.”

Councilman Tom McCarthy (R-St. James) who served alongside Vecchio as deputy town supervisor, recalled making a $25 donation to his campaign for supervisor when he was only a town park employee.

“Thank you for allowing me to serve with you as a councilman for 20 years,” McCarthy said. “Thank you. I love you.”

Supervisor-elect and current Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R-Kings Park) beat Vecchio in the Republican primary in September, ending his 40-year reign, did wish him a fond retirement.

“I want you to know that I have big shoes to fill, and I’m fully aware of that,” Wehrheim said. “I intend to do my best to do that. It’s my hope you frequent town hall any time you want. Hopefully, you are a frequent visitor and take my calls when I need your guidance.”

Real estate attorney J. Timothy Shea Jr. gives a presentation on The Society of St. Johnland's proposed assisted living facility to Smithtown Town Board.

The Society of St. Johnland in Kings Park hopes to continue its mission to help seniors in need by constructing a new assisted living facility aimed at Medicaid-eligible residents.

The nonprofit nursing center has submitted an application to construct a two-story facility with 82 units and 100 beds in the footprint of an existing, dilapidated building on the north side of Sunken Meadow Road — a separate tax map parcel on the same property as St. Johnland nursing home.

The proposed building will fulfill a need in the community for alternate living options for low-income seniors, according to a real estate attorney speaking on behalf of the project at the Nov. 30 Smithtown Town board meeting.

J. Timothy Shea Jr., of Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman in Hauppauge, asked the board to consider granting  the St. Johnland facility a special exception as its concept plan meets that zoning criteria. This approval would give the nonprofit the ability to use land in a district for a purpose other than what is generally permitted there, in this case an assisted living program on the same property as a nursing home.

“Allowing for this special exception to take place, we would be able to service up to 100 local persons most likely for the assisted living and it’s possible that many of those residents will eventually move to the nursing home at some point in the future,” Shea said.

St. Johnland is also making efforts to implement ideas from staff members and residents into its design of the building’s facade to comply with local waterfront revitalization program standards, he added.

“When we provided elevations of the proposed building to our staff, we received comments indicating they would like to have more of a historic type of architecture,” Shea said. “We are willing to do that and will adjust our elevations accordingly.”

Based on the feedback from the Kings Park Civic Association, the nonprofit has agreed to reduce square footage of the 76,696-square-foot site by approximately 8,000-square-feet to lessen its footprint; preserve an old chapel located to the east of where the facility will be; and provide the group with any building revisions moving forward for further review and comment.

Shea said the site will be “a low traffic generator” because although the facility would employ 70 new employees, they will work in three shifts, so there will be no more than 20 to 25 employees on site at a given time.

Linda Henninger, the president of the Kings Park Civic Association said she and other members were in favor of it.

“We think it’s a good project,” Henninger said. “A lot of residents from Kings Park and our vicinity — like Commack and Northport — utilize St. Johnland and this seems to be within their wheelhouse. We also liked that they’re not clear cutting woods for it. It seems like a win-win for the community and St. Johnland.”

Mary Jean Weber, the chief executive officer of St. Johnland Nursing Center, which has been caring for Kings Parks’ needy since 1870, said the facility has been in planning for nearly two years.

“I think this is the type of service that is really needed in Kings Park,” Weber said. “This is for the population that doesn’t require the [around-the-clock] medical care needed in a nursing facility but maybe cannot remain living at home any longer or have limited funds. For us, it’s a positive program that really helps with our care for the senior community.”

St. Johnland is still awaiting determination on its application for special exception. The project’s construction costs have not been finalized yet.

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