Authors Posts by Donna Deedy

Donna Deedy

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Community gathers at Northport Middle School for 'sickout' . Photo by Donna Deddy

Northport Middle School students were once again evacuated from several classrooms on Monday Dec. 9 and Tuesday Dec. 10 in response to foul “rotten-egg” odors. The school’s new heating and ventilation system is being blamed. 

“There are a number of factors that can lead to odors in a school building,” said Superintendent Robert Banzer. “We believe the source of the latest indoor air quality issue at NMS may be related to the substantial amount of rain over the past few days.”

The district has hired an outside consultant to review the latest situation and will provide an update to the community once it is complete.

The district has said that laws prevent it from providing information on student health visits, but one parent on social media stated that five kids in one class went to the nurse’s office in response to the odors, according to the child’s account. 

Just last month parents and former teachers held protests, called sick-outs, demanding that the 65-year-old building be closed to address ongoing serious health concerns.

One of the classrooms involved in this week’s evacuation is a newly renovated science room G-51. In 2017, the room was found to sit above a storage area for hazardous chemicals, which have now been removed.

No formal health studies have yet to be initiated, to potentially link the school environment to disease, though Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) has requested that the state’s health department conduct a longitudinal study of students and teachers at Northport Middle School. 

More than 18 Northport Middle School students over the last 10 years, according to parent groups, have been diagnosed with rare, environmentally induced diseases, including blood cancers. Retired teachers have also conducted an informal survey that they say raises serious questions about the building’s safety. These health studies, state health officials have said, are often inconclusive. 

For decades, contamination issues have been the subject of ongoing concerns at the school, which has a history of storing hazardous chemicals, in some cases improperly.

Residents are invited to attend the Dec. 12 school board meeting, where Banzer will provide details about relocating the district’s bus depot and refueling station, which is located on the middle school grounds. 

Board member Larry Licopoli has been appointed to a subcommittee comprised of board and community members that is looking to test the soil for an array of chemicals. The subcommittee will be presenting some recommendations during the Dec. 12 board meeting. 

Developers of the Gyrodyne complex in St. James are moving forward with plans to subdivide and potentially develop the 75-acre site known as Flowerfield. The Town of Smithtown Planning Board will consider a nine-lot subdivision for the complex at its Dec. 11 meeting.

“The Town Environmental has found the Draft Environmental Impact Statement to be complete and is preparing a resolution for the Planning Board to accept the DEIS as complete at their next meeting on Dec. 11,” said Peter Hans, director of the town planning department. 

The 2,900 page statement is not yet publicly available. Once the Planning Board accepts the report as complete, likely at the Dec. 11 meeting, the document will be posted online and the public comment period will begin. 

Subdivision plans obtained from the Town  indicate that the proposed development is extensive. The 75-acre complex currently includes a catering hall, existing light industrial buildings and open space. The proposal subdivides the lot into nine parcels that include one for the existing catering hall, one for the industrial building and a third for open space.  Six of the nine proposed sublots would be for new development. Development plans include a 150-room hotel with a restaurant and conference hall, two large-scale medical office parks, one at 75,000 square feet and another at 55,000 square feet, plus two separate 110-unit assisted living centers and a 7-acre sewer treatment facility.

If approved, the project will become one of the largest commercial transformations in an otherwise residential and agricultural setting along Route 25A in the St. James hamlet.

New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said the project, if approved, is a real threat to the quality of life in this area of the North Shore, with traffic being the more immediate concern and water quality threatened over time.

“This project is a real threat to the water chemistry of Stony Brook Harbor,” he said.  

He estimates that the treated sewage from the site would upwell into the harbor within two to five years. Aside from the environmental and water quality concerns, Englebright said that the project is a classic case of proposed overdevelopment. 

“The whole thing is a complete traffic nightmare,” he said. “Roadways are oversubscribed. Route 25A is already crowded and by extension, we find that Stony Brook Road just can’t handle any more traffic.”

The area, the assemblyman said, is not really a heavy development zone. 

The property is zoned light industrial, or LI. It does not require a zone change, town officials said, since the identified uses are conceptual at this time. If the developers decide to move forward with a hotel or assisted living facility, those uses would require Special Exception approvals from the Town Board and site plan approval. Office buildings would require only site plan approval. 

Englebright encourages people to express their concerns and appeal to the decision-makers in Smithtown.

The subdivision process began when the Smithtown Planning Board adopted May 9, 2018, a State Environmental Quality Review Act Positive Declaration. The declaration, which is simply a determination that the project has the potential to result in a significant environmental impact, establishes that an Environmental Impact Statement would be required. The applicant has now completed a Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The Planning Board is expected to accept the report as complete at its next meeting. The Town will then file with New York State Department of Environmental Conservation a Notice of Completion of a DEIS. The filing of the Notice of Completion opens the public comment period, which has to run at least 30 days. The Town anticipates that the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the Gyrodyne DEIS in January.  

Following the close of the public comment period, a final DEIS will have to be prepared that responds to the comments received, and then the Planning Board would have to adopt a findings statement. The Planning Board will not be able to act on the pending subdivision until the FEIS and Findings Statement have been adopted. The process, though, is months away.

Representatives from Gyrodyne did not respond to telephone messages before going to print.

Photo by Heidi Sutton

 

Northport residents came out in droves for the annual tree lighting at Village Park Nov. 29. The event was sponsored by the Northport Fire Department and the Northport Chamber of Commerce.

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Nancy Richard.

Nancy Richard died tragically Monday, Dec. 2, after being struck by a car driven by her husband, Peter, who was backing out of their driveway at their Fort Salonga home.

After walking her grandchild to the bus stop, Richard was returning to her home at 9 Concord Drive, when she was struck by a 2015 Mercedes S550 at 7:30 a.m.

Nancy Richard, 79, was transported to Huntington Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Peter Richard, 83, was not injured.

Suffolk County police state that the vehicle was impounded for a safety check.

The accident occurred just a little more than one year after the family donated more than $3.5 million to establish the expansion of the pediatric emergency care unit of Stony Brook University Hospital. The Stony Brook Children’s Hospital lobby was named in the family’s honor in recognition of that gift. The university has acknowledged the couple’s philanthropic effort has meant better services for the families and children on Long Island.

“Nancy Richard was a remarkable friend of Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, and all of us send our heartfelt condolences to Peter and the entire Richard family,” said Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, senior VP for Health Sciences and dean of the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University.

The couple’s daughter Susan Habberstad, a St. James resident, had played an important role in identifying Stony Brook Children’s Hospital as a worthwhile project to support. In a profile posted on the university’s website, she recognized her parents’ strong family values and how the donation instilled a strong sense of pride:

“My parents’ priority in their life is their children,” Habberstad stated. “And it’s not just their kids; it’s their grandchildren, it’s everybody’s kids. Everybody’s kids are so important, and they are Nanny and Pop to everybody. They’re Nanny and Pop to hundreds of kids.”

Peter Richard was the longtime executive vice president of the P.C. Richard & Son chain of appliance and electronics stores. The retailer has serviced Long Island for more than 110 years. Peter is the grandson of the store founder Pieter Christian (P.C.) Richard. The business today has 66 showrooms in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania, three distribution centers and two service centers.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations in Nancy Richard’s memory to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital at stonybrook.edu/childrenshospitalgiving.

Funeral services have not yet been announced.

 

More than 10,000 people attended the Town of Huntington’s holiday celebrations Nov. 30, which kicked off on Small-Business Saturday. Festivities were scheduled throughout the afternoon and into the evening and included crafts, music, entertainment, food and an electric parade, ending with a tree-lighting ceremony.

The Community Food Council on East 5th Street in Huntington Station needs help. 

Over the last three months, the food pantry has seen a 33 percent increase in demand for groceries. 

The nonprofit, all-volunteer organization has been feeding the hungry of Huntington Township since 1972 and expects to provide over 40,000 meals this year. 

They need more volunteers, to pick up bread from Stop & Shop once a week on Tuesday and to work at the pantry. Typically, volunteers help for about two hours at least one day a month.  

If you and your club or organization want to help restock the shelves, the council is in particular need of chicken soup, peanut butter and jelly, pasta, sauce, toilet paper, etc. 

Religious organizations in the area, as well as a couple of food markets and restaurants, provide food or support to the pantry. The group is a member of Long Island Cares and Island Harvest, which both also provide food to  for the hungry. The council is looking for additional support. 

The pantry is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon to give out food and receive donations.

For more information contact Jackie or Steven at 631-351-1060 or email the council at [email protected] or visit www.comfoodcouncil.org. 

Harborfields High School. Photo from Google Maps

The Harborfields Central School District will host its capital improvement bond referendum vote on Tuesday, Dec. 3. Polls will be open from 2-9 p.m. in the Oldfield Middle School auditorium.

The majority of projects proposed in the new bond referendum are basic infrastructure upgrades such as replacing outdated boilers, repairing cracked sidewalks, improving fresh air intake and replacing deteriorating ceiling and lighting fixtures. Not only have many of these systems exceeded their useful lifespan, but they are no longer compliant with code.

With an increased focus on student and staff safety, a number of security enhancements are also included in the proposal, including the construction of security vestibules at every school. Original doors and hardware will also be replaced to enhance building security.

The proposal includes a number of academic improvements for students, including the renovation of school libraries at TJL, OMS and HHS. The new spaces will provide students with modern environments for group collaboration, while using the latest in educational technology. A new general science classroom will also be added at TJL. A number of physical education and athletic enhancements are also included in the proposal, such as the construction of a new outdoor play area at Washington Drive Primary School and the renovation of the South Gym and the installation of a synthetic turf field at high school.

The proposed bond would cost approximately $20.4 million. Even with the community’s approval of these expenditures, residents will see a decrease in their taxes due to the timing of this bond to overlap with two expiring bonds. This is due to the fact that the district has approximately $52.7 million in debt that will be retiring in 2021 and 2023 from the bonds issued to construct Washington Drive Primary School. The new debt associated with this proposal would essentially “replace” a portion of the old debt.

All eligible residents are encouraged to vote. For information on voting including absentee ballot information, as well as a complete listing of projects proposed through the referendum, please visit the district’s website, www.harborfieldscsd.net.

At its Nov. 19 meeting, the Huntington Town Board moved to take legal action against opioid manufacturers, distributors and sellers to recover the Town’s costs of fighting the opioid epidemic, and conducted other town business.

The Town Board approved the retention of Tate Grossman Kelly & Iaccarino, LLP (TGKI Law) to represent the legal interests of the town  and its special districts. The firm has decades of collective experience with complex mass tort and multidistrict litigation representing dozens of municipalities seeking reimbursement for monies spent addressing the opioid crisis. It will commence an action against the manufacturers, distributors and sellers of opioids, and all other responsible parties, to recover all damages and costs incurred and to be incurred by the Town and its special districts in connection with the opioid crisis.

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) and Councilman Eugene Cook (I) co-sponsored the resolution hiring the self-described opioid crisis recovery law firm.

“Given the specialized nature of this litigation, hiring TGKI Law will benefit the Town and our residents, not only from their expertise in this area, having represented other municipalities fighting the opioid crisis, including those on Long Island,” said Lupinacci, “but in sharing the costs for their expert consultants with those other municipalities, reducing the litigation costs for our residents, to ensure those who helped create this public health and safety crisis are made responsible for the costs of fighting it.”

The Town’s case will be part of all federal cases nationwide. 

“It is extremely important that the Town of Huntington retain Tate Grossman Kelly & Iaccarino, LLP to handle this complex litigation to recover the financial costs of the opioid crisis, to the Huntington community against the manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of these opioid medications. Unfortunately, this lawsuit will not recover the harm and heartbreak this crisis has brought to the victims and their families who suffer or lost their life to opioids,” stated Cook. “This is a necessary first step to hold the pharmaceutical companies responsible for the monies spent on health care, substance abuse programs, public education, Narcan training and supplies and the criminal justice costs associated with the misuse of these prescription drugs.” 

 

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For several years, Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) has been working with SMM Advertising in Smithtown to conduct a winter coat drive to benefit the residents of Suffolk County who are in need of warm winter clothing. They are collecting gently used or new coats, jackets, hats, gloves, mittens, scarves and new socks for infants, children, teens and adult men and women.

“As people prepare for the winter and clean out their closets or plan to give a new coat as a gift, it is important for all of us to help our fellow neighbors who need warm coats by contributing to this worthwhile drive,” said Trotta.

Donations of coats and other outerwear may be dropped off at Trotta’s district office, located at 59 Landing Ave., Suite 1, in Smithtown, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The coat drive ends Jan. 6. 

For directions, questions or if you know of an organization with an urgent need, please call Trotta’s office at 631-854-3900.

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Residents remain skeptical about a maintenance shed project proposal by Head of the Harbor resident and Robert Mercer, a hedge fund billionaire. Photo from Anthony Coates

 

Some residents in the incorporated Village of Head of the Harbor are sounding alarms, stating that the rural character of their village is about to change. 

They’re accusing officials of concealing from residents for more than six months a proposed “commercial style” development plan submitted by their billionaire neighbor Robert Mercer, who helped finance the Trump 2016 campaign, Breitbart News and Cambridge Analytica, which reportedly played a role in the Brexit campaign for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. 

“The Mercer project is probably the largest undertaking in our small village in 50 years,” said village resident Anthony Coates. “It’s a medical center, gas station, parking garage and apartment building all rolled into one. Yet, you can’t get a bit of information about it from Village Hall. Why?”

Residents have formed the Head of the Harbor Neighborhood Preservation Coalition that aims to gather information about the proposed scope of the project. They estimate that the project may be as large as 28,500 square feet. 

The village clerk and Building Department staff did not respond to telephone messages. Officials have previously stated that its email system is only used internally, a practice that is in potential violation of New York State’s Freedom of Information Law. 

The situation with the Mercer project raises questions about the transparency issues in village operation, perceived and real. 

Harlan Fischer, chairman of the Planning Board for Head of the Harbor has said in a telephone interview that the only project he has in front of him for the 74-acre Mercer property is a roughly 9,000 sq. ft. equipment shed. 

That plan, Fischer said, was submitted one month ago for review. The Planning Board will hold a public hearing for that structure at its Dec. 10 meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Fischer said. “I think that people might have a problem with the political leanings of the property owner, but we’re not a political board.”

The Planning Board, Fischer said, follows the village code, which is published on the Head of the Harbor’s website. Residents, he said, can view the plans at Village Hall.

Cleo Beletsis, a member of the village’s Joint Coastal Commission, which ensures that projects conform with the Town of Smithtown Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, said that discrepancies in the project’s scope may possibly be discussed at the commission’s next meeting Dec. 5. 

There may also be a host of zoning issues that need to be discussed, but these matters are not in the Joint Coastal Commission’s purview.

Coates said he has information suggesting that the Mercer plans call for construction of three separate buildings, a maintenance facility with a six-bay garage, a “guest” cottage equipped with medical facilities including a cryotherapy chamber and hyperbaric suite and “service entrance for doctors and related staff” and an accessory building with a four-bay garage.

The Times of Smithtown was unable to reach Mercer for comment. 

The Village of Head of the Harbor’s meeting dates and code can be found at its website: www.villagehohny.org.

photo by Anthony Coates