Authors Posts by Donna Deedy

Donna Deedy

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Peter Scully, Suffolk County deputy county executive and water czar, responds to questions from  TBR News Media’s editorial staff:

1. You’ve been called Suffolk County’s water czar. Why does Suffolk County need a water czar?

The need for the county to have a high-level point person to advance the water quality agenda of County Executive Steve Bellone [D] is a result of two factors: The high priority that the county executive has placed on water quality issues, and the tremendous progress his administration has made over the past seven years in building a solid foundation to reverse decades of nitrogen pollution that has resulted primarily from the lack of sewers in Suffolk County and reliance on cesspools and septic systems that discharge untreated wastewater into the environment. The county executive succeeded in landing $390 million in post-Hurricane Sandy resiliency funding to eliminate 5,000 cesspools along river corridors on the South Shore by connecting parcels to sewers, and the county’s success in creating a grant program to make it affordable for homeowners to replace cesspools and septic systems with new nitrogen-reducing septic systems in areas where sewers are not a cost-effective solution, prompted the state to award Suffolk County $10 million to expand the county’s own Septic Improvement Program. These are the largest investments in water quality Suffolk has seen in 50 years, and the county executive saw the need to appoint a high-level quarterback to oversee the implementation of these programs.

 

2. Which groundwater contaminants are the highest priorities for Suffolk County? 

In 2014, the county executive declared nitrogen to be water quality public enemy No. 1. The nitrogen in groundwater is ultimately discharged into our bays, and about 70 percent of this nitrogen comes from on-site wastewater disposal (septic) systems. Excess nutrients have created crisis conditions, causing harmful algal blooms, contributing to fish kills and depleting dissolved oxygen necessary for health aquatic life. They have also made it impossible to restore our once nationally significant hard clam and bay scallop fisheries, have devastated submerged aquatic vegetation and weakened coastal resiliency through reduction of wetlands. Nitrogen also adversely impacts quality of drinking water, especially in areas with private wells, although public water supply wells consistently meet drinking water standards for nitrogen.

Other major contaminants of concern include volatile organic compounds, known as VOCs. For example, there is perchloroethlyene, historically from dry cleaners; and petroleum constituents — most recently MTBE, a gasoline additive — from fuel storage and transfer facilities.

Then there are pesticides. Active ingredients such as chlordane, aldicarb and dacthal have been banned, but some legacy contamination concerns exist, especially for private wells. Some currently registered pesticides are appearing in water supplies at low levels, including simazine/atrazine, imidacloprid and metalaxyl.

Emerging contaminants include PFAS, historically used in firefighting foams, water repellents, nonstick cookware; and 1,4-dioxane, an industrial solvent stabilizer also present at low levels in some consumer products. 

 

3. Are the chemicals coming from residential or industrial sites?

Contamination can emanate from a variety of sites, including commercial, industrial and residential properties. Many of the best-known cleanup sites are dealing with legacy impacts from past industrial activity. Examples include Grumman in Bethpage, Lawrence Aviation in Port Jefferson Station, Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton and the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant in Calverton. There have been hundreds of Superfund sites on Long Island. Fortunately, most are legacy sites and new Superfund sites are relatively rare.

More recently, the use of firefighting foam has resulted in Superfund designations at the Suffolk County Firematics site in Yaphank, Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton, and East Hampton Airport. The foam was used properly at the time of discharge, but it was not known that PFAS would leach and contaminate groundwater.

The county’s 2015 Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan found that some chemicals, such as VOCs, continue to increase in frequency of detection and concentration. While some of this is attributable to legacy industrial plumes, experts believe that residential and small commercial sites are partially responsible for contamination. This is partly because any substances that are dumped into a toilet or drain will reach the environment, and because solvents move readily through our sandy aquifer. Septic waste is, of course a major of contamination. Residential properties can be also responsible for other pollution, such as nitrogen from fertilizers and pesticides.

4. Which industries currently generate the most groundwater pollution in Suffolk County? 

The county’s Department of Health Services Division of Environmental Quality staff advise that, historically, the major contributors to groundwater pollution in the county were dry cleaners, and fuel storage and transfer facilities. However, current dry cleaning practices have minimized any possible groundwater discharges, and modern fuel facilities are engineered to more stringent code requirements that have substantially eliminated catastrophic releases. Low-level discharges are still a concern, and are the subject of the county’s VOC action plan to increase inspections and optimize regulatory compliance.

There are thousands of commercial and industrial facilities, most of which have the potential to pollute — for example, with solvent cleaners. Best management practices and industrial compliance inspections are key to minimizing and eliminating further contamination.

 

5. The word “ban” is often a dirty word in politics, but do you see benefits to banning certain products, and/or practices, for the sake of protecting the county’s drinking water supply? (The bans on DDT, lead in gasoline and HFCS, for example, were very effective at addressing environmental and human health concerns.) 

Policymakers have not hesitated to ban the use of certain substances — DDT, lead in gasoline, chlordane, MTBE — in the face of evidence that the risks associated with the continued introduction of a chemical into the environment outweigh the benefits from a public health or environmental standpoint. Based on health concerns, I expect that there will be active discussion in the years ahead about the merits of restricting the use of products that introduce emerging contaminants like 1,4-dioxane and PFCs into the environment.

 

6. If people had more heightened awareness, could we slow or even eliminate specific contaminants? As consumers, can people do more to protect groundwater? 

There is no question that heightened awareness about ways in which everyday human activities impact the environment leads people to change their behaviors in ways that can reduce the release of contaminants into the environment. A good example is the county’s Septic Improvement Program, which provides grants and low interest loans for homeowners who choose to voluntarily replace their cesspools or septic systems with new nitrogen-reducing technology. More than 1,000 homeowners have applied for grants under the program, which set a record in October with more 100 applications received.

If a home is not connected to sewers, a homeowner can replace their cesspool or septic system with an innovative/alternative on-site wastewater treatment system. Suffolk County, New York State and several East End towns are offering grants which can make it possible for homeowners to make this positive change with no significant out-of-pocket expense. Consumers can choose to not flush bleaches or toxic/hazardous materials down the drain or into their toilets. Consumers can also take care to deliver any potentially toxic or hazardous household chemicals to approved Stop Throwing Out Pollutants program sites. Homeowners can choose not to use fertilizers or pesticides, or to opt for an organic, slow-release fertilizer at lowest label setting rates.

 

7. Can you offer examples of products to avoid or practices to adopt that would better protect the drinking water supply? 

Consumers can choose to not flush bleaches or household hazardous materials down the drain or into their toilets. Consumers can also take care to deliver any potentially toxic or hazardous household chemicals to approved STOP program sites. Homeowners can choose not to use fertilizers or pesticides, or to opt for an organic, slow release fertilizer at lowest label setting rates.

 

8. Aside from banning products or chemicals, and raising awareness, how do you address the issue?

Promoting the use of less impactful alternatives to products which have been shown to have a significant and/or unanticipated impact on public health or the environment, on a voluntary basis, is a less contentious approach than banning a substance or placing restrictions on its use through a legislative or rulemaking process. Such an approach should only be taken with the understanding that its success, value and significance will depend in large part on public awareness and education.

 

9. What about product labeling, similar to the U.S. Office of the Surgeon General warnings about cigarettes, or carcinogens in California, etc.? Can the county require products sold to include a groundwater contamination warning?

The question of whether the county Legislature has authority to implement labeling requirements could be better addressed by an attorney.

 

10. People, including some elected officials and people running for public office, sometimes say that sewage treatment plants remove all contaminants from wastewater. Can you set the record straight? What chemicals, including radioactive chemicals, are and are not removed from wastewater via sewage treatment?

Tertiary wastewater treatment plants are designed primarily to remove nitrogen, in addition to biodegradable organic matter. However, wastewater treatment is also effective at removing many volatile organic compounds. Some substances, such as 1,4-dioxane, are resistant to treatment and require advanced processes for removal. Evidence shows that the use of horizontal leaching structures instead of conventional drainage rings may facilitate removal of many pharmaceuticals and personal care products, known as PPCPs. Advanced treatment technologies, such as membrane bioreactors, are also being tested for efficacy of removal of PPCPs.

Staff advise that the mere presence of chemicals in wastewater in trace amounts does not necessarily indicate the existence of a public health risk. All wastewater treatment must treat chemicals to stringent federal and state standards. In some cases, such as for emerging contaminants, specific standards do not exist. In those cases, the unspecified organic contaminant requirement of 50 parts per billion is commonly applied.

 

11. Can you provide an example of a place where residential and industrial groundwater contamination concerns were reversed or adequately addressed?

There are numerous examples, mostly under the jurisdiction of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, in which groundwater concerns have been addressed through treatment to remove contaminants. Because health and safety are always the most important issues, the first priority is typically to make sure that people who live near an impacted site have a safe supply of drinking water. In areas served by public water suppliers — Suffolk County Water Authority or a local water district — this is not usually an issue, since public water suppliers are highly regulated and are required to test water supply wells regularly. In areas where people are not connected to a public water system, and rely instead on private wells, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services will work with the water supplier to identify properties that are not connected to a public water system and then contact homeowners to urge them to have their water tested at no charge to make sure that it is safe for consumption. 

Over the past several years, Suffolk County, New York State and the Suffolk County Water Authority have worked together to connect hundreds of homes that had relied on private wells to the public water system, to make sure people have access to safe drinking water.

 

12. Are you hopeful about addressing the issues? 

I am hopeful and optimistic about the success of efforts to reverse the ongoing degradation of water quality that has resulted from reliance on cesspools and septic systems. For the first time in Long Island’s history, environmentalists, business leaders, scientists, organized labor and the building trades all agree that the long-term threat that has resulted from the lack of sewers to both the environment and economy is so great that a long-term plan to address the need for active wastewater treatment is not an option, but a necessity. Experience shows that public awareness can be a significant factor in driving public policy.

Assemblyman Steve Stern and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone outside Bon Bons Chocolatier in downtown Huntington Nov. 25.

On Nov. 25 New York State Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) unveiled a series of state legislative proposals intended to help small businesses on Long Island.

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy,” Stern said. “They employ half of New York’s private sector workforce and generate nearly $190 billion in payroll receipts, according to the Small Business Administration. Given these statistics, it is imperative that New York State move forward with a business-friendly agenda that supports local economies and fosters our suburban neighborhood quality of life.”

The announcement was held at Bon Bons Chocolatier, a local family-owned business located in the heart of downtown Huntington for 40 years. The announcement came just prior to Small Business Saturday, Nov. 30, which encourages consumers to shop locally at the start of the holiday shopping season.

In addition to the owners of Bon Bons, the officials were joined by a host of local chambers of commerce and business advocacy organizations including representatives from the Long Island Association, Long Island Business Council, Long Island African American Chamber of Commerce, Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers of Commerce, Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce and Melville Chamber of Commerce. They all applauded the initiatives and welcomed the extra exposure and promotion for small local businesses as the holiday shopping season kicks off.

“Small businesses are vital to our downtown communities. Not only are they the backbone of our local economy, they are what makes Long Island such a vibrant place to live, work and raise a family,” said Bellone.

“Small businesses are vital to our downtown communities. Not only are they the backbone of our local economy, they are what makes Long Island such a vibrant place to live, work and raise a family.”

-Steve Bellone

“The new measures Assemblyman Stern has laid out will help strengthen our brick and mortar shops and ensure they have the tools and resources they need to thrive.”

The business-friendly agenda, which will be up for consideration when the New York State Legislature re-convenes in January, includes the following innovative legislative proposals:

• SMALL BUSINESS INCOME TAX EXEMPTION EXPANSION: increases the corporate tax threshold by $100,000 for businesses and farms that employ at least one person and lowers the rate from 6.5 to 4 percent. Coupled with other incentives, these changes are estimated to save small businesses $300,000,000 statewide (A.6309).

• NEW YORK STATE INNOVATION VOUCHER PROGRAM: provides direct funding to eligible small businesses with dollar-for-dollar matching funds to acquire expertise from our outstanding local colleges and universities, government laboratories and public research institutes and facilitate innovation and job creation in New York State (A.45).

• REDUCING COMMUTING COSTS AND BUSINESS EXPENSES THROUGH TAX INCENTIVES: designed to enable workers to offset commuting costs (by as much as $265 per month) and save employers through reduction of payroll tax liability; this plan may also reduce traffic congestion and pollution with mass transit incentives. (A.7264).

• SMALL BUSINESS TAX-DEFERRED SAVINGS ACCOUNT PROGRAM: allows small businesses with 50 or fewer employees to deposit profits into a tax-deferred savings account as an incentive for both job creation and economic development in New York State (A.7693).

• FUTURE OF WORK COMMISSION: to study and research the impact of technology on workers, employers and the economy of the state of New York and develop a plan to keep the state’s economy competitive, durable, equitable and sustainable while protecting and strengthening middle-class jobs for a new generation of New Yorkers (A.8446).

The proposals, officials said, all represent “outside the box” approaches to help retain our existing businesses and attract new ones through a combination of tax incentives, collaborations with colleges, universities and research institutions and proactive anticipation of new technological advancements.

“Small businesses are the backbone of Long Island’s economy and thus I commend Assemblyman Stern’s plan to lower taxes and reduce costs that would help these companies grow and succeed,” said Kevin Law, president and CEO of the Long Island Association.

The Suffolk County Alliance of Chambers of Commerce stated that brick and mortar businesses, offices, manufacturing and service contractors are at a disadvantage when the economy turns. The proposed legislation, they said, allows small businesses the opportunity to save “tax free” in good times and establish that rainy day account.

“As policy makers, we have an obligation to listen to the concerns of our local business community and work together to create a business-friendly environment to keep our homegrown workforce on Long Island both now and for generations to come,” Stern said. “I am proud to support these innovative measures, which are key to sustaining and growing our local economy, and I urge my colleagues in the State Legislature to do the same.”

Attendees arrive for a Lee Zeldin fundraiser at the Flowerfield Catering Hall. Photo by Donna Deedy

It’s a book signing. … It’s a political fundraiser. … It’s the latest trend in party politics.  

Donald Trump Jr. attended an event at the Flowerfields Catering Hall in St. James Thursday, Nov. 21, where campaign lawn signs for U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) were planted along the walkway into the venue. Inside the reception hall, stacks of  Trump Jr.’s new book, “Triggered,” were piled high. Released on Nov. 5, the book shot to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list after the Republican National Committee bought the book in bulk, spending nearly $100,000, to distribute as donor prizes, according to a New York Times report.

Tickets for Zeldin’s VIP Reception at Flowerfields cost $1,000 per person, which included a signed copy of Trump Jr.’s book. General admission cost $200 per person with a signed copy of the book or $150 with an unsigned copy. Additional copies of a signed book were being sold for $100. Checks were to be made out to Zeldin Victory Committee.

“The Congressman is grateful for the sweeping support he’s received, highlighted by record fundraising numbers this year,” Zeldin’s spokesperson Katie Vincentz stated. “Attended by over 350 people and raising over $200,000, this latest smash success fundraiser builds on that increasing momentum.” 

Members of the press were turned away from the event.  

“Sorry, the Secret Service said no,” reporters were told at the reception desk inside. A Secret Service representative, though, later stated in an email that the agency does not facilitate media access issues. 

Outside the Gyrodyne Property on Moriches Road several dozen protesters assembled.  

“No public town hall in two and half years,” they yelled out to cars passing by. “Tell Zeldin to hold a public town hall.”

St. James resident Maria LaMalga was among the protesters. She said she asked to speak with the congressman, had left messages and submitted written requests to talk with Zeldin, but she said that she has not yet received a response. 

“I only see him tweeting about impeachment,” she said. “I wish he would work for his constituents.”

The North Shore Peace Group organized the protest. The group’s priority issues include comprehensive gun laws, deficit spending and U.S.-Mexico border policies, especially concerning ongoing detentions and restrictions and limitations put on refugees.

In response to the criticism, Zeldin stated in an email that an open town hall meeting was hosted in September by the Mastic Beach Property Owners Association.   

To date, Zeldin has raised $1.8 million, according to FEC filings.

 

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Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) has announced the launch of the Passport Parking app, which has made paying for metered parking more convenient since its deployment at the Huntington LIRR station on Oct. 17. It is already being used by parking patrons in Huntington village, even before deployment of signage for a full launch has been completed.

    “We did a quiet launch to work out any issues with the deployment before promoting it to the public and it appears that the app has been very well-received — it’s very easy to use,” said Lupinacci. “We’re already seeing people use the app in Huntington village, where our team is completing signage installation but the app is already active.”

The Passport Parking app is an alternative to paying at the meter for metered parking on Railroad Street, Broadway and in Municipal Lot 15, where the Huntington LIRR station house is located. Passport Parking signage now appears near the on-street spots and in the parking lot at the Huntington LIRR station displaying zone numbers.

Lupinacci added: “The app is more convenient when it’s raining and for commuters trying to catch a train. You never need to use a parking meter again.”

Passport Parking is active for all metered parking at the Huntington LIRR station and in Huntington village. The Town expects to complete the installation of Passport Parking Zone decals on parking meters and on the numbered poles marking metered parking spaces in Huntington village this week. Zones are broken down by street. The zone decals on the numbered poles in the village will be visible from the street as the driver pulls into the space, enabling payment from a cellphone inside the vehicle. Stand-alone zone signs will also be installed in the various zones in the village after the decal placement is completed.

In the meantime, anyone can view the Passport Parking Zone numbers, assigned by street, on the Town website to pay for parking with the app now: www.huntingtonny.gov/parking-app.

  “Complaints related to parking meters at the train station have dropped to zero since the roll-out of the app,” said Peter Sammis, director of public safety, which oversees the parking meter team.

During a five-person Request for Proposal  evaluation performed by the Town’s Department of Public Safety, Passport Parking had a significant existing install base, providing the best quality of service, cost, uptime, data integrity and an outstanding merchant validation process described as “best in class.” The app serves as a convenient, user-friendly alternative to the parking meters, which will remain in use.

Parking patrons can download the Passport Parking app, found on the App Store or the Google Play Store, then enter the corresponding zone number, the parking space number, the length of stay (with the ability to add time later via the app) and payment info to complete the transaction.

It should be noted that parking in metered spots remains free for vehicles displaying valid disability parking permits and license plates.

More on the Passport Parking App: www.huntingtonny.gov/parking-app.

Cold Spring Harbor Central School District

On Tuesday, Nov. 19 residents of the Cold Spring Harbor Central School District approved a proposed scope of work totaling $34.4 million, which will be funded utilizing $1.2 million from the current capital reserve fund and a $33.2 million bond. The bond passed with a vote of 534 Yes and 398 No. The board of education and Superintendent  Robert C. Fenter would like to thank all community residents who participated in this vote.

“Our community continues to demonstrate their commitment to provide our students with a quality education that will provide the skills needed to be successful in the future,” said BOE President Anthony Paolano. “We appreciate their support and look forward to building upon our current success to create an improved learning environment that is focused on the future.”

The scope of work in the bond will benefit all schools including:

• Construction of a new science learning center at CSH Jr./Sr. High School with four newly constructed science classrooms and a marine wet lab, featuring the district’s unique Coral Reef Project.

• Construction of a new STEAM suite at CSH Jr./Sr. High School including a new redesigned robotics space.

• Installation of full-building generators at all schools to avoid disruption of instruction and to ensure school openings during local power outages.

• Installation of new sound and energy-efficient LED lighting systems in the CSH Jr./Sr. High School Performing Arts Center.

• An expanded kitchen, renovated cafeteria and additional parking at West Side Elementary School.

• Renovated music space at Goosehill Primary School.

• Improved security for classroom doors in all schools.

• Current weightlifting room in the basement of CSH Jr./Sr. High School will be relocated and renovated for use as a physical education/sports training space.

 • Additional parking spaces will be created at CSH Jr./Sr. High School to accommodate parking needs during sporting events.

For a more detailed breakdown of the complete scope of work, visit the district website at www.csh.k12.ny.us.

The district will keep the community informed on the progress of the approved work.

Town of Huntington closes on Chase Bank site and opens site as municipal parking lot.

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) has announced that the lot at the northwest corner of New York Avenue and Gerard Street in Huntington Village is open for parking now that the Town has taken possession at a Nov. 8 closing on the property.

“I’m happy to announce 30 new downtown Huntington village parking spaces are now open to help alleviate parking congestion,” said Lupinacci. “This immediate expansion of our parking supply will more than double in 2020 when the temperature is optimal for paving.”

The Town opened the former Chase Bank parking lot for free parking after taking possession of the property. The existing lot has 30 marked spaces: 29 regular and one handicap spot.

The Town plans to leave the existing parking lot open through the holiday season and start demolition of the former Chase Bank building in 2020 and reconstruction of the lot, which will combine the former bank lot with the adjacent existing Municipal Lot 49 located immediately to the north, when temperatures can support paving work.

The Town board approved the purchase of the bank location at its May 29 meeting, in an amount not to exceed $3.05 million. The property is located at 295 New York Ave., at the corner of Gerard Street. 

The Town’s conceptual design adds approximately 71 new municipal parking spaces to downtown Huntington village, including three handicapped parking spots. Construction will be completed in the spring.

New York State Archivist Thomas Ruller presents Jo-Ann Raia with Leadership Award.

Jo-Ann Raia (R) was recently awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for Leadership in Archives and Records Management in New York State by the New York State Archives Partnership Trust. The award was recently presented to Raia at a ceremony at the Cultural Education Center in Albany. 

“Every year we recognize individuals and organizations that have done outstanding work in managing records and preserving New York’s history,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa. “This year’s award winners do exemplary work to ensure that our state’s records are efficiently managed and are preserved appropriately for future research and use.”

Throughout her time as the Town of Huntington clerk, Raia has been a champion for archives and records management. One of her greatest contributions to the Town has been the development of a computerized records management program, which manages the holdings of the Records Center and Archives. Because of Raia’s hard work and dedication, the Town’s records center serves as a model for the entire state.

“We applaud the organizations and individuals who work every day to manage records to ensure accountability, efficiency and accessibility,” said Interim State Education Commissioner Beth Berlin. “Their dedication to archives and records management has inspired excellent programs and processes that serve as models for the entire state.”

Raia will retire at the end of the year from her post as Town clerk after 10 consecutive terms that span four decades. She has developed and implemented systems to create what has been regarded as an exemplary archive and record management system.

“We’re proud to recognize excellence in the use and care of New York’s records by individuals and organizations across New York,” said Thomas Ruller, archivist of New York State. “Thanks to the work and dedication of this year’s winners, New York’s documentary resources will be well managed, appropriately preserved and effectively used for generations to come.”

The annual archives awards program takes place every October, during American Archives Month, and recognizes outstanding efforts in archives and records management work in New York State by a broad range of individuals and organizations.

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#ResilientInSmithtown

November is Mental Health Awareness Month and the Town of Smithtown is seizing it as an opportunity to implement a social media campaign that highlights simple activities that help boost personal resilience. From Nov. 18 to 22, the Town’s Horizons Counseling & Education Center, the Youth Bureau and the Response Crisis Center will share advice, tips and resources to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #ResilientInSmithtown. 

 This campaign is designed to educate residents about four kinds of personal attributes that boost mental well-being: physical, mental, emotional and social.  Strengthening these attributes contributes to living longer, happier lives, with a heightened ability to cope with life’s stressors. 

“This is a wonderful opportunity for residents to learn how they can have more control over their own personal resiliencies and be able to guide and support family members and friends,” said Stacey Standers, Town of Smithtown Youth Bureau executive director.

Residents of all ages are encouraged to participate in the educational campaign, which relies upon easy and fun exercises that will help Smithtown residents build upon their own personal strengths. 

Approximately one out of every five children in America has a diagnosable mental health disorder. Anxiety, depression and substance abuse are major issues impacting young people and their families, as well as schools and communities. Community education about the importance of bolstering one’s own personal resilience is beneficial at any age, town officials explain, and can be a vital component in maintaining mental health.

“There is a very clear and distinct correlation between childhood trauma and mental health issues and substance addiction,” said Matthew Neebe, director of Horizons Counseling & Education Center. “Problematic mental health issues experienced in childhood can very easily and often do follow individuals into maturity, creating a variety of long-term mental health issues that may cause self-medication through excessive drinking or substance abuse.” 

The campaign promotes scientifically validated activities that contribute to personal well-being. 

Physical resilience means the body can withstand more physical stress and heal itself faster. Mental resilience includes strengthening mental focus, discipline and will power, which is like a muscle that gets stronger the more it is exercised. Emotional resilience provokes powerful, positive emotions like curiosity or love, precisely when it’s needed the most. Social resilience strengthens from bonds with friends, family, neighbors and community.

Some of the recent posts include the following advice:

  • If you cannot change the situation, change your mind.
  • Once a situation is accepted for what it is, begin working on uncommon or creative solutions.
  • Humor can boost one’s mood, alleviate emotional distress and even buffer against depression.  Laughter and humor improve immune response, enhance perceptual flexibility and offset the effects of stress.
  • Positive reframing allows you to take control of your response to a situation by reframing it into a potential growth experience.
  • The first step of a good plan is to define what success looks like.

The postings are part of an ongoing campaign and represent one part of this initiative.

Look for Smithtown Youth Bureau on Facebook to find the different exercises and more information about #ResilientInSmithtown.

The St. James Historic Fire House on Route 25A. Photo from Ryan Davis.
The St. James Fire House on Jefferson Ave. Photo by Ryan Davis

Over the last few years, controversy erupted in the St. James Fire District when the board of commissioners floated a $12.5 million plan to build a new firehouse at the Jefferson Avenue substation site and potentially sell the historic St. James firehouse on Route 25A, which was built in the 1920s. The community at large ultimately rejected both ideas, but the issue has led to change.

Thomas Donohue and Joseph Kuethen were both elected commissioners, running largely on the bond issue controversy, and this year Kit Gabrielsen is challenging existing fire district leadership for the single open seat on the all-volunteer St. James board of commissioners. Both Donohue and Kuethen support Gabrielsen, mainly because of his public support for maintaining operations at the Route 25A fire house, according to Donohue.

“I’m in favor of low taxes, better service and two firehouses,” Gabrielsen said in a telephone interview. “I’m not happy with the fact that rolls are down that there’s lawsuits and other allegations.”

Kit Gabrielsen

A Suffolk County police officer for 33 years, Gabrielsen said he wants to keep the historic firehouse as a firehouse, so there are emergency services in that part of town. A lifetime resident of St. James, he said that current management raised taxes 19 percent.  He said that the fire district needs to keep below the 2 percent tax cap.

“We’re spending money on these lawsuits,” Gabrielsen said. 

Complaints, Gabrielsen said, can be fixed though management. Chiefs and commissioners, he said, are in charge of these things. 

According to a case reviewed online, volunteer firefighter John Tyson filed a suit Dec. 5, 2018, against the department, its chiefs and commissioners, alleging retaliation after publicly opposing a bond, which the chiefs and commissioners supported. It also alleged retaliation against publicly opposing the closure and sale of the historic firehouse and expressing views contrary to the majority of the governing body. 

Gabrielsen has been active in the St. James fire district for 40 years.

Ryan Davis currently serves as fire chief, the department’s highest ranking position. Davis also said he believes that the district needs to recruit more volunteers. He added that fire department membership is down from 125 people to 100. He wants to create a citizens advisory board comprised of elected officials and community members so the district has more local involvement. 

He’s running for the commissioner position to oversee taxes and allocate funding. 

Ryan Davis

“I want to balance the budget,” Davis said in a Nov. 19 interview. 

Davis said he was in favor of the bond issue for a new Jefferson fire station. Ninety percent of the district’s operations are currently based at the Jefferson Avenue station, he added. But Davis said he wants the public to know that he also supports keeping the historic St. James firehouse. The building’s interior, he said, needs work, but he believes the exterior should stay the same.  

Davis has worked as a FDNY fireman at Engine 88 in the Bronx for the last 13 years. He’s been active in the St. James fire district for 20 years.

Incumbent William Kearney is also running for reelection, handing in his petition midday on Nov. 20 to beat the 5 p.m. deadline.  

Kearney was elected to a four-year term in 2015.

“After 48 years as a resident of St. James and 39 years as a member of the St. James Fire Department, it is with a continued sense of pride in our community that I am asking for your support and your vote in the upcoming election for Fire Commissioner,” Kearney states. “As current chairman of the board of fire commissioners and having served as the fire department treasurer for 14 years, I have an in-depth knowledge of financial controls and fiscal management.”

William Kearney

Kearney also said that he will use his public service experience as well as his extensive project management background to represent the fiscal and operational concerns of for fire services in the St. James community.  A Navy veteran, his background also includes serving the American Legion Post 1152, the St. James Methodist Church and for 19 years has been the chaplain for the department.

Residents can vote Tuesday, Dec. 10, between 3 and 9 p.m. at St. James fire station at 221 Jefferson Ave. in St. James and at Fairfield Condo, 1 Fairfield Drive in St. James.

 

Northport district officials have found an alternative location for its bus depot. Photo from Close Northport MS Facebook page

At its Nov. 7 school board meeting, parents of Northport Middle School students asked school board members and school district officials, if the district did in fact have a bus depot stationed next to the school building, where 600 children attend classes. Many parents knew about the refueling station and were appalled, but many residents did not. 

“This is just alarming to me,” said Jamie Marcantonio, who said she had three children go through the school system. “We’re talking about toxicity.  How is it even possible that an affluent community like Northport is saying its okay to have a fuel station where our kids go to school.”

“This is just alarming to me.” 

Jamie Marcantonio

In response to ongoing air quality and health concerns among parents and former teachers at the Northport Middle School, and questions about the bus depot, the Times of Huntington-Northport has obtained copies of the most recent Petroleum Bulk Storage inspection for the Northport Middle School site. 

The Feb. 20, 2019 report indicates that the district is in violation of laws governing petroleum bulk storage.

During the announced inspection, though no evidence of spillage or release to environment were found, health officials were unable to confirm that the tanks’ leak detection, corrosion prevention and overfill protection systems were operating properly,  largely because the district has failed to maintain required self-inspection records for at least the last three years. 

One 4,000-gallon tank stores gasoline, another 4,000-gallon tank stores diesel fuel and a third fiberglass tank holds up to 15,000 gallons of #2 fuel oil, which is typically used for heating in furnaces and boilers.

The law essentially requires that metal tanks, piping, dispenser sumps and containment systems for petroleum storage utilize a technique to slow or stop corrosion called cathodic protection. The inspector noted in the report that operators were unaware of the requirement for cathodic protection and testing for the two 4,000-gallon metal tank dispenser sumps. 

To comply with Suffolk County Sanitary Code, the record-keeping and testing of cathodic protection must be rectified, health officials stated in a Nov. 13 email. 

The same report notes that one of the probes in the tank’s alarm system for leak detection was defective. Facility staff provided documentation to the inspector showing that they already had a work order in place to have the item repaired. 

The county requires prompt correction to violations and had provided a phone number to call to arrange for reinspection in its report to the district. But the county health department’s Office of Pollution Control states that no reinspection has been requested, despite the fact that the department followed up and sent a warning letter to the district in April. 

District officials did not return phone calls and board members did not respond to requests for interviews through email. 

In a Nov. 7 meeting, the school voted to test the soil on the site sometime this winter  to address concerns of ongoing complaints of odors and reports of diseases among students and former teachers. It’s unclear if the testing will include areas where tanks are located. 

In an email, Superintendent Robert Banzer stated that the district is in the process of forming a 13-member subcommittee. He advises all community members to visit the messaging center on its website for updates. Relocating the bus depot is an issue that the pending board of education subcommittee may decide to do,  according to Banzer.

Suffolk County Health Code states that violations are subject to fines not to exceed $2,000 for a single violation. The health department said that the matter has not gone beyond the warning letter stage. A proposed fine has not been calculated. 

Violations to the New York State Petroleum Bulk Storage regulations are subject to civil, administrative and/or criminal penalties up to $37,500 per violation per day. It’s unclear which entity enforces this law. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation directs all regulatory compliance issues for diesel fuel storage tanks to Suffolk County.  

The February 2019 inspection report also noted that the district could not prove that it had a current statement of insurance coverage to remediate spills if one would occur. The county said that most single station owners need to demonstrate $1.5 to $2 million in coverage. 

The county stated that it only reports the issue and does not enforce it.

In a last minute response to questions raised in this report, the district states that it has insurance coverage of $1 million for each occurrence for spills for the period July 1, 2019, to July 1, 2020. The coverage is also reportedly retroactive to July 1999 for the 15,000-gallon heating oil tank and to Feb. 18, 1994, for two 4,000-gallon diesel and gasoline tanks, the district stated.

Banzer stated that the district is unaware that it is in violation of laws governing petroleum bulk storage. 

The district provided a copy of its permit to operate a toxic or hazardous material storage site issued on July 1, 2019. The permit states that it is subject to compliance with provision of the Articles 12 & 18 of Suffolk County Code and 6 NYCRR Part 613.

 The Suffolk County Health Department said that it will conduct another inspection in December 2019.