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District Lawyer Defends Agreement, Outlines Cost for Taxpayers

Northport power plant. File photo

After a webinar where a lawyer for the Northport-East Northport school district discussed the LIPA tax case and proposed settlement, the school board voted to accept an agreement that would reduce Long Island Power Authority’s annual tax bill on the Northport power plant at a July 20 board meeting.

In a 6-1 vote, with board president David Badanes being the only “no,” board members reiterated that they wanted to avoid the possibility of losing the tax case and be stuck having to pay years of back taxes.

The approved deal would reduce LIPA’s annual tax bill on the Northport power plant from $86 million to $46 million by 2027.

During a July 15 webinar, Northport parents and community members were provided figures and a detailed overview of the agreement.

John Gross, a lawyer for the school district, defended the proposal while fielding questions from both the public and trustee members. He detailed the tax impact on residents.

“Now we get to the difficult part,” the lawyer said. “I don’t want to mince words. There will be an impact on how much taxes are paid. The efforts of the school board through this attempted settlement is to minimize that as much as possible.”

Gross said owners of a $500,000 house paying $10,861 in taxes would see their tax bill increase to $13,741 in the seventh year of the agreement. Annual increases for residents would go from an additional $288 a year in the first year to $556 a year by year seven. Those increases don’t include LIPA’s payments to the school district, totaling $14.5 million, nor any reduction to the school district’s costs and programs which would reduce taxpayers annual payments.

Gross discussed the implications if the district were to lose the current tax reduction case.

“If there is no settlement and LIPA is successful and able to achieve 75 percent reduction in assessed evaluation, that taxpayer [of a $500,000 home] would immediately have to pay $3,723, in addition to the refund liability that could range from $12,000 to $13,000,” the lawyer said. “[A reduction of] 90 percent would be utterly horrendous.”

The district and LIPA could extend its agreement for an additional five years beyond 2027-28, when its contract with the Northport plant ends. If there is no extension, the payments would cease, according to Gross.

Critics of the deal have called for more transparency, public input and a delay to the approval of the settlement.

Huntington Town Councilman Eugene Cook (R) at a news conference earlier in the day July 15 called for a public forum to allow residents to voice their opinions. He plans to offer a resolution that would set a public meeting Sept. 16 — which would be more than a month after the Aug 11 deadline set by LIPA to approve the deal.

Cook was joined in support by fellow Councilman Ed Smyth (R) and Tom Kehoe, Northport Village trustee. Both Cook and Smyth detailed a previously promoted plan for the town to condemn the plant and take it over through eminent domain.

“We don’t need your permission to take it, we’ll pay you 154 million pounds and take it,” Smyth said, alluding to British-based energy company, National Grid.

Kehoe reiterated the need for a public meeting and said the Northport plant has been “a burden on the people of this district for many, many years.”

Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) has recently stated that “LIPA’s latest settlement proposal is, by far, the best offer presented to the town to date.”

A ruling on the tax case is expected to come from the state Supreme Court in Riverhead sometime this summer.

John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson. File photo from Mather Hospital

As the number of COVID-19 patients continue to decrease on Long Island, local hospitals say they are working to ensure that the public and patients feel safe walking through its front doors while keeping a safe and clean environment. 

Kenneth Roberts, president and CEO of Mather Hospital, stressed the importance of seeking out medical care.  

“It is safe to come back — whether it’s coming to the hospital or going to the doctor’s offices,” he said. “People shouldn’t neglect reaching out to their healthcare providers.” 

The hospital has been implementing the use of tele-medicine during the pandemic, but Roberts said there is only so much you can do remotely and that some things need to be done in person. 

“Being a part of the Northwell Healthcare system, we’ve put into place new processes and procedures at the hospital,” the president of Mather Hospital said. 

For hospital employees, they must attest that they are free of COVID-19 symptoms when coming into work, temperature checks are done before each person clocks in. 

Roberts said all employees and doctors are required to wear face masks. Those on the frontlines who may be in contact with potential COVID patients are required to wear face shield in addition to the n-95 masks. 

Another change at the hospital is the return of visitors. 

“We’re allowing two visitors per patient,” Roberts said. “Before they’re able to come in there will be required to answer a series of questions and their temperatures will be checked.”

As of now, those who need to go to the emergency room are being asked to remain in their cars until a hospital employee comes to them. 

Roberts said patients that come in on an emergency basis who may have COVID-19 symptoms will be tested immediately. The hospital will be administered a test and be able to get a result back in three days. 

In an effort to keep the facilities clean and safe, Mather Hospital will be utilizing PurpleSun devices, which use ultraviolet light to kill germs and provide rapid disinfection. 

Roberts said the patient feedback so far has been good and that a lot of them have confidence in the doctors and “have no fears.” 

With the restart of elective surgeries in May, the hospital has seen more people coming in to get important procedures done. 

“We’ve had over 1,000 operations that were scheduled, now we are playing catch up,” the president of the hospital said. 

Each patient scheduled for surgery will receive a phone call from a hospital employee and they will conduct a preprocedural interview gathering health history as well as a screening  for COVID symptoms or exposures. 

Once that evaluation has been completed, patients receive two separate in-person pre-surgical testing appointments. The first appointment may include lab tests, EKG and x-rays. The second appointment is for COVID testing and is scheduled 48 hours prior to the procedure. Patients are instructed to self-quarantine leading up to their surgery.  

“They’re going really well, a lot of the patients are grateful to get these procedures, but they also want to shorten their length of stay as much as possible,” Roberts said. “We want to continue to provide a safe place for our patients.”

Lawyers reveal new details on Case

Families of several young women who died in a limo crash in Cuthogue in 2015 gathered in Smithtown for the five-year anniversary of the crash. Photo by David Luces

For the families of the four women who tragically died in a 2015 limousine crash on County Route 48 in Cutchogue, the grief and pain from that fateful day has never gone away.

Families of several young women who died in a limo crash in Cuthogue in 2015 gathered at the five-year anniversary of the crash. Photo by David Luces

The families of Amy Grabina, Lauren Baruch, Stephanie Belli, and Brittney Schulman gathered by a Smithtown street July 16 that was named in honor of their daughters next to Smithtown High School West. The group tied purple ribbons around the street sign and were also joined by the parents of four women who were injured and survived the crash.

“Due to the irresponsibility of some and negligence of others, those four women did not return, while four passengers returned physically and mentally scarred,” said Steven Baruch, father of victim Lauren Baruch. “It is five years after the fact and we are still tortured by many unanswered questions … that the picture of what actually happened remains unclear.”

At a press conference after the ceremony, Robert Sullivan, a lawyer for the Baruch family, revealed new information on the case. The lawyer showed an email from a Southold resident that was sent to town officials three years before the fatal crash. The resident in the email warned about the potential for an accident to occur on the intersection that killed the four women.

In addition, the attorney showed a newly surfaced ambulance report shows that there was a front-seat passenger in Steven Romeo’s pickup truck when it crashed into the limousine. The report says she refused medical care at the scene.

“It states on the report that she was the front seat passenger in the red pickup truck, so she saw the whole thing, ” Sullivan said. “That information was never given to us for three years. It was never turned over to the families or lawyers. Why is that? It is all part of a cover-up.”

Lawyers for the families have tried to interview the women, but have been unsuccessful as she has been uncooperative, according to the attorney.

“We have tried to depose this lady to find out what she saw, its [been] five years,” Russell said.
The Baruch and Grabina families are suing the Town of Southold and Suffolk County, claiming that they were negligent in failing to make the intersection safe before the accident.

Families of several young women who died in a limo crash in Cuthogue in 2015 gathered at the five-year anniversary of the crash. Photo by David Luces

The limo carrying the eight women, who were out celebrating an upcoming wedding, attempted to make a U-turn on Sound Avenue when it was struck by Romeo’s vehicle. The limo driver, Carlos Pino, was indicted on criminally negligent homicide charges, though the charges were thrown out by the State Supreme Court in 2016. Romeo pleaded guilty in 2017 to driving while impaired and was sentenced to a 90-day license suspension and fined $500.

Family members said they were denied justice.

Following the 2015 East End crash and a 2018 accident in upstate Schoharie County, New York passed legislation aimed at the limousine industry. The bill, signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) in January, requires passenger seat belts, drug and alcohol testing for drivers and increased penalties for illegal U-turns and includes a website where complaints can be made.

The families also called for the Safe Limo Act to be brought to President Donald Trump’s (R) desk and signed into federal law. The bill would set new federal limousine safety rules and standards for seat belts, seat integrity and fund crash safety research, among other things.

They said they are hoping something good can come from something tragic.

“The Safe Limo Act will ensure that the industry will follow the same protocols throughout the entire country,” said Nancy DiMonte, a mother of one of the crash survivors. “We have worked tirelessly to help New York become the forefront of advanced limousine safety measures and we are now prepared to institute these bills nationwide.”

Northport power plant. File photo

The Northport-East Northport school district has come to a proposed agreement with the Long Island Power Authority on a settlement that would resolve the 10-year tax case between the two sides.

The school board has approved a deal which would reduce LIPA’s annual tax bill on the Northport power plant from $86 million to $46 million by 2027. Under the proposed settlement, LIPA will make several upfront payments to the school district, totaling $14.5 million, that would help offset tax increases to residents and businesses.

In addition, LIPA and National Grid would forgive the collection of in excess of $800 million in taxes and interest that they claim are owed. National Grid owns the Northport power plant, and has been a party to the tax challenge case. The plant’s output is distributed through LIPA’s Long Island electric system.

The proposal ensures that LIPA would pay in excess of $460 million in taxes to various jurisdictions in the Town of Huntington over the first seven years of the settlement, including $312 million to the school district, according to Town Attorney Nicholas Ciappetta. It also includes the likelihood of a five-year extension with the authority.

In a letter to the district community on July 10, Robert Banzer, school superintendent, said the proposed settlement comes as the court ruling in the tax certiorari case against the Town of Huntington appears to be imminent, adding that “the very real possibility of a court ruling against the town could result in drastically reduced tax revenue from LIPA to the school system and create significant hardship for our community.”

The settlement would also protect residents from having to pay retroactive tax payments of $10,000 to $25,000 per household in addition to significant increases to property taxes, according to Banzer.

The deal still must be approved by the Huntington Town Board and Northport school board. The school district will host a virtual workshop this week to answer questions and concerns from community members. The school board is expected to vote on the settlement at a July 20 meeting. The Huntington Town Board has until Aug. 11 to approve the settlement. The town plans on holding informational meetings and answer any questions that residents or others may have regarding the settlement framework and its impact.

“LIPA’s latest settlement proposal is, by far, the best offer presented to the Town to date — and that includes any municipality that has negotiated with LIPA over legacy power plants on Long Island,” said Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) in a statement. “That’s not my opinion; it’s a fact. The town’s ability to negotiate such terms is due in large part to the substantial resources devoted to the defense of the case and the zealous advocacy of the town’s attorneys.”

If the settlement is not approved by both the school board and the Town Board, LIPA has advised that the settlement offer will be withdrawn and will not be revived.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) responded favorably to the news.

“I have said from day one that it is critical for the parties to come together to settle this litigation and avoid a court decision that could be catastrophic for the community,” he said. “I commend all parties involved and particularly the community leaders whose advocacy helped produce a far better outcome for Northport residents.”

LIPA settled similar suits with the Town of Brookhaven/Port Jefferson over taxes for the Port Jefferson plant back in December 2018.

Fraternities Kappa Sigma, Tau Kappa Epsilon and Sigma Beta Rho were suspended from SBU over Title IX allegations. Logos from fraternities websites.

Three Stony Brook University fraternities have been suspended after reports of sexual assault and hazing surfaced on social media.

Kappa Sigma, Sigma Beta Rho and Tau Kappa Epsilon were suspended in late June after reports of Title IX violations and hazing were filed with SBU’s Department of Student Engagement and Activities, which oversees fraternities and sororities.

“As a result of these reports, the university put the social fraternities identified in the reports … on interim suspension last week,” SBU said in a statement. “This is consistent with our process, as sexual assault and hazing have no place on college campuses or in our society.”

The ongoing investigations into the fraternities are being overseen by the university’s Office of Equity and Access, which handles Title IX matters, and the Office of University Community Standards, which handles Code of Student Responsibility violations. Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments Act states that men and women must receive equal treatment and opportunities within education programs.

Two of the fraternities’ national chapters addressed the recent news.

Tau Kappa Epsilon and the Rho-Eta [Stony Brook] chapter is fully cooperating with the university on their investigation,” said Alex Baker, chief information officer for the national chapter, in an email statement. “TKE strongly condemns sexual assault and will hold any responsible members accountable for their actions.”

Phi Nguyen, executive director of Sigma Beta Rho, said in an email that the fraternity “is not currently aware of any Title IX investigation involving Sigma Beta Rho fraternity at Stony Brook University. We are currently cooperating with Stony Brook University’s investigation into our new member practices.”

“Regarding online allegations of sexual misconduct, Sigma Beta Rho condemns sexual misconduct in all forms,” Nguyen added. “Sigma Beta Rho is committed to investigating allegations of misconduct against our members and taking appropriate disciplinary action.”

A spokesperson for the Kappa Sigma national fraternity did not respond for comment.

The allegations against the three fraternities and subsequent suspensions came after an Instagram account, @voicesofsb, was created to share stories of sexual assault from students at the university.

In a June 23 post, the account said its goal was to “give sexual assault survivors an anonymous platform to let their voices be heard.” Individuals are able to submit their stories to the account by filling out a Google form.

At least two other similar Instagram accounts were created elsewhere: @shareyourstorybing, and @shareyourstorygeneso. Those accounts have shared anonymous stories of sexual assault and harassment at SUNY Binghamton and SUNY Geneseo.

SBU said in a June 25 Instagram post that it “is committed to the prevention of sexual assault and violence.” The statement was met with backlash. There were over 200 commenters on the post, many criticizing the post as being “performative,” according to The Statesman, and calling on the university to do better and take cases seriously.

SBU students can report incidents to the Title IX office and its coordinator Marjolie Leonard, at [email protected] Individuals can also contact Samantha August, the survivor advocate and prevention specialist for the school, at 631-457-9981.

Residents prepare July Fourth at-home firework shows in Port Jefferson Station in 2018. Photo by Kyle Barr

For the past month or so, the sounds of fireworks have rang throughout the night in many parts of Long Island. Despite fireworks being banned in New York State for decades, Suffolk and Nassau officials have acknowledged seeing an increase in the number of complaints to police departments about illegal fireworks. 

The increase could be attributed to the lack of official Fourth of July firework display due to the coronavirus pandemic, or simply boredom. 

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone held a media briefing with Suffolk Police Chief Stuart Cameron prior to July 4 to warn residents about the dangers of using illegal fireworks. During the event, they showcased the dangers and destruction of fireworks by igniting a collection of pyrotechnics in a camper. 

This past holiday weekend there have been several firework injury incidents in Suffolk County. A man in Port Jefferson Station was injured when he attempted to light a firework that explored and injured one of his eyes. Additionally, a 29-year old man in Central Islip was severely wounded in the hand from an exploding firework. The man was at home on Tamarack Street when the injury occurred around 9:10 p.m. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital.

Facebook community groups have also taken notice of the increase in illegal fireworks, People on community Facebook pages have made a number of posts throughout the past couple of months with complaints over fireworks. People not only recognized the negative effect it had on animals, but others mentioned a child with special needs constantly being woken by the loud bangs outside. 

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 230 people a year are treated in emergency rooms because of injuries caused by fireworks. In 2017, sparklers caused 1,200 injuries.

“Every year, we do these reminders and talk about the dangers of fireworks,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said during a call with media after the holiday weekend. 

Suffolk County Police Department Chief Stuart Cameron said the county did have a higher incidence of fireworks-related calls, due to the limitations on large crowds at the usual fireworks shows.

Laura Ahearn. Photo from campaign

Following tallies of absentee ballots that were completed yesterday by the Suffolk County Board of Elections, Laura Ahearn and Laura Jens-Smith both won their Democractic primaries.

Ahearn, a crime-victim advocate, will run in November against Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) for the seat being vacated by longtime New York State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who announced he is retiring after the end of this year.

The executive director of Parents for Megan’s Law and the Crime Victim’s Center, defeated Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, Southampton Town Board member Tommy John Schiavoni, Suffolk Community College student Skyler Johnson and nurse Nora Higgins.

“I would like to thank my voters for their support, and the other participants in this race for their hard work and determination to advance our shared values,” Ahearn said in a statement. “I look forward to the election in November, where everyone involved in this primary effort can work together and send a forward-thinking, pro-choice woman to represent this seat in Albany for the first time in its history.”

In a post on her candidacy Facebook page, Cartright, who received the second-most number of votes, conceded the race and thanked voters for their support. 

“The results are in and the Democratic candidate chosen is not the one we hoped for … my fight for our community is outside the bounds of any one election,” she said. “Our efforts will not cease. We will be steadfast until every goal is achieved. I will continue to fight for each of you as a Brookhaven councilwoman.”

Schiavoni, a Southampton town councilman, received the third-most number of votes.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to seek such an office and offer my skills and experience to the people of senate district 1,” he said. “Our democracy survives only with effort and is dependent upon the participation of thoughtful men and women voting, caring and resisting the complacency that leaves the responsibility of governing to others.”

Johnson, a young Mount Sinai resident and recent graduate of Suffolk County Community College, gained 12 percent of the total votes.

“I don’t consider this a loss,” he said in a statement. “I was able to set the stage for a number of issues in this primary election.”

Jens-Smith will be vying for the Second District State Assembly seat being vacated by Palumbo, she will face Republican challenger Jodi Giglio. She won by over 50 percent of the votes against her opponent, Sound Beach resident Will Schleisner.

“I want to thank the people of the Second district who have humbled me with their support, this pandemic election hasn’t been easy—but folks rose to the occasion, and turned out in huge numbers…now we set our sights toward November,” she said in a statement.

On his campaign Facebook, Schleisner congratulated Jens-Smith and said he will join the campaign of Steve Polgar to compete for Assembly District 3.

New York State Senator – 1st District (Democratic)

Laura Ahearn – 34% – 2,360 in person votes – absentee ballot 6,059 – total votes 8,419 

Valerie Cartright – 27% – 2,120 in person votes – absentee ballot 4,442 – total votes 6,562

Thomas Schiavoni – 24% – 1,812 in person votes – absentee ballot 4,006 – total votes 5818 

Skyler Johnson – 12% – 945 in person votes – absentee ballot 1,882 – total votes 2,827 

Nora Higgins – 4% – 356 in person votes – absentee votes 596 – total votes 952

New York State Assembly – 2nd District (Democratic)

Laura M. Jens-Smith – 77.99% – 1,772 in person votes – absentee ballots 4,645 votes – total votes 6,147

William Schleisner – 22.01% – 500 in person votes – absentee ballots – 1,475- total votes 1,975

 

Stock photo

Local businesses will now have more time to apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans as the aforementioned program has been extended until Aug. 8. 

President Donald Trump (R) signed a bill into law July 4 that ensures the loan program’s  application deadline will run for another five weeks. The bill’s passage allows the U.S. Small Business Administration to resume approving PPP applications, as the agency previously stopped processing forms on June 30. At that date, the SBA had approved nearly 4.9 loans with total funds over $520 billion.

In New York state, close to 324,000 PPP loans had been made, totaling $38.3 billion, according to SBA data. Despite that, the SBA had approximately $130 billion in unallocated funds when it momentarily shut down.

“The surprise for us and a lot of regional bankers is that there is still so much money that remains in the program,” said Bernie Ryba, regional director of the Small Business Development Center at Stony Brook University. “We had seen a huge surge of applications coming in before, but it has stayed flat the past few weeks. It’s been a complete reserve.”

Due to the changes the administration made to the program back in June, businesses that are seeking to qualify for loan forgiveness now have 24 weeks instead of the previous eight weeks to spend PPP funds. The portion of the loan that must be spent on payroll has been reduced from 75 to 60 percent. Businesses won’t be penalized if employees who have been offered their jobs, including same pay and hours, don’t return. 

The SBDC regional director said, with the updated terms, businesses who didn’t choose to apply initially could now decide to do so now.  

“The terms are better, that’s a real positive,” he said. “Some of the companies we’ve been working with said they felt constrained during the original eight-week period. It is a welcomed change.”

Ryba said in some cases he has heard of local and regional banks reaching out to businesses who still haven’t applied for the program. 

“It’s puzzling to them, like, ‘Why aren’t more of these businesses taking advantage of these terms?’” he said. 

The federal program loans up to $10 million with an interest rate of 1 percent and a five-year term. Ryba expects to see a mini-surge in application submissions as the Aug. 8 deadline gets closer. 

“There are some businesses who might think they can skate through this and don’t need to apply,” he said. “As the deadline looms they might change their minds.” 

In addition to Trump’s extension this past holiday weekend, a group of U.S. senators from the Senate Banking Committee tabled a bill that gives automatic forgiveness to businesses. 

Sens. Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota), Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona), introduced the Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act, which would forgive PPP loans of $150,000 or less if the borrower submits a one-page attestation form to their lender.

According to the group, approximately 85 percent of PPP loans would be eligible for this simplified loan forgiveness process. The cost of applying for forgiveness for a PPP loan of this size is $2,000 for the small business and $500 for the lender. The senators say the bipartisan legislation could save small businesses $7.4 billion and banks nearly $2 billion.

With the updated terms, the application to have PPP loan forgiveness has been simplified. Ryba said the application requires fewer calculations and documentation. It has helped quell some of the concerns owners have had. Small businesses have until Dec. 31 to file their forgiveness applications. 

“The process has been simplified, but there still continues to be a lack of clarity of how to treat certain expenses,” he said. “We hope that gets cleared up, we are trying to stay informed as possible and give our clients the best guidance.”

Nursing homes have become a hotbed of discussion over the large percentage of their residents who have died from COVID-19 while in New York facilities. Stock photo

When the initial COVID-19 surge occurred in New York State, nursing homes were the site of rampant infections and deaths. According to a New York State Department of Health report released earlier this week, the infection was spread by community transmission and asymptomatic staff members. 

The agency aimed to study the impact of the state’s March directive that nursing homes could not refuse admission or readmission to patients because of a confirmed or suspected coronavirus infection. The directive was meant to free up space in overcrowded hospitals as the pandemic intensified.

The number of nursing home staff reporting COVID-19 symptoms peaked March 16, 23 days prior to the peak of nursing home fatalities, which occurred April 8. 

“It is likely that thousands of employees who were infected in mid-March transmitted the virus unknowingly — through no fault of their own — while working, which then led to resident infection,” the report states. 

Critics of the directive argue that it allowed infected patients to return or come into these facilities and in turn spread the virus to other individuals. The findings of the study show 

37,500 workers — one in four of 158,000 nursing home workers — were infected with COVID-19 between March and early June. 

A number of elected officials took issue with the guidance given to nursing homes by the state. U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) disputed claims that the state was simply following the federal government’s guidance. He said the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal regulator for nursing homes, had previously issued guidance stating that not only should nursing homes only accept patients for which they can care for, but that nursing homes should focus on “prompt detection, triage and isolation of potentially infectious residents.” 

Zeldin also called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CMS to launch an investigation into New York State’s adherence to appropriate health and safety guidelines within nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

In a statement following the release of the NYSDOH report, Zeldin reiterated his stance. 

“An internal review by the State of New York is OK for them to initiate, but this is not a situation where the state is going to be able to objectively investigate itself,” he said. “These facilities should not have been required to accept patients who were diagnosed at the time with coronavirus, especially if they did not have the ability to protect the rest of their vulnerable population. It was also a fatal policy to prevent nursing homes from administering coronavirus tests to patients returning from hospitalization. Our seniors and their families deserve answers, and an independent investigation is clearly necessary.”

A statewide nursing home survey conducted by NYSDOH shows that between March 25 and May 8, a total of 6,326 COVID-19 hospital patients were admitted into 310 nursing homes. Of those facilities 252 already had either confirmed or suspected positive patients, confirmed or presumed fatalities or infected workers, prior to admission of someone with the coronavirus. 

Stephen Hanse, president and CEO of the New York State Health Facilities Association said at the onset of the pandemic, nursing homes and assisted living facilities were not the top priority. Bolstering hospital resources and ramping up hospital bed capacity were. 

“Policymakers now know that the men and women residing in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are the most at risk of infection from the COVID-19 virus,” Hanse said in a statement. “Consequently, it is essential that nursing homes and assisted living providers receive the full support and assistance from elected officials and policymakers to ensure they have the necessary resources to defeat this virus and safeguard their residents and staff.”

Local conservative group Setauket Patriots hosted what they called a Patriots Day Parade July 4 in place of the normal Fourth of July parade hosted by the Port Jefferson Fire Department. Photo by David Luces

A caravan of cars, motorcycles and other vehicles drove down Port Jefferson’s Main Street to celebrate the Fourth of July.

The Patriot Day Parade, which was hosted by the Setauket Patriots, a local conservative group based on social media, was put together fairly quickly as organizers were able to obtain the necessary permit and approval from the village within the past week.

Despite the local fire department’s decision to cancel its annual parade, the Setauket Patriots group previously stated it wanted the opportunity to do something to mark Independence Day. A representative from the group said the parade would not be a political event. The majority of people who lined the sidewalks waved American flags and wore red, white and blue. Though there were a handful of individuals in red MAGA hats and some participants who drove past with Trump 2020 and Thin Blue Line flags.

James and Flo McAvey of Port Jefferson, were a part of the crowd and were glad there was an event to commemorate the important American holiday.

“The village’s [annual] parade always has a big turnout, but I’m glad there is something going on to show patriotism toward America,” James McAvey said. “I know this was kind of last minute, I don’t think a lot of people knew about this. I think there could have been more spectators if they had more notice.”

Barry Issberner of Port Jefferson, said he thought the decision to not have the usual annual Fourth of July parade was a big mistake.

“I understand the concern, but to call off the whole Fourth of July parade because they were worried people weren’t smart enough to protect themselves was wrong,” he said. “I’m glad someone else picked it up and ran with it.”

Issberner was seen waving a big American flag throughout the parade, adding that it was important to be at the event.

“I wanted to come out and help celebrate the birth of America,” the Port Jeff resident said. “It’s important for the country to pull together. I thought the turnout was pretty good, we had a good amount of cars go by. For something that was last-minute organized, it got a good crowd to come out.”