Authors Posts by Sara-Megan Walsh

Sara-Megan Walsh

Sara-Megan Walsh
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Darryl St. George at a RAP Week press conference earlier this month. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Huntington Democrats are looking to heal a party rift by working together to push towards securing the town supervisor seat up for grabs this November.

Centerport resident Darryl St. George has put out a call for his followers to support Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) in her campaign for Huntington Town Supervisor. Edwards beat St. George in the Sept. 12 primary, 3,482 votes to 1,664 votes, to win the Democrat line in the general election.

The political hopeful said he was initially disappointed by his loss but with time to reflect has put it in perspective.

“It was the first primary for a Democratic town supervisor and 1,600 people came out to vote for us,” St. George said. “It was still a loss, but it was a win in that sense. We got that many people to come out and be involved in the process.”

Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards. File photo by Rohma Abbas

St. George said he has sat down with Edwards to talk over the key issues that came up in the primaries and their campaign platforms. They were able to find some common ground, according to the challenger, who said they were in agreement on the need for term limits for elected officials, campaign finance reform, a comprehensive review of the town’s master plan with environmental considerations, and aggressively attacking the problem of heroin/opiate addiction.

“I am able to go back to my supporters and say, ‘This is the candidate we need to get behind,’” St. George said. “In my view, I will do everything I can to help her win as I believe she is the best person for the job in this race right now.”

Edwards will face competition from the Republican candidate, current State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Nov. 7.

Both Democrats agreed that the voter turnout for the Sept. 12 primary was disappointing. There were only 5,000 registered Democrats who cast their ballot for town supervisor candidate out of the more than 50,000 party members registered to vote in the Town of Huntington.

“A long-term project for me as a veteran and a history teacher is to do everything I can to get more people involved in the political process,” St. George said. “We can’t continue to accept low voter turnout as a reality.”

“In my view, I will do everything I can to help [Tracey Edwards] win as I believe she is the best person for the job in this race right now.”

— Darryl St. George

The Northport High School teacher said he hopes to hold a meeting with young leaders sometime in October to discuss what role they play in the politics, how they can get more involved and have a voice in local issues.

His strong belief that active participation is key to the democratic process is part of what inspired St. George to get involved in politics. He first contemplated running for a seat on Huntington town board in 2015, before declaring in February 2017 he would be launching a campaign for town supervisor — months before Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) announced he would not be seeking re-election.

St. George’s decision spurred what will be remembered, at least by many voters, as the first Democratic primary for Huntington Town Supervisor.

“I have a profound sense of gratitude for all the people that came out and participated in this historic event in the town, which includes Tracey’s supporters,” the political hopeful said. “But a special thank you to my supporters, I’ve come to see them as an extended family.”

While St. George said he did not have any specific plans for the future, residents may still see and hear his name.

“I’m not going anywhere. I will continue to stay involved and do what I can to fight for what I believe in,” he said.

Town of Huntington will host a Organ Donor Enrollment Day Oct. 10. File photo by Rohma Abbas

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington homeowners can anticipate to see taxes increase in 2018, but town officials have pieced together a plan that won’t require piercing the state tax cap as opposed to 2017.

Huntington Town’s budget will slide in just under the state-mandated 1.84 percent tax levy increase cap with its proposed $194 million spending plan for 2018..

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) presented his last and final budget proposal at the Sept. 15 town board meeting, calling for a $4.2 million spending increase compared to 2017.

The single largest driving factor behind the town’s budget hike is high health care costs for town employees, according to Petrone. Town personnel salaries and benefits “is the single biggest influence on municipal budgets,” reads the proposed 2018 budget, citing it accounts for more than 50 percent of the town’s major expenditures. The state has predicted health care insurance premiums will rise by 8.3 percent, which would cost the town an additional $22.5 million in 2018.

To help cut back these costs, Petrone has proposed to reduce the number of full-time town employees through attrition for a second year. So far this year, the town has eliminated six positions, for a savings of $400,000 in paid salaries and benefits, according to town spokesman A.J. Carter.

“I continue to advocate for changes to the Tax Cap Act that will allow the Town of Huntington to expand upon existing successful programs such as the continuation of the Town Open Space Bond Act.”

— Frank Petrone

Successful changes in two of the town’s ambulance districts — Huntington and Commack — will result in residents seeing decreased taxes for ongoing services. Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps began billing patients’ insurance companies in 2016, a move that was followed by Huntington this year and resulted in a significant increase to its revenue. Carter said residents without health care insurance will not be billed by either company, as those costs continue to be covered by the town.

The preliminary budget calls for $16.6 million in capital spending on local projects, holding steady at 2017 levels. These capital projects include $3.75 million to begin construction of the James E. Conte Community Center at the former Armory in Huntington Station and $3 million to construct a new animal shelter adjacent to Mill Dam Park in Halesite.

Town officials have already unveiled plans to build its first of two spray parks, or interactive water playgrounds, in 2018 — one in Elwood Park in memory of New York City Police Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo who was killed in the line of duty in 2017, and one next to the Conte Community Center.

Other major projects included in the 2018 preliminary budget are improvements to Manor Park in Huntington Station, restoration of the waterfront bulkheads in Halesite and $1 million toward improvement of the Huntington sewers.

In issuing his final budget, Petrone called for changes to the state’s Tax Cap Act.

“I continue to advocate for changes to the Tax Cap Act that will allow the Town of Huntington to expand upon existing successful programs, such as the continuation of the Town Open Space Bond Act, and to develop new economic drivers, like the formation of special improvement districts which deal with issue-specific concerns and solutions, and the establishment of new Business Improvement Districts to further enhance our small business communities,” the supervisor said.

Petrone called for specific programs or capital projects to be approved by voters in a town referendum vote, then excluded from tax cap calculations, otherwise he feared programs could be discontinued to stay under the cap.

For 2017, Petrone got residents’ support in piercing the tax cap by approving a 2.85 percent tax increase for his $191 million budget. The supervisor had claimed it was necessary in order to maintain the town’s services along with social, youth and art programs without severe cuts.

Residents will have the chance to share their input on the proposed 2018 budget at the Oct. 17 town board meeting.

The master plan for the spray park at Elwood Park is revealed September 2017. The plans are in memory of a Huntington resident Paul Tuozzolo, who was killed in the line of duty. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Elwood residents are looking forward to having a new spray park to play in next summer being built in memory of a slain New York City police sergeant.

Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and the town board unveiled plans Sept. 25 for the town’s first interactive water playground to be constructed at Elwood Park in memory of a Huntington resident Paul
Tuozzolo, who was killed in the line of duty.

Lisa Tuozzolo accepts a flag from U.S. Rep. Thomas Suozzi. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

The spray park came about after lengthy conversations between town officials and Tuozzolo’s wife, Lisa, to build a memorial that would be meaningful to the couple’s two children.

“We, of course, are saddened by the tragic incident that cost Paul his life,” Petrone said. “We hope that this spray park will be a place where Austin and Joseph can come and relive their fond memories of their dad and know that all of us will remember the sacrifice he made while trying to keep us safe.”

Tuozzolo, 41, was working for the 43rd Precinct in the Soundview section of the Bronx last November when he was shot and killed responding to what was reported as a home invasion, but later turned out to be domestic incident. A dispatcher told responding officers that a man who had broken into a home was fleeing in a car, which Tuozzolo swiftly tracked down. Upon approaching the vehicle, the suspect opened fire and shot Tuozzolo who died of his injuries.

“We have a phrase in the NYPD that we ‘never forget,’” said Assistant Chief Larry Nikunen, commanding officer of the Patrol Borough Bronx who spoke for the NYPD. “We never forget the members of our department who have sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. It is something very sacred to us as members of the NYPD … It is also important that people outside of the NYPD understand what kind of man, what kind of officer Sgt. Tuozzolo was.”

Children Austin and Joseph Tuozzolo sit with a family member at the ceremony. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

During his 19 years of service, Tuozzolo held various positions including a union representative for the Sergeants Benevolent Association and later on worked in the school unit ensuring safety and well-being of Bronx students, according to Nikunen.

Tuozzolo was known as a “laidback, easy-going sergeant who cared for his cops” whose  passion for children was evident in both his work and his family life, according to his wife.

“The two most important children in his life were his sons, Austin and Joseph, and the moment he walked through the doorway upon returning from work, our home lit up as bright as the sun from the smiles on everyone’s faces,” Lisa said. “Today’s dedication is a fitting tribute to the devotion he had toward his children and I know that he is smiling down with great pride, knowing that his boys will have laughter and smiles at this spray park.”

The park will cover a 2,500-square-foot area with approximately 1,600-square-feet of active play features that will be purchased from playground equipment manufacturer Waterplay Solutions. Its equipment will include a shade structure, six park benches, a 4-foot vinyl-coated chainlink fence and a memorial trellis naming the park.

“We need to tell the story for the future, that Sgt. Tuozzolo is a hero,” said U.S. Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove). “This park is being named after him because he is a hero, and we hold up heros as people who we want to emulate, people who have made a sacrifice on our behalf to make our lives better.”

Suozzi presented Lisa and her sons with a flag from U.S. Congress in Tuozzolo’s memory.

Kindergartners from Harley Avenue Elementary School help Huntington Town officials ceremoniously break ground on a new spray park. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Over the upcoming months, Petrone said the town will continue to work with the Tuozzolo family to finish designing the spray park with construction set to begin in March 2018. The preliminary estimated cost for the project is $450,000 which will come from money paid by the developer of The Seasons at Elwood as part of the community benefits agreement and in part from the town’s park improvement fund.

Kindergartners from Austin’s class at Harley Avenue Elementary School helped town officials ceremoniously break ground on the spray park. Tuozzolo’s wife had a special mission for each student.

“A hero is someone who care about others. A hero is someone who does things for others. I have a job for each and every one of you. Who thinks they can handle that job?”, Lisa asked, watching small hands raise into the air. “The job I’m about to give you is to be a hero just like Austin and Joseph’s daddy was.”

The spray park will be the first of two slated for construction by Huntington officials in 2018, with a second to be built alongside the upcoming James Conte Community Center in Huntington Station.

Residents said the choice of memorial by town officials was gladly welcomed by the local community.

“Huntington is the only town that doesn’t have a spray park,” said Elwood resident Megan Hall. “Myself and other mothers would talk about it. It’s finally an answer to our wishes.”

File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Two parents are suing the Kings Park Central School District over a 2015 sexting incident, claiming handling of the matter humiliated their sons and violated their freedom of speech.

Andrew J. Fenton, of Fort Salonga, and Thomas Phelan, of Kings Park, filed a lawsuit after their sons were among more than 25 students suspended for having received a sexual video via text message.

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 19, 2017, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleges the “suspension of [the students] for receiving a video, unsolicited, which they did not show or send to anyone else, and which bore no nexus to an ensuing school disruption was arbitrary and capricious.” Both Fenton and Phelan seek damages for “humiliation and anguish” of their sons and their records expunged of the suspension.

On Nov. 4, 2015, dozens of Kings Park High School students received a video on their cellphones of two 14-year-olds having sex while at home, according to court documents.

When an assistant principal saw a ninth-grader playing the video in the high school’s cafeteria Nov. 6, school officials began an extensive investigation. The phones of all students who still had the video were temporarily confiscated, according to court documents. School district officials allege both Fenton’s and Phelon’s sons still had the video.

Under Kings Park’s Guidelines for Implementation of School Discipline Policy, “inappropriate texting and use of social media” and “selling, using, transmitting or possessing obscene material” are considered Level IV infractions punishable by up to five days suspension and parental contact.

On Nov. 9 and 10, Kings Park High School Principal Lino Bracco sent certified mail to Fenton and Phelan notifying them that their sons, sophomores at the time, would be suspended for one day for “inappropriate use of an electronic device.” The letter warned that the students were “prohibited from entering upon school grounds for any reason and should remain home under supervision.”

Fenton said he did not receive the Nov. 9 letter in time, and his son was escorted out of the high school on Nov. 10 by two uniformed police officers, according to court documents.

By letter dated Nov. 18, Superintendent Timothy Eagen made an offer to parents that they could submit a request for their child’s disciplinary record to be reviewed, and barring any similar incidents, the suspension would be expunged.

Both parents retained Middletown-based attorneys, partners Robert Isseks and Andrew Smith, who sent letters dated Dec. 9, 2015, requesting the suspensions be immediately removed from the students’ records alleging “they never possessed the message in school or on school property.”

Both parents said Kings Park school district’s cellphone policy also infringed on their sons’ right to free speech. “The only way that [he] or any other student could possibly make sure that he did not find himself in an ‘incident similar in nature’ during the coming year is if he stopped receiving text messages all together,” reads the Dec. 9 letter.

An appeal was made to New York State Department of Education, whose Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia ruled Nov. 10, 2016, that the district’s “suspension of [the students] for receiving a video, unsolicited, which they did not show or send to anyone else, and which bore no nexus to an ensuring school disruption, was arbitrary and capricious.” Elia ordered Kings Park school district to annul and expunge the suspension.

Eagen said that as at press time, Kings Park school district had yet to be served with the lawsuit.

“Parents will sometimes address a particular issue through a media solution rather than an administrative or due process solution,” Eagen said. “However, in choosing this path, sometimes parents will share certain personal and/or confidential information that then becomes a part of public record.”

The superintendent said the district’s policy and practice is to not comment on specific student disciplinary matters and/or pending lawsuits.

Attorney Smith could not be reached for comment by press time. Principal Bracco did not return phone calls requesting an interview or comment.

A Smithtown business owner has put her name on the November ballot to give residents a third option when voting for town supervisor.

Kristen Slevin, 40-year-old owner of Yottabyte Craft Chocolate and Candy in Smithtown, has launched her own independent campaign for Smithtown town supervisor. A prior vice president of Swan Lake Civic Association, this is her first time running for political office.

Slevin, a Smithtown resident and Hauppauge High School graduate, shed light on her jump from business owner to political candidate.

Kristen Slevin

“As a business, we feel we are a member of the community, we have a voice and we should leverage our voices for things we believe in,” she said of her business perspective.

Slevin said after seeing her community get energized by the 2016 presidential election, she launched an advocacy group on Facebook titled Smithtown Election Watch 2017.

“People had all this energy and enthusiasm to get involved in national issues, meanwhile our local downtowns are disappearing right before us,” Slevin said.

Slevin and a team of approximately a dozen volunteers began July 11 rounding up 1,781 signatures from registered Smithtown voters, exceeding the minimum 1,500 required under state law, for an independent candidate to run in the general election. Her campaign slogan is “None of the Above.”

The independent campaign platform focuses on fixing an “obsolete” town code, addressing blight in the downtown business areas and the creation of historic districts and town council districts. One of the first projects on her radar, if elected, would be to embark on a full review of town code, its policies and procedures, as the candidate said she had found it difficult to read through and impossible to search.

“Other things I am concerned about are if the towns are suffering from intentional blight,” Slevin said. “Some landlords might have multiple properties, here or in other towns, that they allow this property to go vacant and are taking the tax credit against what they are making in more successful rentals.”

If elected, she said she would consider introducing new tax codes to increase rates on properties with long-standing vacant buildings to encourage owners to either rent or sell. Slevin said other municipalities in New York and other neighboring states have adopted such programs.

“People had all this energy and enthusiasm to get involved in national issues, meanwhile our local downtowns are disappearing right before us.”
— Kristen Slevin

In addition to addressing blight, the business owner said she’d like to see Smithtown, Kings Park and Lake Avenue in Saint James be recognized as historic districts.

“Our philosophy should be that they are quaint, small-town U.S. towns right here,” Slevin said. “While so many other places are being built up and becoming more city like, we are going to hold on to our small-town vision here.”

The candidate said she’s not against the integrated development of mixed-use properties that combine retail space with apartments designed for students, singles and senior residents. Slevin said it’s her belief that mixed-use properties would provide a more diversified business base and community that over time would strengthen the local economy.

Her platform also proposes splitting the Smithtown town board into council districts, similar to the Town of Brookhaven, to improve elected officials’ accountability.

“If everyone had their own councilperson elected from their district, they are both aware of the issues in their districts and they can be held accountable,” she said.

Slevin said she did weigh running for the town board seat prior to launching a campaign for supervisor. However, she felt that the town codes give the supervisor position significantly more power and control over other elected town officials, something she plans to remedy if elected.

Slevin will face off in the Nov. 7 against Democratic candidate William Holst (D) and the winner of the still undecided Republican primary between incumbent Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) and Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R). The Republican primary results will not be available until after Sept. 25.

Elwood Middle School will get a new roof with the passage of Proposition 1 by voters. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Elwood school district board of education will weigh putting two proposals before voters this November for a total of $38 million in districtwide repairs and upgrades.

Superintendent Kenneth Bossert presented refined bond propositions Sept. 18 at Elwood Middle School Auditorium in which school officials have continued to gradually shave down and refine their list of desired projects into two propositions.

“We need to make sure to put up a budget that is below the state tax cap and maintains all programs and staffing we offer to our students,” Bossert said. “We see the scope of this, there are projects that are desperate needs that cannot be included in the budget without decimating our instructional program.”

The first proposition is for $34.5 million in capital projects and renovations that takes aim at health and safety issues in the schools. These funds would be used for major projects including the replacement of the roofs in each of the four buildings — Harley Avenue, Boyd Intermediate School, Elwood Middle School, and John H. Glenn High School — due to existing leaks and flooding issues; fixing sidewalk and pavement cracks; renovating cafeterias and auditoriums including air conditioning in some spaces. 

“It is cost prohibitive to add AC to all spaces,” Bossert said. “We would like to have large group gathering spaces that would be air conditioned. There are some very hot days where school is in session and there is not always a place we can bring our students to be cool.”

Several other projects take aim at legal issues required under state law including upgrading facilities to be compliant with the Americans with Disability Act, the latest state codes on fire alarms, drainage improvements and asbestos abatement for future construction.

The proposed Proposition 2, as presented by Bossert, requests $3.72 million for enhancements to the district’s athletic programs.

“The reason it is separate is there was division among opinions in the community,” Bossert said. “Some members of the community were strongly in support of this proposed $3.72 million as something they can afford to invest in, other factions said, ‘We don’t feel that way.’ The board wisely chose to make it a separate proposition.”

Proposition 2 would include a concession stand for the athletic fields with an outdoor bathroom, a synthetic turf field and sidewalks to make the fields ADA compliant, a new press box and scoreboard for the varsity baseball field.

The superintendent said if the board of education votes to move forward Sept. 28, the residents will cast their ballots on Nov. 28. The average estimated cost to taxpayers for Proposition 1 is $221 per year, or $18.32, for a home with an assessed value of $3,800; and if both propositions pass the average cost would be $333 per year for a home with an assessed value of $3,800.

Bossert stressed to residents that Proposition 2 for athletic enhancements can only be passed if Proposition 1 for districtwide repairs is approved by voters.

A video of the superintendent’s Sept. 17 presentation is available on YouTube and the district’s website. Bossert said the district will also be adding a calculator to its website to allow property owners to insert their home’s tax value to determine what their individual tax increase will be if Proposition 1 is approved, and if both propositions are approved.

“Elwood is not a village, not a town, but it is a school district,” Bossert said. “I believe our community takes good pride in our schools and I want that to be reflected.”

Huntington High School. File Photo

Huntington High School found itself in the crosshairs of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) latest initiative that takes aims at cracking down on Long Island gang activity, much to the surprise of school officials.

Cuomo announced Sept. 13 his plan for deployment of a new Gang Violence Prevention Unit, which will deploy state troopers to monitor gang activity and recruitment in the alleged top 10 “high-risk” Suffolk County schools. Huntington High School made the list.

The prevention unit will immediately assign 10 state troopers, one to each of the 10 schools in the six targeted districts which includes Brentwood, Central Islip, Huntington, Longwood, South Country Central and Wyandanch. Cuomo said these districts were chosen as they were identified by local law enforcement as having the highest concentration of gang violence and vulnerability to recruitment efforts.

In addition, the prevention unit will coordinate with the Suffolk County Police Department to launch an “Educate the Educators” program, aimed at helping teachers and faculty recognize early warning signs of gang involvement.

“Our number one job in government is to keep all New Yorkers, and especially our children, safe,” Cuomo said in a statement. “By partnering with our schools, we will be better prepared to stop gang activity before it starts and end this heinous cycle of violence. This is just one step in our ongoing efforts to eradicate the threat of MS-13 and ensure that every student remains on a path to a bright future.”

Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky said he was “deeply disappointed” by the manner in which the governor presented the initiative. Polansky made clear to residents it was not a coordinated effort with the district in a letter sent to the community dated Sept. 14.

“Much of our dismay stems from the fact that at no point were we approached,” Polansky said in a statement. “At no point did any state official or otherwise reach out and ask what we need or don’t need. At no point did anyone request a visit or invite a conversation of any sort. At no point have we received even fragments of information about this proposal.”

Upon questioning state officials about Cuomo’s proposed plan, Polansky said the district received a thorough apology and admission that the “ball was dropped.”

The superintendent stated in his Sept. 14 letter that Cuomo had mischaracterized the Huntington school district and that his words, “frankly, offend all members of the school community.”

“In fact, numerous students were the first to point this out first thing in the morning,” Polansky wrote. “Unfortunately, we continue to witness education and politics rarely prove to be a productive combination.”

As of Sept. 19, a state trooper has not been assigned to Huntington High School as part of the prevention unit, according to school spokesman Jim Hoops. The district does have a school resource officer assigned from Suffolk County police since 2004 to monitor issues that arise, which is shared with the South Huntington school district.

Lloyd Harbor resident Frank D’Amelio, Jr. , CEO of Nature’s Answer in Hauppauge, cuts a pink ribbon to celebrate the formation of the company’s Nature’s Answer Foundation. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A Hauppauge company’s employees are heading out on a cross-country tour to raise funds for cancer research and awareness inspired by the memory of a Kings Park woman.

Nature’s Answer, a family-owned manufacturer of nutritional supplements, will celebrate the formation of its charitable arm, Nature’s Answer Foundation, with six employees embarking on a more than 4,000-mile motorcycle ride beginning Oct. 1.

“We are a health-oriented company and this ties closely in with the company’s mission of promoting well-being,” said vice president of operations Tom Connelly, of Stony Brook.

The Road 2 Wellness Tour motorcycle ride came together as part coincidence and part in loving memory, said Nature’s Answer CEO Frank D’Amelio, Jr.

The Road 2 Wellness Tour motorcycle ride came together as part coincidence and part in loving memory, said Nature’s Answer CEO Frank D’Amelio Jr. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

D’Amelio, of Lloyd Harbor, said an employee asked for the company to participate in Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, an American Cancer Society fundraising event Oct. 15 at Jones Beach. Nature’s Answer general counsel Scott Seedall, an avid motorcycle enthusiast, then asked D’Amelio if he would join him for a motorcycle ride after the company’s annual trade show in California.

“When it was suggested we ride, I connected the events together,” said Nature’s Answer CEO. “I said let’s do it for [the] cause and that Monday is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”

D’Amelio said his sister-in-law, Maria Bellock, 46, of Kings Park, died of breast cancer in July 2016. He witnessed firsthand how devastating cancer can be.

“Riding 4,200 miles is child’s play compared to what she went through,” he said.

Bellock’s brother Larry Chiarenza, of Commack, is Nature’s Answer vice president of sales and will be riding cross country.

“Cancer is very taxing on the caregivers as well as on the patient,” he said. “It’s a very difficult process to go through.”

A former motorcyclist, Chiarenza said the two-week ride will be a challenge as he’s never ridden further than 100 miles before.

“[Maria] would probably think I’m nuts because I haven’t ridden in 30 years,” he said. “I never had any intention of riding again but it’s for such a good cause. How could I not?”

Other riders include Kasra Hosmand, of Bay Shore; Tom Mandelo, of Lake Ronkonkoma; and John Hank, of Huntington.

“Riding 4,200 miles is child’s play compared to what she went through.”

— Frank D’Amelio , Jr.

Father Anthony Asir of St. Thomas More Parish in Hauppauge blessed the bikes Sept. 18 at a kickoff event held at the company’s Hauppauge location.

“I hope this can help bring people out of the darkness into the light, from ignorance into awareness,” Father Asir said. “May they go as your ministers bringing cancer awareness where they ride.”

The two-week tour will include stops in numerous cities to raise awareness with highlights including several American Cancer Society Hope Lodges, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory before ending at the Jones Beach walkathon Oct. 15.

Money will be raised through donations from sponsors and the sale of promotional items. In addition, the company will donate 10 percent of its total sale proceeds for the month of October. Overall funds raised will go to charities including the American Cancer Society, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and St. Jude hospital.

“With that funding, we can start new research projects which are risky, too risky for the government to support,” said Diane Fagiola, senior director of philanthropy for CSH Lab. “This fundraising is huge for us.”

Camila dos Santos, a junior faculty at the lab, said these funds allow researchers, like her, to get an initial data set to help support “out-of-the-box” research ideas and be more competitive for federal grants.

Those interested can visit www.road2wellnesstour.com to learn more, follow the riders on their trip and donate money.

Also, the Road 2 Wellness Tour can be followed on Twitter through #Road2Wellness.

A Larkfield Road home is at the center of a lawsuit by its two former owners against Town of Huntington, Councilman Eugene Cook and his two business partners. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Two former East Northport landowners are suing Huntington Town, Councilman Eugene Cook (R) and his two business partners for $5 million over alleged loss of property rights.

A federal lawsuit filed Sept. 11 in U.S District Court for the Eastern District of New York claims that town officials have intentionally overlooked zoning code violations at a multi-family home on Larkfield Road — but only after it was purchased by TGJ 2014 LLC in 2014. The company is owned by Cook and two business partners, Huntington real estate agent Timothy Cavanagh and Commack attorney Joshua Price.

The former homeowners, Mary Ann Dellinger, of Huntington, and her brother, Carmen Tomeo, allege the town officials’ efforts to unfairly enforce zoning codes on the five-family dwelling caused them to lose money in the sale, according to their attorney Christopher Cassar. The house was purchased for $400,000 by TGJ 2014.

“This house was their primary asset,” Cassar said.

The plaintiffs claim the Larkfield Road home’s use as a multi-family dwelling predates the creation of Huntington Town code in 1934, according to court documents. Cassar said the family has a March 11, 2007 letter from the town which grandfathered the property’s right to be legally occupied as a five-family residence.

The lawsuit alleges town code enforcement officers began to issues summonses in 2012 against the property owners demanding it be returned to a single-family home, despite earlier promises.

“Town of Huntington has permitted and tolerated a pattern and practice of unjustified, unreasonable and illegal use of the enforcement of town code against the plaintiffs,” the lawsuit reads.

Cassar said the town’s actions caused Dellinger and Tomeo to have difficulty selling the house, as two prior deals fell through. One potential buyer would have paid $900,000 for the property, according to Cassar, half a million more than Cook and his partners paid.

The former homeowners also claim the $5 million sought is for damages including loss of income from the property, loss of property value, embarrassment, harrassment, loss of liberty and infringement of their property rights, according to court records.

In 2015, town officials  hired attorney Edward Guardaro Jr., of the firm Kaufman, Borgeest & Ryan LLP, to look into the East Northport house, to determine whether it was a legal rental and if the work being performed was legal.

Cassar said the town has issued a summons on the property, since Cook and his company took ownership, over issues with an exterior staircase and debris. However, the attorney said the town did not ever issue a code violation against it for being a multi-family dwelling.

Huntington has not been served with the lawsuit as of Sept. 20, according to town spokesman A.J. Carter, and he declined to comment further on the matter. Cook also declined to comment on the lawsuit after the Sept. 19 board meeting, as did Cavanagh. Price returned calls but did not comment on the matter.

Huntington Manor firefighters evacuated 15 residents from an early morning apartment blaze Sept. 20.

The fire department responded to initial reports of a structure fire on New York Avenue between East 10th and East 11th streets in Huntington Station at 6:51 a.m., according to fire district spokesman Steve Silverman.

Firefighters found a fire in an apartment building located behind a commercial building and began an aggressive search and rescue. Several neighboring fire departments including Commack, Dix Hills, Greenlawn, Halesite, Huntington, Melville also responded bringing a total of 50 firefighters and 10 trucks to the scene.

Huntington Manor assistant chiefs Jon Hoffman, Chuck Brady and Jim Glidden led crews in evacuating residents and bringing the fire under control within an hour. The fire caused extensive damage to the commercial building and apartments on the first and second floor, according to Silverman.

New York Avenue was closed off in both directions by Suffolk County police during the fire, causing snarls to rush-hour traffic.

The Suffolk County police Arson Squad and Huntington Town fire marshal are investigating the cause of the fire.