Authors Posts by Sara-Megan Walsh

Sara-Megan Walsh

Sara-Megan Walsh
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A 10-year-old student of William T. Rogers Middle School was hit by driver Pasquale Izzo, 81, of Kings Park, while attempting to board the bus Sept. 15. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

A 10-year-old Kings Park boy struck by an SUV on his way to the school bus was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious injuries, according to Suffolk County police.

A William T. Rogers Middle School student was walking across First Avenue, near Carlson Avenue, at about 7:54 a.m. Sept. 15 to board his school bus, police said. The bus had its flashing red lights on and stop sign activated to warn approaching motorists.

Pasquale Izzo, 81, of Kings Park, was driving a 1998 Dodge Durango northbound on First Avenue when he allegedly attempted to pass the school bus, and ignored its flashing lights. Izzo failed to stop his vehicle and struck the student, according to police.

The 10-year-old boy was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious, but not life-threatening injuries, according to police. Izzo was not injured. 

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen notified district parents that it has additional mental health staff available at the middle school to provide  support to those students who witnessed the accident, students who know the injured student and anyone else, as needed.

“Unfortunately, this incident is a terrible reminder that we cannot always assume that motorists will follow traffic safety rules at all times,” Eagen said in a message posted on the district’s website.

Under New York State Law, drivers who pass a stopped school bus can be fined $250 for the first violation and face up to a maximum fine of $1,000 for three violations in less than three years. Individuals convicted of three violations in a three-year span may have their driver’s license revoked.

Kings Park Central School District announced the bus’s route has been changed in order to avoid any potential future tragic accidents at the intersection, and so that the student involved and those who witnessed the accident don’t have to return to the scene of the accident on a daily basis.

The neighboring Commack school district sent out an email to parents reminding them to, “Please drive slowly with no distractions, and be especially vigilant of where our precious children are playing, walking, riding or standing.”

Most school bus-related deaths and injuries occur when children are loading or unloading from a bus, according to New York State Department of Motor Vehicle’s website, not in collisions that involve school buses.

The driver’s vehicle has been impounded for safety checks and the incident is under investigation. Suffolk County’s 4th Squad Detectives are asking anyone who witnessed the accident to call 631-854-8452.

The state department of motor vehicles has recently issued several safety recommendations for drivers sharing the roads with school buses:

* When a stopped school bus flashes its red light(s), traffic that approaches from either direction, even in front of the school and in school parking lots,  must stop before  reaching the bus. Drivers should stop at least 20 feet away from the bus.

* Before a school bus stops to load or discharge passengers, the bus driver will usually flash yellow warning lights. Drivers should decrease speed and be prepared to stop.

* When you stop for a school bus, do not drive again until the red lights stop flashing or until the bus driver or a traffic officer signals that you may proceed. *You must stop for a school bus even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway.

* After stopping for a school bus, look for children along the side of the road. Drive slowly until have passed them.

Deer hunting via long bow has been a controversial topic in Huntington Town since first permitted in September 2015. Stock photo

Huntington Town Hall was as tense as a drawn bowstring as residents agreed to disagree on bow hunting as a means to address deer overpopulation.

The Town Board held its public hearing Sept. 19 on proposed changes to rules regulating the use of longbows for hunting.

The proposed changes, sponsored by Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D), take aim at further restricting the use of a long bow under the town’s firearm regulations, not directly regulating deer hunting, which falls under the oversight of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

One major change would expand the definition of what is considered a dwelling to include farm buildings, school buildings, school playgrounds, public structures,  occupied factories or churches, as hunters would be prohibited from firing an arrow within 150-feet of these structures.

Diana Cherryholmes, an Eaton’s Neck resident of 15 years, said she has concerns about the potential of hunters accidentally shooting a resident, their children or pets.

“I’m very uncomfortable during deer hunting season taking a walk…”

— Diana Cherryholmes

“Currently, I’m very uncomfortable during deer hunting season taking a walk, riding my bike and I’m scared for the kids playing outside,” Cherryholmes said.

Her concerns were echoed by  Eaton’s Neck residents Charlotte Koons and Christine Ballow. Town officials first voted to permit bow hunting in September 2015 to see if it would help address issues of deer overpopulation in the shoreline communities. The proposed changes are in response to safety concerns raised by community residents about unknown persons traveling through properties and arrows being fired in close proximity to houses and people.

“I think this is a trial that didn’t work,” Ballow said. “I think the 150-foot setback is hard to comply with given the density that we have. [The] density is not right for this type of hunting in this type of situation.”

Doug Whitcomb, speaking on behalf of Eaton Harbors Corporation civic group, said hunters realize there are additional efforts that must be made in a small community  where they must interact with neighbors who don’t agree with the sport.

“We are challenged by it as well,” Whitcomb said. “We similarly feel compromised when we have people around us when we’ve been in the woods since 5 a.m. trying to do a service to the community.”

Mike Lewis, a volunteer for NYSDEC who has taught hunter education classes since 2006, told town officials the five-year average for hunting-related accidental shooting incidents in New York is 20 to 25 people a year — a total for hunters using firearms, shotguns, pistols and bows.

“The majority of these incidents are two-party accidents where two or more people are hunting in close proximity and someone makes a mistake,” Lewis said.

He said there has only been one reported accident which involved an accidental shooting while long bow hunting, involving an elderly father and son pair. During that incident the father mistook his son for a deer and shot him in the leg, resulting in a minor injury.

“To understand our frustration and fears, understand we are taking part in an activity that’s as old as mankind itself.”

— John Marcinka

“If you put in your time and practice, you can tell a deer with antlers from a female with no antlers, or someone’s cat, dog or child,” Lewis said. “The last thing anyone wants to see is any innocent person get hurt.”

Several avid deer hunters spoke out to ask town officials to continue to permit bow hunting, despite the regulatory changes, believing they provide a valuable community service.

“Your arrow is like a surgical utensil as it pierces right through, and is the most humane way of taking out a deer,” said Joseph Wine, a hunter from Eaton’s Neck. “I think hunting is one of the best ways to control the deer. It’s free and it’s cheap.”

Huntington hunter John Marcinka requested additional clarification from the board on the proposed change that would require hunters to provide written notification to the town’s Department of Public Safety and local police departments prior to beginning a hunt.

“To understand our frustration and fears, understand we are taking part in an activity that’s as old as mankind itself,” Marcinka said. “When we’ve gone hunting on other people’s property in the past, we get permission from the farmer or landowner and it’s done with a handshake and nothing in writing.”

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) directed Marcinka and other hunters to speak with the town attorney to work out specifics on how the written notice must be sent to property owners, how far in advance, and how frequently.

Town board members did not vote on the proposed changes Sept. 19. Their next town board meeting is not until Oct. 17, after the Oct. 1 start of the 2017 hunting season.

“I support amending the law as moving forward to a more permanent solution for relationships between people who don’t want deer hunting, like myself, and the hunters,” Cherryholmes said. “There must be a solution to help control the deer population and for the residents to have peace of mind.”

More than 4,000 runners raced through Northport streets Sept. 16 in the 40th annual Great Cow Harbor 10K. Competitors traveled from as far away as California and Washington state, to Lantau Island in Hong Kong to take on the rolling hills, and ranged in age from nine to 86.

The early morning fog with clouds threatened rain, but held off, making for a hot and humid day.

The weather didn’t appear to slow and runners down, and it was a downhill footrace for first place in the men’s division nearly ending in a photo finish. Donald Cabral, 27, of Hartford, won the men’s division finishing the 6.2-mile course in 29 minutes, 24 seconds. Following close on his heels were second-place finisher Craig Lutz, 24, of Flagstaff, Arizona in 29:28 and third-place finisher Timothy Ritchie, 30, of New Haven with a time of 29:32.

Natosha Rogers, 26, of Littleton, Colorado, took first place in the women’s division with a time of 33:23 for the same 6.2-mile course. Second place went to Kaitlin Goodman, 30, of Providence, who finished in 34:27, and third place was awarded to Oregon resident Renee Metevier, 35, with a time of 34:41.

Each and every finisher was cheered to the finish line by hundreds of local residents, friends and family who lined the sidewalks ringing cow bells, a part of the race’s tradition. Others held signs encouraging participants to “keep moo-ving” and stay “moo-tivated.”

The last to finish the course were a group of five firefighters who ran in dressed in full gear, including oxygen tanks, waving the American flag and others honoring firefighters and police.

File photo

A 10-year-old Kings Park boy struck by an SUV on his way to the school bus was airlifted to Stony Brook Hospital with serious injuries, according to Suffolk County Police.

Police said a William T. Rogers Middle School student was walking across First Avenue, near Carlson Avenue, at about 7:54 a.m. Sept. 15 to board his school bus, police said. The bus had its flashing red lights on and stop sign activated to warn approaching motorists.

Pasquale Izzo, 81, of Kings Park, was driving a 1998 Dodge Durango northbound on First Avenue when he allegedly attempted to pass the school bus, and ignored its flashing lights. Izzo failed to stop his vehicle and struck the student, according to police.

NYSDMV on sharing the road with buses

  • When a stopped school bus flashes its red light(s), traffic that approaches from either direction, even in front of the school and in school parking lots, vehicles must stop before it reaching the bus. Drivers should stop at least 20 feet away from the bus.
  • Before a school bus stops to load or discharge passengers, the driver will usually flash yellow warning lights. Then, decrease speed and be prepared to stop.
  • When you stop for a school bus, do not drive again until the red lights stop flashing or when the bus driver or a traffic officer signals the you can proceed.. You must stop for a school bus even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway.
  • After stopping for a school bus, look for children along the side of the road. Drive slowly until have passed them.

The 10-year-old boy was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious, but not life-threatening injuries, according to police. Izzo was not injured.

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen notified district parents that it has additional mental health staff available at the middle school to provide additional support to those students who witnessed the accident, students who know the injured student and anyone else as needed.

“Unfortunately, this incident is a terrible reminder that we cannot always assume that motorists will follow traffic safety rules at all times,” Eagen said in a message posted on the district’s website.

Under New York State Law, drivers who pass a stopped school bus can be fined $250 for the first violation and face up to a maximum fine of $1,000 for three violations in less than three years. Individuals convicted of three violations in a three-year span may have their driver’s license revoked.

Kings Park School District announced the bus’s route has been changed in effort to avoid any potential future tragic accidents at the intersection, and so the student involved and those who witnessed the accident don’t have to return to the scene of the accident on a daily basis.

The neighboring Commack Union-Free School District sent out an email to parents reminding them to, “Please drive slowly with no distractions, and be especially vigilant of where our precious children are playing, walking, riding or standing.”

Most school bus-related deaths and injuries occur when children are loading or unloading from a bus, according to New York State Department of Motor Vehicle’s website, not in collisions that involve school buses.

The driver’s vehicle has been impounded for safety checks and the incident is under investigation. Suffolk County’s 4th Squad Detectives are asking anyone who witnessed the accident to call 631-854-8452.

Huntington Manor Fire Department members unveil the new sign at the entrance of the newly-named Depot Road Richard W. Holst Memorial Park. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Eight years after the tragic death of a Huntington Manor firefighter, a town park has been renamed to honor his service to the community.

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and the town board announced Depot Road Park is now officially Richard W. Holst Memorial Park, renamed after the late fire police captain, chaplain, and posthumous honorary chief of Huntington Manor Fire Department.

“It is our honor to rededicate this park in his name for his heroic efforts and his giving to this community, continuously,” Petrone said.

Noreen Holst, Huntington Town Board members and Huntington Manor Fire Department members unveil a memorial plaque dedicated to Richard W. Holst. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Holst, a U.S. Navy veteran, joined the Huntington Manor fire department in 1978. He served for 31 years, spending 26 of those as the department’s chaplain and captain of the fire police. Prior to his death, Holst was elected chief chaplain of the New York State Association of Fire Chaplains in 2008. His fellow firefighters affectionately called him, “the Rev.”

“As chaplain, Rich spent countless hours looking after, comforting and at times consoling members and families of the Huntington Manor Fire Department,” said Jon Hoffman, first assistant chief of Huntington Manor Fire Department. “Today, we dedicate this stone and plaque in honor of Richie. It will stay here for years and watch over the people in this park as Richie did for us for so many years.”

In the early morning of Sept. 9, 2009, Holst was walking to 7-Eleven on Depot Road when he saw smoke rising from the adjacent shopping center. He reported the fire and immediately went to the scene to begin evacuation of the stores and checking for possible trapped occupants. Shortly after firefighters arrived, Holst suffered a heart attack and died.

The fire was determined to have started in Uber Cafe, a bagel shop, and police later ruled the incident arson, Petrone said. One of the shop’s owners pled guilty to attempted arson, the second owner was later convicted of arson.

Depot Road Park in Huntington was renamed for former Huntington Manor Fire Department member Richard W. Holst.

The newly renamed Huntington Station park off East 20th Street is only a few hundred feet from the site of the fatal fire. It features a playground and Little League baseball fields. 

“Depot Road Park is a special place, it’s a hidden gem in our park system,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “I think like many of you firefighters who knew Chief Holst, he was a hidden gem in our community. He was someone who was there to serve, dedicated his life to service in the [U.S.] Navy and in the fire department, then the important role of chaplain. So much of his time was dedicated to others.”

In addition to the park’s new signage, a large stone was unveiled bearing a memorial plaque with Holt’s image, notes about his accomplishments and details about his death. Deacon Edward Billia from St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church said a blessing over both the sign and memorial stone.

Noreen Holst appeared deeply touched by the tribute paid to her late husband. While she declined to speak publicly, she clutched a tissue in hand while Huntington Manor Assistant Chief Chuck Brady thanked all those who attended Saturday’s ceremony on behalf of the family. 

Huntington Manor Fire Commissioner Chris Fusaro encouraged the young members of the organization to take a long look around at those gathered and ask to hear personal stories about Holst’s exemplary life. 

“For all you who don’t know what firefighters do, it’s day and night, holidays and weekends when you get up from the table, get out of bed to go and respond,” Fusaro said. “Rich did that. He did it willingly and always from his heart.”

Huntington Manor firefighters salute their former colleague. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A rendering of what the front of the proposed new St. James firehouse would look like. Image from St. James Fire District

St. James residents are being asked to vote Sept. 19 on whether to fund a new fire department building.

St. James fire commissioners are proposing a $12.25 million capital bond project to build a new 22,458-square-foot Jefferson Avenue facility.

The proposed Jefferson Avenue facility would be more than three times the size of the existing 7,407-square-foot building. The additional space would include spaces to serve as accommodations for firefighters and community members during storms or major emergencies, in addition to a meeting room for district and public use. It would be built in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as the current firehouse is not.

The estimated cost of the proposed plan to consolidate to one Jefferson Avenue facility would be an increase of approximately $118 to $198 a year for taxpayers based on their home’s assessed value.

Polls will be open Sept. 19 from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Jefferson Avenue firehouse, located at 221 Jefferson Ave. in St. James. Residents in Election District 79 can vote at the Fairfield Condos in St. James.

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Catholic Guardian Services supports the needy, providing food and shelter. One preparing to move into Smithtown will house disabled adults. Photo from Facebook

There’s a new neighbor preparing to move onto Long Hill Road in Smithtown, but residents have troubling concerns as to whether an adult group home will fit into their quiet community.

Long Hill Road residents presented a petition to Town of Smithtown officials at their Sept. 5 meeting to voice their concerns about a property recently purchased to build a group home for six developmentally disabled adults.

“This is not against the group home or the people in it, it’s against the location,” said Long Hill Road resident Richard Troise. “It’s the fact the town didn’t even look at the location. It’s not a good location for the amount of cars and traffic.”

Catholic Guardian Services, a religious nonprofit that provides a wide array of services and support for the needy in New York, purchased the Long Hill Road property in mid-August for approximately $440,000 to house six women, according to Executive Director Craig Longley. He said the women are “profoundly disabled,” all diagnosed with a developmental disability, in addition to being blind or visually impaired, deaf, and even wheelchair bound.

Troise and several of his neighbors are opposed to the development, concerned it will negatively impact the quality of life on their dead-end street. They point to medical personnel entering and exiting the property as a potential increase to traffic and safety hazards on a block where several families with young children reside.

“One of the reasons given to decline this group home is the nature and the character of the surrounding area would be substantially altered,” said Joan Zipfel, a Long Hill Road resident. “[It will create] frequent traffic continually driving up and down the cul-de-sac, which by nature necessitates a turn around. The negative impact of allowing this particular group home should have been addressed.”

Residents’ objections may be too late to make a difference. Smithtown residents want to know why town officials never informed them of the proposed plans for a group home on the end of their block.

Catholic Guardian Services sent a letter dated March 17 to town officials providing notice of the organization’s intention to purchase the property for a group home in accordance with state law, Longley said. The letter gave a 40-day time frame for the town to either object or respond with any concerns.

“When I got the letter, I called to speak to the director of the agency,” Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) said. “I called and asked them if they were going to be doing outreach to the community. I was told they would notify residents.”

Troise said he and his neighbors never received a letter or any contact from Catholic Guardian Services prior to closing on the property.

Longley said there may have been “some miscommunication” between parties. He said it is not within his organization’s standard practice to notify individual residents of new developments, but rather reach out to a community board or government to see if there are concerns. If issues are raised, the nonprofit hosts a community forum, presents their plans and answer any questions.

“In the absence [of a response], we assumed there was no opposition or no concerns,” Longley said. “We would be happy to meet with the community to share who we are and our intention of being the best of neighbors.”

Longley said the nonprofit plans to spend approximately $600,000 to renovate the property.

The group home will have three staff members per eight-hour shift, with three shifts per day. Additionally, there may be transport vehicles to get residents to and from daycare programs, but Longley said he didn’t expect ambulances or other medical vehicles to be traveling to and from the adult home on a regular basis.

Catholic Guardian Services will plan for an open house in the future, according to Longley, and invite those concerned to tour one of their other group homes on Long Island.

Former Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards won the Democratic town supervisor primary. File photo by Kevin Redding

The risky decision by Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) to run for town supervisor rather than seek re-election to the town board has paid off so far following her primary night victory Sept. 12.

Edwards beat challenger and Centerport resident Darryl St. George (D), 3,482 votes to 1,664 votes, in the primary to become the Huntington Democratic Party candidate for town supervisor, based on the unofficial election results posted Sept. 13 by the Suffolk County Board of Elections.

Darryl St. George

Winning more than 60 percent of the overall vote, Edwards is already looking forward to the general election.

“I am ecstatic,” Edwards said. “You are always a little nervous, of course. But I was ecstatic to receive the confidence of the Democratic voters.”

The councilwoman said she had already reached out to St. George Wednesday morning to speak to him about working together in the runup to the November general election. 

“I would like to call on Darryl and his supporters to join forces,” Edwards said. “We must work together to advance our Democratic and Progressive goals. Division will not lead us to victory.” 

St. George could not be reached for comment.

Edwards was elected to the town board in 2014, after serving 10 years on the board of education in the Elwood school district. She previously served on the board of directors of the Long Island Association and worked for 37 years at Verizon, starting as an operator and climbing the ladder to regional president of network operations.

“My priority No. 1 is the safety and protection of families,” Edwards said. “What we want to put together and what we want to share is our bold platform which focuses on safety by tackling the gang problem and eliminating the opioid and heroin epidemic in our town.”

Tracey Edwards

Over the last three years, Edwards spearheaded the creation of Huntington Opportunity Resource Center, a program that offers assistance with job hunting and career training for unemployed and underemployed residents. She has also been an advocate for Huntington Station revitalization, a plan which includes construction of veterans housing, art space, stores, sidewalks and a parking garage, while also working to stamp out crime.

Edwards has more than $150,000 available in her war chest to spend in the lead up to the Nov. 7 election, according to the 11-day pre-primary financial disclosure report filed with New York State Board of Elections.

The Town of Huntington supervisor race is wide open as incumbent Supervisor Frank Petrone (D), 72, announced in April he would not be seeking re-election. He has served for nearly a quarter of a century, as he was first elected to the position in 1993.

Edwards is running on the Democratic, Independent, Working Families and Women’s Equality lines. She will face-off against Republican candidate, state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R) and a Green Party candidate, pending the outcome of the Sept. 12 primary.

The Town of Smithtown Town Hall. File photo by Phil Corso

No clear winner has emerged in the Smithtown Republican primary for town supervisor as a narrow 39-vote margin at the close of polls Sept. 12 left the outcome undecided, pending a count of absentee ballots.

Smithtown Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R) holds a razor-thin lead on incumbent town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R), 2,822 votes to 2,783, in the unofficial election results posted Sept. 13 by the Suffolk County Board of Elections.

“By definition, it’s too close to call,” said Nick LaLota, the Republican commissioner for the county board of elections. “The number of paper ballots outstanding exceeds the margin of victory by machine. It is literally too close to call.”

LaLota said the board of elections has received 322 absentee ballots as of Sept. 13. He said he expects the county may still receive a few dozen additional ballots over the next week. Absentee ballots must have been postmarked by Sept. 11 and received by the county by Sept. 19 to be valid.

“I am confident that we will remain victorious once they are opened,” Wehrheim said Wednesday morning.

The councilman said his campaign, along with Smithtown Republican Committee Chairman Bill Ellis, ran an extensive absentee voter outreach campaign leading up to the primary race.

“A lot is going to depend on how the absentee ballots go,” Ellis said in a phone interview. “We worked aggressively and I believe a lot of the absentees we had contact with voted for the entire team.”

LaLota said he anticipates by Sept. 25 the Suffolk County Board of Elections will have all the voting machines and paper ballots to be checked, and will have given sufficient notice to both campaigns in order to begin counting absentee votes.

The process of counting paper ballots involves opening each absentee envelope, allowing the ballot to be reviewed by a board of elections inspector and campaign observers, potentially including attorneys representing the campaigns. If there are any objections to the validity of a ballot it will be recorded.

The final outcome of the primary race may remain unknown until late September.

“With 300-plus ballots, I’d assume it’s going to take a few days,” LaLota said. “Attorneys have been known to gum up the process.”

Vecchio wrote the primary’s outcome was “still questionable” in an email statement, and that he was uncertain about the odds of being declared the Republican candidate after the absentee ballots were counted.

This is not the first time Vecchio has been challenged by his own party in a primary for town supervisor. In 2013, he faced off against former town councilman Robert Creighton (R) and prior to that, Jane Conway in 2005. In both of these primaries, Vecchio had a decisive victory at the polls.

“Against both Jane Conway and Bob Creighton, the results were substantially in Mr. Vecchio’s favor,” Ellis said. “Never has he lost on the [voting] machines to anyone.”

If Wehrheim remains victorious, he will be running for Smithtown town supervisor on the Republican, Conservative and Independent party lines in November.

Wehrheim currently has approximately $59,000 available in his war chest to spend on the general election, according to the 11-day pre-primary financial disclosure report filed with New York State Board of Elections.

“We won’t start campaigning until [the absentee ballots] are opened,” Wehrheim said. “Once they are open and the decision is finalized, then we will begin to carry on for the general election if we are the successful candidate.”

The winner of the Republican town supervisor primary will face off Nov. 7 against Democratic Party candidate William Holst and Kristen Slevin, running under her own None of the Above campaign.

Huntington residents proudly marched in the annual Huntington Awareness Day parade Sept. 9, celebrating this year’s theme “unity in the community.” The annual parade and fair, sponsored by the Huntington Awareness Community Partnership, aims to raise awareness and foster a sense of solidarity among community members. Parade goers stepped off from Huntington High School, down Oakwood Road to Stimson Middle School where there were carnival rides, food and games to enjoy.