2019 Elections

Kara Hahn in 2017 Photo by Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) is seeking re-election for her fifth two-year term Nov. 5. Her Republican challenger, John McCormack, of Port Jefferson, is not actively campaigning and was not available for a debate with Hahn at the TBR News Media offices. Therefore, the legislator answered a few questions during a phone interview.

County finances

After receiving the county’s Office of Budget Review’s recent report, she said that even though there are still stresses on the budget, Suffolk is in a better place than it has been in past years.

The legislator said the proposed 2020 operating budget has no new fees and there is no pension amortization for the second straight year. The budget came in $4.8 million under the property tax cap.

“Of course, we’re overly reliant on the sales tax revenue and that was so low for so long, and we’re coming out of that,” she said. “When you are reliant on taxpayer dollars, you always feel pressured to be as tight as you can be, and you want to cut costs at every corner and, of course, we’re doing that.”

Hahn said she is aware that due to the county being reliant on sales tax, from which Suffolk receives approximately $1.6 billion, if a recession hits the county is not properly prepared.

She said a slight increase of the 3 percent hotel/motel tax, which is one of the lowest in the country, would help the budget and at the same time not deter anyone from visiting the area.

When it comes to stimulating the economy, she said it’s important to stay vigilant in the collection of sales tax. It was also helpful that the state allowed Suffolk to collect internet sales tax in 2019, she said, which generated about $10 million additional sales revenue this year and is expected to be $20 million in 2020. She said Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation, which oversees Jake’s 58 casino in Islandia, paid off its debt, and its revenue will contribute $25 million to the county budget in 2020.

“We’ve been getting some good revenue sources that have helped to take the pressure off and that’s important,” Hahn said.

Low-nitrogen septic systems

Hahn, chairwoman of the Environment, Planning & Agriculture Committee, has supported the rollout of new low-nitrogen septic systems in the county. The wastewater nitrogen content has a mandated maximum of 19 milligrams per liter.

“This is a long-term, multidecade effort as 360,000 residences are unsewered,” she said. “These homes have to either become sewered or get a new innovative on-site alternate wastewater system. That cannot happen in one year. That cannot happen in 10 years.”

She said to help with the rollout the county has created priority zones, including the Town of Brookhaven’s initiative where new construction within 500 feet of a waterway is required to install the systems. Grants, on both the county and state levels, have been made available for homeowners who choose to replace their cesspools with the new system.

She said it took years for the county’s health department to work on establishing the program to ensure the new systems would work as promised, adding the process for the program also included working with health and science experts along with those who work in the industry. She said she is proud of County Executive Steve Bellone (D) for sticking with the implementation despite the amount of time spent on the issue.

“He stepped up, and it’s happening,” she said. “It might be slow for people who are used to instant gratification but I’m shocked that we’re here where systems are being installed and people are beginning to recognize it, and we’re going to be seeing improvements in water quality because of it.”


When it comes to the 5-cent minimum fee for plastic bags in stores, Hahn said the program has been successful, with a 70 to 80 percent reduction in the use of the bags. She also sponsored a bill to create a plastic straw ban in restaurants that will take effect in January.

In addition to continuing work on the county’s Blueway Trail, which will create a water path for recreational boating opportunities along Suffolk rivers, lakes, canals and coastlines, she hopes to establish Blue Flag beaches in the county, which will be the first in the United States. The standard was created in Europe, where a beach that flies the Blue Flag has a higher standard when it comes to water quality.


Hahn in 2012 sponsored legislation to provide Narcan in police cars. The last two years she has worked with Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence and Stony Brook University to create training for athletic coaches in county middle, junior and high schools to teach them about the signs and symptoms of all forms of addiction. Hahn said she hopes to expand the program to athletic leagues outside of schools and even make it available to dance instructors, music teachers and Scout leaders.

“So that they’re trained to know how to deal with things when they hear it or see it, and know how to help fight and how to prevent — really the key is to prevent addiction,” she said.

Incumbent Susan Berland and challenger Hector Gavilla are vying for Suffolk County’s 16th Legislative District seat. Berland of Dix Hills is the Democratic candidate and has served on the Legislature for the past two years. She served on the Huntington Town Council as a councilwoman for more than 16 years prior to being elected county lawmaker. 

Republican hopeful Hector Gavilla is seeking political office for the first time. In 2017, he ran an unsuccessful campaign for the 16th District seat which he lost to Berland. Gavilla has been a licensed real estate broker since 2003 and has run Commack-based Long Island Professional Realty since 2010.

The candidates are concerned with the future of the red-light camera program, the county financial situation, affordable housing and public safety. 

Red-light camera program:

The incumbent says she believes red-light cameras save lives. 

“People need to stop at a red light, they shouldn’t run through it and stop appropriately,” Berland said. “If people did that then you wouldn’t have the ‘money grab’ argument because they wouldn’t be paying the fines for them.”

Berland said there is a need for improvements in the program. She proposed looking at individual camera locations and potentially moving cameras to other problem areas. 

The incumbent also said they want to make sure they can oversee the placement of cameras once they get a new contractor. 

Gavilla disagreed saying the red-light camera program is a scam.  He argued that the cameras are placed disproportionally in low-income areas. 

“The county has discriminated by putting red-light cameras in low income communities,” he said. “There are none in the affluent areas [on the Island].” 

Though he admitted that if someone runs a red-light they deserve a ticket. 

Suffolk’s financial future:

The county’s finances have been one of the main topics of discussion in this year’s election season. According to a recent state comptroller report, Suffolk was under the most severe fiscal stress of any county in 2018 for the second year in a row. Suffolk had an operating deficit of about $26.5 million in 2018 and a general fund balance deficit of $285 million. 

Gavilla said the county is spending money it doesn’t have. 

“The total [deficit] amount depends on who you speak to,” he said. 

If elected, the challenger would get rid of certain special taxes and fees. He would also look to consolidating services and making cuts in some departments. 

“We need to cut expenditures, we can do that very easily by going to department heads and employees and incentivizing them to find ways to cut their fees,” Gavilla said. 

Berland said when Bellone was elected to office, the county was $500 million dollars in debt. 

“There hasn’t been an increase in the property tax line and we have kept within the 2 percent cap,” she said.  

Berland said they are continuing to provide the services residents need, while acknowledging that the county has cut numerous government job position in the last few years. 

Affordable housing on Long Island/Town of Huntington:

The county legislator said there is a need to find affordable housing for everyone. 

“We need to be able to provide affordable housing, you have these [housing] developments built and then 20 to 30 years later it goes to market rate,” Berland said. 

The incumbent looked to the recent Ronkonkoma Hub project as a way they could provide affordable housing as well as keep working families and young people on the Island. 

Berland said she supports continued economic development in the town and giving more resources to schools. 

 The challenger on the other hand would look to bring back high paying jobs to the area. 

Gavilla said he wants to bring back Fortune 500 companies, mentioning that his own father worked for a subsidiary of Grumman when he was young. He also said he would work with state lawmakers to assist in bringing those jobs here. 

In addition, Gavilla said there is a tax problem that needs to be fixed. 

“Property taxes are too high and that affects everything,” he said. “ You have to keep business owners here.”

Public safety (opioids/vaping/gang violence):  

Gavilla said while visiting homes throughout the area people are happy that federal government officials are assisting in the fight against MS-13. 

“I’ve visited close to 5,000 homes … the Hispanic communities are happy the feds are involved,” he said. 

Gavilla said there is a need for increased police presence as he believes more can be done on the opioid epidemic as well. 

According to him, the Hispanic communities are against making parts of Suffolk County as sanctuary areas, saying “they want the bad guys out.” 

Berland agreed with Gavilla that more can be done with MS-13, but said the Suffolk Police Department is doing a good job. 

The incumbent said in terms of immigration, people that are committing crimes should be deported. 

Berland supports banning vaping in the county, saying it has created “a whole new generation of kids smoking.”

“We also need to crack down on the sale of opioids and increase Narcan training,” she said.

Garrett Chelius is challenging incumbent William "Doc" Spencer for Suffolk County Legislative District 18.

Seasoned incumbent William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) is vying for a fourth term in the Suffolk County Legislature, where he has served for the past seven years. Spencer, a practicing physician for 28 years, has his own Huntington practice. 

Since taking office, the incumbent has worked to ban the sale of powdered caffeine to minors, raise the age of selling tobacco products, helped passed a measure to stop companies from manufacturing energy drinks to kids and spearheaded a ban on flavored e-cigarettes and a fee on single-use plastic bags.  

If reelected, Spencer would like to work on lowering the cost of living for young people in his district. He also proposed the need for a wintertime economy on the Island and suggested an indoor water park or convention center. 

Tackling the opioid and vaping crisis will present another challenge for Spencer, who said he is committed to finding treatment and addiction solutions to those affected. 

In Huntington Station, Spencer has his eyes set on connecting areas to sewer systems to attract restaurants and other local businesses.  

His challenger Garrett Chelius (R) is running because he is concerned that his three children, as well as other children in the county, are not going to be able to afford to stay in Suffolk. He blames the current administration’s fiscal irresponsibility. 

The long-time Huntington resident said his experience working in the banking and staffing industries for the past 25 years will help in getting the county back on track financially. Chelius also mentioned that the county has a junk bond rating due to seven straight downgrades.

The LIPA tax situation concerns Chelius. He said residents are fearful of how the upcoming LIPA court decision will affect them financially. In addition, congestion and overdevelopment in the town and safety issues related to the deployment of 5G technology are also concerns. 

If elected, Chelius would like to make sure beaches and waterways remain pristine for generations to come. He mentioned renovating Coindre Hall, a mansion and 33-acre park overlooking Huntington Harbor. Lessings Caterers currently uses the site as a catering hall.  Chelius believes it could be an amazing pier and harborside facility as well as a must-see family-friendly destination for residents and out-of-town guests. 

“Lastly, people are concerned about the water we all share, the water to drink, and the harbors and bays we enjoy,” Chelius said. “We need to make every effort to keep both our drinking water and our harbors and bays pristine.”  

Also, the challenger believes the red-light camera program is unsafe and biased toward lower income areas. 

Daniel West is also listed on the ballot running for the seat on the Conservative Party line. He was unable to be reached for an interview. 

File photo

The town of Huntington operates with a four-member council and a town supervisor. Currently, the supervisor is a Republican and two of the four council members are Democrats. Six names are on the ballot for Huntington’s town council, and voters can choose two candidates to serve a four-year term. The outcome of this election will determine majority party rule. 

Two incumbents are running for reelection: Joan Cergol (D) and Eugene Cook (R). Cergol is cross-endorsed by the Green, Working Families and Independence parties. Cook is cross-endorsed by the Conservative, Libertarian and Independence parties. Challengers include Kathleen Cleary (D) and Andre Sorrentino (R), who is cross-endorsed by the Conservative and Working Families parties. Eleanor Putignano is running on the Green Party. Patrick Deegan is running as a Libertarian. 

Putignano and Deegan, though they are listed on the ballot, were unable to be reached and did not attend the candidate debate hosted by TBR News Media. Deegan later agreed to a telephone interview. 

In general, Huntington’s hot topics center on overdevelopment, water quality, parking and the high cost of living.  

Joan Cergol

Joan Cergol, after being elected in 2018 to serve a vacated one-year term seat, is running again this year for a full four-year term. A lifelong Huntington resident who has worked as a communications specialist, she is one of two Democrats on a four-member board. Cergol said that she considers herself an independent voice that works for all people in the Town of Huntington. 

“If you want someone with a steady hand and head, a warm heart, a strong work ethic, all driven by an overarching desire, in all decisions made and votes cast, to simply do the right thing for Huntington, I’m your choice for town board,” Cergol states in her public profile online.

Cergol’s top concerns include budgetary policies related to appointed positions in town government and the lack of affordable housing.  

“There’s no $1,500-a-month apartments anymore,” she said. 

She said the town can save money for cash-strapped taxpayers if it exercised greater restraint and followed a different process for town employees. People in appointed positions should be qualified and paid fair wages rather than excessive salaries, she said. She favors zero-based budgeting, a system that audits every job position to justify its value and necessity. She also thinks the town can do a better job tapping into available grants to offset expenses, rather than hitting taxpayers up for different projects. 

To address the housing concern, over the last year, Cergol successfully sponsored legislation that allows people, mainly the elderly, to rent out their own home, while living in their own smaller, accessory apartment on premises. The policy, she said, solves multiple housing-related issues, and she said it’s one of her proudest accomplishments during her first year as a legislator. Live-streaming and close-captioned viewing of town meetings were also her initiatives. 

Overall, Cergol considers herself a problem solver of issues big and small and knowledgeable on the mechanisms of government. She said she prefers watching other people cross the finish line, rather than being in the spotlight herself. 

The town, she said, is 95 percent built out. When considering redevelopment and revitalization projects, she said its important to evaluate the economic, social and environmental factors.

Eugene Cook

Eugene Cook has been elected to the town council for two consecutive terms and is running for a third and final term. He sponsored the new term-limit legislation and wants to be the first to leave after three consecutive terms. 

Cook was raised on Long Island and lives in Greenlawn. He’s a welder by trade and owns a building contractor business. 

The LIPA tax certiorari issue, he said, is the town’s greatest challenge and he is committed to pursuing all avenues to fight National Grid, who owns the Northport power plant. LIPA, he said, is out of control. 

Other pressing issues for Cook include overdevelopment. He’d like to see the Village of Huntington designate more areas as historic to preserve its charm. The best way to enhance the community, he said, is through the arts. He is committed to supporting cultural projects that keep Huntington vibrant. Quality of life issues, he said, is and should be a main consideration when evaluating development projects. These approaches, he said, place Huntington on the map as a destination. He opposed the proposed Villadom Mall project in Elwood. The site, he said, is now under consideration for open space preservation. 

To address ongoing need for additional parking, Cook sponsored legislation to purchase the old Chase Bank property at Gerard Avenue and Main Street, which will be leveled and converted to a 71-stall parking lot. The site is an asset, he said, that can always be sold if Uber and other shared drive services replace the demand for parking. Cook opposes the construction of what he called an unsightly, $30 million, multilevel parking garage, because the town may never need it and will likely mismanage the project. 

Cook said he is proud of everything he does as a town council member. Helping veterans, he said, is particularly rewarding. He recently connected the Hispanic community with the police to enroll 250 kids in a new PAL soccer program. The experience, he said, was heartwarming. He also likes helping all mom and pop shops address building issues or whatever their concern may be. 

“It’s my pleasure to serve the community,” he said. 

Kathleen Cleary

Kathleen Cleary is an East Northport resident with experience as a contract manager for Fortune 100 companies. Like Cergol, she said the town is bloated with patronage positions. Her experience overseeing projects to meet time and budget constraints, she said, will help bring transparency and ethical reform to Huntington. Her business administration degree, she said, will also help her streamline town operations through departmental and personnel efficiency assessments.

The lack of adequate parking in downtown Huntington is an ongoing problem. To address issues, Cleary’s ideas include implementing employee parking shuttles. She has no spot in mind, only a concept. Overdevelopment is also a top concern.  

Cleary opposes settling the LIPA suit.

“You can’t just sit back and let them walk all over us,” she said. 

She is impressed with community activism about the issue over the last few years. Because the Northport power plant is not an isolated case in one town, she said state government needs to offer remedies. 

Overall, Cleary said her people skills, experience with government contracting and navigating bureaucracy makes her a good candidate for better efficiency and cost-cutting in town government.

Cleary also has a background in horticulture and is a Cornell certified master gardener. These skills, she said, provides insights into how to address water quality issues. She’s been involved with Long Island Native Plant Initiative, the Huntington League of Women Voters and Keep Islip Clean Project Bloom. 

Andre Sorrentino

Andre Sorrentino is also a lifelong Huntington resident and owner of PAS Professional Automotive Services. He promises to bring the small businessman perspective to town council. He loves Huntington and said he believes in getting things done. He’s proud to be a family man. 

“I want to be the guy people go to,” Sorrentino said. 

Sorrentino has insights into the town’s highway department, where he has been director of general services since February 2018. In that post, he’s helped to beautify parks. As an automotive inspector, he said that he sees firsthand that the poor state of the town’s highway equipment needs to be addressed.   

Sorrentino said he feels a strong obligation to give back. He’s serving his fifth year as Huntington fire commissioner. He has gained a reputation in the community for his work handing out turkeys to families in need around Thanksgiving. Last year’s drive donated 2,660 turkeys. 

As a tradesman, Sorrentino said that he would like to see the town promote apprenticeship programs, an idea that both Cergol and Cleary also see as important. 

Patrick Deegan

Patrick Deegan is running a grassroots campaign with no money, no fundraising and just relying on support from neighbor to neighbor.  He’s running on issues of water quality and soil contamination that can potentially cause a health crisis.

He said he’s worn four hats in life: semiprofessional distance runner, business man, a talent agent and for the last 17 years an unpaid advocate.  

Deegan suffers from a connective tissue disorder that prevents him from physical labor but allows him research issues. Deegan said that he has been operating as a lobbyist, but since he’s not paid, he’s really an advocate.  

He said he has researched topics and has worked behind the scenes to address issues such as opposing the Villadom development project and raising awareness statewide on fentanyl. 

“This is what I’m doing with my free time now, “ said Deegan.  “I want to help people.”  

The job as town representative requires mental challenges.  

If elected, Deegan will strive for more community-based leadership. He praises the work of civic organization and people who band together like the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association, which opposes the golf course development.

“If a tree falls down, we don’t need to wait three days for the town to come,” he said. “We can get it taken care of.”

Margot Rosenthal (D) is challenging incumbent Leslie Kennedy (R) for County District 12. (photo right to left)

The Times of Smithtown circulation area includes two Suffolk County legislative districts: 12 and 13. The 12th District encompasses Nesconset and Lake Grove and extends west through portions of St. James into Commack. The 13th District extends from Fort Salonga east to St. James. 

Currently, two Republicans represent the areas, Leslie Kennedy and Robert Trotta, respectively. Overall, the Democrats with an 11-7 ratio, have a majority rule in the county, as it has for the last 13 years. Republicans held the majority for 33 years prior to that. 

Many analysts say that this year’s election could potentially see a shift in power or perhaps tie the representation. So a lot is at stake.

District 12: Parts of Smithtown, Nesconset, Hauppauge, Village of the Branch, Lake Grove, parts of St. James, Commack, Lake Ronkonkoma and Centereach

Smithtown resident Margot Rosenthal, a nurse-practitioner, midwife and a Smithtown Democratic Committee person is challenging incumbent candidate Leslie Kennedy.  Rosenthal did not attend the debate hosted by TBR News Media. According to her online profile, she seeks to address health care, housing, education, environmental causes and improve access to mental health care.  She is committed to combating the opioid crisis and teen vaping. She has worked for 39 years with underprivileged patients. 

Kennedy, a Nesconset resident, has worked for 13 years as a legislative aide to both Donald Blydenburgh and her husband John Kennedy. She was elected to her seat in 2015, when her husband became the county’s comptroller. 

In a one-on-one interview, Kennedy said that she loves government and policymaking but hates politics.  Her background in the medical field, she said, provides the county with useful insights that contribute to the county’s response to the opioid epidemic.  She is opposed to the county’s current cesspool/septic system replacement initiative to reduce nitrogen. The systems, she said, are ineffective.  Peter Scully, Suffolk County deputy executive, who is addressing the county’s water quality issues, said that nothing can be further from the truth. 

Kennedy opposes the red-light camera bill, stating that it mainly targets and enforces questionable violations of right turns on red.  The affordable housing issue, she said, is one of her top concerns. 

Some of her proudest accomplishments include the preservation of the Nissequoque River’s headwaters.

Tracy Kosciuk hopes to take incumbent Valerie Cartright's seat for Council District 1 in Brookhaven.

Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) is running for her fourth term as Brookhaven Town councilwoman in District 1. Her challenger is one of her neighbors, Tracy Kosciuk.

Cartright sat down with the TBR News Media editorial staff Oct. 25 to talk about her accomplishments and initiatives, while Kosciuk, a registered nurse at St. Charles Hospital, answered questions via email due to being on a trip to Albany. The nurse is a local union president who travels to the state capital to lobby for improved working conditions.

“There are several projects that have been in the planning stages for years — stagnated by red tape.
Tracy Kosciuk


Kosciuk said if elected to the Town Council she plans to continue working as a nurse and promises she would give town issues the same 24/7 attention she gives to her nurses, as she recognizes the council position is a full-time job.

“I am a multitasker, ask any of my nurses, friends or family — I work with commitment to the task and get the job done,” Kosciuk said.

She said the primary reason she is running this year is the frustration people feel when one doesn’t fulfill the obligations of their job. The nurse and union leader said she is also a wife and a mother, who cares for a sick parent. A firm believer in time management, she said she will make the necessary adjustments to her life “to guarantee to my constituents a much better degree of responsiveness and dedication to my office than what they are currently receiving.”

Cartright said being a councilwoman is a full-time job, and because of that while she maintains her license to practice law, she only handles two or three cases annually. She said she spends the majority of her time in Town Hall meeting with various departments, dealing with constituents’ issues and meeting with residents at her mobile offices or in people’s homes. She said there are also community events to attend and meetings with civic groups and chambers of commerce.

“I’m very much a hands-on person,” she said. “I’m visual. I need to see what it is that the constituents are talking about.”

Cartright said she and her staff handle an average of 3,000 to 3,500 calls on a yearly basis and receive more requests via email. The issues can vary from a pothole in front of someone’s house to drainage problems to a resident asking for help with National Grid to get their lights turned back on. She encourages people to call her in addition to the department or entity responsible as she said she considers herself an advocate for her constituents.

Both candidates are focused on local issues, including revitalization in the district.

Kosciuk said she believes one of the largest issues facing the town is “the prevalence of illegal housing and also buildings that are referred to as ‘zombie homes.’” While she believes Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and other town councilpersons have been addressing the issue, she said in Council District 1, based on her walking through the communities and talking to residents, that it hasn’t been sufficiently addressed.

“As I have said many times, these illegal housing conditions are a magnet for crime, drugs and an undesirable element that our communities and neighborhoods can do without,” the nurse said.

Cartright, who bought a zombie home when she moved to Port Jeff Station from Queens 14 years ago, said she encourages residents to alert her office about homes they believe may be abandoned or if there are drug issues.

For the past few years, Cartright has been working on revitalization projects for the Route 25A corridor in the Three Village area and to create a walkable downtown hub in Port Jefferson Station between the train tracks and Route 347.

“I look forward to tackling the remaining quality of life issues,” she said.

“We did that because a community member felt comfortable enough and was willing to say, ‘Valerie, can you help?’”

— Valerie Cartright

Regarding the PJS plan, she has met with the two major landowners to discuss recommended density and site plans. She is also working with Suffolk County to create a sewer district in the area. With the Three Village 25A corridor plan, she said the work is more about historical architectural continuity, something that residents showed a concern for during visioning meetings she spearheaded.

Kosciuk, on her website, stated she would continue with current revitalization projects and help small business owners succeed, calling them the cornerstone of the community.

“There are several projects that have been in the planning stages for years — stagnated by red tape,” she said.

“It is to our benefit that these projects are completed in order to revive our community and provide a much-needed ‘face-lift’ for our district,” Kosciuk said.

The incumbent said the process can be long at times due to the need for land-use plans before work truly begins.

When it comes to quality of life issues, Cartright is currently working to allow town vehicles to provide transportation for those who are looking to enter temporary housing or clinics. The initiative was inspired by a couple who the councilwoman said she waited three hours with after they agreed to go into temporary housing. The cab was a third party hired by the county, but there was miscommunication that left her and the couple stranded. She is currently working with a task force to deal with homeless issues that includes the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association and Port Jeff village officials. She said the group has spent six months gathering information.

“There are a lot of misconceptions, in my opinion, as to where the root of all of this is coming from,” she said.

Both candidates hope to tackle the drug crisis in the area.

Kosciuk, who has been a nurse for more than 30 years, called it a problem of epic proportions

“It is essential to work with area hospitals and treatment centers to establish a more comprehensive discharge plan for patients suffering from this disease,” she said, adding the importance of providing resources to educate residents on the dangers of illicit drugs.

Cartright helped to form a community-based drug prevention coalition that holds education events, which will also include vaping cessation workshops for teenagers. The councilwoman said she hopes the workshops will be an alternative to students being suspended from school. The coalition was formed after Sal Pitti, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, approached her saying he identified money from the federal government.

“We did that because a community member felt comfortable enough and was willing to say, ‘Valerie, can you help?’ and I believe government is supposed to help people and not hinder initiatives,” she said.

Smithtown Town Hall

The Town of Smithtown is run by a four-member Town Council and a town supervisor. Two seats are open for this year’s election with five people running for office. Smithtown’s council is currently all Republicans. Two incumbents are running for reelection: Thomas Lohmann and Lisa Inzerillo. Their challengers include two Democrats, Richard Guttman and Richard Macellaro, and Libertarian candidate Patricia Shirley. 

Patricia Shirley (L)

Patricia Shirley

Kings Park resident Patricia Shirley is running a grassroots campaign to institute change. She said she would like to see the town’s system of government shift to include more transparency and citizen engagement. She’s noticed that at meetings council members tend to talk too technically without engaging residents. She said she has been going door-to-door and business-to-business mainly in Hauppauge, Smithtown and Kings Park to find out what’s on the minds of Smithtown residents. A native Long Islander, she’s noticed a declining state of the Kings Park business district over the last eight years. She wants to see the community thrive, so it offers a promising future for children.

Shirley takes pride in her entrepreneurial background. Her expertise lies in budgeting and grant writing. She expects to be able to help Smithtown improve its planning, auditing and budgeting. She’s been in the health care field for 25 years and has worked at Developmental Disabilities Institute, also known as DDI, in Smithtown over the last 11 years. The group home has grown tremendously during her tenure there, she said. She has also founded the Shirley Academy, a school that trains people on medical billing practices. 

If elected, Shirley’s priorities include promoting entrepreneurship. She promises more round table discussions with community members.

New tools are needed, she said, for a new generation. Residents, she said, need to regain control. 

“I am a woman and an African American,” she said. “I’m black and I bring diversity to the town.”

She wants to make sure that people get out and vote to bring the count up. This is her first time running for public office.

Richard Guttman (D)

 Richard Guttman

Richard Guttman is another Kings Park resident running for a seat on the Town Council in part because of the decline in the Kings Park business district.

He blames overdevelopment as the underlying cause of many of Smithtown’s issues, whether it’s water quality, traffic jams, cut throughs or the lack of sidewalks and proper street crossings. Overall, he said, it creates safety concerns. 

“Trying to go into a store in Kings Park, you put your life on the line,” he said, referring to the parallel parking situation on Main Street. 

Guttman wants quality of life to be a main consideration to improve Smithtown communities. Projects, he said, are pushed through.

“When you put up a building, there’s more to consider than tax revenue,” he said.

Guttman is local attorney with 20-years’ experience. He operates his general law practice from his home. He handles immigration, tax and some criminal cases. Lately, many of his cases pertain to foreclosure, he said. He helps people file for bankruptcy to avoid losing their homes.

People, he said, are overtaxed. “Maybe, with a different president, that will change,” he said. As a council member, Guttman promises to advocate to keep costs down. 

With regard to economic development, Guttman recognizes the need for better infrastructure, such as sewers. He’d also like to see the Kings Park Psychiatric Center, where he regularly runs, move forward with plans to preserve the grounds as parkland. 

“I know it’s in the works, but I’d like to get it moving,” he said. 

Guttman is currently taking care of his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. If elected, he hopes to help institute programs to help other people in similar situations. 

“I am honest, earnest and promise to do a good job for all the hamlets, to listen to constituents and to come up with solutions that benefit the people.” 

Richard Macellaro

Richard Macellaro

Kings Park resident Richard Macellaro is running for Town Council, but has not been actively campaigning. However, he said in a telephone interview that he wants to win. Macellaro, one of two Democrats in the field for Town Council seats, is also calling for more openness and transparency in Smithtown government. He said that the public needs to more informed about the rights of taxpayers. Agencies and departments need to meet with council members on a more regular basis, he said.

Macellaro is semi-retired and currently works part time for the county’s Traffic and Parking Violations Agency. For 30 years he worked as a director of a home health care business in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

For nearly 60 years, Macellaro said, the town has lacked a master plan to guide the town’s development. If elected, he will make sure one is implemented and reviewed every five years to make sure the town stays focused. Macellaro has previously run for Suffolk County Legislature and New York State Assembly. 

Tom Lohmann

Thomas Lohmann

Tom Lohmann is running for reelection. He was originally voted into office in 2017 and wants to continue what he said he started — reinvigorating the town. His priorities include seeing through the implementation of a master plan for the town’s development. 

“The last time we had a master plan was in the ’60s and we’re doing it, it’s underway,” he said. 

The job requires full-time service and should not be part time, Lohmann said. The retired New York City police officer will take the $75,000 a year for the Town Council position and, combined with his police pension, he said he’s committed to do the work.

“It’s not about the money,” Lohmann said. 

Since he’s been elected to office, Lohmann said he’s spearheaded projects to reinvigorate parkland and beaches, including Gaynor Park and Flynn Memorial Park. The town has three sewer projects underway in Kings Park, Smithtown and St. James. The Kings Park sewers are moving ahead, he said, he’s currently looking for a location for the wastewater treatment plant for Smithtown and expects the St. James sewer to become a combined venture with Gyrodyne, in St. James, in the very near future. 

For 62 years, Lohmann has lived in the Town of Smithtown, currently in the hamlet of Smithtown. He said he is a third generation Smithtown resident. As farmland has turned to shopping malls and highways, Lohmann said he’s seen the change. 

The key to overdevelopment, Lohmann said, is smart development. A master plan, he said, takes care of that. He notes that the town lacks affordable housing. The younger generation, he said, doesn’t want a house. They want to be near a train line to the city and travel by Uber place to place and walk the town. It’s different, he said, from when he grew up. 

The 2 percent tax cap, which state lawmakers have made permanent, Lohmann said, is restrictive. Going forward, he’d like to have more interaction with the school districts. As far as combining services with other branches of government to trim the tax burden on residents, Lohmann said the town is already doing it. 

“We’re doing more with less,” he said. 

Prior to taking office, Lohmann worked as an investigator with insurance crime bureau of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office. He also worked part time as a Head of the Harbor police officer. 

Lisa Inzerillo

Lisa Inzerillo 

Kings Park resident Lisa Inzerilla has been serving as Town Council member since 2015. She said she focuses on common sense initiatives to deliver efficient services, save tax dollars and protect suburban quality of life. She’s committed to making Smithtown user-friendly and has helped the IT department launch a new website this year. Inzerillo initiated the town’s Animal Shelter reform. She serves on the Labor Management and the Risk Management committees. Inzerillo is proudest of amending town code to prohibit hookah lounges and vape stores near schools, playgrounds and day care centers. 

Dan Losquadro and Anthony Portesy are seeking the town highway superintendent’s office. Photos by Rita J. Egan

Two familiar faces are vying for the Town of Brookhaven highway superintendent seat. Incumbent Dan Losquadro (R), who has been superintendent since 2013, is seeking a fourth term come Election Day. Democratic challenger Anthony Portesy, a private attorney, is once again running for the top highway department position. He ran against Losquadro in 2017. 

The town highway superintendent’s role is responsible for overseeing more than 3,300 lane miles of town roads, making it one of the largest highway departments in New York State. The candidates joined in a debate at the TBR News Media office

“Compared to other positions I’ve held, this has given me the ability to see tangible results of my efforts.”

— Dan Losquadro

Losquadro has spent 16 years in elected office, previously serving as Suffolk County legislator and New York State assemblyman.

“Compared to other positions I’ve held, this has given me the ability to see tangible results of my efforts,” he said. “Instead of debating, now I can allocate funding and I get to see those projects to their completion, that is very gratifying to me.”

Portesy said he shares some of the ideas Losquadro has. His ideas have come from talking to thousands of voters since he lost in 2017. 

The challenger detailed what he called a “worst to first” initiative he’d like to implement if elected. The priority list would be publicly posted on the town’s website, so residents can see when their road is going to get reconstructed. 

“I think if we create a road map of when the work is going to get done with expected time line completion dates it would clear things up,” he said. “The voter frustrations are based off the in-house metrics. No one knows how they decide which roads are done and which ones are not done.”

Losquadro said there are many factors that go into selecting roads for work, and that it sometimes hinges on weather conditions. 

“This winter was different because we had so many freeze-thaw cycles,” he said. “Every day it seemed like during the day it was 45 degrees and then at night it went down to 18 degrees.”

The incumbent said during the winter they used a combination of cold patch and hot mix to battle potholes. 

“We used more cold patch but it never quite fully hardens, so that meant after the winter it breaks up and we had to go back all throughout the spring and summer to fix the potholes that were already fixed,” he said. “It is a battle that you have to keep fighting.”

For next year, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has allocated $15 million to the highway department. Both candidates agreed that the funds are needed to fix roads that are past their life expectancy. 

Losquadro said that every penny should be going to roads and mentioned his own high priority list. When pressed on why he doesn’t give more details on when residents can expect work done on their roads, Losquadro said there are multiple factors that decide when a road can be done, and much is out of his hands. 

“I think if we create a road map of when the work is going to get done with expected time line completion dates it would clear things up,”

—Anthony Portesy

He stressed that he is working with a finite budget and assured residents that they have a plan in place. 

“We are getting there — I will never say work will be definitely done by next year, it could be done in two or three years,” he said. “Winters change things.” 

Portesy said that’s the crux of resident’s frustration and he wants to make the process more transparent to them. 

“They know there’s only so much money in the pot, they just want to know when their road is going to be fixed,” he said.

Another area the candidates differ is on how the department uses contractors for most of its work. 

The highway superintendent said he would love to have more workers, but the department tries to be mindful of its spending. 

“The town used to have its own pavement crew, but it is just not feasible to hire multiple employees and buy our own materials,” he said. 

The challenger said he believes within the confines of the budget the department could have room to hire between 12 to 20 additional employees over the course of three to five years. 

“I think we can lessen the reliance on contractors — I think creating an apprenticeship program could be a good idea,” he said.

Ed Romaine (R) and Will Ferraro (D) are looking for town residents’ votes come Nov. 5. Photos by Rita J. Egan

The race for Town of Brookhaven supervisor sees one candidate with years of electoral experience facing a young newcomer who says he’s representing those in town who have been ignored by government the past several years.

Seven-year town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) is facing Democratic challenger, first-time candidate and Selden political activist Will Ferraro. While the incumbent cites his efforts over the past seven years, including his work on getting control of Brookhaven’s budget and the push toward clean energy, Ferraro is pushing hard on recycling and trash issues, as well as keeping young people on Long Island.

Romaine said the town has made huge strides toward clean energy in the past several years, including incorporating wind and solar technology at Town Hall in Farmingville. 

“You had a year, a year and a half, where that market had been collapsing and the town just waited.”

— Will Ferraro

Recently, a new offshore wind project, Sunrise Wind, has plans to create an offshore wind farm off Montauk, and plans to have a home base in Port Jefferson Harbor. Romaine claimed he had been a big proponent of that project and will have a large impact on it going forward.

“I’m not a proponent of fossil fuel,” Romaine said.

Ferraro criticized the town’s movement on the Caithness II plant, which has since stalled, though Romaine said he had voted against the plant.

More eyes have turned toward Brookhaven’s waste management and recycling since the market crashed in 2018, leading the town’s recycling contractor, Green Stream Recycling, to void its contract. Brookhaven has switched from single-stream to dual-stream recycling and has asked residents to drop glass off at 21 points in the town instead of picking it up at curbside.

The Democratic challenger criticized the supervisor for not seeing the writing on the wall when it came to the recycling market and single-stream recycling.

“Where I find problem is that [the Town] waited and tried running out 20-plus year contract with Green Stream,” Ferraro said. “You had a year, a year and a half, where that market had been collapsing and the town just waited.”

He advised the town should look into a pay-as-you-throw program, which would lessen the cost of people’s trash bill for those who turn out less trash. He said he would cap the cost of people’s bills to where it currently sits at $350, enticing people to throw out less. He added he would want to return to glass pickup once every two weeks or once a month.

Romaine said such a program might work in the long term, but believed it would lead to illegal dumping, which he added was already a huge problem in Brookhaven. 

The town’s landfill has long been a hot spot for controversy. The landfill currently only accepts ash and construction debris. All garbage is taken to a plant outside of town, while the ash is returned to the landfill. Current plans see Brookhaven capping the landfill by 2024. Romaine said closing the location will be a net loss for the town but suspects they will not take a large hit. Otherwise, Brookhaven, along with other townships that dump their ash at the Brookhaven landfill, still needs to decide where that trash will go once the last landfill on Long Island is closed.

“This is not a Brookhaven problem, this is a regional problem,” Romaine said.

People around the landfill have long complained about the odor from it, and many claim they have experienced negative health effects from living close to it. Ferraro criticized the town for not doing more to research what could be causing such effects or doing air testing during an odor event and called for an air quality task force for the area.

Romaine said a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation does testing every day, and they have no research that qualitates the landfill has resulted in these negative health effects at the nearby school district.

“Health to me is the most important thing,” Romaine said. “If we knew there was something, we would have stopped.”

Recent years have shown people, both young and old, moving off the Island due to high property taxes. While both candidates agreed the majority of taxes come from the local school districts, Ferraro said the most important thing is to attract industries that provide jobs, while working on town infrastructure to get people to those jobs. He suggested that Brookhaven should look into some sort of limited public transportation system, similar to Huntington’s Area Rapid Transit system.

“Health to me is the most important thing.”

— Ed Romaine

He agreed with Romaine on a lack of multifamily housing but said some residents are being heard more than others. 

“A lot of NIMBY [not in my backyard] is being pandered to,” the challenger said. “A lot of their concerns are valid, some are not … We need a comprehensive approach. It’s one thing to have $1,800 rent, but when you talk about transportation costs, other factors than just rent that play into that.”

Romaine said he and fellow council members have done a good job in securing large industries to the town, such as Amneal Pharmaceuticals, which brought a facility to Yaphank with several hundred jobs earlier this year. He added the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency has been key in bringing jobs like these to the area. He also cited intent to lessen the cost of gas and electricity by allowing the town to purchase those resources on behalf of its residents through a Community Choice Aggregation program.

Ferraro said many of those jobs created through the IDA were temporary construction jobs. Though some residents have complained about some of the tax breaks some of these developments have received, such as the Engel Burman-owned senior facility currently going up in Mount Sinai for only providing around 50 full-time employees after the facilities finally open. Romaine agreed that the IDA should avoid multifamily housing unless its “affordable.” He said he was opposed to the IDA giving tax breaks to the Heatherwood apartment complex in Port Jefferson Station and South Setauket, which were ultimately rejected. 

Steve Bellone (D), John Kennedy Jr. (R) and Greg Fischer (L) are facing off for Suffolk County exec. Photos by David Luces

It is a three-man race for the Suffolk County executive seat this year. Incumbent Steve Bellone (D) is vying to secure a final term after coming into office in 2012. Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) and Libertarian candidate Greg Fischer, from Calverton, are looking to unseat Bellone in this year’s election. 

Some topics discussed were the county finances, the opioid and MS-13 situations and Suffolk’s water quality. 

Suffolk County finances

The status of the county’s finances continues to be a pressing issue since Thomas DiNapoli (D), the New York State comptroller, released a report saying Suffolk was under the most “significant fiscal stress” of any county — with Nassau — in the state in 2018 for the second year in a row. Suffolk had an operating deficit of about $26.5 million and a general fund balance deficit of $285 million. 

“When I came into office in 2012 the county was on the brink of bankruptcy, we had a $500 million accumulated deficit.”

— Steve Bellone

Bellone touted since he took office seven years ago, he has made the county government more streamlined, fully eliminated the existing operating deficit and has helped achieve an operating surplus for two consecutive years.

“When I came into office in 2012 the county was on the brink of bankruptcy, we had a $500 million accumulated deficit,” he said. “The county government was completely dysfunctional. Everyone was saying we were heading in the same direction as Nassau County, we were going to have a control board. I told them that was not going to happen, and we made the tough decisions.”

Since Bellone took office, the county government has cut close to 1,300 municipal jobs looking to reduce expenditures. 

Kennedy, who has been the county comptroller for the past five years, said his office has been auditing aggressively, has saved the county upward of $56 million and helped refinance its pipeline debt. He said the county is currently $883 million in operating debt and has a $91 million general fund balance deficit. 

The longtime Suffolk politician argued that the county would probably have to cut back at least $50-60 million from the current operating budget. 

“There’s things in life, you have your wants and your needs — that’s where we are at [right now],” he said. “We have departments that are not running properly, we have to consolidate.”

Kennedy said he would look to implement percentage decreases across the board for contract agencies and in some cases suspend services, similarly to what the county Legislature did in 2008 in the midst of a recession. 

“I am running based on the 15 years of public service — I think I can put us back to balance,” he said.

Fischer put it simply that the county is no different than a big bankrupt company. 

“We are rated lower than Nassau County, which has financial control boards,” he said. “We can’t rely on the state for anything right now.”

If elected, Fischer would freeze further increases in spending immediately as well as freeze future hiring and begin cross-training county employees.

“This is something that has to be done now,” he said. 


On opioids, Kennedy said the county has had an addiction issue long before oxycodone was ever cooked up, mentioning morphine, methadone and crystal meth that have been a concern since the late ’80s. 

He said treatment for addicts is one of his main concerns. 

“We have fewer treatment beds in Suffolk County than five to 10 years ago,” Kennedy said. “Availability of treatment beds is the most pressing need right now.”

“I am running based on the 15 years of public service — I think I can put us back to balance.”

— John Kennedy Jr.

Many Republicans have criticized the Bellone administration for the closure and sale of the Foley Center in Yaphank, which they contend would have helped in the fight against the opioid crisis.

The county comptroller said that the governor has to be more proactive in helping the county. In addition, he said law enforcement needs to be more effective. 

Fischer said he lost his brother to heroin and is acutely aware of what is going on in the fight. 

“This is horribly addictive stuff — I believe in ‘scared straight’ programs, bringing in junkies into schools and scaring the crap out of kids,” he said. “I do want more treatment and prevention not just more cops.” 

The county executive maintained a comprehensive approach is the only way to solve the opioids crisis. 

He agreed with Kennedy and Fischer that local law enforcement plays a big part, but that prevention is just as important. 

Bellone touted partnerships with community-based groups and schools and opening DASH, a substance abuse and mental health center in Hauppauge, that is seeing patients 24/7. 

“The inability to provide adequate treatment has been a failure of our country,” he said. “Once you become addicted it is very hard to extricate yourself from it. We have made progress — the state has helped us.”

He also mentioned that the county has decided to sue the people responsible for the opioid epidemic. 

“Though we can’t restore the lives lost, the Sackler family [which controls Purdue Pharma] should be made to pay,” he said. 

On MS-13, Bellone said the Suffolk County Police Department has led the fight against the gang and has helped in getting the lowest crime rate in the history of the county. 

Kennedy and Fischer contend that it is the federal government’s involvement that has swayed the tide in the fight. Though all three candidates agree that while strides have been made, there needs to be continued law enforcement efforts from both the local and federal levels. 

Suffolk’s water quality

Bellone called water quality “the most significant issue of our time in Suffolk County.” 

“Climate change will have certain impacts, but if we don’t address water quality, we are sacrificing the future of the county — we cannot sustain what this place is without protecting water,” he said. 

Bellone said water quality is not only vital for the county’s economy but also to local tourism which brings in billions of dollars each year. 

“It is one of the reasons why people live here and for the quality of life,” he said. 

The county executive defended his septic improvement program which he launched in 2017, saying it has allowed homeowners to replace outdated septic systems and cesspools. He also mentioned that it has helped reduce contaminants in the groundwater.

“We have departments that are not running properly, we have to consolidate.”

— John Kennedy Jr.

Kennedy said his main concern is to continue to identify any suspected contaminants in our groundwater. He supports the Suffolk County Water Authority’s efforts to identify and remove 1,4-dioxane. 

“We need to raise funding to install 31 wells [throughout the county],” he said. 

Another of his concerns is stormwater runoff prevention, which he said, to him, the jury is still out on the advanced septic system, adding that four to six systems are not working properly. 

Fischer said he would propose a “100 projects in 100 weeks” plan if elected, adding there are some things the county could implement right now. 

“I would put a sizable fee or ban on high nitrogen fertilizer — this is dangerous stuff,” he said. 

The Libertarian candidate criticized Bellone’s advanced septic system program, calling it a complete failure and needs to be put into moratorium until it is fixed. 

Fischer also proposed changes to water codes, mentioning gray water — or the water that comes out of baths, sinks and other appliances — and setting certain mandates for new construction.