Government

Brookhaven Town Clerk Donna Lent. Photo from TOB

Brookhaven Town residents whose homes were damaged by the unprecedented rains caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida can apply for federal FEMA grants and receive state and local assistance at a Storm Recovery Center set up in the Rose Caracappa Senior Citizen Center. The center is located at 739 Route 25A in Mount Sinai. The center will be open starting on Thursday, September 16 at 8:00am and will operate 7 days a week from 8:00am to 7:00pm until further notice. Pictured above is Town Clerk Donna Lent at the Rose Caracappa Center preparing to assist residents requiring vital records at the Storm Recovery Center.

Suffolk County received a Major Disaster Declaration this weekend as a result of the devastating floods caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida earlier this month. Approval is based on joint damage assessments by New York State and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Suffolk County also qualifies for the Individual Assistance Program.

A Major Disaster Declaration allows for financial assistance from the federal government to provide disaster relief and allow communities to recover through either Public Assistance or a combination of Public and Individual Assistance. Public Assistance provides emergency assistance to save lives and protect property as well as funding debris removal and repairs to public buildings and infrastructure, including roads, bridges, schools, parks, hospitals, police stations, fire houses, water and wastewater treatment facilities and other publicly owned facilities. Individual Assistance provides direct support for individuals and homeowners. Residents may also be able to receive funds for other uninsured or under-insured disaster-caused expenses and serious needs, such as repair or replacement of personal property or funds for moving and storage, or medical, dental, and childcare.

Homeowners and renters should make every effort to document their losses. Homeowners will work directly with FEMA to obtain funding for Individual assistance, which can include funds for temporary housing units, housing and driveway repairs, crisis counseling, unemployment assistance and legal services.

Residents seeking Individual Assistance should complete a damage assessment form as well as FEMA Individual Assistance application form.

Niko Gentile with his mom, Ronnie Gentile, and Leg. Nick Caracappa

When the Gentile family of Holbrook learned of Legislator Nick Caracappa’s School Supply Drive to benefit local children in the community, Ronnie Gentile contacted Caracappa’s office to say that her son Niko was looking for a Boy Scout community service project. She thought our supply drive was the perfect opportunity for Niko to earn the Star Scout Badge.

In all, Niko Gentile of Boy Scout Troop #124 in Holbrook collected over 600 items to contribute to Caracappa’s school supply drive. He recently stopped by the district office to drop these items off, and Legislator Caracappa presented Niko with a Certificate of Achievement to recognize his enormous accomplishment.

“I was amazed when I saw the number of supplies Niko brought to my office,” stated Legislator Caracappa. “This project was a true community effort. Niko reached out and collected each and every supply, which he then brought to my office to be distributed to the less fortunate.  Each school year, it’s important to remember that every child deserves the tools needed to be successful in school; I am proud of Niko’s efforts in helping make that happen.”

From left, Dr. Korbin's wife, Seth Korbin, MD, and Legislator Bridget Fleming at the Suffolk County Legislature office in Riverside on Thursday, September 9th.
Seth Korbin, MD, joint reconstruction specialist at Stony Brook Orthopaedic Associates and clinical associate professor at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, was presented a Proclamation by Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming this week in acknowledgement of his rescue of a man, woman and her 7-year-old son from the waters in Hampton Bays on Wednesday, August 25.
After deciding to go surfing in the ocean off Dune Road, Dr. Korbin noticed three people clinging to a boogie board and realized that they were caught in a rip current. He first brought the 7-year-old boy to shore, and then went back out for the man and woman. Everyone was safe and no medical attention was needed, thanks to the quick and selfless actions of Dr. Korbin.

From left, State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio; Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker; Ex-Captain and Honorary Chief Howard Sedell; Ex-Captain and Honorary Chief John Driscoll; and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner

On August 28, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker attended the Rocky Point Fire Department’s 63rd Annual Fire District Inspection and Installation Dinner at Majestic Gardens in Rocky Point.

Legislator Anker joined State Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner in honoring the newly installed incoming officers as well as other department members for their many years of dedicated service, including Chief Fred Hess for 30 years; Firefighters James McCabe and Pericles Kontis for 35 years; Ex-Captain Walter Birney, Ex-Chief John Buchner and Ex-Chief Ray Strong for 40 years; Ex-Captain Daniel O’Connel, Ex-Chief Terrance McCarrick and Ex-Captain Dave Brewer for 45 years; Ex-Captain John Driscoll for 50 years; and Ex-Captain Howard Sedell for 55 years.

During the awards ceremony, Ex-Captains John Driscoll and Howard Sedell were honored by the Department and its members as Honorary Chiefs.

“It is always an honor to have an opportunity to recognize and thank our firefighters and first responders at the annual inspection and installation dinner,” said Legislator Anker. “This year, we recognized members for their many decades of dedicated service to the community through the Rocky Point Fire Department. I thank every member of the department for their continued and courageous service to our community that kept our residents safe from emergency situations throughout a challenging and unprecedented year.”

The Rocky Point Fire Department has stations located at 14 Hallock Landing Road in Rocky Point, 90 King Road in Rocky Point, and 47 Route 25A in Shoreham. For more information, please call the department at their non-emergency phone number, 631-744-4102.

Photo from Leg. Anker’s office

Brookhaven Town Landfill. Image from Google Maps

By Lisa Scott and Nancy Marr

Planning and decision making in our county needs to be a more open, thoughtful process. There is a concern on the part of communities in the area surrounding the Brookhaven Town Landfill that the plans for closing it in 2024 are unclear and have not been fully disclosed to the public. 

The League’s March 2021 TBR column on zero waste (https://tbrnewsmedia.com/making-democracy-work-how-can-we-get-to-zero-waste/) set the stage … our goal is to significantly reduce our garbage, but we are far from getting significant action from our neighbors (and our consumer/disposable society) in the next few years. Thus, what the Town of Brookhaven (TOB) does with the landfill site, the surrounding area, and the ash disposal will be a major factor for central Suffolk residents in the coming years. 

The TOB landfill was established on vacant land zoned mostly residential in 1974. Hamlets, developments, neighborhoods now surround the landfill site, including the areas of North Bellport and Horizon Village. 

Looking ahead to the closing of the landfill, TOB officials have proposed changing the zoning of 136 acres on the landfill site from residential to light industry and selling some of the land for an industrial park, with a codicil to prevent certain waste-related uses. (The remaining acres include the municipal recycling facility and yard waste and composting operations and undisturbed woodland.) 

At the zoning hearing held by the TOB in July, residents from all parts of the town protested the plan to sell the acreage and suggested instead that the town seek community input about how to remediate and re-purpose the entire landfill property. Clearly information is required about possible contamination of water and soil and the testing results over the past 50 years (think of the Bethpage and Brookhaven Lab plumes). 

The League is focused on civic education and government transparency. We urge the TOB Supervisor and Board to THINK BIG! The problems and possible solutions to the landfill closure, possible pollution, health effects and ash-disposal are just one part of a proposed ongoing discussion. 

Appointing a sustainability committee could lead the TOB toward better understanding of the problem and solutions and lead a community education effort. The town needs to communicate the issues openly with the public and hold public listening sessions to get constituents’ input. Garbage itself, and its costs in dollars, health, property values, and yes, our children’s future, MUST be described and garbage volume reduced significantly. If the landfill is to close in 2024, time is of the essence. Everyone should have the opportunity to be heard.

In a time of contentiousness and public strife, it’s critical that government brings its citizens/residents into the tent and that accurate, thorough information is the basis. The people must be heard, and decision-making must be transparent and accessible. The Town of Brookhaven owes this to the people who elected them and placed their trust in these representatives. 

Lisa Scott is president and Nancy Marr is vice-president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. Visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org or call 631-862-6860.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. Photo by Julianne Mosher

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) packed up his moving trucks at the governor’s mansion, the soon-to-be governess headed to Long Island.

With just a few days left until she becomes New York’s first female governor, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) made a quick stop in Hauppauge for a roundtable discussion with local labor leaders where topics included job training, green jobs and new legislative efforts to support essential workers.

Although the discussion was closed to media, Hochul made an appearance to quickly discuss her intentions during the meeting.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“One of my first priorities is continue creating good jobs,” she said. “Getting the offshore wind institute off the ground and give opportunities to just really train people in the underserved communities and the jobs of tomorrow where there will be tens of thousands of jobs in that space.”

Hochul said she and the business leaders in attendance also talked about workforce development and creating opportunities to keep young people fully employed on Long Island.

The visit wasn’t anything new, she said, mentioning that over the last seven years, “coming out and seeing the people is what I do.”

“If you ask anyone, I’ve been told that Nassau and Suffolk counties are planning on taxing me as a local resident because I’m here so often,” she joked.

As chair of the Regional Economic Development Councils, she said that she is going to continue and be accessible throughout her term.

“I’m going to continue showing appreciation to the labor community, the job creators, the business community and elected officials,” she said. “I have a deep appreciation for all the various roles of government, and I want them to know that they have a governor who recognizes and appreciates that.”

Hochul is set to take on her new role early Tuesday, Aug. 24 when she will move into the governor’s mansion.

“I haven’t thought about getting a U-Haul. I was just going to pack an overnight bag and see what happens,” Hochul joked. “I’ll then keep our residence in Buffalo as well. It’s going to be very fluid.”

When briefly asked about her policy surrounding the mask mandate, she said she will not be making an official statement until Tuesday but hinted that “people should be ready.”

 

Pixabay photo

By Nancy Burner, Esq.

Nancy Burner, Esq.

Medicaid will pay the long-term care needs for individuals who meet certain income and asset criteria. This means that Medicaid will pay the high cost of home care or nursing home care for seniors. 

Since Medicaid is a means tested program, many people believe that they cannot access benefits. This common misconception results in people failing to plan ahead and spending down most of their assets before realizing their mistake. Yet, even with little planning, families can preserve funds by moving assets out of the Medicaid applicant’s name.  

While everyone’s situation is different, the one irreplaceable document every senior needs is a durable power of attorney. 

A durable power of attorney allows an agent to step into the applicant’s shoes as a fiduciary. A comprehensive power of attorney allows the agent to transfer assets, gain eligibility and apply for Medicaid. This is crucial if the applicant has become incapacitated — or cannot easily meet with an attorney. Without giving an agent the authority to do this planning, optimal asset protection may not be possible.

Community Medicaid covers home care needs in the home. There is currently no lookback period for Community Medicaid. This means an applicant can transfer assets one month and apply for Medicaid benefits the following month. 

In contrast, with Chronic Medicaid — which covers nursing home care — there is a 5-year lookback. Thus, an applicant is penalized for transfers made for less than fair market value or “gifted” within the 5 years immediately before institutionalization. But, there are certain exempt transfers that can be made within the 5-year lookback period which make an applicant immediately eligible for Chronic Medicaid. 

Exempt transfers include transferring an unlimited amount of money to a spouse or disabled child. To effectuate these  transfers, the Medicaid applicant must either complete the paperwork or have a valid power of attorney allowing another to do so. 

Often, the Medicaid applicant does not have capacity to transfer the assets or complete the application.  The agent under a power of attorney can do this emergency planning and preserve assets even in the eleventh hour. The only alternative when there is no power of attorney and the applicant has no capacity, is applying to the court for guardianship.

When protecting income in the Community Medicaid setting, a pooled income trust is typically required. An applicant for Community Medicaid has an income limit of $904.00 per month, plus the cost of  health insurance premiums. Individuals with income that exceeds this level must contribute the excess income to their cost of long term care each month. 

This can be avoided with the establishment of a pooled income trust. If the Medicaid applicant does not have capacity, an agent through a power of attorney will need to establish a pooled income trust on their behalf. The power of attorney must specifically grant the agent the authority to establish trusts. Without such a power, the excess income cannot be preserved.

Finally, the actual Medicaid application and corresponding paperwork needs the Medicaid applicant’s signature. If the applicant is unable to sign the paperwork, an agent under a power of attorney may sign the paperwork on their behalf. Additionally, numerous financial documents must be submitted (i.e. proof of income, tax returns, bank statements). Gathering this information from specific institutions requires a power of attorney granting such authority. 

A valid and comprehensive power of attorney is an integral part of any estate plan, especially when dealing with Medicaid eligibility. The power of attorney is used in every step of the process and proves to be invaluable in preserving assets and income.

Nancy Burner, Esq. practices elder law and estate planning from her East Setauket office. Visit www.burnerlaw.com.

Kathy Hochul visited Stony Brook University’s Center of Molecular Medicine to discuss energy efficiency improvements in 2019. File photo by David Luces

After Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced his resignation last week, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) began to draw up plans to take over the role. Her first day in the governor’s chair will be Aug. 24.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul poses for a portrait and headshot in her office at the state Senate. Photo from Hochul’s office

She was selected by Cuomo as his running mate as lieutenant governor in the 2014 New York gubernatorial election. Hochul, who began her career as an attorney, had served as a member of the Hamburg Town Board from 1994 to 2007, Erie County clerk from 2007 to 2011 and was congresswoman in the state’s 26th District from 2011 to 2013.

State senators and assemblymen in Suffolk County filled in TBR News Media on what they know about the first female governor.

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) in an email described her as “competent, experienced and absolutely ready to lead New York State forward.” Freshman senator, Mario Mattera (R-St. James), wrote in an email that he only had the opportunity to meet her briefly in the past but found her to be “cordial and approachable.”

State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) said in a phone interview he has met her a few times and said she is a nice person who he believes is capable of doing the job ahead of her. Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) described her as a hard worker who is warm and open to learning about what people think. He said in a phone interview that while he has never had any policy interaction with her, he has met her.

Both assemblymen said that Cuomo kept Hochul on the outside during his tenure. Despite the soon-to-be former governor not providing her with opportunities to demonstrate what she’s capable of, Englebright said he believes she has always known to be prepared to take on the position because she knew it was one of her responsibilities.

Gaughran and Englebright commended Hochul on getting out into the state to familiarize herself with constituents’ issues. Gaughran said he was confident that New Yorkers would like her.

“She has spent the past few years as lieutenant governor traveling the state and has tremendous knowledge about Long Island’s needs,” Gaughran wrote. “She has experience at every level of government — from local to state to federal — and will be able on day one to continue leading New York through the pandemic and the challenges posed by the Delta variant, as well as heal New York from this dark moment in history.”

Englebright echoed the sentiments.

“She knows New York and has traveled to every county in the state as basically an envoy of the executive chamber of goodwill,” Englebright said, adding her good listening skills she demonstrated during these trips will be an asset in the role.

Fitzpatrick said he believes Hochul has a hard time ahead though.

“I think Governor Hochul not only has a tough job, but I think she has a very difficult path to the nomination,” he said.

He added she will need to satisfy those who are progressives in the Democratic Party while also pleasing moderates.

“She’s in a difficult position,” he said.

Mattera agreed.

“She has a lot of work to do to overcome the issues that derailed the Cuomo administration, and I am sure the residents of New York will be keeping a keen eye on how she handles the last portion of Governor Cuomo’s term,” he said.

Englebright agreed she will be tested.

“But this is not her first rodeo,” he said. “She’s experienced so I think the state will be in good hands.”

Gaughran and Englebright, who both believe she has a good chance of winning in 2022, said if they were to give her advice they would tell her how important it is to have a good and cooperative relationship with the state Legislature. Something they felt Cuomo didn’t have. Mattera echoed the sentiment.

“There is a wealth of knowledge in the Senate and Assembly members since they closely represent those they serve in their respective districts,” Mattera said. “That can help our state move forward following this year’s crisis and the ongoing controversy surrounding Governor Cuomo and his administration.”

From New York State website

On Tuesday, Aug. 10, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced his resignation.

The announcement came a week after the release of a report by state Attorney General Letitia James (D) saying independent investigators concluded that the governor harassed multiple women from 2013-20. The resignation came after a virtual press conference held by his attorney Rita Glavin. She criticized the attorney general’s report and said it contains errors and omissions when recounting allegations made against Cuomo. Glavin added that each account needs more investigation.

“I think that women should be believed and they should be treated fairly,” she said. “I also believe men should be believed and treated fairly. All people should be given that, and everybody should have a chance to respond, and everybody should be scrutinized with what they say by facts, context and evidence. That hasn’t happened here.”

After the attorney general’s report was released, one of the alleged victims, former executive assistant Brittany Commisso, filed a criminal complaint saying the governor groped her and fondled her breast.

Cuomo said during his announcement that he will step down in 14 days. He will be replaced by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) who will become the state’s first female governor.

The outgoing governor said he thanked those with sincere complaints as the women coming forward taught him an important lesson, and he said he took responsibility.

He added he felt that with some there are other “motivations at play.”

Local legislators react

Shortly after Cuomo announced his resignation, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), who has been named the presumptive Republican nominee for governor in the 2022 race, released a statement saying the governor was “resigning to skirt all repercussions for his actions as opposed to accounting for his misconduct. He knows he would be impeached. He knows he would be voted out of office.” 

“Andrew Cuomo broke the law and criminal repercussions must follow, despite him no longer serving in public office,” Zeldin said. “From his deadly nursing home order and cover-up, to his $5.1 million self-congratulatory book deal and serial harassment and abuse of others, he’s been unfit to continue serving for a long period of time.”

Zeldin also criticized Hochul in his Aug. 10 statement.

“Unfortunately, for New Yorkers, we’re left with Cuomo’s lieutenant who empowered this disgusting behavior while Andrew Cuomo cultivated this toxic culture, leaving a trail of victims in its wake,” Zeldin said. “Kathy Hochul has been silent scandal after scandal, from fatal nursing home policies and cover-ups to rampant harassment, intimidation, bullying and abuse.”

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) called the past few months “a very difficult period for the people of New York state” in a statement.

“I thank and commend the incredibly brave women who stepped forward and spoke truth to power,” he said. “No one is above the law.”

In the statement, Gaughran praised the next NYS governor and said he looks forward to working with her.

“I have known and worked with Kathy Hochul for years and there is no one better equipped to step in and lead New York as the state continues to navigate the pandemic and heal from these past few months,” he said. “Her decades of public service across the local, state and federal levels will serve New Yorkers well and help lead the state through this tumultuous time.”

State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) said Cuomo’s “impending resignation is welcome news to New Yorkers.” He said the move saves the time and money that would be invested in impeachment.

“Now, state government must refocus its energies on defeating the COVID Delta variant, working to rebuild New York’s struggling economy and infrastructure, and combating the rise in violent crime,” he said.

“I look forward to working with New York’s first female governor, Kathy Hochul, to put this dark episode in state government behind us and work to heal the state as we move forward through these times of great uncertainty,” Palumbo said.

State Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James) on his official Facebook page said the resignation announcement should have happened months ago.

“Andrew Cuomo has abused his power in a truly reprehensible manner and it is unacceptable that he and his team attempted to hide or excuse his disgusting behavior,” Mattera wrote. “They must all be held accountable and it is imperative that all ongoing and future investigations be allowed to proceed to their rightful conclusions.”

Mattera said he is ready to work with Hochul.

“I congratulate her on this historic moment and promise my support and cooperation as she begins her tenure,” he said. “This is a truly tragic story of abuse and betrayal that has now reached its conclusion, and we need to make sure that today serves as the dawn of a new era for every New Yorker.”

Hochul’s first day in office will be Tuesday, Aug. 24.

From left, Thomas Amalfitano, Rafael Dueñas, John Malony, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker, Nicholas Accetta, Tristan Dueñas, and Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio

On Saturday, July 24, Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker joined Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio, boy scouts, troop leaders and scout families and friends to honor Troop 244’s newest Eagle Scouts: Nicholas Accetta and Tristan Dueñas. The ceremony was held at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 6249’s Hall in Rocky Point.

It was an honor to congratulate Nicholas and Tristan at their Eagle Scout Court of Honor Ceremony, said Legislator Anker. They have dedicated themselves to serving their local community and have had a positive impact through not only their service projects, but through their kindness and dedication for the residents of Suffolk County.

Eagle Scout is the highest rank that a scout can receive. It requires hard work and dedication for a scout to earn 21 merit badges, complete a community service project and undergo a lengthy review process. Nicholas Accetta and Tristan Dueñas received the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout after completing their community service projects.

Nicholas constructed a cubby-type structure for the Rocky Point High School’s Cross Country Team, which will provide the team a secure and convenient space to place their belongings during their frequent runs through wooded trails. Tristan built a storage shed with a platform and donated supplies and a transport cart for the Save the Animals Rescue (STAR) foundation, which will provide the STAR foundation with the resources they need to continue carrying out their mission to support wildlife and domestic animals. For more information about the Boy Scouts of America and the rank of Eagle Scout, please visit www.scouting.org.

“Nicholas and Tristan did an incredible job on their project with their contributions to the Save the Animals Rescue Foundation and Rocky Point Cross Country team,” Giglio said. “I look forward to watching these two young men make a positive difference in our world. Congratulations to you both— you should be extremely proud!”