Port Times Record

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Port Jefferson's Courtney Lewis, who scored a double-double off a game-high 32 points and 10 rebounds, goes up for a layup in the Royals' 55-31 win over Southold/Greenport on Jan. 25 to extend their winning streak to six games. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Behind Courtney Lewis’ double-double Monday night, the Port Jefferson girls’ basketball team kept the ball rolling with a 55-31 victory over Southold/Greenport to extend the Royals’ winning streak to six games.

Port Jefferson's Courtney Lewis reaches up to the board. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson’s Courtney Lewis reaches up to the board. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Lewis recorded 32 points, 10 rebounds and six assits.

“They’re starting to come together,” Port Jefferson head coach Ed Duddy said. “We started off slow in the beginning … [but] now I think everyone knows their role.”

Port Jefferson had trouble getting shots to fall until Lewis’ field goal at the 5:17 mark, which started the junior forward and guard’s 10-point tear in the first quarter.

“She’s a great captain,” junior point guard Jillian Colucci said of Lewis. “She boosts us all up and she’s so talented. Her scoring gets us all going and gets us working hard.”

Southold remained in the game by scoring seven points to Lewis’ 10, but Port Jefferson sophomore guard Annabelle Soucy nailed a three-pointer with 30.6 seconds left to extend the Royals’ lead.

Lewis tacked on a three-point play to start the second stanza and then added four more points while Colucci tacked on a three-pointer to put Port Jefferson up 23-20 at halftime.

But the Royals were just getting warmed up.

Port Jefferson's Annabelle Soucy drives to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson’s Annabelle Soucy drives to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Our coach’s halftime speech motivated us to come out stronger in the second half,” Lewis said. “I think our teamwork and team chemistry was great. We had a lot of assists and connected our passes a lot, and our fast breaks were great today.”

Those fast breaks and assists helped the Royals jump out to a 43-25 lead by the end of the third, with Lewis scoring 11 of the team’s 20 points and Colucci adding six.

In the final quarter, the Royals limited Southold to just two points by the 2:22 mark, while scoring eight more of their own. Southold added a field goal and two free throws in the final minutes, but Lewis added two free throws of her own to finish 9-for-10 from the charity stripe on the evening, and Soucy completed the scoring with a layup.

Colucci finished with 11 points and eight rebounds to help Port Jefferson to a 7-1 record in League VII.

“It’s Courtney, it’s Jillian, it’s a little bit of everybody,” Duddy said. “Jillian had a terrific game today. She did everything a point guard has to do with great passes and great defense and assists, but Annabelle and Jackie Brown have been playing very well, too. They’re all part of the team, but I think they all feed off of Courtney, and when she gets double- or triple-teamed she can kick it out to her teammates and they get easy layups.”

Port Jefferson's Jillian Colucci crosses the ball into Southold/Greenport's zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson’s Jillian Colucci crosses the ball into Southold/Greenport’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

As the team moves forward with only one loss in its conference, Colucci said the Royals have their sights on the top spot in the league, where Mattituck currently sits at 10-1.

But the point guard said she’s confident in her team’s ability after the Royals edged out Mattituck, 53-52, back on Jan. 11.

“That was a really good booster for us,” Colucci said. “But since we’re a core group of juniors that have been playing together for so long, the teamwork that we’ve developed helps us most.”

Lewis said the team had a rough first half the season, starting it off with losses to Comsewogue, Mount Sinai and Pierson/Bridgehampton, but has come together to propel the Royals to their winning streak.

“This is my favorite sport and my favorite team,” Lewis said. “They’re all so great and we all help each other do better. We had a rough first half of the season but we picked it up and we took off. We don’t want to lose another game. We want to finish the season on a streak.”

North Shore Jewish Center presented a debate about Jewish Heroes with Heather Welkes as moderator. Photo by Alex Petroski

Modern Jewish heroes were recognized at an event at the North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station last Wednesday.

A group of eight sixth- and seventh-graders held a debate to decide who is the most influential modern Jewish hero, in front of their families and other Hebrew school classes.

The event was called “Hagiborim Shelanu” which is Hebrew for “Our Heroes.”

Heather Welkes, who is in her first year working as the coordinator for experiential learning for the NSJC, coordinated the event, though it was student-run. Welkes has been teaching at the Synagogue for three years.

“I really wanted it to be student-led because I feel like if the students choose how to guide the curriculum they’re going to take ownership of that and it’s going to be that much more meaningful for them,” Welkes said in an interview after the event.

Each student had an opportunity to introduce their hero and provide an opening statement to make their case.

Then they had to answer questions from the moderator — Welkes — to strengthen their arguments.

The students were given some suggestions as to what format they wanted for their presentation. In an election year, the decision was easy.

“Since the students are aware of the presidential debates going on, they are the ones who decided that they would like to present their findings in a debate format,” Welkes said.

The heroes that were chosen came from a wide variety of fields and walks of life. Director Steven Spielberg, Major League Baseball players Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg, Adam Sandler, Holocaust survivor Jack Gruener, Anne Frank, Albert Einstein, Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon and the Boston-based band Safam were the debated heroes. A similarity among their cases for the most influential modern Jewish hero was their pride in being Jewish.

“See, like Ilan Ramon, my generation, no one knows about him,” a student who participated in the debate said. “People like Adam Sandler, some people don’t know that he’s Jewish. They just know he’s ‘that guy, he’s funny.’ Now that people know he’s Jewish, it’s better. It’s important to recognize Jewish people,”

Sandler was his hero.

Two of the participants said they had fun speaking in front of the crowd about something they were proud of. One student fought through some nerves and delivered an informative case for her hero, Anne Frank.

“I don’t like a lot of people listening,” she said after the event.

The debate was too close to call. Welkes declared it an eight-way tie, though a parent could be heard upon the conclusion saying there were more suitable presidential candidates on this stage than in the real debates.

“The kids were really engaged and we wanted to do something innovative and exciting and I think we accomplished that,” Welkes said.

Ad in the Port Jefferson Echo: Jan. 13, 1927, page 2. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

Athena Hall, now known as Theatre Three on Main Street in Port Jefferson, was a community hall from 1874, when it was built, until it was remodeled into the Port Jefferson Theatre in 1928 with raked seating for 473.

Until then, it was an open flat-floor area above Griswold’s machine shop, where vaudeville and minstrel shows, magic lantern shows, automobile shows, local plays and other events were held which usually included music and entertainment, and by the early 1900s, “moving pictures” as well.

Ad in the Port Jefferson Echo: Jan. 13, 1927, page 2. Photo from Beverly Tyler
Ad in the Port Jefferson Echo: Jan. 13, 1927, page 2. Photo from Beverly Tyler

Athena Hall was also used for the high school graduations, as a meeting house, election headquarters, dance hall, roller skating ring and by various organizations such as the Port Jefferson fire department which held a benefit show in 1927, featuring a one-act play, a movie and the Port Jefferson High School orchestra. Earlier the same year, Bridgeport radio station WICC held a two-night show featuring Charlie Cole and His Famous Radio Singing Orchestra, with music for dancing every night from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. There were even musical and Charleston dance contests during the auto show in January 1927.

About this same year, 12-year-old Blanche Carlton was asked to play the piano before the film that day and to accompany her close friend Veronica “Ronnie” Matfeld who would be singing. Blanche (Carlton) Tyler Davis is my mom and she told me this story over tea one day just recently.

Mom said, “I believe it was all arranged by Charlie Ruggles who got the director to run the skits at the theater before the movie. I think the director’s name was John. Ronnie was going to sing and I would play the piano. I could hear the tunes so I didn’t need the music and I could pick out other tunes. For the last piece Ronnie sang “Ave Maria” and when she reached the higher notes I was supposed to be at the top notes on the piano and then when Ronnie reached the highest note I was to reach for the notes beyond the piano and fall off the stool onto the stage — and I did.” That was the end of the skit. My mom Blanche and Veronica went off the back of the stage and the movie started.

Ruggles came to live in East Setauket in 1926 and purchased a property at 16 Old Coach Road. He maintained this East Coast residence until 1942.

Ruggles was probably best known for his performances as a character actor in films such as “Bringing Up Baby” (1938) with stars Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn. In this crazy, hectic comedy film he played Maj. Applegate, a big-game hunter. Ruggles appeared in about 100 feature films over a more-than 50-year career.

He began on the stage and became well known for his work in radio and television.

Ruggle’s career included Long Island at the Players-Lasky studio (later to become Paramount Pictures), based in Astoria, where he made four silent films in 1915. His comedic talents also extended to his personal relationships and he made many friends, some famous in their own right, as detailed in the Brooklyn Daily Star for May 13, 1927.

“Due to the cordial relations existing between Charles Ruggles, popular comedian of ‘Queen High,’ at the Ambassador Theater, and Lieutenant Commander Byrd, Clarence Chamberlain, Bert Acosta and other famous airmen, the actor has erected a huge searchlight on his estate near East Setauket, L. I., to guide the flyers in their aerial navigation during the night hours.”

Ruggles didn’t spend a lot of time on Long Island. After all, he couldn’t be here and make all those films and be on the stage in New York as well as in radio and television. However, in a story headlined “Movie Star at East Setauket,” as detailed in the Mid-Island Mail, Oct. 1, 1936, he did come here often: “Charles Ruggles of the movies flew from the coast last week to spend several days at his home in East Setauket. The well-known comedian is a frequent visitor here.” Ruggles was also here enough to be included in the 1930 census for East Setauket along with his future wife Marion La Barba.

Many other vaudeville, minstrel and Broadway actors came to this area with its pleasant villages and picturesque harbors. Getting out of the noise and smells of the city was one reason to come to places like Port Jefferson and Setauket and the presence of local theaters, dance halls and entertainment venues just added to the appeal.

Beverly Tyler is Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society.

From homemade goods to good ole’ cooking, the Port Jefferson Winter Farmers Market has it all.

More than 25 vendors packed into the Port Jefferson Village Center’s first and second floors for the sixth annual Winters Farmers Market last Sunday, Jan. 17. Breads, fudge, preserves, alcohol,  jewelry and more were available for the more than 100 visitors to purchase between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The crowd also enjoyed live music and was able to sample some of the food and drink items being sold.

Market organizer Melissa Dunstatter, owner of Sweet Melissa Dips, 1932 Farm to Table Management and 1932 Farm to Table Farm and Food Truck, opened this year’s winter market in December.

“Farmers [markets are] a way to learn about different food products that are available on Long Island,” said Dunstatter in a recent interview. Many of these vendors are small businesses that have been around for a couple of months to a few years. She added that supporting these small businesses will help boost Long Island’s economy and help educate people on healthy eating.

The Port Jefferson Winter Farmers Market is one of Dunstatter’s five farmers markets including her new market in Sayville. She plans on opening four more farmers markets this year. 

The Port Jefferson Village Center, 101A E. Broadway, Port Jefferson, will host the Port Jefferson Winter Farmers Market every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through May 1. For more information, call 516-551-8461.

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Firefighters tackle a blaze at the post office building on Main Street, which also housed the Port Jefferson Record. Photo from Port Jefferson Village archive

A post office and a newsroom went up in flames 68 years ago, in a fire that gutted a prominent three-story brick building in downtown Port Jefferson.

Firefighters tackle a blaze at the post office building on Main Street, which also housed the Port Jefferson Record. Photo from Port Jefferson Village archive
Firefighters tackle a blaze at the post office building on Main Street, which also housed the Port Jefferson Record. Photo from Port Jefferson Village archive

According to the village’s historical photo archive, the fire at 202 Main Street broke out on the Tuesday morning of Jan. 20, 1948, and engulfed the U.S. Post Office, the Port Jefferson Record newspaper office, a tailor shop, a law firm, the office of the Suffolk County Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the Brookhaven Town Special Sessions Court and five families’ apartments.

Before it burned in the blaze, the building, located on the west side of the street, had been in the village for more than three decades. Construction began in 1911, according to the village archive, and it was finished the following year. The three-story structure was made of brick from the Dyett Sand-Lime Brick Company.

The Port Jefferson Fire Department got help from two neighboring departments to put out the fire, which took into the afternoon.

Sister, Sister
A 20 year-old woman from Trumbull, Conn. was arrested on Jan. 17 just before 6:30 a.m. after police said she parked her 2002 BMW on the Northern State Parkway in Commack in the right lane of travel and then discovered she was drunk. At the 4th Precinct she gave her sister’s name instead of her own and had prescription pills in her possession without a prescription. She was charged with second-degree forgery of a public record, seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and driving while intoxicated.

Oh no-se
On Jan. 17, a 19-year-old woman from Brentwood was arrested after police said she punched a woman in the face and fractured her nose on Garet Place in Commack at 8:05 p.m. She was charged with third degree assault with intent to cause physical injury.

Can’t focus
Police said a 27-year-old man from East Setauket was driving drunk on Jan. 16 at 2:30 a.m. He was originally pulled over while speeding and failing to maintain inside his lane while driving a 2012 Ford Focus on Route 25 in Smithtown when police said they discovered he was driving drunk. He was charged with driving while intoxicated.

Crook on Crooked Hill
Police said a 30-year-old woman from Brentwood was driving a 2003 Lincoln Navigator with a suspended license on Crooked Hill Road in Commack on Jan. 17. She was arrested at 10:45 a.m. and charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle.

Trying to dodge the law
A 34-year-old man from Kings Park was arrested on Jan. 15 at 3:10 a.m. after police pulled him over for failing to signal when he was making a left onto Enfield Lane in Kings Park while driving a 1998 Dodge pickup truck. Once he was pulled over, police said he was driving drunk and charged him with driving while intoxicated.

Suspicious activity
On Jan. 17, a 20-year-old woman from Commack was arrested at 3:30 a.m. after police said she was driving suspiciously in front of a business on Indian Head Road in Commack that was recently burglarized, and then realized she was driving drunk. She was charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated.

Not very family like
At Uncle Giuseppe’s Marketplace on Route 111 in Smithtown on Jan. 14 at 3:30 p.m., police said an unknown person stole property from an unlocked 2010 Dodge Ram including an iPod, change, a pocketknife and prescription medication.

Take care
On Jan. 14 at 9 p.m., police said an unknown person stole personal care items from CVS on Smithtown Boulevard in Nesconset and then fled the scene.

Polo pocketed
An unknown person stole men’s Ralph Lauren Polo clothing from Macy’s on Veterans Memorial Highway in Commack on Jan. 15 at 12:12 p.m.

Not a sign of the crook
Police said an unknown person damaged a business sign at St. James Island Health Care on Lake Avenue in St. James on Jan. 14 at 7:19 p.m.

Police arrested a 39-year-old man from Medford on Jan. 15 for driving while ability impaired in a 2011 Chevrolet, after officers found him parked on the shoulder of Route 25A in Mount Sinai with the engine running. Officers discovered the man was intoxicated and arrested him.

A phone-y check
On Jan. 11, police arrested a 28-year-old man from Port Jefferson Station for criminal possession of stolen property. He allegedly stole an iPhone 6 from the GameStop on Nesconset Highway on Sept. 26. Police said the man also deposited a stolen check into his account at the Teacher’s Federal Credit Union bank on Sept. 28. Authorities arrested the man at his residence.

What a fake
A 42-year-old man from Port Jefferson was arrested on Jan. 15 for using a forged license, after he was pulled over on Terryville Road. A police spokesperson didn’t specify what caused the traffic stop.

Not-so-sweet surprise
A Sound Beach woman was arrested for criminal mischief on Jan. 17. According to police, the woman smashed a window of a 1991 Chevrolet Corvette on Honey Lane in Mount Sinai.

Manipulative suspect
Police arrested a man from Centereach for burglary on Jan. 16, after the 34-year-old man manipulated a garage door at the Meineke on Middle Country Road in Coram before breaking into the store and taking money from the cash register. He was collared at the scene.

Greeted at the garage
On Jan. 13, a woman was opening the garage at her residence on Ledgewood Circle in Setauket-East Setauket when someone tried to steal her backpack, purse and sorority bag. Police said the suspect dragged the woman before fleeing with her bags, which contained cash and a driver’s license.

Cash and cocoa
An unknown person smashed a window of Margaret’s Florist on Route 25A in Miller Place on Jan. 16. Police said the suspect stole assorted gourmet chocolates and money from the business.

More stealing, more doing
On Jan. 13, a 26-year-old man from Bohemia was arrested for one count each of petit larceny, criminal mischief and grand larceny. Police said the man stole a drill from the Home Depot in Independence Plaza in Selden that day. Officers also discovered the man was in possession of prescription medication that wasn’t prescribed to him. According to police, the man was involved in a previous theft — he allegedly stole rings and paintings on Dec. 11 from a residence on Cleveland Street in Selden.

Scam scare
Police said a woman received a call from an unknown person saying that her husband was involved in an accident and that they would hurt him if she didn’t send them money. The woman didn’t send money to the unknown caller. She received the call on Jan. 12 on Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook.

Energized and arrested
Police arrested a man from Centereach on Jan. 17 for petit larceny. The 44-year-old man had entered the Walmart in the Centereach Mall and took two knives, multipurpose tools and several energy drinks. Police arrested the man at the scene at 12:45 p.m.

St. James speeder
A 19-year-old man from St. James was arrested for driving while ability impaired after driving a 1999 Chevrolet south on Pond Path in Setauket at 55 miles per hour, in a 30-mile-per-hour zone. Officers discovered the man was intoxicated and arrested him at the scene.

Ninja-like thief
On Jan. 15, police arrested a man for criminal possession of stolen property, a 2013 Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle. The motorcycle was parked in the victim’s driveway on Van Buren Street in Rocky Point on Nov. 17 when the man allegedly stole it. Police arrested the suspect at his residence.

Privately pocketed
On Jan. 17, an unknown person stole a woman’s pocket book at a private catering event at Schafer’s restaurant in Port Jefferson.

Powerful criminal
Police said an unidentified person damaged a 6-foot chain and a 20-foot fence at North Shore Power Lawn Equipment in Mount Sinai. The incident happened on Jan. 17 at 8:45 p.m.

Not the best friendship
On Jan. 14, someone stole a driver’s coat from a Lindy’s Taxi cab. Police said the woman’s coat contained money and was stolen on Friendship Drive in Rocky Point.

Smoked Samaritan
According to police, on Jan. 17 someone tried to break up a fight at a hookah bar on Middle Country Road in Selden when he was stabbed. Police said he was taken to  Brookhaven Memorial Hospital.

Into the Woods
A 55-year-old man from Manorville was arrested on Jan. 16 at midnight after police said he entered a home on Woods End Road in Dix Hills without permission. He was charged with third degree criminal trespassing in an enclosed property.

Two puppies to go
Police arrested a 17-year-old woman from Syosset on Jan. 14 at 11 a.m. after they said she stole two puppies from Selmer’s Pet Land on Jericho Turnpike in Huntington Station. She was charged with third degree grand larceny.

High times
An 18-year-old man from Huntington was arrested on Jan. 15 at 8:25 p.m. on the corner of Lawn Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Greenlawn after police said he had Xanax in his possession without a prescription. He was charged with seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Pricked by the law
On Jan. 16, a 27-year-old man from Deer Park was arrested on Old Brook Road in Dix Hills after police said he had heroin and a hypodermic needle on him. He was charged with seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Coat crook
Multiple coats were stolen from Bloomingdales on Walt Whitman Road in Huntington on Jan. 15 at 10:20 a.m., according to police.

Losing the value
Police said an unknown person left her cell phone on the counter at Value Drugs in Huntington on Jan. 16 at 3:15 p.m. and when she went back to retrieve it, the cell phone was gone.

Bad deal for DVDs
On Jan. 16, a 22-year-old man from Rosedale was arrested after police said he assaulted a woman while entering her property on Lenox Road in Huntington Station. Once he was arrested, police found marijuana in his possession as well as 22 counterfeit DVDs. He was arrested at 4:45 p.m. and charged with third degree trademark counterfeiting, third degree assault with intent to cause physical injury and unlawful possession of marijuana.

Comsewogue's Tyler Timpanero leaps up to the rim and scores. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Harborfields’ boys’ basketball team remains undefeated as the Tornadoes took down Comsewogue in a blowout victory, 69-35, in League V basketball action Tuesday night. The Warriors struggled to keep pace, and despite a third quarter rally, Harborfields was too much to handle.

“We caught them a little flat when we came out, but Comsewogue opened the second half and played like we’re used to seeing,” Harborfields head coach John Tampori said. “My guys, they come to play every day and tonight we shot the ball really well.”

Harborfields' Robert Pecorelli battles Comsewogue’s David Heller on the glass. Photo by Bill Landon
Harborfields’ Robert Pecorelli battles Comsewogue’s David Heller on the glass. Photo by Bill Landon

Harborfields led by 10 after three minutes of play, with the Tornadoes finding its three-point rhythm. Harborfields senior guard Robert Pecorelli led the way with four three-pointers, followed by senior guard Malcolm Wynter, who drained three, all in the first quarter, to help the Tornadoes gain momentum and break out to a 34-9 advantage after eight minutes of play.

“We didn’t expect to win by this much,” Wynter said. “We’re in a tough league, but when we play our best we can score and we can stop a lot of teams.”

The Tornadoes’ defensive pressure was relentless from the opening tipoff, and the Warriors struggled to clear the ball. Harborfields junior forward Alex Merhige owned the boards as he led his team with 14 rebounds, highlighted by a two-hand jam on a putback.

From there, the Warriors dug their hole deeper, managing just five more points to the Tornadoes’ 15, for a 49-14 halftime score.

The Warriors opened the second half unlike the first, as their defense came to life, grabbing rebounds while mixing in several fast breaks. Comsewogue senior forward Dylan Cervini led the way, nailing a pair of three-pointers and a free throw for seven points, as teammate David Heller, a sophomore forward and center, banked four. Comsewogue outscored its opponent 16-7 in the third, to begin the final quarter down 56-30.

“We had to keep our intensity up in the second half,” Wynter said. “We obviously slacked off there in the third quarter, but we stayed together, we pushed hard.”

Merhige said his team had to adjust to Comsewogue’s defensive pressure in the third quarter, which proved to be difficult at first.

“They opened the second half guarding us down low, and they boxed out really well and they started grabbing rebounds,” he said. “They came out in the second half and started knocking down threes.”

Harborfields' Alex Merhige scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon
Harborfields’ Alex Merhige scores two points. Photo by Bill Landon

Comsewogue’s rally would be short lived, as the Tornadoes turned up the heat, denying the Warriors a field goal the rest of the way. Comsewogue earned its final five points at the free-throw line.

“We needed better communication on defense and we cleaned that up in the third quarter,” Comsewogue senior guard Travis Williams said. “But we always know what we’re getting from Harborfields. They’re very well coached, so respect to them.”

Joey Carillo, a Comsewogue junior guard, agreed with Williams that Harborfields is a tough competitor and more than his team could handle.

“Coach told us at the half that we needed to work harder, move the ball and trust each other,” Carillo said. “They’re a tough team — if we played like we did in the third quarter, we would’ve had a better game.”

Cervini lead the Warriors with 13 points, followed by Heller with six.

Pecorelli topped the leaderboard with 18 points, Merhige netted 15 and Wynter added 14.

With the win, Harborfields improves to 8-0 in league play, while Comsewogue dropped to 3-5 with four games remaining on its schedule.

The New York State Capitol building in Albany. File photo

For New York schools, cutting the Gap Elimination Adjustment could be an addition by subtraction.

The adjustment, a deduction taken out of each New York school district’s state aid, was enacted several years ago to help the state government close a budget deficit. While the amount deducted has decreased in recent years and there have been efforts to completely restore the funding, state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) has recently sponsored legislation that would completely eliminate the system this year, giving more financial help to public schools struggling to make ends meet.

The bill passed in the Senate and must make its way through the Assembly before heading to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D). And as schools across the state wait for the final vote, administrators applauded Flanagan’s efforts in helping them restore their funding.

“Over the past several years our district has been proactive in imploring our elected officials to restore the funds lost under the Gap Elimination Adjustment,” said Cheryl Pedisich, superintendent of schools for the Three Village Central School District. “As we enter our latest budget preparations, we are pleased at the news that this effort has taken an important step forward.”

Over in Northport, Superintendent Robert Banzer said restoring aid would “support critical instructional programming and operational budgets that districts rely on to provide a sound environment for our educational community.”

According to Banzer, aid cuts add to pressure on school budgets.

“Marginal tax caps, decreases in revenues and increases in state mandates leave districts with little room to navigate yearly budgets, and the elimination of the GEA would help alleviate the impact of some of these restraints.”

Port Jefferson Assistant Superintendent for Business Sean Leister was not as optimistic that the Gap Elimination Adjustment would be removed.

Sen. John Flanagan file photo
Sen. John Flanagan file photo

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” he said during a budget presentation at a school board meeting last week.

Leister is estimating a 6 percent increase in state aid next year, a number he called “conservative,” but if the adjustment is eliminated and Port Jefferson receives more state aid than it allots for in the budget, he said school officials would decide together how to spend it.

Comsewogue’s assistant superintendent for business, Susan Casali, said her school district has lost out on almost $23 million in state aid since the first year of the adjustment. In the next school year, Comsewogue schools could lose out on another $1.3 million if the Gap Elimination Adjustment remains. But that could create a problem for the district, which is currently crafting its 2016-17 budget.

“To maintain our financial position and programs, we need to have the full [deduction] restored,” she said in an email this week.

Flanagan said that eliminating the school funding cuts was the Senate’s top priority in education this session. There are currently about $434 million in GEA cuts still in place for schools in 2016-17 but if the bill becomes law, Flanagan said, his legislation would permanently abolish such education budget reductions.

“The Senate’s top education funding priority this year will be the complete elimination of the GEA,” Flanagan said. “Since 2011, the Senate Republicans have worked to restore $3 billion in funding that was lost to schools because of the GEA and we will not pass any budget that does not fully eliminate it this year. The GEA has been hurting schools and students for way too long and it is past time that we end it once and for all.”

Former Gov. David Paterson (D) imposed the GEA in 2010 despite widespread opposition from Republicans. Since it was approved, Flanagan said he and his Republican colleagues have been leading the charge to abolish the GEA and deliver funding increases to help mitigate its impacts on education. Over the past five years, he said, the GEA cuts have been reduced by roughly 85 percent, to $434 million in the 2015-16 budget.

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) co-sponsored the legislation alongside Flanagan. In a statement, he said the move was long overdue.

“The elimination of the GEA has been a top priority of mine since it was imposed,” LaValle said. “It has hurt our students and increased costs for taxpayers. The bill we passed completely abolishes the GEA this year and ends its devastating impact on state funding to public schools.”

The legislation has already gained support on the other side of the state Legislature, with Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) saying he was in favor of the GEA elimination and calling on the governor to return all the funds taken from schools since it was imposed.

“It’s simple: The state has an obligation to fully fund our school districts. Some members of the legislature made the shortsighted decision to allow the governor to borrow against the future of our children to close a budget gap created by rampant, uncontrolled spending,” Fitzpatrick said. “It was wrong then and must be resolved once and for all.”

Victoria Espinoza, Elana Glowatz and Alex Petroski contributed reporting.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. File photo by Erika Karp

Brookhaven Town failed to fully abide by New York’s affordable housing law, according to a state comptroller audit.

The audit, released Jan. 8, singled out eight governments across Long Island, including Brookhaven, zeroing in on their compliance with the Long Island Workforce Housing Act. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli (D) said the town “generally complied” with the act, but did not properly manage an optional trust fund set aside for affordable housing.

The Long Island Workforce Housing Act was passed in 2008 to require developers building five or more homes on a property to allocate 10 percent of their prospective residential units to affordable workforce housing units, meant for people earning up to about $105,000. The law also said that developers could avoid building affordable housing units by paying a fee to the town, which would be deposited into a trust fund for the purpose of building affordable housing.

The towns of Babylon, Huntington, Islip and North Hempstead and the villages of Hempstead, Farmingdale and Mineola were also evaluated in the audit. Each government either reached or exceeded the 10 percent affordable housing requirement, the audit said.

However, in the audit DiNapoli said Brookhaven adopted a resolution in August 2014 establishing a housing trust fund, but did not set up guidelines and procedures establishing how the expenditures from that fund would be used until September 2015 — which was later than the mandated six-month timeframe required to set up those rules.

The audit noted that “there have been no expenditures from the trust fund during the audit period.”

But Brookhaven officials said they did not agree with the comptroller’s assessment. Diana Weir, commissioner of Housing and Human Services in Brookhaven, said the town was in full compliance before the comptroller released the audit.

“The issue with Brookhaven is that we’ve never given a developer that option,” Weir said about the fees for the fund, which was not mandatory to create. “To us [making developers build the affordable units was] better because we are actually building the units. But just in case we figured we’d [establish] a trust fund.”

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said he was unhappy with the state’s assessment that the town only generally complied with the law. Because the town makes developers build affordable homes instead of paying to avoid the requirement, there isn’t any money in the trust fund account, Romaine said.

Of Brookhaven’s 924 housing units, 10 percent are affordable workforce housing units, according to the audit.

“What did Brookhaven do wrong?” Romaine (R) asked in a phone interview. “If Brookhaven required [developers] to build [affordable homes], why did we need a trust fund account? We’re actually fulfilling the law.”

In the preliminary draft of the audit, the comptroller suggested the town establish guidelines for the fund. That suggestion came several days after Brookhaven established rules for the fund. Despite this, the final audit didn’t reflect or acknowledge the change.

Brookhaven has always required developers to make affordable homes. During the recession, developers needed to allocate 20 percent of the residential units for affordable housing. Weir said purchasing affordable homes at the time was easier for prospective homeowners as prices of homes dropped. The town dropped the requirement to 10 percent once the market started improving.

“What the audit should have said is, ‘We recommend in the future that you set [the affordable workforce housing trust fund] up, but you’ve complied,’” Romaine said.

Port Jefferson Free Library's children's section is bursting with books. Photo by Heidi Sutton

A library board president was unseated on Wednesday, in an election that will also fill the board for the first time in a while.

Two incumbents and two newcomers were gunning for three positions as Port Jefferson Free Library trustees this week, at a time when the library is working on plans to expand its facilities.

The library announced on its website that Trustee Susan Prechtl-Loper was re-elected to the board with 129 votes and newcomers Carl Siegel — who once served on the board in the late 1990s — and Joel Rosenthal were elected with 135 votes and 126 votes, respectively.

President Laura Hill Timpanaro lost her re-election bid, garnering only 77 votes, according to Tom Donlon, the interim library director.

Being the top two vote-getters, Siegel and Prechtl-Loper won five-year terms on the board, while third-place winner Rosenthal won a two-year stint that became available after former Trustee Harriet Martin vacated her spot on the board with the time still left on her term.

The library has recently acquired two properties adjacent to its corner building at Thompson and East Main streets in downtown Port Jefferson — a residential property on Thompson and a business on East Main — and is working on developing those properties to help satisfy the library’s parking and general needs.