Port Times Record

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PJ Lobster House is just one of several local businesses whose owners say inspectors have repeatedly shown up to the restaurant around dinner time in a small, two-week period. Photo by Kyle Barr

Local restaurant owners have reached out to regional officials saying the New York State Liquor Authority inspections meant to determine if they’re complying with state mandates have become more than excessive, but actually damaging to their businesses.

‘I think they were making some restaurants sort of the poster children for: if you don’t comply, you face some significant penalties.’

—Kevin Law

A letter dated Aug. 24 saying just that was signed by Port Jefferson Village, Port Jeff chamber of commerce and BID leaders and sent to Kevin Law, president of the Long Island Association. It was also copied to County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Cara Longworth, regional director of Empire State Development. Letter writers argued that the SLA inspections have put too much onus on restaurants when they’re barely struggling to get by.

“Please realize we totally agree that inspections need to take place and strive to have our

business owners here operate in full compliance,” the letter reads. “However, we are concerned that overemphasis is being put on our restaurants — rather than the bars that remain open after the kitchens are closed and continue to serve alcohol until 4 a.m.”

The letter further states that restaurant owners have seen groups of four come in at a time, usually around dinnertime, sometimes not showing ID, with one armed with a pistol and wearing a bulletproof vest.

James Luciano, the owner of PJ Lobster House, said he has personally seen SLA inspections come through five times within a 14-day period at about 7 p.m. each time. The agents, though courteous, informed him that they were not from the SLA but from a New York State Police task force. A group of men, one armed, strolling into an eating area when people are sitting down for dinner does not make a good impression on diners, he argued.

“I am not certain that is the perception that we want the general public to see,” Luciano said. “I stressed to them that this was borderline harassment.”

PJ Lobster House is not the only local bar or restaurant that’s experienced a heavy hand with inspections. One Junior’s Spycoast employee related seeing a massive number of inspections in just two weeks. Danfords Hotel & Marina has been previously cited for SLA violations July 4 as well, according to state documents.

Though he said he has not heard from the inspectors since just before the letter was sent, he and other business owners have experienced the stress of constant inspections.

New York State has, according to the latest numbers as of Aug. 28, suspended the liquor licenses for 168 businesses for not complying with COVID regulations, though the vast majority were businesses centered in the five New York City boroughs. Later, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Sept. 7 that seven bars and restaurants in New York state had their licenses revoked. Five of those were from Suffolk County.

The number of inspections, however, has yet to slow down. The governor’s office announced SLA and New York State Police task force members visited 1,064 establishments just on Sept. 6. Per the governor’s near-daily reports, inspectors conduct at least several hundred inspections daily.

In order to carry out reopening and COVID guidelines enforcement, New York has been broken up into regional economic development councils. The local task force, or “control room” contains members of the LIA, Bellone, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran (D), among others. It is captained by Longworth.

It’s a balancing act, trying to keep businesses healthy while avoiding a resurgence of the virus that would surely shut these businesses down for good. LIA’s Law said he received Port Jeff Village’s letter and has brought it up to members of the control room, whom he said were entirely sympathetic to the issues restaurants were having. Law, who has been at the forefront of Long Island’s reopening plan from the start, said hearing that armed and armored individuals have helped conduct inspections concerned everyone sitting at their daily video control center meetings.

“It’s impossible for them to inspect every restaurant and bar, because there’s just so many of them, so I think they were making some restaurants sort of the poster children for: if you don’t comply, you face some significant penalties,” Law said. “I think it was important that word did get out there so some businesses would comply. We all know with every type of category with every business, you have good guys and you have a couple knuckleheads who don’t obey by the rules and they ruin it for others.”

He said he and others did appreciate the village officials’ idea of focusing more on inspections of bars open in the early morning hours instead of weekday dinner time.

Though at the same time, Law said he and the local control room are only really in advisory positions, and it would require change on the state level to truly impact the rate of current inspections.

Either way, restaurants still remain in a tough spot, and Luciano said he and so many others continue to struggle.

“Our landlords and vendors don’t take IOUs,” the PJ Lobster House owner said. “We’ve done everything that has been asked. The numbers are way lower than they were. It’s been over six months. We can’t hang on that much longer, we are on a sinking ship.”

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PJ officials said soon all streetlights in the village will be replaced with energy effecient versions. Photo by Kyle Barr

The faces of Port Jeff officials are practically glowing with the news.

The New York Power Authority announced they are finally getting underway with it’s partnership with the Village of Port Jefferson to install energy efficient LED streetlights throughout the village. 

The nearly $2.4 million upgrade, implemented and financed by the power authority, includes the replacement of more than 1,100 decorative and cobra head style streetlights throughout the village with energy-saving LED fixtures. NYPA is providing upfront financing for the project, with payments to the power made in the years following from the cost-savings created by the reduced energy use.

“This project is a win-win for the environment and the village, with the expected reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as well as the significant savings the village will realize in terms of energy costs and maintenance once the energy-efficient LED lights are installed,” Mayor Margot Garant said in a release.

As part of the project, NYPA will also be replacing more than 700 additional interior and exterior lighting fixtures at village buildings and parks. NYPA is providing Port Jefferson with $225,000 in SMART city funding grants to support the project.

The project is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 500 metric tons a year, or the equivalent of taking more than 100 cars off the road. 

In a release, the power authority said installation will begin this month and comply with all COVID-19 precautions.

“The replacement of more than 1,100 streetlights in Port Jefferson is a demonstration of the state’s steadfast commitment to fighting climate change and saving taxpayer money through innovative energy programs,” said NYPA president and CEO Gil Quiniones.

The new initiative is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) Smart Street Lighting NY program, which calls for at least 500,000 streetlights throughout the state to be replaced with LED technology by 2025. NYPA has, or is in the process of installing more than 90,000 LED streetlights at municipalities across the state.

Doctor Says People Can Be Impacted by Califorinia Fires as Far as Long Island

Stock photo

Scenes of the ash and smog from wildfires in the West Coast not only trigger sympathy for those with friends and family living in a paradise under siege, but also are a cause for concern for doctors who specialize in the lungs.

Dr. Norman Edelman. Photo from SBU

While doctors don’t know how far and wide the effects of these fires might be for those who are already struggling with their breathing, such as people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or chronic bronchitis, physicians said the effect could spread well beyond the areas battling these blazes.

The danger is “not just at the site of the fire,” said Dr. Norman Edelman, a professor of medicine at Stony Brook University and a core member of the program in public health at Stony Brook. “I’m sure [the effect of the fire] is pretty wide.”

Indeed, at some point down the road, the small and large particles that are aerosolized during the fire could reach as far away as Long Island.

“We know quite firmly that air pollution from coal burning generator plants [in the Midwest] emits pollution that makes its way all the way to the East Coast,” Edelman said.

The current use of masks may offer some protection for residents on the West Coast.

Particulates, which are aerosolized particles that can get in people’s lungs and affect their breathing, come in various sizes. The larger ones tend to get lodged in people’s noses, throat and eyes and can cause coughing, hacking, and watery eyes. An ordinary mask can filter some of those out, although masks are not completely effective for these bigger particles.

The smaller ones are more dangerous, Edelman said. They can get further into the lungs and can exacerbate asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema. They can even contribute to increased incidence of heart attacks.

“Nobody really knows” why these smaller particles contribute to heart attacks, Edelman said. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a reduction in pollution improves the health of a population.

When New York banned smoking in all public places, the level of heart attacks dropped by 15 to 20 percent.

“This level of pollution is nothing like what we’re seeing in the area of the wildfires,” Edelman said.

Additionally, lower pollution can improve the health of people with lung problems.

At the Summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996, officials put in alternate day driving restrictions, which allowed people to drive every other day. By cutting down the pollution from traffic, doctors noticed a 25% reduction in admission to the emergency room for asthma.

If he were a doctor on the West Coast, Edelman said he would make sure his patients had all their medications renewed and available. He would also check in with his patients to make sure they had emergency instructions in case they need to boost the amount of any pharmacological agents.

The effect of the pollutants on people with asthma or other lung issues can be more severe if they are already dealing with an inflamed airway.

“The effects of various irritants are probably synergistic,” Edelman said. “If this is your allergy season, you become much more susceptible to the inflammatory effects of air pollution.”

COVID and the Lungs

As for the pandemic, Edelman said he didn’t come to the emergency room to work at the Intensive Care Unit during the pandemic.

His colleagues did, however, ask him to take care of patients who didn’t have to come in by telehealth. He’s continued to see many patients over the last three or four months.

One surprise from the data he’s seen related to the pandemic is that asthma does not seem to exacerbate the effects of COVID-19.

People with asthma “are not dying with COVID at any greater rate than the general population,” Edelman said.

He hasn’t yet seen the data for people with chronic bronchitis or COPD.

Student-athletes and parents from across Suffolk County showed up at the Section XI offices Sept. 15 to protest the council’s decision to push fall sports into next year. Photo by Rita J. Egan

North Shore students say they want to play.

Student-athletes and parents from across Suffolk County showed up at the Section XI offices Sept. 15 to protest the council’s decision to push fall sports into next year. Photo by Rita J. Egan

More than a hundred young athletes and their parents rallied in front of 180 E. Main St. in Smithtown Sept. 15. The building houses the offices of Section XI, which manages Suffolk County high school sports.

Last week the athletic council voted to postpone the fall sports season and condense all three seasons to run from January through June next year. The Nassau County Council of School Superintendents had already decided to postpone sports, both councils citing the potential for increased positive cases of COVID-19 as well as the costs associated with meeting coronavirus restrictions at games. The decision is contrary to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) August announcement stating schools could allow certain sports to practice and compete starting in September, such as cross country, track and soccer, which have been deemed low to medium risk. Sports that were originally excluded from a fall start included football and volleyball.

The Sept. 15 rally was organized by field hockey players Carolena Purpura, a 12th-grader at Harborfields High School, and Jenna Halpin, a high school senior from Locust Valley High School. Halpin started the Let Them Play social media campaign. The two spoke at the event along with state Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James).

Halpin said students were excited after Cuomo’s August announcement.

“We texted our teammates, we dusted off our gear and got ready to play, something we were waiting five months to do,” Halpin said.

Student-athletes and parents from across Suffolk County showed up at the Section XI offices Sept. 15 to protest the council’s decision to push fall sports into next year. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Purpura said she wonders why surrounding states have figured out how school sports can continue during the pandemic but not Long Island. She added how playing sports is good for mental health, serving as an outlet for pent-up energy or emotions. She said many times during a bad day at school she has imagined being on the field, and it’s a way for many to express themselves like others may do with music and art.

“There’s more to sports than competition, championships and making friends,” she said. “It goes way deeper than that and serves a greater purpose.”

Fitzpatrick said Cuomo and other state officials have stated it’s important to follow the science.

“The science has shown that we can do sports and other activities safely,” Fitzpatrick said, adding that practices such as social distancing, wearing masks and other safety protocols can be incorporated so students can play sports like they are doing in other states.

Fitzpatrick, a former student basketball player, encouraged the attendees to contact their elected officials on the state, county and town levels to put pressure on Section XI to let them play.

Athletes from several school districts including Miller Place, Comsewogue, Three Village, Smithtown, Hauppauge, Central Islip and more were on hand.

Student-athletes and parents from across Suffolk County showed up at the Section XI offices Sept. 15 to protest the council’s decision to push fall sports into next year. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Hauppauge’s Jamie Devine, a 12th-grader who plays soccer and basketball, said if other states are able to practice sports and local students can attend classes in person, she doesn’t understand why Long Islanders can’t participate in sports, especially soccer which is played outside. The high school senior said she played in basketball tournaments in Pennsylvania this summer where everyone wore masks to the games, and everyone was fine.

“Not being able to play is really upsetting to me, because I’ve worked hard since I was little and to never get to play again upsets me,” she said.

Ward Melville cross country team members Katelyn Giordano, Alexis Bell and Julia Bell said they were training all summer. Finding out they couldn’t compete this fall, they said, was disappointing, especially when last season was cut short and they weren’t able to go to winter nationals or compete in the spring.

Miller Place High School senior Jonathan Flannery, who plays football, wrestling and lacrosse, said he feels robbed.

“Everyone has been dreaming of their senior year of football since we were [little], and it just feels so abrupt, and it’s just not right,” he said. “I’ll come back in the middle of the summer just to play a season. I don’t care. I didn’t play my last game yet.”

Stony Brook has set up a fund that helps students attend while dealing with small financial hurdles. File photo by Kyle Barr

Like so many other plans this year, the goal for Stony Brook University’s Student Emergency Support Fund has changed.

SBU students like Rijuta Mukim have relied on funds from the university’s emergency fund for their studies at home. Photo by Mukim

The fund, which SBU’s Dean of Students Richard Gatteau launched in January, was originally planned as an endowed source of funds that would help students in need. Amid the ongoing financial dislocation caused by the pandemic, the fund has now provided everything from money for car repairs, which some students need to get to campus, to books, iPads, or even rent.

Through July, the emergency fund provided about $935,000 in support to 1,194 students, according to the dean of students.

“Once COVID hit, we realized in March and April, the need was overwhelming,” he said. The school put in a new strategy to raise more money to expand the focus to include basic life essentials, like paying the electric bill or groceries. The university “didn’t want this circumstance to force someone to drop out.”

For some students, the financial need, especially in the current economic environment amid job losses and higher unemployment, exceeds the resources that financial aid, grants and loans can offer.

“We’re working with students on the margin,” Gatteau said. The parents of many students don’t have the financial ability to support them, either.

Many of the students who initially received money from the emergency fund  were remote learners who needed internet access or other remote support.

That included SBU junior Rijuta Mukim, who was working from her home in southern India when her computer broke down and her internet connection was unstable.

Taking classes and studying during the night and sleeping during the day to continue her education amid the time difference, Mukim was kicked off her Zoom calls for her classes within five minutes.

“I had a lot of trouble attending class,” Mukim said.

Without a fix for her computer and a better connection, Mukim, who is majoring in biology and psychology and hopes to attend medical school after she graduates, would have had to withdraw during the spring.

After she heard about the emergency fund on Reddit, she applied. Within a few hours, she received an email indicating that the school was trying to reach her by phone to make sure she was all right. She revealed her needs and received $1,000 within a week.

In the meantime, the support team explained her situation to her professors, who gave her extra time to complete her assignments.

Mukim had originally planned to work this summer at the Staller Center, but she was appreciative of the university and the donors who contributed to the fund for financial assistance, even as she worked from home several continents away.

“A thousand dollars might sound like a small amount but it helped me to ride through the spring and summer classes,” Mukim said. Having this kind of support “during a crisis is wonderful. It is satisfying to know there is a community helping you and looking out for you.”

Gatteau said other students also appreciated the calls soon after they made their requests.

Students “want an opportunity to tell their story, [to hear] a friendly voice on the other end of the call, to hear what’s going on,” he said. “Many students have faced challenging situations, with job losses and deaths related to COVID.”

A call from the emergency fund team can be as much about financial support as it is a counseling session with a student that helps them know how much the university cares about them.

As the fall semester started, the fund recently relaunched and has received between 130 and 150 applications for economic support.

The fund, which received a $75,000 donation from SBU President Maurie McInnis and is soliciting additional donations, is trying to rebuild after the earlier disbursements. 

The call for donations has just gone out to community members, prior donors, alumni, parents, faculty and staff.

“We’ve done a full marketing campaign across all of the stakeholders who donated [previously] and then we try to reach out to new people,” Gatteau said.

The dean of students said the school is collecting donations of any size.

“Small amounts have made a big difference collectively,” he said.

The school estimates that $100 supports Wi-Fi access and other online learning costs; $200 contributes to lab fees and books; and $500 helps with groceries and rent.

The fund doesn’t currently allow donors to earmark their contributions for any specific purpose. Gatteau said the top priority with any student is for academic needs.

Despite the financial hardship caused by COVID and higher unemployment, officials said Stony Brook has not had many students drop out for financial reasons.

Amid concerns nationally about students ignoring social distancing or mask-wearing rules, Gatteau endorsed the way students have complied with rules. 

“We’re very lucky,” he said. Students are motivated to prevent closures. “They want [the school] to stay open,”

Students whose financial need exceeds whatever the emergency fund can provide may be able to update their Free Application for Federal Student Aid — or FAFSA — forms, to see if they are eligible for additional financial assistance.

Meanwhile, students can apply to the Student Support Team at www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/studentaffairs/studentsupport. Students provide basic information and discuss their specific issues and challenges on a call.

NAACP chapter President Tracey Edwards has criticized the county for not communicating well enough about the new police reform task force. File photo by Kyle Barr

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced the county was creating a new 30-member policing task force to develop a plan for police going forward.

The announcement came on the same day, Sept. 9, when advocates from all over Long Island protested on the steps of the county executive seat in Hauppauge over the need for police reform. Speakers also criticized Bellone for seemingly stalling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) New York State Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. This executive order, originally signed in June, cites that every department must make a comprehensive review of police departments and their procedures, and address the needs of the community to promote “trust, fairness and legitimacy, and to address any racial bias and disproportionate policing of communities of color.” The governor released new guidance for these reviews, effectively saying municipalities need to understand the disposition of the community before drafting their final plan. Municipalities who do not create such a plan could lose state funding for their police departments.

Members of the Suffolk Task Force

● Deputy CE Vanessa Baird-Streeter

● Jon Kaiman, Deputy County Executive

● Retha Fernandez, Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer, Suffolk County

● Geraldine Hart, Suffolk County Police Department Commissioner

● Risco Mention-Lewis, Suffolk County Police Department Deputy Commissioner

● Stuart Cameron, Suffolk County Police Department Chief of Department

● Errol Toulon Jr., Suffolk County Sheriff

● Tim Sini, Suffolk County District Attorney

● Presiding Officer Rob Calarco

● Majority Leader William “Doc” Spencer

● Minority Leader Tom Cilmi

● Legislator Tom Donnelly, Chair of the Public Safety Committee

● Legislator Jason Richberg

● Legislator Sam Gonzalez

● Noel DiGerolamo, President, Suffolk PBA

● Tracey Edwards, NAACP LI Regional Director

● Theresa Sanders, President, Urban League of Long Island

● Christina Vargas, Chief Diversity Officer/Title IX Coordinator Suffolk County Community College 

● Daniel Russo, Administrator, Assigned Counsel Defender Plan of Suffolk County

● Rev. Charles Coverdale, First Baptist Church of Riverhead

● Bishop Andy Lewter, Hollywood Full Gospel Baptist Cathedral

● Kathleen King, Chair, Suffolk County Native American Advisory Board

● Pastor Angel Falcon, Faith Alive Ministries

● Sister Sanaa Nadim, Chaplain, Islamic Society of North America

● Cindy Reide Combs, Licensed Master Social Worker

● Serena Liguori, Executive Director, New Hour for Women and Children LI

● Jennifer Leveque, Huntington Leaders of the New School

● Girish Patel, BAPS Hindu Temple

● Rabbi Abe Rabinovich, Kings Park JC

● David Kilmnick, President & Chief Executive Officer, LGBT Network

Members of Long Island Advocates for Police Accountability, which was formed after the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd at the hands of police in May, were especially critical of Bellone’s handling of rolling out the task force at the Sept. 9 protest in front of the William H. Rogers building. 

Tracey Edwards, who is one of the people named to the new task force, is the regional director  for NAACP Long Island and spoke at the protest building Sept. 9. She said the NAACP and other groups wrote letters to Bellone in June, shortly after Cuomo signed his executive order, but did not hear back and have only seen movement on the executive order now.

As for the task force itself, Edwards said it’s not enough to go through the motions and see nothing of substance come out of it. Specifically, she said police need to increase diversity amongst dispatchers and department leadership, and increase the number of body cameras worn by officers, as just a few examples toward lasting change in Suffolk policing.

“We don’t want a predetermined process, we don’t want selective membership that makes everyone comfortable,” she said. “This is meant to be an uncomfortable process.”

Deputy County Executive Vanessa Baird-Streeter, also a member of the new task force, defended the county’s timing, saying officials were waiting for Cuomo’s guidance document, which was finally released Aug. 17. 

“We were looking at this prior to that date, but this is the guidance we were looking at that allowed us to form the task force,” she said. “For the county, we really want a collaborative process, one where they feel their voice is heard, their concerns are heard, their issues are heard, and then have an opportunity to address those issues.”

The task force is split in half between county and police officials and other community groups. Of the 30 members of the task force, nine are either Suffolk County legislators or work for the county in some capacity. Another six work in some kind of law enforcement capacity, including Suffolk Police Benevolent Association president, Noel DiGerolamo. The other 15 are from a variety of faith, minority or local advocacy groups.

Though in the case of the Suffolk PBA and its head DiGerolamo, some advocates criticized his involvement, especially since the PBA has been proponents and participants of Blue Lives Matter protests countywide, where participants have been strongly opposed to any kind of police reform.

DiGerolamo said in a phone interview that he appreciated being included on the task force and that he hoped other members “will enter into it with an open mind and be reasonable in their expectations” regarding what police reforms are applicable to SCPD. He instead said he hopes people see the need for a greater police and civilian relationship, “not a defund movement, which would only cause a greater divide.”

In regards to reforms such as defunding the police, a phrase which accounts for taking funds away from traditional law enforcement and putting it toward other social services in an effort to reduce the source of crime, the PBA president called it “completely misguided.” He cited changes the police have already done, including a limited body camera program, bias training and a civilians police academy.   

“I think any time you put people together who will share their thoughts collectively, there’s always a potential for growth,” DiGerolamo said.

Baird-Streeter said the guidance document effectively mandates who needs to be on the committee, including key police stakeholders in which the PBA president is one of them.

“Actually, looking for reforms within the police department, it’s important to have the entity that represents the police,” she said.

Suffolk County police and county officials have constantly touted recent reforms already made at the department. Officials cite its implicit bias training where 65% of the force, or 1,600 officers have been trained. Officials also cite their de-escalation techniques taught in the police academy and new diversity initiatives which have resulted in a more diverse department.

But advocates say it hasn’t been enough, and they would rather hear what police plan to do in the future rather than what it’s currently doing.

Irma Solis, director of the Suffolk Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union and longtime advocate has been on the side of police reform for close to 20 years. She said that while there have been recent strides on the side of police, the distance between department reform and the police enacting it is still too great. It’s especially apparent when considering communities with a high density of Black and Latino populations who have a greater sense of being targeted by law enforcement, even years after Suffolk police started its reform initiatives.

“Certain communities really receive the brunt of over policing and over surveillance,” Solis said. “If you have folks [on the task force] who are not willing to look further and begin to understand this is more of a systemic issue and not a case of a few bad apples, it’s difficult to say that we’re going to meet the purpose of this executive order.”

Suffolk County has also announced it would be releasing surveys to residents on their feelings toward police, both those who have had encounters with police and those who haven’t.

Suffolk is using the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety, which is described as an independent nonprofit research group based in Albany, to conduct the more than 6,000 surveys. People will be randomly selected amongst residents as well as those who have had recent interactions with police, both victims and complainants, according to a news release. The surveys will be conducted over the next four months in both English and Spanish. Surveyors are also expected to perform a “targeted oversampling” of people of color, since generating a sample size from a population like Suffolk, which is over 67% white, would not relay how minority communities may feel they are treated differently by police.

“This is an important step to gain valuable insight into how we are doing as a department and how our members are interacting with the public,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said in a statement. “We need the support of our communities to continue to be a successful department. I encourage people to respond to the surveys because it will enable us to continue to move toward a more fair and equitable department.”

Officials said this survey will also inform whatever plan Suffolk later sends to New York State. 

Baird-Streeter said the task force will have its first meeting Monday, Sept. 21, where they will discuss how and where other meetings will take place. Though they have eight planned, they are not limiting themselves in how many they can conduct. All meetings, she said, have to be completed before the end of the year in order to have the county’s plans sent to New York State by next April.

Local legislators joined U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R) at a press conference Sept. 14 in Smithtown. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) invited elected officials from across Suffolk County and from all levels of government to join him Monday, Sept. 14, on the front steps of Town Hall to send a plea for help to the capital as Congress members prepare to negotiate the next federal COVID-19 package.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine speaks at the Sept. 14 press conference in Smithtown. Photo by Rita J. Egan

On hand was U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), who along with Rep. Antonio Delgado (D-NY19) introduced the Direct Support for Communities Act in the House of Representatives. The bill was also introduced in the Senate by New York Sens. Chuck Schumer (D) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D).

Wehrheim said the legislators are calling on Congress for direct coronavirus funding while their municipalities face historic financial shortfalls. He thanked Zeldin for working across the aisle and advocating for a bipartisan proposal for the funding that local governments could use for essential services and to offset lost revenues during the ongoing pandemic.

Zeldin said while there has been legislation to provide relief for families, small businesses and for state and local governments under the CARES Act, there was still more that needed to be done.

He gave the example of the Town of Brookhaven, which was excluded from the last relief package. The congressman said for a town to receive CARES Act funding directly it needed a population of more than 500,000. Brookhaven has just under that number. The town had requested $12 million from the federal government, according to Zeldin.

“It’s very important that if and when Congress provides additional support for state and local governments, that the money that is sent from D.C. to Albany actually makes its way to the constituents represented by the men and women who are here.”

— Lee Zeldin

“The formula of how that CARES Act money was distributed was very strict to ensure that the money could only be used for COVID-19 related expenses,” he said. “It’s important for there not only to be more funding for state and local governments, but also more flexibility in how that money is spent.”

The legislation introduced recently by Zeldin would allow a new formula to disperse relief funding based on population. Under the new guidelines, if the act is passed, Brookhaven could potentially receive the $12 million.

Zeldin said with the new formula half the money would go to the counties based on population and the other half to towns, cities and villages.

“It’s very important that if and when Congress provides additional support for state and local governments, that the money that is sent from D.C. to Albany actually makes its way to the constituents represented by the men and women who are here,” the congressman said.

During his speech, four protesters jeered Zeldin as he spoke and held up signs, one of which read, “Lazy Lee Must Go! CD1 Deserves Better!” 

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) also spoke at the press conference. He said the pandemic has shut down the economy and the effects will reverberate for the next 100 years. He thanked Zeldin for his help with what he called “a rescue bill.”

“Government is no different than the average family,” he said. “Our revenues are down, and we still must provide services. We need some help. We need some leadership.”

Town of Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci speaks at the Sept. 14 press conference in Smithtown. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said since the middle of March towns have provided much needed essential services such as senior centers providing meals for those in need, garbage pickup and public safety agencies patrolling the beaches and parks, which he said may have seen more visitors in the last few months than in the last 15 years. He added that the continuity of services continued without federal assistance and it’s important to remember that the future is unknown with COVID-19.

Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy Jr. (R) said the coronavirus has wreaked havoc on every aspect of county and local government functions.

“We are on the verge of utter collapse, and without intervention and swift intervention from the federal government, our county government and local governments will no longer exist as we know them here,” the comptroller said. “And guess what? We deserve better. We deserve better from Washington. We deserve a government that is going to actually be receptive to this crisis.”

New York State Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James), Suffolk County Legislators Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) and Rob Trotta (R- Fort Salonga), plus Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter (R), Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar (R), Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman (D) and New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) also spoke at the event to show their support for the bipartisan bill.

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One newcomer and one incumbent elected to Port Jeff Village Board

Ballots continued to be counted well into the night Sept. 15 in Belle Terre. Photo by Kyle Barr

In a contentious race between a slate of newcomers and longtime incumbents, it was the old guard who won out in the end.

Current Mayor Bob Sandak got 280 votes to challenger Enrico Scarda’s 169. Scarda is the president and founder of The Crest Group development agency which owns multiple properties around the Port Jeff area, including Danfords Hotel & Marina and The Waterview at the Port Jefferson Country Club. Sandak has been mayor since 2016, and has previously worked as a school administrator for multiple districts on Long Island.

The morning after the votes were counted, Sandak said in a phone interview he was glad the election is over, and moving forward he has already spoken to the other candidates “to arrange meetings and get their thoughts on what they wanted to accomplish — it’s always good to have new ideas,” he added. “We just want to move forward.”

In a statement, Scarda said he remains positive. He congratulated Sandak on his win and offered to assist the village should the admin want any help. He added regarding future elections that, “If the residents want me involved I will be there for them.”

“I will continue to stay involved with the village administration,” Scarda said. “Belle Terre needs residents to get involved and help Bob and the trustees to move the village forward.”

On the trustee side, incumbent trustees Sheila Knapp and Jacquelyn Gernaey won back their seats with 315 and 272 votes, respectively. Newcomer candidate Peter Colucci, a 12-year village resident, gained 128 votes. Fellow newcomer Lou Bove, the president and CEO of East Setauket-based contractor Bove Industries, gained 124 votes.

Poll workers the night of the vote Sept. 15 said this was the most attention any Belle Terre election has had in at least a few decades, especially for a village with just a little under 800 residents. Village Clerk Joanne Raso said they were up until midnight counting votes, which included two write-in votes and 73 absentee ballots.

Port Jefferson Village Elections

On the Port Jeff side, one incumbent and one newcomer trustee candidate have been elected to the village board. Both seats were uncontested after nine-year trustee Bruce D’Abramo announced this would be his last term on the board.

Rebecca Kassay, a local activist and owner of The Fox & Owl Inn in Port Jeff, gained 103 votes. Incumbent trustee Bruce Miller won 114 votes.

A total of 171 votes were cast, including 10 absentee ballots.

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State Dashboard Shows Comsewogue HS With Two Positive Tests, But District Says Not to Worry

PJSD said the Edna Louise Spear Elementary School has been temporarily closed and all students moved online after on student was tested positive. Photo from Google maps

*Update* The night of Sept. 16, Port Jeff Superintendent Jessica Schmettan released a follow up letter about the student who was confirmed positive. She said the elementary school was “thoroughly” cleaned after the district received the news. The New York State Department of Health interviewed the family and district, and has since advised the district that classrooms are cleared to reopen, saying the student was not infectious while on school grounds.

Students who had close contact with the student have been contacted, and contact tracing is underway. 

“The situation today is a reminder about the importance of social distancing, the use of masks, and proper hygiene,” Schmettan said in the letter. “The community needs to remain vigilant in order to avoid closures in the future.”

Original story:

Parents in the Port Jefferson School District received a message Wednesday morning saying a student was tested positive for COVID-19 and that the Edna Louise Spear Elementary School would be closed for the meantime.

“This morning the Port Jefferson School District was notified that a student at the elementary school tested positive for COVID-19,” Superintendent Jessica Schmettan wrote in a message to district parents shared with TBR News Media. “Following our procedures and protocols and guidance from the [New York State] Department of Health, the elementary school is closed today for distance learning.”

The district added they will be conducting contact tracing and disinfecting the elementary school. Parents will be updated as the situation develops.

As of Sept. 15, Comsewogue High School has been listed by the New York State dashboard as having two positive cases in the Comsewogue High School. 

Comsewogue Superintendent Jennifer Quinn described the situation as two siblings who had tested positive for COVID in another country, though she said the name of the country was not released for fear of the students being outed to their peers. They were cleared by the New York State Department of Health to come back to school, though while in school another test taken in the states came back positive.

Quinn said the Department of Health was aware of the situation, and health officials told the district the two students were likely positive because of the viral load still in the body, though they were not infectious. Both students have volunteered to stay home in the mean time.

 

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File photo

Suffolk detectives are continuing to investigate an incident where a teenager was stabbed in Port Jefferson Station Monday night.

Police said that following a dispute with three teenage males Sept. 14, a 16-year-old male was stabbed multiple times on the soccer field behind Boyle Road Elementary School, located at 424 Boyle Road, at around 8 p.m. Police added that the assailants then fled on foot down Bedford Avenue.

The victim was transported to a local hospital for treatment of serious injuries. His name was not released as he is a minor.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on the stabbing to contact the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652 or Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS (8477).