Times of Huntington-Northport

The threat of rain could not stop Harborfields High School’s Class of 2021 from waking up more than an hour before classes began on Oct. 23 to watch the sunrise alongside their fellow seniors.

The socially distant gathering, coordinated by the student government, marked the high school’s first ever “Senior Sunrise,” starting a new tradition at Harborfields High School.

Following the postponement of homecoming, the event was the first opportunity of the 2020-21 school year for seniors of different cohorts and virtual learners to connect as a class.

Senior Class President Melina Sandel said, “It’s a great opportunity for us to reconnect after such an abrupt end to last school year. “It was great seeing all of our friends from different cohorts.”

Photos courtesy of Harborfields Central School District

Legislator Rob Trotta, center, was joined by Republican lawmakers and a few environmentalists to decry proposition 2. Photo from Trotta's office

Several Suffolk County Legislators and a New York assemblyman urged residents to reject proposal 2, which County Executive Steve Bellone (D) put on the ballot to help close the financial gap caused by the pandemic.

If approved, the proposal, which was added to the ballot in July after a 14-3 vote in the county Legislature, would reduce the sewer stabilization fund by $180 million and move $15 million to the general fund. Bellone had proposed the moves to shore up the county’s finances after the economy stopped during the COVID-19-related shutdown.

“My hope is that Suffolk voters will ultimately see this proposal for what it is – a ploy to bail out Bellone’s mismanagement,” Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said in a statement.

“Proposal two has to be defeated,” Lee Koppelman, former Executive Director of the Long Island Regional Planning Board and the past head of the SUNY Stony Brook Center for Regional Policy Studies, said in a statement. “It is wrong to take money from a dedicated fund to balance the budget.”

While several of the politicians who opposed the proposal were republicans, Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) also decried the measure.

“I already voted and I voted against Proposition Two,” Englebright said in a statement. “I am totally against taking money from this fund to cover county expenses and I encourage the residents of Suffolk County to vote no, too.”

The Long Island Pine Barrens Society also opposed the proposal, suggesting the area needed the funds were needed to replace polluting septic systems with nitrogen-removing technology as well as sewers.

The Suffolk County Drinking Water Protection Program was created in 1987 by a 0.25% sales tax to fund water quality initiatives, the preservation of open space and control taxes in sewer districts.

Bellone has indicated that the measures would prevent layoffs of county workers that might be necessary to balance the budget. He also said on several calls to get the measure on the ballot that the county would not spend any less money on existing environmental programs.

The county executive has also indicated that the sewer funds can either protect taxpayers against higher sewer tax rates or against higher taxes that might be necessary to prevent a reduction in services.

On the ballot this year is also Proposition 1, which will extend the term of legislators from two years to four years.

Parents from all over Long Island have the hard decision of what to do with their kids on Halloween, whether going out trick-or-treating or finding something else to do. Stock photo

By Angela Palumbo

Halloween is looking scarier than ever on Long Island this year. Parents, costume shop owners, and even seasonal event planners have had to come up with new ways of having a successful holiday, all while dealing with the consequences of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Halloween events have had to change their programs to follow Centers for Disease Control guidelines, which has been a challenge. Seasonal businesses, including local ones, that usually thrive around Halloween have seen a decrease in customers. Local Facebook groups such as “Mom’s Group – Long Island” and “Northport Moms” are filled with posts questioning whether or not it’s safe to send their children trick or treating this year.

With the number of people infected on the rise nationally, the CDC has released a list of low risk Halloween activities to do this year to decrease the spread of COVID-19. This list has been a guide for local families who, despite the dangers, wish to celebrate Halloween.

Ronald Diamond, in front of his store, Ronjos Magic Shop, in Port Jefferson Station. Photo from Diamond

Costume stores and festive events are depending on the continuation of this holiday to stay afloat, and parents are determined to bring their children a fun and safe time.

Local Costume Stores

Ronald Diamond, longtime owner of Ronjos Magic Shop in Port Jefferson Station, has changed the way his business runs to ensure safety for himself and his customers.

“We have been health conscious for 46 years,” Diamond said. “Right now, the status quo is that there are no try-ons. You cannot try on a costume here anymore. We’re putting a pause on that until we get the clearance and the world is safe, and then we can go back to maybe trying on, or we’ll just continue to keep that, at this point.”

With the changes Diamond has made to his store, which also doubles as a CBD wellness shop, he has not yet seen a change in business this year.

“Right now, it’s too premature to tell, because people wait until the last second to make their purchases,” Diamond said. “The consensus that I got is people are having a party, and they are taking their children trick or treating. Is there a percentage that may not have a party? Yes. How big that percentage is, I won’t know until Nov. 5.”

With the pandemic being a concern for many costume shoppers, Diamond recommends purchasing a cloth face mask that matches the costume people are wearing, to avoid contact with the public.

“This way, you are still wearing a mask and you’re protected, and you can go to the party safely,” he said.

Ronjos is not the only local costume business that has had to change the way they function this season.

Last year, Costume America in Farmingdale rented out around 30 to 40 costumes for Halloween, an important season for their bottom line. So far this year, they have seen 10 rentals.

Costume America in Farmingdale has seen a significant drop in sales due to the pandemic. Photo from Costume America’s Facebook

“It was an extremely busy year last year,” said Shelly Brennan, office manager at Costume America. “The Halloween business did very well”

Not only has Costume America seen a drop in business since last year’s Halloween season, they also had to make changes to the way their store runs in order to try to keep up with CDC guidelines.

“If it’s busy in the store, there’s a sign that says not to come in and please call us,” Brennan said. “When people try on the clothes, we have to air everything out and wash it all.”

Spooky Long Island Events

The Spooky Walk is an annual fundraiser located in Center Moriches and has been around for 31 years. The event runs for two weekends in October; Oct 16 and 17, and Oct 23 and 24. The Halloween event is attended by thousands of locals annually.

The Spooky Walk’s goal is to raise money for Camp Paquatuck, a day camp for children and adults with developmental disabilities. Each year, this event has brought in the most money of all the fundraisers Camp Paquatuck hosts. With the importance of this fundraiser in mind, the executive director of the camp, Alyssa Pecorino, and the camps board of directors, has made it their mission to ensure the Spooky Walks remains, while following CDC guidelines.

“The Spooky Walk was created by the Paquatuck Squaws, which is a group of women who do nothing but raise money for the camp, which is amazing,” Pecorino said. “I think they made $1,000 the first year they did it.”

Now, the Spooky Walk covers a majority of Camp Paquatuck’s operating cost, with last year bringing in $240,000.

This year, with the pandemic changing the way all events run, the Spooky Walk was no exception. Instead of patrons walking through the campgrounds and being approached by volunteers dressed in costumes, the Spooky Walk has transformed into the “Spooky Drive Through.”

“Obviously we can’t have everybody together in a large crowd going through the entire camp,” Pecorino said. “This year we had to come up with something that allowed people to still do it, but in a safe way, and the idea was to have everybody come through in a car. This is the safest possible way to do it.”

Camp Paquatuck in Center Moriches normally hosts a Spooky Walk fundraising drive for Halloween, but has had to change this year due to the pandemic. Photo by Angela Palumbo

Changing the way a 31-year-old event runs did come with its challenges. How successful it will be could be impacted by the necessities of keeping people distanced.
“Normally, we get thousands of people who come through and they pay individually,” Pecorino said. “This year is by carload. Last year it was 20 dollars a person, this year it’s 45 dollars a car, so obviously the amount we expect to generate is going to be less. I’m not sure how much is going to come in, but realistically speaking we’re hoping for half, at least.”

Even though the camp is aware they may not make as much on fundraising at this year’s Spooky Walk compared to years prior, there has been an obvious demand for tickets and participation in the community.

“The first weekend it got very crowded. The last weekend we sold less tickets to make sure people don’t wait in line for three hours to get in,” Pecorino said. “There’s so many people that were excited to get in and participate.”

Long Island Parents

Long Island parents have been trying to decide how they will celebrate Halloween with their children since the beginning of October. Even though there may be disagreements on whether or not it is safe to go trick or treating this year, they all agree that they want their children to have an enjoyable, safe holiday.

Dee Santiago, a single mother to her almost three-year-old son Logan from Patchogue, will not be taking her son trick or treating this year.

“We will be doing an at home scavenger hunt and pumpkin carving,” Santiago said. “I feel like if he was older, maybe I’d try to figure a way out to allow him to go trick or treating, but since he is so much younger, I feel like he doesn’t get too much out of it anyway.”

Santiago stresses the importance of keeping her son safe during the pandemic, but also creating a state of normalcy around her home.

“We respect all around us. We wear masks. And if people choose not to participate, I’m ok with that and my son understands.”

— Dawn Miller-Silke

“During a pandemic I don’t want to put him in a bad situation, but I’m trying to make things as normal as possible,” Santiago said. “It’s hard. Not much is available for Holidays.”

Santiago is not the only mother keeping her child home this year. Nicole Oluwatoyin Lucas, from Baldwin, has a 13-month-old son who she will not take trick or treating on Halloween.

“My whole house had the virus when it first came out and I kept my son and myself healthy this whole time,” Lucas said. “I hope everyone who does it [trick or treat] is careful and safe.”

However, there are Long Island mothers who plan on taking their children out trick or treating this year. Both Dawn Miller-Silke of Kings Park and Jessica Joy Landsman of Lindenhurst want their children to experience as normal a Halloween as possible.

“This isn’t going away anytime soon,” Miller-Silke said. “So, we have a choice. Live, or don’t. We respect all around us. We wear masks. And if people choose not to participate, I’m ok with that and my son understands.”

Landsman will be taking her son Brayden out, but is keeping limitations on the Halloween experience.

“He really wants to go trick or treating, so I’m going to take him just to a few houses,” she said “Then, we will go home and give out candy. I still want him to experience Halloween and have fun dressing up. I’m going to try to make him wear a mask. My husband and I will be wearing a mask. As for giving out candy, I was thinking of giving them in little baggies or making a small little ghost hunt for the kids. But then again, we don’t know if kids will be trick or treating.”

COVID-19 has put an obvious damper on the Halloween spirit, but the community on Long Island isn’t letting that bring them down. Whether its events, costumes, or trick or treating, the celebration will continue, safely.

Angela Palumbo is a Long Island native and recent college graduate from SUNY Cortland with a degree in communications and journalism with a minor in professional writing. Angela is currently studying remotely at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism for her masters in journalism with a concentration in business and economic reporting. 

Stock photo

TBR News Media published its endorsements in the Oct. 29 editions of our papers, which run from Wading River in the Town of Brookhaven to Cold Spring Harbor in Huntington along the North Shore. As always, these are only our opinions, and we urge you to learn about the candidates and make your own decisions as to whom you will give your vote. We merely share our impressions with you, feeling it our duty since we have personally interviewed them.

Click here for our full 2020 election coverage.

Congress
Nancy Goroff. Photo from campaign

Goroff The Right Choice for NY1

Knowing what’s at stake in this year’s election, TBR News Media endorses Nancy Goroff (D) for the NY1 House seat.

Goroff has a strong understanding of the issues, especially regarding climate change and the ongoing pandemic. In this time, it’s especially important to have experts not just in advisory roles but in the driver’s seat. We only need to look at places like New Zealand or Germany, both with leaders who have science backgrounds, who have handled the pandemic far better than the U.S. has just in terms of the numbers of new or past infected, and how their economies have also already reopened.

We appreciate Goroff’s answers especially regarding health care and think her concept for Medicare could be a good middle ground amongst all the partisanship surrounding the issue. Also knowing just how cutthroat working as an official in a place like Stony Brook University can be, we feel she has cultivated good interpersonal and administrative skills that will be useful in Washington.

The two instruments of U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s public life strike a discordant note. At home, he comes off as a soft-spoken team player willing to work together with both Democrats and Republicans in local office. On the national stage, he has supported the president without question, and has only helped broaden the political divide and partisanship overall through his misleading conversations, both on Fox television network and in his Twitter page.

One can support a candidate while not kowtowing to their every whim, but Zeldin has volunteered to defend President Donald Trump (R) during the impeachment. He attended a Trump rally back in June, with a pandemic raging across the country, without wearing a mask. He went in front of the Republican National Convention to proclaim how great the president’s handling of the pandemic has been, despite experts’ assertions that if the president had acted earlier, hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved. Zeldin claims he disagrees with the president on such things as the tax bill, on several cabinet nominations and offshore drilling, but when do those disagreements turn into action? 

These two sides to Zeldin do sometimes combine, such as when he attended a rally in Port Jefferson where he lambasted the mayor for a controversy over a pro-Trump sign. Why he didn’t first try to communicate with a local government in his home district to get the issue resolved attests to the purpose of such an appearance: To drum up even more division in an already divided time.

While we appreciate Zeldin’s work bringing masks and other PPE to us at home during the height of the pandemic, doing the expected is no longer enough. We need someone to actively work to bring back the state and local tax deductions instead of putting forward bills that never get any traction. We need someone in Congress who does not split their attention between acting on behalf of the president and doing good by their constituents.

As we hope to come out of this pandemic, we will need a scientist’s expertise to help us get out of the social and economic hole we lay in. We hope whoever takes up the seat can help move both the country and New York’s 1st Congressional District forward.

State Senate
Laura Ahearn. Photo from campaign

Ahearn to Keep 1st District First

Knowing we are losing such a strong voice for SD1 in Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) we believe we need a strong and independent voice in the Senate. We believe Laura Ahearn (D) is the right person to do that.

We appreciate her work locally and know she has built connections with both local and state officials that will be critical in the coming months. We like her answers to questions about getting more funding to deal with our aging septic systems and agree with her that bail reform needs to be reformed,  not repealed.

Palumbo is a strong candidate, having worked in public office for years alongside both parties, though there can be no question that being in the controlling party has real benefit. As evidenced by both LaValle’s and John Flanagan’s departure from the state Senate, lacking that control, even with their seniority, can be a real drag. Palumbo has helped in acquiring land in Shoreham for protection, but he does not have as firm a grasp of happenings in our local area as he does on the North Fork.

We believe Ahearn is the right pick to keep 1st District first.

Mario Mattera, left, and Mike Siderakis, right, are both political newcomers running for State Senate District 2.
Photos from campaigns

2nd Senate District Too Close to Call

We feel the race for the state Senate in the 2nd District, between Republican Mario Mattera and Democrat Michael Siderakis, is going to be a close one. Based on our virtual debate, we are not endorsing a candidate in this race.

We feel both candidates have their fingers on the pulse of the area, recognizing the importance of providing local students with the same excellent education they have received in the past and keeping residents on Long Island.

Most importantly, during the pandemic, both understand the importance of strictly following public health guidelines while also assisting businesses to fully operate once again. 

Siderakis’ background as a state trooper and representative for the troopers’ PBA would be an asset during the current conflicting views regarding law enforcement, while Mattera’s work with the Town of Smithtown on its advisory board is a plus regarding bringing new businesses to an area while not overwhelming its infrastructure.

Either will be a freshman senator if they win, and we urge them to partner with their colleagues to learn the intricacies of the office. Republican former Sen. John Flanagan held the seat for 18 years, and either candidate will have big shoes to fill.

Gaughran Has District in Mind

In the race for state senator in the 5th District, TBR News Media endorses incumbent Jim Gaughran (D). His record during his first term has been impressive, and we would like to see him continue his work. He will have more seniority which is needed in the district to get more accomplished.

Even as a freshman senator, after the bail reform act was passed, he and other legislators worked to amend it. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has also endorsed Gaughran.

We encourage challenger Ed Smyth to continue pursuing public office beyond the Town of Huntington. He has good ideas, and as a self-proclaimed “debt hawk,” he can lend an important, practical voice to any budget talks.

Knowing the complicated and challenging time ahead for New York State as we move through the ongoing pandemic, TBR News Media endorses Steve Stern (D) for Assembly District 10.

State Assembly
Jodi Giglio. Photo from campaign

Giglio the Best Choice for AD2

We feel that filling Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo’s seat for the 2nd District is going to be tough and both Laura Jens-Smith and Jodi Giglio (R) are great candidates. And while they both made good arguments, we have decided to go with Giglio for Assembly District 2. 

Jens-Smith’s experience as Riverhead Town supervisor is impressive and we appreciate the efforts she made during her time there, but we think that Giglio will bring a different perspective and continue the work she has done for the town as a councilwoman. A woman with tough skin and many different skills, we think that she will continue to bring more work and people to the East End, while balancing her other roles as well.  

For our areas of Wading River through Mount Sinai, we ask that whoever wins this election gives extra attention to our communities not out on the North Fork. As our communities deal with issues ranging from nitrogen pollution to development concerns, we would like to see somebody listening to the problems of folks a little farther west.

Steve Englebright

Keep Englebright in the Assembly

We feel that, although Michael Ross is knowledgeable in what he stands for and his excitement is honorable, we believe Steve Englebright (D) should continue to lead Assembly District 4 as he has for over two decades. Based on talking to both candidates, we will be endorsing Englebright for
this campaign.

Ross is young and enthusiastic, with life experience that could definitely bring a pair of fresh eyes to the area. However, Englebright has brought many policies that have benefited Long Island’s environment and he continues to strive to do better. 

As we head into a future that will likely involve more severe weather events, and as Long Island’s water ecology remains in jeopardy from nitrogen pollution, it’s imperative that we have scientists at the decision-making table. Englebright has a long history of supporting environmental causes, from the Pine Barrens to the Shoreham woods to Stony Brook Harbor. As we lose environmental stalwarts in the state Senate like Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), voices like Englebright’s will be in even greater need.

Mike Fitzpatrick. Photo by Kyle Barr

Fitzpatrick a Strong Choice for AD8

In the race for Assembly District 8, TBR News Media is looking for somebody with a history of bipartisan activity and deep knowledge of Smithtown’s issues, and that somebody is Republican Mike Fitzpatrick.

He has a good depth of knowledge of issues such as Gyrodyne, and seems to be working toward some kind of compromise that could make both environmentalists and proponents of downtown revitalization happy. The Kings Park state park issue is something Fitzpatrick has a deep knowledge on, in particular, and we hope he may be able to move forward with some kind of funding source to finally remediate that property.

Rice has a good head on his shoulders and his enthusiasm and comprehension of the issues makes him a strong future candidate for public office once he gets a few years’ experience under his belt. We hope he continues in public service in some way, shape or form.

Steve Stern. Photo from Stern’s office

Stern a Man of Common Sense

Stern has the right approach when dealing with COVID-19, and his common sense mindset regarding bail reform is something to be appreciated amongst the constant calls for complete repeal.

The assemblyman’s talk about money for sewer infrastructure is also sorely needed, and we hope he can work with other members of the Long Island delegation in order to bring those funds home to Suffolk County. This is not something local municipalities can do on their own.

Silvestri has some straight answers but does not bring much new to the table. We hope with some years under her belt and some experience in local government she can come back later with a fresh new take on such a diverse area as the 10th assembly district.

Michael Marcantonio. Photo by Kyle Barr

Marcantonio Our Choice to Succeed Raia

In the 12th District race for the New York State Assembly, TBR News Media endorses Democrat Michael Marcantonio, but we do so with a bit of caution. We would agree with his Republican opponent Keith Brown that the Democrat can come across as aggressive at times, and we hope he can manage that trait a bit to ensure that he can work with those on both sides of the political aisle.

However, that passion shouldn’t be reeled in too much as it shows determination to get things done and bring new ideas to the floor. He mentioned many times that if elected he will be part of the Assembly’s majority. This would be a boon to a district that needs original ideas to help it over the hump the LIPA decision will have on the community’s tax base.

We hope that Brown will continue pursuing local office in the future as we feel he has a good grip on what local businesses need to survive. 

 

Democrat Assemblyman Steve Stern, left, and Republican Jamie Silvestri, right, are gunning for the Assembly District 10 seat. Left, file photo; right, photo from campaign

Voters have a choice this year between a longtime Democratic local legislator and a Republican newcomer for the Assembly District 10 seat.

State Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills), who is finishing up his first two-year term in the Assembly, is facing off against Republican Jamie Silvestri, an office manager at RSA Financial Group in Melville and current press secretary for the Huntington Young Republicans.

Silvesri, 30, said she has lived in Melville her entire life and has worked for several different small businesses over the years in the Town of Huntington. She said she was inspired to run after working on a campaign last year, but also the bail reform law passed last year.

“I just really appreciate learning from everyone’s experiences, and hearing from everybody what matters most to them,” she said.

An attorney with 25 years of experience, Stern, 51, had served as Suffolk County legislator from 2006 to 2017, and has previously primaried for the 3rd District Congressional seat in 2016 but lost to U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3). He won his first term as assemblyman in 2018, and said he is running to protect taxpayers, protect the environment and protect “our suburban quality of life.”

“I’ve worked really hard since going up to Albany to help lead a coalition that reflects our suburban values and supports common-sense solutions,” he said.

Reaction to William Spencer’s Arrest

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) was arrested Oct. 20 for allegedly attempting to use opioids to solicit sex during a police sting operation. When the news broke, it devastated the local community, as he is a well-known doctor and community member who was thought to be a strong voice against the ongoing opioid crisis.

Stern, who served alongside Spencer for several years, called the news “deeply disturbing, if true.”

“He is extremely popular throughout our town and throughout our region, and has done an awful lot of good things for a lot of people,” he said.

Whether or not this sets back the area’s efforts in fighting opioid addiction, Stern said he has been working “diligently on the state level when it comes to law enforcement and cracking down on the opioid trade and, in our area, mixed with education and with treatment and rehabilitation.”

Silvestri said she is “praying for him and his family,” as she too was shocked to hear the news. 

As far as the opioid epidemic goes, she said she has had people in her life who have had problems with opioids, and the issue hits close to home. 

“Education is a very important aspect of it and making sure that we do have the treatment available for people who need these resources and that they are effectively being communicated,” she said. “So, when people are willing to seek help and actually go out and get the necessary help that they need, it can really do a lot to make a change.”

COVID-19 Response

Silvestri said the initial response to the pandemic from the community was great to see, especially in the way everyone pulled together to keep each other safe. 

As time has gone on, she said there has been “a little bit too much in restricting our small businesses at a time where they really do need to get back to operating as close to normal as possible.”

She said as New York has a relatively low infection rate, despite a few hotspots, the state needs to trust small business owners. “As places like Huntington village have a large restaurant industry, I think it’s very important that people can somewhat get back to normal, as close as possible while still being responsible,” she said. “It’s a matter of personal choice and responsibility.”

In the case of a second wave in New York, she said the state’s knowledge of the virus has come a long way in terms of looking out for symptoms, and that knowledge will help resist any kind of new shutdown.

‘Yes, we want to open as quickly as we can, but we’ll do it as safely as we can.’

—Steve Stern

Stern said that the response in New York and Suffolk County, despite some early setbacks, “the numbers speak for themselves.”

He said the philosophy from the outset has been to follow the science and trust the data and experts. 

“We acted quickly to provide protections on the economic side, on the housing side, on the quality of life side, to make sure that our neighbors were supported during some pretty dark days in the beginning,” he said. 

He said there is concern as time goes on that people are becoming less vigilant toward halting the spread of COVID-19. 

“Yes, we want to open as quickly as we can, but we’ll do it as safely as we can,” he said. “So, coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic or at least moving forward, it’s going to be critical that that we support particularly our local businesses.”

Some industries in particular have complained about restrictions, including the gym and catering industries. Restaurants have also made their voices heard over what they consider harsh and consistent State Liquor Authority inspections over COVID compliance.

Stern said he has heard from many of these businesses owners over restrictions and the inspections. However, he said there are some industries that are, by their nature, less safe than others, so reopening needs to be done “methodically.”

“There is a balance to strike here,” he said. “Certainly, [SLA wants] to make sure that we’re carrying out the protocol and keeping our people safe, but they also need to make sure that we’re giving our local businesses every opportunity to succeed and to show that they can keep our people safe.”

Silvestri said she would push for a $5,000 tax credit for small businesses to aid in their recovery. 

“I think that we should really be looking at ways that we can help empower business owners,” she said.

Regarding SLA inspections, she said some businesses have received inspections 20 out of 30 days, saying “it’s almost like they’re being babysat.”

Stern argued the case for small businesses is “well beyond some nominal tax credits. … This just screams out for so many industries to receive meaningful support from the state government, and particularly our federal government.”

He said the job of a Long Island representative in Albany is to make sure the suburban environment brings home its fair share, adding the state needs to continue to lobby the federal government for more aid. 

Environment

Stern said a big part of the state’s job is trying to protect the drinking water in the county’s sole-source aquifer, adding that protecting the local water goes to protecting the quality of life and local economy.

He also cited his work with the environment with such things as banning 1,4-dioxane and cracking down on illegal dumping. 

He added there is a real possibility of pulling that “desperately needed” funding for sewer infrastructure on Long Island. Though with revenues down throughout the state, and with cuts of multiple state agencies looming, the assemblyman said that with budgets down, now is the time the state needs to invest in infrastructure “to make sure that we provide good paying jobs to make sure that putting people back to work, now is a better time than any.”

He said there could be a need to look at new revenue sources, including some kind of bond referendum, grants or low interest loans for the millions of dollars needed to build out sewer infrastructure.

‘I think that we should really be looking at ways that we can help empower business owners’

—Jamie Silvestri

Silvestri said a recent Long Island Sound report by the nonprofit Save the Sound was “concerning,” and though the open water of the Sound was relatively stable, 56% of the monitored bays received “C,” “D” or “F” ratings. 

“You have a whole ecosystem happening under the water that we need to make sure that we protect,” she said. “I just would fight as much as I could to make sure that we are exploring every possible option to make sure that we can continue upgrading the sewer systems we have
around here.”

Police Reform

The young Republican challenger said a big reason she got into this race was because of recent police reforms as well as bail reform.

She said certain new legislation like the repeal of section 50-a, which had shielded officers’ records and complaints against them from scrutiny, can now be used in court should an officer need to testify as a witness.

She also said her opponent voted for such reforms even though he could have voted “no,” and it would have passed anyway.

Stern said many reforms passed as part of the criminal justice reform package were such things like a ban on chokeholds, increase in body cameras for cops and establishing an office of special investigations to handle police complaints. 

He said section 50-a was about “transparency and accountability,” though he added he has also introduced legislation that presents new penalties for crimes against police officers, military personnel and other first responders.

The controversial bail reform law was something Stern said he was only made aware of a few weeks after coming to Albany after the special election in 2018, and that he voted against party for the original bail reform bill, “just a matter of weeks after I first got to Albany, which was not an easy position to take.”

Bail reform ultimately passed as part of the 2019 state budget, but he said the latest governor’s budget rolled back some of the elements of bail reform that went “too far,” such as robbery, child pornography, strangulation or lower degrees of manslaughter.

“So, what can be done? I’ve done it,” he said. “Because I’ve been doing it right after our bail reform was rolled into the governor’s budget and passed, working hard with like-minded suburban colleagues from all over the state to roll back some of the most dangerous elements that had passed initially.”

Silvestri called the new bail reform “catch and release,” even with recent changes to the law, and said she supported a full repeal of the law. She named laws that were still a part of bail reform, including possession of a weapon on a school ground, prostitution in a school zone, stalking and endangering an animal.

“A lot of these instances, after people are arrested, the officers are still filling out the paperwork, when these people are getting able to be able to walk out of jail, and that’s very, very frightening to me,” she said.

Republican George Santos, left, and Democratic Congressman Tom Suozzi, right, are asking for residents’ votes for the NY3 House seat. Left, photo from campaign; right, file photo

Longtime politician and two-term congressman Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) is in the race against newcomer Queens Republican George Santos over the 3rd Congressional District seat. TBR News Media spoke with Santos about why he is running and what he can bring to the table. Suozzi did not respond to several requests for either an online debate or a phone interview. 

The second-term Democrat from Glen Cove has been in politics for almost three decades. From 1994 through 2001 he served as mayor of Glen Cove and was elected Nassau County Executive from 2002 to 2009. 

Suozzi, 58, is battling Santos, 32 from Whitestone, on the race to be the Western Long Island voice in Washington. This is Santos’ first run at office and he said he wants to bring his experience in the finance world to congress. 

Santos is a first-generation born to immigrant parents. Born and raised in Queens, he said he comes from a humble beginning. He started off as an entry-level asset manager and an associate at Citi Group, as well as worked with several fortune 500 companies, including Goldman Sachs. He has worked in the private equity space for 11 years. 

“I’m very proud of the work I’ve accomplished in the private sector,” he said. “And I think it’s that kind of work ethic and knowledge that I want to bring into public service, especially now following a crisis, we’re going to need more people who understand business more so than lawyers.”

Santos said he wants to reduce unemployment numbers and bring them back to before the pandemic. 

“I’ve created north of 500 jobs myself, I know how to do it. I know the skills,” he said.

He added that he would work hard to change school funding to be derived from one’s income tax, not property tax. 

“That would solve a lot of the heartache for millions of Americans who are taxed with property taxes and feel unfair,” he said. Santos also noted that he does not support the Green New Deal and would look to restore respect for law enforcement while encouraging community cooperation to re-establish public safety. 

Suozzi’s record shows his investment in the environment. serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, is vice-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, co-chair of the bipartisan Long Island Sound Caucus, co-chair of the Quiet Skies Caucus, and this Congress and was appointed by the Speaker of the House to the Congressional Executive Commission on China.

He has spoken on veteran care and rights, affordable healthcare and fiscal responsibility during his 25-year political tenure. 

Because TBR News Media was unable to contact Suozzi for an interview, we cannot choose to endorse a candidate for the third congressional district. 

Photo courtesy of Northport-East Northport Union Free School District

Each year, the Northport-East Northport School District hosts Recovery, Awareness, Prevention (R.A.P) week to spread the word about substance abuse and important preventative measures. The weeklong event kicked off this year on Oct. 19 with all grade levels finding ways to acknowledge the topic and learn more about how to prevent and address substance abuse.

R.A.P Week began in April of 2012 when a district teacher suggested a substance use prevention day at Northport High School. Since then, the passion and dedication of students, staff and community has expanded the idea, leading to a full week of guest speakers and activities that focus on drug and alcohol prevention.

The district’s substance abuse counselor Anthony Ferrendino shared that R.A.P week is important because the issue affects many families. Whether it’s a loved one who is struggling or a student who is experimenting, substance abuse is widespread and addressing it is crucial to reducing the stigma.

R.A.P week is executed differently at the elementary, middle and high school levels. For telementary schools, the message is heavy on prevention, and discussion topics include positive goal setting and ways to lead a healthy lifestyle. At the middle school and high school levels, there’s more explicit discussion about substances and how to combat substance abuse.

Recognizing that this issue is especially pertinent for high school students, the district typically brings in a variety of guest speakers, from professional athletes to former students who are in recovery, to address the larger group.

This year, the district had guest speakers provide a recording and shared them to a dedicated R.A.P Week site, along with past speaker recordings, and has asked teachers to make the videos a class assignment. This ensures students still have access to the critical information and can either discuss or write down their thoughts about the topic.

“I am beyond thrilled that despite COVID-19, the teams that we have in the buildings were able to figure it out and offer the students what they absolutely need,” said Mr. Ferrendino.

The challenge this Halloween will be adhering to guidelines while trick or treating. Stock photo

By Rob Calarco

In 1918, as the United States dealt with the Spanish Flu pandemic, cities across the country called on their residents to have a different kind of Halloween. At that time, the holiday was more of an opportunity for adults to have costume parties and for boys and young men to pull pranks and commit vandalism. During the pandemic, cities banned or discouraged these traditions and called on residents to be respectful of those who might be sick or have lost a loved one. Overall people observed these restrictions knowing that what they were doing was for the benefit of the community. The Buffalo Express reported on that year’s Halloween, saying “Hallowe’en revels lack the spirit of previous affairs.”

Rob Calarco

This year we are again asking Americans to be safe as they celebrate Halloween. COVID-19 is still with us, and while our infection rates do remain low, there is still a risk to us all. That does not mean we cannot celebrate all things spooky this year. We can still find creative ways to enjoy the day and take precautions to minimize potential spread of the virus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has characterized traditional trick-or-treating, where treats are handed to children who go door to door, as a high-risk activity. To avoid this risk consider participating in one-way trick-or-treating. This is when individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance. Try to avoid placing large bowls of treats where children have to grab out of the same container. These treats can be placed at the end of a driveway or at the edge of a yard. You can communicate whether you are participating in the festivities by placing a sign on your yard. Also if you are wearing a costume mask, remember that it is not a replacement for a cloth mask. Instead consider incorporating a cloth mask into your costume this year.

If you are looking for a safe outdoor adventure, consider heading over to Southaven County Park in Yaphank, which has been taken over by Gateway’s Haunted Playhouse in partnership with Suffolk County. The Gateway has created a drive-through haunted trail experience called “The Forgotten Road,” which includes sounds and sights outside the car as well as a narrative that can be listened to over your car’s sound system. Additionally the Patchogue-Medford Library is offering a Halloween Story Walk. This is a self-guided quest for the entire family. You can pick up your map at the Children’s Department Information Desk during library hours or print your map and story questions from home at any time to navigate your way through Patchogue Village by following a story. Those who complete the quest will receive a Halloween surprise at the end.

With a different kind of Halloween celebration this year, it is going to take us all working together to keep each other safe. There are plenty of precautions to make sure that we all have fun while not contributing to the spread of COVID-19. By following these easy guidelines and doing more socially distanced activities, we can all do our part and stay safe.

Rob Calarco (D) is the presiding officer of the Suffolk County Legislature.

 

From left to right: Town of Huntington Councilman Ed Smyth (R) is going against State Senator Jim Gaughran (D) for a seat in NY’s 5th District. File photos

Town of Huntington Councilman Ed Smyth (R) is looking to unseat state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) in the 5th District. Smyth is currently serving his second term on the Town Board, while Gaughran is completing his first term as state senator.

The two participated in an Oct. 16 Zoom debate with the TBR News Media editorial staff to discuss their strategies regarding issues on the forefront of constituents’ minds, including the state’s actions during the pandemic, bail reform, water quality and more.

COVID Response

Both the councilman and senator agreed that the state’s response to the pandemic was appropriate, and the decision to give Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) executive authority was warranted.

“There was no road map for this,” Gaughran said. “Everyone got hit over the head with this.” 

The senator said he still remembers when he and his colleagues being briefed by Dr. Howard Zucker, New York State commissioner of health, back in March about the virus and how there was a need to move forward quickly and give Cuomo the power to make decisions quickly. 

“We went through a lot of pain, and now we’re climbing back,” Gaughran said.

While the senator doesn’t feel businesses should open up fully all at once, he does want them to open as quickly as possible while remaining safe.

Smyth said he wants to help businesses open up quicker as he feels the emergency has now passed regarding the coronavirus and medical professionals have a better grasp on it. He said it needs to be recognized that every type of business has a different need, and that every person can decide to enter a business based on their own health conditions and fears.

“An electrical contractor has a very different need than a restaurant or bowling alley,” Smyth said.

Gaughran said his office has been working closely with businesses to identify their needs and wants. He has seen many working well with the new public health guidelines,

“I’m working every day with businesses in my district trying to help them reopen fully but safely,” he said. “But these decisions shouldn’t be made by politicians, they should be made by health officials.”

Smyth agreed that legislators need to sit down with health officials and let them weigh in. He said during the pandemic, some of the guidelines were applied unfairly and unevenly, and he said he didn’t understand why a person could go on a plane but not go to church or a gym.

“The quarantine is being applied unequally, while one size doesn’t fit all,” Smyth said. “The logic behind this, to me, doesn’t pass a common sense test.”

Gaughran said he has seen some unfairness, but he said with slight upticks in the infection rate, “we need to be safe.”

LIPA

A hot topic in the district has been the Long Island Power Authority’s Northport power plant.  For years, many local residents have been waiting for a settlement with LIPA. The Northport power plant was taxed at $86 million, which LIPA said was overassessed, and the entity was seeking a court-order reduction which could have led to a 90% cut of taxes for the company. This in turn would have led the Town of Huntington being responsible for an $800 million refund to LIPA and school taxes would have been raised.

A recently proposed settlement, agreed on by the Northport-East Northport school district and the town, will cut LIPA’s taxes to $46 million from $86 million over the next seven years, lessening the burden a court-ordered reduction would have imposed.

Gaughran said the town should be obligated to make the final agreement accessible to residents.

“Until you get the final agreement, you don’t know exactly what it is,” he said.

Smyth said while the details of the settlement are still being worked out, all information so far has been made public. He said looking over the case, “it was begging to settle,” adding the power plant had been overly assessed and calling it “a dinosaur.”

“It would be great if it could be redeveloped into a far more efficient plant,” he said, adding that would be up to LIPA.

Education

Smyth said by nature he is a “debt hawk” and doesn’t believe in any government going into debt, but regarding school funding and with the COVID-19 impact, he said it may be appropriate to accrue some debt to ensure schools are funded properly. He said it’s also important to comb through the budget to find any abuse, citing a recent audit by New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli (D) that found millions of dollars of abuse from the Medicaid program. 

“Every line item has to earn its way into the budget, but school funding should not be a negotiable item,” Smyth said.

Gaughran said he was behind a bill that made the 2% tax cap permanent in New York state, adding that he thought the new permanent law would be a “game changer.” He said he was also proud that he brought more school aid to his district than ever before during his first year in office. The state senator said if President Donald Trump (R) gets reelected he is concerned that the state won’t receive the federal funding it needs. Without the proper federal and state funding, it will add to the property tax burden and more people will leave the state.

“This is a very slippery slope,” Gaughran said.

Smyth pointed out that whether or not New York receives federal aid is not solely Trump’s decision, as the house and senate also vote on aid too.

“It’s not solely one person calling all the shots in Washington, D.C.,” Smyth said.

Bail Reform

Smyth said the bail reform bill that was passed in 2019 needs to be repealed, saying the results of the bill have been “disastrous.”

“No one should ever spend a night in jail for an expired registration, but low-level crimes were a Trojan horse that carried far more serious crimes into the bail reform bill,” Smyth said.

Gaughran said the bill was originally presented on its own merits but was blocked by many legislators which led to the governor inserting it into the budget. Gaughran said it was important to get passed the permanent 2 percent tax cap, which was also in the same budget, and he wasn’t going to walk away from schools.

“At the end of the day when you get to Albany you have to make some tough choices sometimes, and when you’re making those decisions you have to decide whether or not you’re going to vote on a budget based on what’s in it,” the senator said.

He added that he met with colleagues and law enforcement representatives after the bail reform bill was passed, and he and others immediately filed a bill to restore some violent offences back to allowing judges to set terms of bail.

Smyth said Gaughran should have been standing on his desk arguing the bail reform law. He calling any changes made to the reform “window dressing.”

Protecting Waterways

Both candidates discussed the importance of protecting the health of local waterways. 

Smyth said he is a big proponent of homeowners being allowed to demolish debilitated homes and rebuilding a new one while keeping the current tax assessment as long as it is the same size. He said in doing so septic tanks and heating systems would be updated. He pointed out that what goes into the ground we eventually drink or wash into the harbors and bays. Providing an incentive to update septic systems would help to secure the health of local waters.

Gaughran said he recommends that the New York State Department of Conservation cracks down on New York City storm runoffs, which eventually flows into the Long Island Sound. He also is in favor of updating septic systems and working on ways to install sewer systems, water filtration systems and rain gardens. If he gets reelected, he said he has a plan to provide funding to municipalities to do just that.

Michael Marcantonio, left, and Keith Brown, right, are both seeking the Assembly District 12 seat. Left, file photo; right, photo from campaign

After an April 28 special election had to be postponed due to the pandemic, Republican Keith Brown and Democrat Michael Marcantonio will finally find out who the 12th state Assembly District constituents will choose for assemblyman Nov. 3. The two candidates are running for the seat left vacant by Andrew Raia (R-East Northport), who resigned at the beginning of 2020 after winning the Huntington town clerk seat.

Marcantonio was set to run for assemblyman on the Democratic ticket in 2018. However, due to voting as a student at Duke University in 2012 and 2014, judges from the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division disqualified from him running, maintaining New York State requires a five-year residency to qualify to run.

During an Oct. 15 Zoom debate with TBR News Media, the two attorneys and longtime Northport residents exchanged barbs. Brown said the millennial Marcantonio doesn’t understand mortgages and bills because he lives with his mother and also described him as “bombastic.” Marcantonio pointed to a Riverhead-News Review article from September that reported on the alleged Russian mob ties of one developer Brown represented and said the attorney didn’t always represent the most honest developers.

“Anyone can say whatever they want on the internet,” Brown said. “It doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Marcantonio said he has a better chance of getting things done in the state Assembly as he will be part of the Democratic majority. Brown reminded his opponent that he would be a freshman assemblyman and would have little power. The Republican added he himself has worked in both the public and private sectors and he has a reputation for getting things done. He described himself as a self-made businessman who has built up his law firm.

The candidates also debated on other issues facing New York state, particularly in their district. 

LIPA

For years, many local residents have been waiting for a settlement with the Long Island Power Authority. The Northport power plant was taxed at $86 million, which LIPA said was drastically overassessed, and the entity was seeking a court-order reduction which could have led to a 90% cut of taxes. This in turn would have made the Town of Huntington responsible for an $800 million refund to LIPA and school taxes would have been raised.

A recently proposed settlement, agreed on by the Northport-East Northport school district and the town, will cut LIPA’s taxes to $46 million from $86 million over the next seven years, lessening the burden a court-order reduction would have imposed.

Marcantonio has spoken against the town and the school district agreeing to the LIPA settlement. He said he drafted legislation that would prevent LIPA from collecting hundreds of millions of dollars of back taxes, which he said he “gave” to state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport). While the bill passed in the state Senate it didn’t make it through the Assembly.

He said if elected by being part of the chamber’s majority and being able to chair committees and introduce legislation, he’ll be able to have a say when decisions are being made and get such a bill passed again.

“If my opponent wins this race — which he won’t — but if he does, the most he can do is cosponsor a Democrat’s legislation,” Marcantonio said.

Brown said Marcantonio’s LIPA bill is a “fool’s errand” as it only applies to back taxes. He also said the Democrat was a single-issue candidate.

“He’s trying to go through and tout this legislation that is dead on arrival,” Brown said. 

He added that Marcantonio is “blinded by this issue” and called him a single-issue candidate. He said moving on from the issue of LIPA’s back taxes and accepting the recent settlement will control the damages felt by the town and the school district.

Education

Brown said if he’s elected one of the first things he will do is meet with superintendents to see what their districts need. Despite proposed state aid cuts of 20% to 30%, the Republican said he plans to bring money back to local schools.

“I have a deep respect for the school superintendents and the job that they do,” he said.

Marcantonio said he also would make sure schools in the district get the money they need as the district is the fourth most-owed in the state for foundation aid.

“It’s not enough for New York State to get federal aid,” he said. “We need to get the aid from the state to this district — it doesn’t automatically go equally to each district.”

COVID Response

Brown said he believes Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) did a good job during the pandemic, but added that he believes businesses could have been reopened quicker. When the lockdown was lifted, Brown said he started meeting with small business owners along major corridors, including Route 25, Commack Road, Larkfield Road and provided owners with his information. He said there is a need to take another look at how businesses are opening but not at the risk of public health.

“If we don’t do something soon, we’re going to lose major industries,” he said, adding many are filing bankruptcy. 

Marcantonio said there were arbitrary rules when it came to reopening, and he agreed that the state needed clearer guidelines.

“Small businesses are getting crushed right now, and they’re getting crushed because we have a system right now that favors big businesses over small businesses,” he said.

Economy

Marcantonio said he’s fighting for young people who feel forced to leave the Island due to the high cost of living. He understands because he’s a millennial as well, and knows his peers want to stay near their families.

“I have empathy for them,” he said. “I don’t shame young people for not being able to afford a home.”

To help bring jobs to the area, Marcantonio said there is a need to attract manufacturing jobs back to Long Island and rebuild a crumbling infrastructure. He added the Island would benefit from a high-speed railroad which would enable residents to travel from Montauk to New York City in 30 minutes.

Brown said one of the reasons he wanted to run for Assembly was because he was horrified by those in the legislative body that fought against an Amazon facility in Long Island City, which would have brought more jobs to the area. He said he doesn’t shame millennials and their struggles, and is working on transportation projects to keep millennials on the Island and to keep the region vibrant and relevant. He said he believes his business background will help to keep businesses here and not lose them to the South.

“I’m fighting for the middle class,” he said. “I’m fighting for the business owners who are being strangled by regulations.”