Times of Huntington

Local residents cheered on Chris Pendergast as an old pickup truck brought him to his final resting place on his last ride. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Chris Pendergast, a Miller Place resident and founder of ALS Ride for Life, died Oct. 14. He survived 28 years with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis when most only live for five. In that time, he created an organization that has raised millions for ALS research and awareness.

He was renowned in the community for his annual rides, originally from Yankee Stadium to Washington D.C. and later from Riverhead to the Bronx to help fundraise for his organization.

Local residents say Chris touched the lives of everyone he met. Photo by Julianne Mosher

When Pendergast’s funeral Mass ended around 11:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 19, police escorted a line of Pendergast’s loved ones and his casket down Route 25A to Washington Memorial Park Cemetery in Mount Sinai, something friends and family designated “his last ride.”

People who had been touched by the late ALS activist lined the street cheering him on and saying their last goodbye. 

Some people knew Pendergast for decades, some knew him for only a year. But nonetheless, even in a short amount of time he made his mark. Several lined up on Route 25A in Miller Place to pay their respects.

“He’d be touched to see everyone here,” Miller Place local Patricia Poggio said. “He was also humble, but he would be really touched.”

Nancy Murray, another Miller Place resident, agreed, saying Pendergast was “a warrior” for ALS and for her friend who was also diagnosed with the disease. 

“What a wonderful man,” Murray said. “What an amazing, wonderful man.”

Jack Soldano, a 16-year-old Miller Place student, holds his own fundraiser, Comics for a Cause, to also help raise funds for ALS Ride for Life after being moved by Chris’ story. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Jack Soldano, a 16-year-old Miller Place student, said he met Pendergast in one of the Ride for Life founder’s visits to his school. Soldano had created a fundraiser, Comics for a Cause, in 2017 to help support ALS Ride for Life after being moved by Pendergast’s story. His fundraiser also supported the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society.

“I’ve had my nose in a comic book since I was little,” he said. “So I know a superhero when I see one.”

Kathy Sweeney, who knew Pendergast through St. Louis De Montfort R.C. Church in Sound Beach, agreed that he made his mark. 

“He encouraged people all over the world,” she said. “God left him on this Earth for all these years to help people. He was such a role model.”

 

Suffolk County Legislator William "Doc" Spencer. File photo

*Updated to include information about actions by the Suffolk County legislature.*

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) was arrested Tuesday for allegedly attempting to trade oxycodone for sex.

Spencer, who is a legislator for the 18th district and was in a Suffolk County vehicle at the time of the arrest Oct. 20, allegedly planned to meet a prostitute in the parking lot of a Goodwill store in Elwood to trade sex for the pills, which were reportedly oxycodone, a legal form of an opioid. Authorities had arranged a sting operation.

Spencer, who had two oxycodone pills in his possession at the sting operation, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, a class B felony, and criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree, a class B felony.

Spencer, 53, was arraigned on Wednesday at the John P. Cohalan Jr. Courthouse in Central Islip. The man has been a legislator since 2012 and serves on the county’s opioid task force.

Spencer is due back in court on Feb. 26th. If convicted of the top count, he could face a maximum of up to nine years in prison.

Assistant District Attorneys Kevin Ward and Laura de Oliveira, of the Public Integrity Bureau, are prosecuting the case.

“The message here is that the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office will continue to work in partnership with all of the law enforcement agencies operating here on Long Island, including the DEA and members of the Long Island Heroin task Force, to hold criminals accountable no matter who they are or what their walk of life is,” Suffolk DA Tim Sini (D) said in a statement.

“Law enforcement officers follow the evidence and this time, the evidence led to a prominent member of the community,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart said in a statement.

Spencer was the chief of otolaryngology at Huntington Hospital. In a statement, a Huntington Hospital spokeswoman said Spencer is “not an employed physician at Huntington Hospital but has privileges as a voluntary physician with his own private practice. His privileges at the hospital have been temporarily suspended pending further investigation.”

Spencer is also Associate Clinical Professor at Stony Brook University Hospital. Spencer has not had medical privileges at Stony Brook University Hospital since 2014, a hospital official said.

Spencer runs a private practice, Long Island Otolaryngology & Pediatric Airway in Huntington.

Suffolk County Republican Committee Chairman Jesse Garcia was quick to jump on the news, calling in a release for Spencer to step down “immediately” as a county legislator.

In a statement, Garcia called Spencer’s alleged actions a violation of his oath as a doctor and elected official.

“This alleged act was an attempt to abuse his position of power and trust, prey on women, and take advantage of those he believed were prisoners of addiction,” Garcia said in a statement. “His legislative record of sponsoring dozens of resolutions focusing on health and drug abuse makes this alleged drug-for-sex trade all the more evil, because he clearly knew the consequences of his behavior on his intended victim.”

Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco issued a statement in response to Spencer’s arrest, saying he has stepped down as Democrat majority leader.

Calarco said, “Legislator Spencer has stepped down from his position as Majority Leader of the Legislature’s Democratic caucus. He is also being removed from his post as chair of the Legislature’s Health Committee which subsequently removes him from any assignments linked to that chairmanship, including serving on the Legislature’s Heroin and Opiate Epidemic Advisory Panel.”

“There is nothing in the law that requires a legislator to resign while charges are pending, and while the allegations against Legislator Spencer are serious, he is entitled to his day in court,” Calarco continued. “My colleagues and I remain focused on continuing the business of the people. The Democratic caucus will convene in the future to select a new Majority Leader, and a new health committee chair will be chosen in due time.”

Spencer is married and has three children.

Prior to his arrest, Spencer had been involved in several legislative efforts, including to combat the effects of the opioid epidemic. Spencer proposed a resolution that passed unanimously to make Narcan, which reverses the effects of narcotics, available to policy emergency responders in the Second Precinct.

Spencer had sponsored 35 resolutions, with close to 1/3 of them related to health and safety, including prohibiting smoking at county beaches and county parks. Spencer’s bills include a 5-cent fee for single use plastic bags, which stores started charging in January, 2018.

During his time in office, Spencer had worked to ban the sale of powdered caffeine to minors, raise the age of selling tobacco products, helped pass a measure to stop companies from manufacturing energy drinks to youth and led a ban on flavored e-cigarettes.

Last fall during the run up to his reelection, Spencer told the Times Beacon Record Newspapers he was committed to finding treatment and addiction solutions for people affected by the opioid crisis.

Spencer won reelection in 2019, defeating Republican Garrett Chelius and Independent Daniel West for a seat in a district representing Huntington, Halesite, Centerport, Northport, East Northport, Cold Spring Harbor, Lloyd Harbor among other towns.

An ordained minister, Spencer serves as the Pastor of Willow Manor Fellowship in Centerport.

Spencer was released on his own recognizance. He has to hand over his passport and a legal firearm.

This story was updated to include details about the number of pills Spencer had in his possession, the specific charges, the potential prison sentence if convicted, the names of the attorneys prosecuting the case, and comments from DA Sini and SCPD Commissioner Hart. The update also indicates that Spencer was released on his own recognizance and that Spencer is no longer the chief of otolaryngology at Huntington Hospital.

This story was updated Oct. 22 to update the statement by Rob Calarco.

A scene from a previous Witches Night Out event before the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo from Lucky to Live Here Realty

Witches, grab your broomsticks and head to Cold Spring Harbor later this month for a weeklong shopping crawl — just make sure you bring a mask to wear along with your hat.
What is usually one night on Main Street where witches come out to dine, shop and strut, Lucky to Live Here Realty, coordinators of the event, decided to make it a weeklong event to support small business amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
For more than 10 years, Witches Night Out would gather thousands of witches, warlocks and non-magical shoppers to the town for one night of deals and promotions as a way to bring the community together and encourage local shopping.
“We were debating if we should do it or not,” Ashley Allegra, marketing coordinator for the Cold Spring Harbor real estate agency said. “We really wanted to help the businesses on Main Street, and this was something we could do safely.”
So instead of hosting the Witches Night Out, they spread out the event to a weeklong spree coined Witches Week.
Allegra said that by having witchy shoppers come throughout a several-day span was safer than congregating everyone into one night and implement more social distancing.
“It’s something different that gets people out and do something,” she said.
Witches Week will take place Oct. 27 through Oct. 30, and about 30 different businesses will be partaking in the festivities. Each store will have discounts and deals to bring customers in. Allegra added there will be a raffle with three winners at the end of the event, with chances to win a gift basket filled with the shops’ gift cards.
And on top of that, something different compared to past years, Witches Week will host a witch scavenger hunt. Each shop and restaurant will have several witches hidden indoors and customers can try to find them. The number of witches per shop is available on the Lucky to Live Here website.
“It’s a fun way to support the community and the local businesses of Cold Spring Harbor Main Street,” Allegra said.
Vita Scaturro, chairwoman of the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, agreed. She said that by shopping online and through e-commerce, small businesses cannot survive. “It’s a different experience because you have direct customer service, you can see and touch the items,” she said. “It’s imperative to support them.”

Residents in Commack and East Northport were treated to a rolling car show Oct. 11. The show was the eighth one that took place this year and the last for 2020. Smithtown resident Patty Mancuso organized the events and started the Facebook page Smithtown Rolling Car show. “I started this because there were no car shows this spring, something me and my husband Phil really look forward to,” she said. “As I watched one SUV birthday parade after another pass my house while working from home, I dreamed of something better to watch.” Mancuso said after choosing what neighborhood to drive through, she would map out the route and contact residents through the Nextdoor app. During the last few months, the rolling car show has been spotted in Smithtown, Hauppauge, Dix Hills, Commack, East Northport and Kings Park.  Photos by Jennifer Castillo

Local students from the Three Village area protest police misconduct in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Photo by Myrna Gordon

Amid the confluence of social unrest caused by people eager to see the economy reopen faster and those distressed by the killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said he appreciates the peaceful way people are demonstrating in Suffolk County.

“I want to thank everyone who has been out there, participating in these demonstrations, for doing this peacefully, and expressing their rights as American citizens,” Bellone said on his daily conference call. “Unfortunately, we have seen too many instance where that has not been the case across the country.”

Indeed, in several cities, the reaction to the death of Floyd after a former police officer knelt on his neck for over eight minutes, has led to violence and chaos.

“Looting is never acceptable,” said Bellone. “It undermines the point of the message. It has the effect of taking the attention away from the change people are fighting for, the change people want to see.”

Viral Numbers

The number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the last day was 111, bringing the total to 39,643. That doesn’t include the 13,953 who tested positive for the antibody.

As fo May 29, the number of residents in the hospital with COVID-19 declined by six to 269.

The number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds also declined by six to 74.

Over the last day, 24 people were discharged from the hospital.

The number of fatalities related to complications from the virus continues to climb, with nine people losing their lives to the pandemic, raising the total to 1,901.

The county distributed over 9,000 pieces of personal protective equipment in the last day, raising that total to over 5.7 million.

Commack School District Board of Education has two seats up for grabs with incumbent Susan Hermer and Mike Weisberg running for one position. As for the second seat, incumbent William Hender is running unopposed.

Voting will be done through ballots mailed to residents, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and are due back to the district by June 9.

Susan Hermer

Susan Hermer. Photo from candidate

Last year, Hermer beat out Jennifer Scully for a one-year term after the resignation of former board member Jennifer Carpenter.

The attorney, with a general practice firm in Bohemia, said being on the board has been fulfilling for her.

“I am running for my first full term because I enjoy being on the board advocating for our students and teachers,” she said. “And all members of this board get along and respect each other. I love our kids and the school district, and I relish being back in the schools since I no longer have kids in the district.”

She said she is concerned that some programs may need to be cut from the budget due to the reduction in state aid.

“I also want to make sure our special-needs students get all the help they need,” she said. “I am happy with the lease we worked out with Long Island University and the Marion Carll property, and I am pleased with the capital projects bond we recently passed.”

Last year the district worked out a deal with LIU for the educational institution to use the Marion Carll Farm, which was left to the district decades ago and fell into disrepair as it became difficult to keep up with the expenses to maintain the property.

Mike Weisberg

Mike Weisberg. Photo from candidate

A lifelong resident of Commack and school psychologist in a neighboring district, Weisberg said he believes his professional experience, as well as being a parent and working in a school district, will be an asset to the trustee position.

He said with the stress and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, he feels there will be an increased need to support students socially and emotionally. He added he believes there will be more issues regarding the negative effects of an overdigitalized world.

“Now we’re dealing with a global crisis, with an emphasis on social learning,” he said. “I really believe even before we got into this pandemic, we were seeing an increased need in dealing with this overdigitalization.”

Weisberg had originally planned to run last year, and said he postponed his candidacy to become more involved in committee work in the district. He said his main concerns are maintaining the programs and the number of classes currently offered in the district.

“Commack has done a great job of providing a lot of that,” he said. “I would really like to do whatever we can to maintain that diversity, because educating a student is much more than teaching math equations or learning a specific skill. It’s really about helping children to develop into their full potential as adults, and schools really play a vital role in that.”

William Hender

William Hender. Photo from candidate

This will be the second term on the board for Hender. He said he brings an “important and necessary skill set to the position.”

“Having spent the past 20 years in education, as a teacher and administrator, I have a good understanding of what is necessary to continue to provide access and opportunity for all our students,” he said. “I think we have developed a great team here in Commack and I am happy to be part of it. I am a product of the Commack School system and attribute many of my successes to the education that I received. I want all students, including my own children, to have the same wonderful experiences for years to come.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Hender said he had no concerns regarding the budget. “However, now I have many concerns, such as will the governor continue to make cuts to school aid throughout the year, and if so, how much?” he said. “In addition, I am concerned about what changes in programs and cuts we will need to make once the actual cut in state aid is announced.”

Town of Brookhaven's Cedar Beach. Photo by Kyle Barr

Even before Suffolk County officially clears all the hurdles for a phased economic reopening, the county is planning to open Smith Point and Cuspsogue beaches over Memorial Day weekend.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) suggested that keeping children home during the holiday weekend and the unofficial start to summer would be unrealistic, especially after all the limits placed on them to contain the spread of COVID-19.

While the beaches would be open, the visit to some of Long Island’s more inviting summer destinations won’t be the same as it is in any other year, as physical games, such as football and basketball, are limited.

Guests who visit the beaches will need to wear masks when they can’t maintain social distancing with other families or groups visiting the beach.

The bathrooms will be open and will have hand sanitizer. Attendants will also monitor the restrooms to ensure they remain sanitized.

Residents “won’t be playing contact sports,” Bellone said on his daily conference call with reporters, but they can go in the water.

It’s in the wake of more bad news for Long Islanders hoping Suffolk would be able to clear the hurdles necessary to open in a short time frame. Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) extended the New York Pause stay-at-home order until May 28, excluding the five of 10 upstate regions already set to start the reopening process.

Downstate, including Nassau and Suffolk Counties, have not met the seven criteria in order to open. Long Island is being counted as one region for the purposes of reopening, and New York State’s dashboard shows LI has still only met four of seven criteria. Long Island still requires a 14-day decline in hospital deaths, a supreme decrease in new hospitalizations and hundreds of new contact tracers.

As for the update on figures for the county, Bellone reported 175 new positive tests for the virus, bringing the total, without antibody tests, to 37,719.

Through Wednesday, the most recent period for which Bellone has data, the number of hospitalizations fell 21 to 554 which is “still a high number,” albeit one the county hasn’t seen for six or seven weeks.

The number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds increased by two to 185.

The county was below the 70 percent target for bed capacity, with 69% of hospital beds and 65% of ICU beds in use with patients who are battling COVID-19.

In the last day, 44 more people returned home from the hospital to continue their recoveries.

The number of people who have died from the virus increased by 12, bringing the total to 1,709.

Cathrine Duffy, the Director of Healthier U at Stony Brook University. Photo from Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University has taken numerous steps to protect the mental and physical health of the many health care and hospital workers who are helping the growing number of people suffering through the coronavirus pandemic.

Indeed, this past Monday, the university launched HealthierU, an employee wellness program, which streams 30-minute sessions Monday through Friday at 3 p.m.

“A lot of us are thinking about staff on the hospital side who are really being tested in an unprecedented way,” said Cathrine Duffy, the director of HealthierU. “I feel especially humbled and moved to be able to help in any small way given their vast efforts.”

The sessions will cover themes such as feeling connected during social distancing, self-care, our common humanity, worries, anxieties and fears and finding meaning in difficult times.

The sessions are interactive, encouraging viewers to comment, ask questions and give feedback for use in later programs. The focus of the sessions will include guided imagery meditation, drawing and writing, stress reduction and nutrition. The programming will run through at least April 10 and possibly longer. After the live session, the videos will be available on Stony Brook’s HealthierU web site.

The first session had almost 300 views and Stony Brook just posted its second session on the web site. Both are available on Facebook and will be posted to hospital channels.

HealthierU is looking at more long-term topics such as financial wellness and even the possibility of bereavement support.

The audience for this can include members of the community, as the sessions will not be password protected. Those participating in the program can provide commentary, which Duffy will moderate while mental health expert Joshua Hendrickson, who is an integrative mental health and an alumnus of Stony Brook, will facilitate the program.

At this point, Duffy has not reached out to experts to see if they are available or interested in leading future classes, although Stony Brook staff and community members have contacted her about the programming.

Indeed, on Monday, the staff at the Mindful Turtle yoga studio, which was founded and is owned by Danielle Goldstein, offered free streaming zoom yoga to Stony Brook employees for 20 classes each week.

“We are able to offer the classes for free because of the support we have received from the community,” Goldstein wrote in an email. “Students are continuing to pay their memberships which allows me to continue to pay the yoga teachers for the online classes.”

The notion of helping the Stony Brook community originated through group discussions among teachers. The group which includes Stacy Plaske who had run Balance Yoga, which Goldstein now runs, wanted to help healthcare workers. A nursing school student, Plaske reached out to her Stony Brook contacts.

Stony Brook employees can also access a virtual employee assistance program through the web site StonyBrook.Edu/EAP.

Health care workers throughout the country can also access Headspace, a mindfulness and guided meditation app, and 10percenthappier, a meditation app, for free.

Stony Brook started a virtual support group yesterday through Microsoft Teams at 8 a.m., noon, and 8 p.m. every Monday through Friday. These groups are open to anyone at Stony Brook who is part of the health care team.

Stony Brook started a virtual support group specifically for residents, according to Adam Gonzalez, the Director of Behavioral Health at Stony Brook Medicine.

Stony Brook is working on creating an email where employees can write to request individual virtual sessions as well. To request a virtual one on one session, faculty can contact the faculty/ staff care team by phone and/or email.

Another initiative Stony Brook developed is called Not All Superheroes Wear Capes. The community has sent pictures, handmade cards, and video messages that the university shares with its hospital staff. People have sent in pictures as well as children singing “God Bless America” or holding up thank you signs, which are “a great motivator for the doctors and nurses on the front lines,” as well as a show of appreciation and support, said Gonzalez, who has worked on the mental health of first responders to the World Trade Center disaster and responders to Hurricane Sandy. He is also working with NASA on ways to provide mental health care to astronauts during long duration space missions.

People can send these supportive cards and messages to [email protected].

The whole organization is encouraged to download Microsoft teams on their phones and laptops and home computers, according to Gonzalez. Employees can click on the app and click into the wellness channel to see these messages. They can view messages and support resources on the Wellness Champions channel, which is for Stony Brook Medicine employees. They can also access the virtual support groups through the app.

Duffy, who is a 10 percent Employee Assistance Program counselor and is on a group with the Wellness Champions channel, which Gonzalez runs, said the channel is for Stony Brook Medicine employees, who are mainly hospital staff. Stony Brook is sharing links widely through internal channels such as the hospital Pulse page.

Gonzalez suggested the traumatic situation of the pandemic and the quarantine response creates a normal stress reaction. That includes being anxious and hyper vigilant and worried, struggling to sleep, and feeling run down and scared.

Practicing mindfulness, which means being in the present moment, can help people stay grounded, Gonzalez said. Mindfulness can include practicing meditation exercises, paying attention to your breathe, listening to music, connecting to family and friends, or focusing on a pleasant activity like watching a movie.

“Having hope that this isn’t going to last forever” also helps, Gonzalez added.

The Wellness Champions channel has different resources for supporting mental health, including recommendations from the CDC and the World Health Organization, access to free meditation apps, and virtual substance abuse recovery resources like Alcoholics Anonymous and other programs.

Gonzalez works through his own stress by connecting with family through a group text message, using Facetime with his niece and nephew, and calling friends and colleagues.

Duffy expressed her goal to see these efforts contribute to life for those dealing with significant challenges and changes.

“I truly hope this work provides some peace and comfort to everyone working on the frontlines, from health care providers to faculty transitioning courses to online, to staff transitioning their services online, to our IT department keeping us all connected,” Duffy said in an email.

Stony Brook University Hospital. File photo

Stony Brook University Hospital has created a new triage process for emergency services.

Patients who arrive at the emergency room between 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. should stay in their cars, where a member of the staff will determine the correct emergency care setting. The staff may tell patients to go to the main Emergency Department or to a new coronavirus triage service at the South P Lot testing facility on the main campus, on the corner of Stony Brook Road and South Drive. The triage area will have board-certified emergency medicine physicians and emergency medicine nurses.

Stony Brook medicine has also created a triage phone line, 631-638-1320. Registered nurses will answer calls from 8 a.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday. Nurses will direct patients to the appropriate healthcare location.

The goal of the triage service, Stony Brook said, is to provide patients with a streamlined environment for care and treatment.

Stony Brook said patients should not go to the coronavirus patient triage unless a member of the Emergency Department staff directs them there.

The main Emergency Department will remain operating as usual.

In addition, Stony Brook has established new safety procedures to reduce the amount of time that a caregiver must enter a room. The process is best suited for the Intensive Care Unit or where a patient is non-ambulatory. Stony Brook is following procedures other hospitals are also using.

IV pumps will now be located in the hall. To reach the patient, the IV pumps will use Relocatable Power Taps, which are power strips approved by Biomedical Engineering, and IV extensions sets.

The new process will eliminate the need for staff to go in the room to change IV fluids, drips or medicines or to reset alarms, which will limit exposure while interacting with people who might have coronavirus or with patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The tubing is standard bore and can be used for all fluids including blood.

Three sets of IV extension sets can be connected together to reach patients. IV pumps in use can be located in the hall or anteroom.

The hospital ordered 72-inch IV extension sets and will work by themselves in most cases to reach the patient.

Brookhaven Town officials, with Supervisor Ed Romaine at the microphone, join local representatives from the state and nearby townships to protest the LIRR’s planned fare hike. Photo from TOB

Local and state officials, along with citizen advocates voiced a collective message to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and New York City during a press conference at Ronkonkoma train station on March 2: “Stop shortchanging Long Island.” 

The group called on the MTA to abandon its plan for a systemwide 4 percent fare increase in 2021 for Long Island Rail Road customers, including those in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The decision was a part of the NYC Outer Borough Rail Discount plan which offers an up to 20 percent discount for city riders. 

“Everything is being pushed out to Long Island in terms of expenses and it won’t be long until you’re expected to buy them a coffee and a bagel as well.”

— Ed Smyth

“Long Island is not the cash cow for New York City,” said Ed Romaine (R), Brookhaven Town supervisor. “This is unconscionable, this is a handout to the city at the expense of Long Island.”

Romaine said a typical Ronkonkoma LIRR commuter who purchases a monthly parking pass, monthly train ticket and unlimited ride Metrocard would have to pay $7,224 annually. 

“The MTA has not made the capital investments it should on Long island — what about our riders?” Romaine said. 

The supervisor added that Long Island has already been shortchanged regarding electrification, as there is no electrification east of Huntington and none past the Ronkonkoma station.

The discounts were mandated by the state Legislature as a condition of its approval of congestion pricing legislation, which would create new tolls for drivers in Manhattan to help fund the authority’s $51.5 billion capital program. The plan will go into effect in May of this year. 

Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) also took issue with the MTA’s decision. 

“We had the congestion pricing vote, which I voted against it,” he said. “This is completely counterintuitive to the folks using the trains. Congestion pricing was meant to get individuals to start using public transportation and not use their vehicles.”

He added that the MTA has billions of dollars of subsidies from the state and federal government. 

“This is a New York City problem — we should not bear the brunt of it,” he said. “Mayor [Bill] de Blasio [D] should pay for this — they are overwhelmingly serviced [by the MTA].”

The MTA board is made up of 21 stakeholders appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), including people recommended by unions and municipalities such as the city and surrounding counties. Kevin Law represents Suffolk County, and was nominated by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The other Long Island representative, David Mack, represents Nassau.

Despite their differences, officials continued to agree with the planned change at a Feb. 26 board meeting, saying they expect the up to 20 percent discount to entice Queens and Brooklyn commuters to use the LIRR if they live far from a subway line.

MTA officials say this is a pilot program up to one year’s duration. 

However, on Long Island, other local officials voiced their displeasures. 

“This is unconscionable, this is a handout to the city at the expense of Long Island.”

— Ed Romaine

Ed Smyth (R), Huntington Town councilman, said commuters will essentially be paying for their ticket and for somebody in NYC. 

“Everything is being pushed out to Long Island in terms of expenses and it won’t be long until you’re expected to buy them a coffee and a bagel as well,” he said. 

Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), Brookhaven Town councilman, said the MTA plan would negatively affect the progress they’ve made to bring transit-oriented development to the area. 

“On a town level, this is something we’ve been working on for years,” he said. “The Tritec [Ronkonkoma Hub] development is an example of that. It will make it easier for Long islanders to get into the city. With these fee increases it will make it harder for them to afford to live here and ride here.”

Palumbo added he will be writing a letter to Cuomo in the coming days and will ask Long Island representatives from both political parties to sign it. The assemblyman is hopeful the plan can be changed before the NYS budget deadline next month. 

“Hopefully he can see it, and this can be fixed on April 1 — I’m just hoping that it doesn’t fall on deaf ears,” he said.