Times of Smithtown

Pick out your favorite pumpkin!

From Sunday, Sept. 27 to Saturday, Oct. 31, St Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church, 29 Brooksite Drive, Smithtown will be selling pumpkins of all sizes at its giant pumpkin patch! Hours are Mondays through Fridays from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Pick the best for carving, decorating or painting. Masks are required with social distancing. Questions? Call 631-265-4520.

State Sen. Jim Gaughran said he received more calls than any other time in his career from people who could not get to PSEG. Photo from Gaughran's office

Following the power outage caused by Tropical Storm Isaias in early August, State Sen. James Gaughran (D-Northport) conducted a survey of residents.

With 3,243 people responding, the survey indicated that people lost an average of $434.66. That compares with the maximum of $250 that PSEG Long Island said it would reimburse residents if they produced an itemized list and proof of loss.

Click here to see the full survey results

“I don’t keep my receipts,” Gaughran said in an interview after he publicly released the survey. “I throw mine out. I would imagine a lot of Long Islanders are keeping receipts” from their grocery purchases after their experience with the storm, the outage and the food losses, particularly amid the economic decline caused by the pandemic.

More than half the survey respondents, or over 58%, said they were not able to contact PSEG easily about their outage. At the time of the storm, PSEG recognized that its new communication system was ineffective.

Additionally, over two thirds, or 67 percent, of the residents in the survey said PSEG did not restore power before the estimated time.

In the two years he’s been in the senate, Gaughran said he’s never had this many responses to questions from residents about anything.

The Democratic senator highlighted how over 56% of residents were unaware of PSEG’s Critical Care Program, although those residents don’t believe anyone in their households would qualify. An additional 21% of the survey respondents didn’t know about the program and believed someone in their house might qualify.

The fact that more than half of the people who responded didn’t know about the program is “significant,” Gaughran said.

“Unacceptable” Storm Response

In response to a letter Gaughran sent to LIPA, CEO Thomas Falcone said he would “make sure that your survey results are appropriately reflected in the work streams for LIPA’s upcoming 90-day and 180-day investigative reports into PSEG Long Island’s storm response.”

Falcone called PSEG LI’s response to the storm “unacceptable” and said the LIPA Board has “insisted that the failures not be repeated.”

LIPA’s 30-day report said the computer system caused incorrect restoration estimates.

In its report about the storm response, LIPA concluded that “problematic management control issues,” combined with outside vendors who had “poorly defined service quality assurances” delivered an unsatisfactory customer experience.

A tree fell on a mail truck on Old Post Road in Setauket during Tropical Storm Isaias. Photo by John Broven

LIPA’s 2020 Internal Audit plan had previously scheduled a re-audit of the process to maintain customer lists to begin the fourth quarter of 2020. After reports of outdated customer lists during Isaias, LIPA accelerated that process, which started in September. The power authority will address that further in its 90 and 180 day Task Force reports.

The senator, who presented the results of his survey, also reiterated concerns he has about LIPA’s oversight of PSEG LI.

Gaughran said the Public Service Commission, which has considerably more direct oversight with other utilities around the state, doesn’t have the same authority with PSEG LI.

The PSC provides “recommendations” to LIPA and can “force them to pay money to their customers for lost food, lost business. [It] can do this with every utility except PSEG LI because the relationship is different.”

In responding to this concern, LIPA, in a statement, said the LIPA Reform Act provides the Department of Public Service with oversight responsibilities of LIPA and PSEG.

“LIPA’s storm oversight activities are in addition to DPS’s statutory role and DPS’s statutory role is the same for PSEG Long Island as it is for the state’s other utilities,” LIPA said in a statement.

The DPS provides independent recommendations to the LIPA Board of Trustees. The board has accepted every recommendation from the DPS, according to the statement.

LIPA said the only difference between the oversight of PSEG LI and other utilities in New York is that the DPS recommendations are to LIPA’s nine-member board, instead of the Public Service Commission.

The 30-day report includes 37 specific recommendations for PSEG Long Island to put in place by Oct. 15, LIPA said.

As for losses from the storm, LIPA said it secured direct reimbursement for customers through the customer spoilage reimbursement program. That could be as high as $500 per residential customer for food and medicine. PSEG LI is forgoing up to $10 million in compensation to fund this program.

LIPA “may look to pursue additional actions after [its] review and the Department of Public Service’s Investigation” is complete, LIPA said in a statement.

In his letter to Gaughran, Falcone said the 90-day and 180-day reports would have additional “actionable recommendations,” which the LIPA board would ask for independent verification and validation to make sure these recommendations have been implemented.

 

County Executive Steve Bellone said there could be massive cuts to Suffolk bus routes if they receive no financial aid soon. Photo by Kyle Barr

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) has continued his calls for additional federal funds, now saying bus routes and bus drivers’ positions could be eliminated in the planned county budget to be released within the next week, officials said. 

Click the image to see which routes could be cut in your area.

Bellone held a press conference Friday, Sept. 25, saying that cutting 19 bus routes and 25% of paratransit bus availability would result in about $18 million in savings for the county’s 2021 budget. The non paratransit routes, officials said, are equivalent to 2,500 riders a day, according to the pre-pandemic ridership levels. Cuts would impact about 200 daily riders who use the Suffolk County Accessible Transit service, and could also potentially eliminate hundreds of workers’ positions.

The routes themselves are spread out throughout the county, and though officials said those chosen would be busses with overall less ridership, they represent some of the only public transportation for certain areas. The S62, which runs across the North Shore from Riverhead to Hauppauge and is the only bus for places like Shoreham, Rocky Point and Miller Place, would be axed under current plans. The S54, which connects the Patchogue railroad to the Walt Whitman Mall is also in the crosshairs. Together, those routes contain the highest ridership and represent 887 daily riders, according to the county. 

All Planned Route Cuts

  • S54 – 548 riders per day
  • 10B – 45 riders per day
  • S59 – 90 riders per day
  • S57 – 139 riders per day
  • S31 – 12 riders per day
  • S76 – 36 riders per day
  • S56 – 89 riders per day
  • 2A – 106 riders per day
  • 7A – 60 riders per day
  • 10C – 85 riders per day
  • 6B – 108 riders per day
  • S47 – 73 riders per day
  • 8A – 131 riders per day
  • S62 – 339 riders per day
  • 1A – 63 riders per day
  • 6A – 78 riders per day
  • S69 – 3 riders per day
  • 2B – 161 riders per day
  • S23 – 149 riders per day

Other nixed routes include the S76, which connects Stony Brook and Port Jefferson Village and has an estimated 36 daily riders, may also get cut. The S56, which runs in Smithtown from Commack to Lake Grove with around 89 daily riders, could be eliminated as well.

This is all part of an anticipated 2021 county budget that Bellone said will include cuts across the board.

“Washington has failed to act,” Bellone said. “We need Washington to do its job, to do what it’s always done in times of crisis when local communities are hit by unprecedented natural disasters that are beyond the scope and capability of local government can handle.”

The cuts to personnel could be especially devastating, he said, considering many were “essential workers” who did their jobs even during the worst of the pandemic on Long Island. Many hospital and other frontline workers take the bus to work as well.

These planned cuts are despite receiving close to $26.6 million earlier this year in federal aid specifically for public transportation services. Bellone said the money has already been spent or allocated for the current year.

The total operating cost of Suffolk Transit is over $85 million, with more than $43 million being funded by the county, around $29 million from New York State, more than $4.4 million from the federal government, and $8.2 million in fares. Suffolk County estimates it will lose $6.1 million in farebox revenue in 2020, alongside a 20% or $6 million cut in state funding. Bellone’s office reported that the $26 million in federal funds allowed the county to operate the buses as normal during the height of the pandemic. 

John Corrado, the president of Suffolk Transportation Services, a private company which operates all the buses used by Suffolk County, said they lost about 40% of ridership during the pandemic, and though numbers are coming back there is no way it can stave off the massive loss in farebox revenue.

In a repeat of last week’s press conference where Bellone announced major cuts to Suffolk County Police, Republicans in the county legislature held a retaliatory press conference of their own that same day. Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), a member of the legislature’s Public Works, Transportation and Energy Committee, claimed the county is only down $4 million in bus fees. The GOP members of the legislature have constantly attacked Bellone on its financial situation, with officials often citing a 2019 report from the state comptroller calling Suffolk the most fiscally stressed municipality in the state.

Legislator Rob Trotta joined fellow Republicans in denouncing Bellone’s planned bus cuts. Photo by Kyle Barr

“To blame the federal government is a cop out,” Trotta said. 

Though that aid that Suffolk received this year must be put towards current budget impacts due to the pandemic, Trotta said the numbers Bellone cited were off, and that the $26 million federal funds could be used now and all the savings could be rolled over into next year.

Though one will have to wait until the final 2021 budget is released before making any claims of what should or should not be cut, Republicans have claimed both this and other cuts to major services are unnecessary considering the CARES Act funding the county has already received to the tune of $257 million, not counting the additional public transit funds. This, they argued, should be enough to cover COVID-related expenses. Republicans said that new money is being used to pay for past financial mismanagement by the county executive. 

Though when asked what else could be cut instead of these services, Republican legislators said they would need to see the full budget before making that determination. 

Though some of the officials admitted there is need for further federal aid, Legislator Anthony Piccorillo (R-Holtsville) suggested the federal government put a watchdog on the county executive to make sure the funds are spent correctly.

In response to the accusation the cuts are not needed, Bellone said since the county pays more than $40 million for the bus system, and though the federal funds have helped, they does not cover what will be a massive $800 million deficit for this year going into next year.

The planned cuts to public transportation would also impact the Suffolk County Accessible Transit buses, otherwise known as SCAT, which hundreds of residents with disabilities rely upon for service in doing things as simple as going to physical therapy or shopping for food. The service allows residents to schedule being picked up and dropped off, and represents one of the few tangible means for those lacking mobility and without personal transport for getting around.

Frank Krotschinsky, the director of the Office for People with Disabilities under the county executive, said “the county has gone above and beyond” in the offerings it has for disabled transport. He added the questions his office most commonly receives are from people asking about transportation.

“The day these cuts are made, people with disabilities will be disproportionately affected,” he said. “We need the federal government to step up to its role.”

The same day as the press conference, Bellone hosted a call with the county executives of Onondaga and Orange upstate counties, both of whom are Republican, in emphasizing the bipartisan need for additional relief from the federal government. 

“As we put forward this budget, there is not going to be a part of this budget that involves discretionary spending that will not be impacted by Washington’s failure to act here,” Bellone said.

 

Stock photo

Get a flu shot now. 

While timing a flu shot can seem like timing the stock market — buying or selling a stock now might mean missing out on gains later — it’s not. A flu shot generally provides immunological coverage against the flu from about four weeks after the shot until six months later.

With a flu season that doesn’t follow a yearly calendar, residents sometimes try to balance between minimizing the possible effect of exposure to the flu in the next few weeks with exposure to the flu in the middle of the spring.

“It makes most health professionals very uncomfortable when people [suggest holding off on protection through the spring] as a reason to delay immunization, as it takes four weeks for protective antibodies to mature,” said Michael Grosso, Chief Medical Officer at Huntington Hospital. Influenza season can begin as early as November and sometimes earlier, so “any time now would be the right time.”

Medical professionals urged people to be even more proactive about getting a flu shot this year, as the pandemic continues to lurk in the shadows, on door knobs, and within six feet of an infected individual.

When people contract the flu along with other respiratory illnesses, the combination, as people might expect, can cause significant sickness.

“The novel coronavirus is just that, it’s novel,” Grosso said. “We don’t know exactly how it will interact with influenza. We do have significant prior experience with concurrent infections with other respiratory viruses. Individuals coinfected with one or more serious respiratory viruses frequently get sicker.”

That’s the case for both children and adults, Grosso added.

Getting an influenza vaccine could also reduce the confusion that will occur if people experience flu-like symptoms, which are also a hallmark of COVID-19 cases.

“Getting as much of the population immunized as possible is even more important than at other times,” Grosso said.

Each year, somewhere between 150,000 to 180,000 people are hospitalized from the flu and the death toll can range between 12,000 to 61,000 people per year in the U.S.

Doctors recommended that people who are 65 and older get a quadrivalent flu shot, which includes an additional influenza B strain.

In a trial of 30,000 people over 65, people who received the quadrivalent shot had 24% fewer illnesses compared to those who got the standard shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Susan Donelan, Medical Director of Healthcare Epidemiology at Stony Brook Medicine, said the side effects of the flu shot include an uncomfortable arm for a few days, a low grade fever and fatigue.

“The vast majority of people can easily manage the minor side effects for a day or two with Tylenol or Ibuprofen or a cold pack on their arm,” Dr. Donelan said.

Doctors said practices such as wearing a mask, social distancing and frequent hand washing, which are designed to reduce the spread of COVID-19, are also helpful in cutting down on the transmission of the flu.

Those measures will only help if residents exercise them correctly. Masks that fall below the nose of the wearer, which may make it easier to breathe, are not as effective at reducing the spread of these viruses, Dr. Donelan said.

 

While there have been no reported cases on Long Island, five people in Connecticut recently were infected with flesh-eating bacteria. File photo

With reports of five people who have been infected with flesh-eating bacteria across the Long Island Sound in Connecticut, area doctors answered questions about the dangerous pathogen.

For starters, the bacteria in Connecticut is called Vibrio vulnificus, and even though it’s extremely rare, it is especially problematic for people who have open wounds and have gone swimming in warm, salty or brackish — a combination of fresh and salty — waters.

Smaller cuts aren’t as much of a likely entry point for these bacteria, but open wounds such as skinned knees or elbows are, said Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

Those residents with open wounds who have swum in salty or brackish water can lower the risk of infection by washing their wounds with soap and freshwater soon after coming out of the water.

“Soap and water work,” Nachman said. “If you have no access to soap, regular water would be great.”

Vibrio is a rapidly spreading bacteria and is often visible soon after swimming.

“If you swim and you have an open wound and it looks different an hour or two after you get home than it did that morning, seek medical attention quickly,” Nachman advised.

The wound tends to get hot, is tender and red, and makes people who contract the bacteria feel sick. Getting ahead of the spread is particularly important.

Residents who are concerned that their wound might be changing can take a picture of the area and then, an hour later, compare that picture to how the injury looked.

While everyone doesn’t need to race to an emergency room for a possible wound that may look different after a swim, Nachman suggested people approach possible exposure with “thoughtful concern.”

An untreated infection can become much more serious, sometimes leading to amputations and even death. The five Connecticut cases haven’t involved any such dire developments.

Residents whose wounds appear to have a Vibrio infection typically receive at least two antibiotics either orally or intravenously. Some other pathogens in the water also can look as bad as Vibrio, but they need different antibiotics, which include Aeromonas. These other bacteria also find their way into bodies through open wounds and can cause rapidly progressing infections.

“When you go to the hospital, [medical personnel] may say that it looks like one of these [bacteria], and we are going to give you two to three antibiotics and see what happens,” Nachman said.

Once the medical staff determines the cause of the infection, they will likely cut the antibiotics back to the one that’s more effective for that specific bacteria.

With fewer people on the beach as school has restarted and people are engaged in more fall activities, potential infections from Vibrio have decreased.

While antibiotics are effective, they take time to beat back the bacteria.

With over 25 years in practice, Nachman has seen several cases of children who have contracted Vibrio. The children have been very sick, but have recovered.

People who have certain conditions can be more vulnerable to Vibrio, including people who have diabetes, are obese, or have heart or kidney problems.

Vibrio typically appears through wastewater. Shellfish, which are filter feeders, effectively clean the water. Warmer temperatures, however, or a big storm can cause shellfish beds to get upended, where pathogens might be dumped back into the water.

For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/vibrio/wounds.

by -
0 244

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad Detectives are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the man and woman who allegedly used stolen credit cards at a Melville store and two Commack stores in September.

Credit cards were stolen from a purse in a shopping cart inside Trader Joes, located at 5900 Jericho Turnpike in Commack, Sept. 17 at approximately 1:15 p.m. Later that day, a man and woman used the stolen credit cards at Home Depot, located at 65 Crooked Hill Road in Commack, as well as at two separate Dick’s Sporting Goods, located at 6070 Jericho Turnpike in Commack and 870 Walt Whitman Road in Melville.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS.

‘Spookley the Square Pumpkin’

In partnership with the Smithtown Historical Society (SHS), the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts presents a performance of “Spookley the Square Pumpkin: The Musical,” the story of a square pumpkin living in a round pumpkin patch, in the open air outdoor space behind the SHS’s Roseneath Cottage, 239 E. Main St., Smithtown on Oct. 10, 12, 17, 18, 24, 25 and 31 at 11 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Masks are required for this socially distanced production. All seats are $18 at www.smithtownpac.org.

The Smithtown Historical Society stepped back in time last Sunday as it presented its annual Heritage Country Fair. Attendees bought tickets for two-hour time slots, and each slot was limited to 50 people. The society adhered to COVID-19 regulations and masks and social distancing were required to take part in the day’s events.

While the historic homes on the grounds were not open for tours this year, Civil War reenactors from the 30th Virginia Infantry, 9th Virginia Historical Society and 88th New York State Volunteers Regiment along with volunteers in costumes were spread out through the property to relay a bit of history.

Alpha Axes were on hand for some ax throwing; Long Island Traditional Music Association (LITMA) performed a Contra Dance; the band Strummin’ and Drummin’ performed; the Island Long Riders put on a cowboy shooting show; Paul Henry sang and played guitar; spinning and weaving demonstrations were held by Spinning Study Group of Long Island; the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts presented a children’s performance of “Moana Jr.” and more.

Guests were also able to enjoy food from Belgiorno Family Mobile Wood Fired Pizza and Up In Smoke BBQ and visit vendor booths including Kathlyn Spins, Genie’s Treasures, League of Women Voters, Angela O’Connell Wreaths and Owl’s Feather Designs.

All photos by Rita J. Egan

by -
0 797

By Steven Zaitz

Richard “Bull” Smith, who founded Smithtown over 350 years ago, never played quarterback. Nor could he run the pick and roll in basketball, turn a 6-4-3 double play in baseball or swim the 100-meter breaststroke.

However, his statue was smack in the middle of about 100 student-athletes, coaches and parents Friday, Sept. 18, as they gathered to protest the Section XI decision to suspend all high school sports due to the coronavirus until at least January 2021. They met right on the front lawn of Section XI headquarters on Main Street and Route 111 in Smithtown.

Groups representing Kings Park, East Islip, Northport, Commack, Ward Melville and Connetquot joined Smithtown residents, who began their protest at the school district’s administration earlier on New York Avenue, and held up signs imploring the decision makers to rethink this delay. Many of these devoted and impassioned protesters were at the same location, doing the same thing Tuesday, Sept. 15.

One of these protesters was Ray Zuppa, an attorney from Smithtown, who feels that high school athletic facilities are far less dangerous than other places that kids might go. He is also a strong believer that not having the chance to play sports is devastating to the youngsters’ development.

“I believe Section XI has let the kids down,” Zuppa said later during a phone interview. “I realize it is a serious virus, but the science supports that it’s difficult to catch outside and when wearing a mask.”

Zuppa’s son, Isaiah Zuppa, is the starting quarterback of the Smithtown West Bulls and was one of the highest-rated passers in Suffolk County in 2019. He was also in attendance at the protest.

“Isaiah is a shell of himself,” the father said. “It’s not just about the games, but all these kids are missing the camaraderie, the discipline, team dinners and the bonding — and you know what, the parents are missing it too. Sports is essential to a lot of families.”

Zuppa coached his son for many years in the Suffolk County Police Athletic League, and when the father was asked if he took solace in the plans to have football season in March, he was skeptical. 

“I think this March thing is just a way to kick the can down the road,” he said.  “I don’t think it’s really going to happen, and this is just a way for them to bide their time.”

The masked protesters were rewarded by the encouragement of honking car horns, and they created a party-like atmosphere as they tossed footballs, sang team fight songs and ran through tumbling routines at the foot of Smith’s statue. However, Tom Combs, executive director of Section XI, and the main target of the protesters’ ire, did not address the crowd or make an appearance from his nearby office.

“While this was a difficult decision, we feel it was the best move for the health and safety of everyone involved,” Combs said in a Sept. 11 statement on the Section XI website. “We still have a lot of hard work ahead in planning and executing on the three seasons across six months in 2021, but we look forward to the challenge and collaboration with our member schools and providing an impactful experience for our student-athletes and coaches.”

Despite Combs’ nonappearance, Zuppa still thinks these public showings are beneficial.

“They know we’re out here,” he said. “They know how we feel.”

More than 1,000 supporters of President Donald Trump (R) took to county roads Sept. 20 to participate in a car and truck rally.

The rally started in East Northport at the AMC movie theater parking lot. At 11 a.m., participants started heading east on Route 25. The caravan then continued on Route 58 to travel through Riverhead and Greenport.

The rally caught the attention of the president who tweeted, “THANK YOU! #MAGA.”

In a Sept. 21 Facebook post, the rally organizer Shawn Farash said he finally had a chance to reflect on the day.

“We were heard, seen, and it resonated,” Farash wrote. “It reached people. Young and old. We did that. We packed out that movie theater lot. We took over the North Fork, and we declared together, the phrase I’ve heard from so many of you over the past few days, that we will be #SILENTNOMORE.”