Town of Huntington

Huntington resident Kevin Gersh recognized as innovator of programs for children with special needs

Huntington resident Kevin Gersh, founder of Gersh Academy, is known for his innovative programs designed for children with special needs. Photo from Gersh Academy.

It takes a special person to take care of a child with special needs. Huntington resident Kevin Gersh has proven all it takes is a few innovative ideas and a big heart.

Gersh, founder of Gersh Academy in Huntington, created a series of schools and programs geared toward helping children with autism and special needs. But it’s been his drive to do more philanthropic actions that give back to the community that has made others take notice.

“Kevin Gersh is an innovator in the special needs community,” said Stephanie Gotard, program director of Leadership Huntington, which fosters development of community leaders. “He has dedicated his life to making a difference in the lives of children.”

Gersh founded West Hills Montessori School of Huntington in 1991, where working with one child with special needs made him realize that the method of teaching needed to change. As a result, he started Gersh Academy in 1999 as an education program for children ages 5 to 21 on the autism spectrum.

Over the years, Gersh has expanded his organization to create 11 programs spanning from Long Island to Puerto Rico, for typical children in addition to those with special needs.

I love helping kids. When someone asks me can you help a child, I say ‘yes.’ I don’t hesitate. It’s what gets me going.”

— Kevin Gersh

“It’s what I do for a living, that’s who I am,” he said. “I love helping kids. When someone asks me can you help a child, I say ‘yes.’ I don’t hesitate. It’s what gets me going.”

Others in the Huntington community said they now look to Gersh for advice in meeting the needs of children with autism. Cold Spring Harbor resident Bob Fonti said when he had a friend who was unsure where to get help for his child with special needs,  Gersh’s door was open, and he was more than willing to pick up the phone and make a call.

“He is always willing to advise, advocate and provide hope for special needs parents,” Gotard said.

In addition to his work for special needs children, Gersh has been noted by others for giving back to nonprofits and local communities. In 2015, Gersh Academy students raised funds for the Caroline Wambui Mungai Foundation, an organization whose mission is improving the lives of orphaned and abandoned children throughout Africa. The following year, the Gersh Organization donated money raised for Sunrise Day Camp, a specialized camp for children with cancer and their siblings.

More recently, Gersh donated hundreds of school uniforms to students in Wyandanch school district. He has also created an event, which distributed donated suits to help students heading into college and with job interviews. He recalled fondly watching one football player try on a jacket.

“You should have seen the smile on his face when he looked in the mirror dressed in a $3,000 full-length cashmere coat,” Gersh said. “He didn’t take it off the whole night. That to me, is everything.”

“[Kevin Gersh] is always willing to advise, advocate and provide hope for special needs parents.”

— Stephanie Gotard

This holiday season, Gersh has joined with a friend, Kevin Donnelly of Lido Beach, in an effort to ship 10,000 toys to Puerto Rico for children displaced by Hurricane Maria in time for Three Kings Day, Jan. 6.

“They are living in shelters, the least we can do is give them a Christmas,” Gersh said.

He has asked the 75 employees of Gersh Academy in Puerto Rico to help sort the toys for distribution. The U.S. Marines with Toys for Tots and the toy company, Hasbro, have pitched in and joined the effort.

But he’s already looking forward to his next event, having Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey hold a day in May 2018 specially for children with autism. Gersh said the theme park will close to the public for a day to allow those with special sensory needs to enjoy the park with quieter music and shorter lines alongside their families.

“I anticipate this to be a huge event,” he said. “I get excited about doing things for kids that no one has ever done before.”

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Madison Brady keeps a Deer Park opponent at a distance as she moves the ball up the court. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Erin Tucker and Hallie Simkins combined for three points from the free-throw line in the final seconds of Harborifelds’ girls basketball team’s 39-37 edging of Deer Park at the Northport invitational shootout Dec. 30, helping to cap off 2017 on a 6-0 undefeated streak in League V.

Hallie Simkins muscles her way to the rim with a Deer Park opponent at her hip reaching for the block. Photo by Bill Landon

The Tornadoes haven’t missed a beat despite losing all five starters to graduation last year.

“This is a completely new team,” Harborfields head coach Glenn Lavey said. “And that was a good win for them.”

Early in the game points were hard to come by for both teams, as Deer Park took a 7-6 lead into the second stanza, which is where the Falcons’ 3-point game came alive. Three consecutive trifectas were scored before Harborfields could answer, giving Deer Park an 8-point lead, 16-8, with three minutes left in the first half.

Harborfields junior Celia Argiriou launched a long distance shot to net her first 3-pointer of the game to close the gap to 16-13, but the Falcons outscored the Tornadoes 17-11 in the quarter to take a 24-17 advantage into the locker room.

“At halftime, our coach just told us 7 points is nothing — we’ve just got to keep chipping away at it, we’ve got to play harder than them,” Tucker said. “That’s what went through everyone’s mind — do it for the team, and eventually, it will move in our direction. We played a zone coverage we literally put in three weeks ago, and we caused some turnovers that we were able to turn into points.”

With three minutes left in regulation, the forward battled in the paint and scored to make it a 1-point game. One the next possession, Simkins took matters into her own hands and banked two points of her own to give the Tornadoes their first lead since the first quarter with 2:28 left.

Erin Tucker shoots uncontested. Photo by Bill Landon

“I just kept thinking, ‘We have the effort, we have the drive, but we just kept fighting and pushing them by doing what we know how,” said Simkins, who finished the third quarter with two consecutive buckets that cut the deficit to 31-26. “[We won because of] our mental toughness — we all really stayed headstrong on the court and we never gave in.”

With 12.6 seconds on the clock, Tucker went to the line shooting two and banked both of her free-throw shots to edge ahead by three. After a Falcons score, the Tornadoes kept their cool, and Simkins split the difference during her team’s final showing at the charity stripe to seal the deal.

Tucker and Simkins topped the scoring sheet with 11 points apiece. Freshman forward Madison Brady, who banked seven, said Lavey’s encouragement at halftime resonated with her and her teammates, who know the program’s positive playoff position its in year after year.

“Coach said we can come back, and we all agreed that we’re better than that first half, and we could come back,” Brady said. “We just have to battle it out every game the whole season to win our league, and hopefully make a run at a county championship.”

Harborfields looks to continue its positive trajectory in 2018 when it hosts Hauppauge Jan. 4. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

JIm Powers, president of the Townwide Fund oF Huntington, at their annual gala. Photo from Facebook

By Kyle Barr

There’s a Huntington man who keeps himself awake at night, driven to make sure he does his best to raise funds for charity — benefiting not one, but nearly 40 organizations.

Jim Powers, the president of The Townwide Fund of Huntington, thinks of his time with a business-like aim toward efficiency. He wants to get the biggest bang for his time.

As president of the fund, an organization created by the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce to raise funds for local charities, Powers funnels his time and energy toward aiding 39 nonprofit organizations. In 2017, the fund gave out more than $200,000 to charities in and around the Town of Huntington.

Jimmy Powers has been credited by some for saving the Townwide Fund of Huntington. Photo from Townwide Fund of Huntington

“It’s almost one size fits all,” he said. “You’re putting all your time into one organization [where] you can affect 39 different charities touching tens of thousands of different people in the town. Our tagline is, ‘The money raised in Huntington stays in Huntington.’”

Powers dedicates hours each week to the fund, whether it is looking for donations, supporting charity events, hosting their own fundraising events and more. At full board meetings, he’s known to bring coffee and bagels, knowing that all but one board member is a volunteer. Powers wants to show that their time is appreciated.

Powers is also a volunteer for the fund.

“He’s the heart and soul of this organization,” said Gloria Palacios, executive director of The Townwide Fund. “Our fundraising events are the most important thing that we do and Jim gets behind each one because he’s so driven to make sure that we get all the sponsorships and ticket sales and what not.”

Palacios said she marvels at the amount of time Powers puts into the organization, knowing he works many hours a week teaching at New York Institute of Technology and is also the director of business development for Bohler Engineering. She often teases him, Palacios said, knowing in the two or three days before The Townwide Fund events he doesn’t sleep, anxiously making sure every last detail works out perfectly.

“I keep telling him, ‘That it’s not your event, it’s a team event,’ but he says, ‘I know, but this needs to work for the town,’”
Palacios said.

Nine years ago, The Townwide Fund was nearly closed. Many people on the board point to Powers as the person who saved the fund from collapse. He drew up a business plan, replaced much of the board with what he called a “young, vibrant board” including not just business leaders but bankers, architects, attorneys, teachers and stay-at-home moms.

“He’s probably raised more money and given away more money than any other president in the fund’s history,” said Dave Gustin, vice president of the board and president of Melville Chamber of Commerce.

He’s the heart and soul of this organization.
— Gloria Palacios 

Others say Powers is the first person to make phone calls or jump in when something needs to be fixed. Carl Adler, third vice president of The Townwide Fund, recalled one day when they drove by one of the organization’s fundraiser signs together and realized it had been hit by a truck.

“We decided to get out — we had a shovel in the car — and fix it up together,” Adler said. “It’s very typical of Jim when something comes up, he’s going to fix it or he’s going to get people involved.”

Bob Bontempi, founding board member of Long Island Business Council and former chairman of the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, said Powers supports not only The Townwide Fund but is visually active in several other organizations.

“I don’t know how he has the energy to do all the things he does,” Bontempi said. “He’s just one of those people that you go to because he’s a visible leader, and it’s the totality of selfless effort and time over the years that finally needs to be recognized.

Former Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards won the Democratic town supervisor primary. File photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Town of Huntington Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) learned a lot about herself in 2017. For one, she’s not a politician.

The 56-year-old Huntington native, who lost to state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) in the November race for town supervisor, will not be returning to the town board Jan. 1. But she is proud of the campaign she led and the community-oriented issues it centered on.

Edwards ran for Huntington’s top seat instead of taking the admittedly safer route of running as an incumbent for re-election to the town board. When asked why, she repeatedly said, “This is not about me. This is about what I believe is best for Huntington.”

She has always seen herself as a community advocate and public servant, first and foremost, a trait noticed and respected by those she has served.

Tracey Edward (D) was first elected to Huntington Town Board in 2012.

“At the end of the day, I’m a community advocate,” Edwards said. “The nastiness and personal attacks in elections were never things I was ever interested in. I want to help people and our town. True public servants don’t stop doing that just because they lose an election.”

In junior high school, she got her official start in community service as a candy striper at Huntington Hospital. She was encouraged to give back to the community by her father — a narcotics detective on the town’s former police force — and mother, Dolores Thompson, a Huntington activist still going strong today.

Edwards has served on the board of directors of the Long Island Association in Melville and is the Long Island regional director of the NAACP — a post she said she looks forward to returning to.

As councilwoman and supervisor candidate, she focused on making Huntington a more inclusive place for everybody, regardless of age, race, gender or economic bracket.

“We have a very robust, diverse and unique town that is filled with wonderful neighborhoods and great communities,” Edwards said. “There’s no place else I would rather live. While I wish Chad Lupinacci the best, I’ll be keeping my eye on him to make sure this town continues to move in the right direction for all.”


True public servants don’t stop doing that just because they lose an election.

— Tracey Edwards

During her four years in office, Edwards has worked alongside Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) to expand affordable housing legislation for millennials and first-time home buyers and has been hands-on with youth-based programs that focus on character building, recreation and tackling the drug problem. She created a special annual luncheon, dubbed Memories of Huntington, to honor seniors age 75 or older, who have lived in town for more than 50 years, for their contributions to Huntington’s history.

“Tracey is not a politician’s politician … she’s for the people,” said Jo Ann Veit, a member of the Senior Reunion committee. “People love her because she’s there for them and she gives you that feeling that she’s there for you, thinking about you and the town, and what would be best for the seniors in the town. When people leave that reunion, they’re all so pleased with Tracey and how genuine she is. She has been a wonderful councilwoman.”

Bob Santo, commander of Greenlawn American Legion Post 1244, has gotten the same sense of sincerity from Edwards in the years they’ve known each other.

“The first time I met Tracey was during a parade in Huntington Station and she was on the back of a motorcycle being ridden by one of our American Legion motorcycle [members] — she was having a grand old time,” Santo said, laughing. “With Tracey, what you see is what you get, and what she says is what she means. She’s never trying to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes.”

Councilwomen Susan Berland and Councilwoman Tracey Edwards spotted at the parade on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015 . Photo by Stephen Jimenez

Santo praised the councilwoman for spearheading the Huntington Opportunity Resource Center, a program that offers assistance with résumé preparation, job searches, career options and job training access for unemployed and low-income residents, many of whom are veterans.

Edwards said her proudest accomplishment has been her ability to turn difficult times in her life into something beneficial to those around her. Upon being diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2016, she was determined not to miss a single board meeting and scheduled her chemotherapy, radiation and surgery sessions around them.

When she finally became cancer-free, Edwards, who said she goes for breast cancer screenings once a year, realized there were probably so many women out there who may not be aware of the importance of screenings or have access to health care.

She partnered with Huntington Hospital-Northwell Health to host an education program on preventative screening exams, risk assessment, nutrition and information for free breast cancer screenings at Huntington Town Hall.

She also helped to rewrite the town’s ethics code to make town hall a more transparent place for residents.

NAACP New York State Conference president, Hazel Dukes, commended Edwards for fighting for the rights of all people, regardless of race, creed or color.


She didn’t want to go back as a councilwoman and why would she? You don’t go backward, you keep going forward.

— Dolores Thompson

“I know that Tracey Edwards is a committed and dedicated public servant,” Dukes said. “She truly brings conviction to the cause of equality and justice for all people. She’s embodied that in her professional life, as a worker in the NAACP and her political life.”

Edward’s work ethic comes as no surprise to her mother, Dolores Thompson.

“This year she’s had the initiative and aggressiveness and guts, in plain old English, to run for supervisor in this special community,” Thompson said. “She’s a trooper, a very strong woman who speaks her mind, and I’m very sure she will do something even better for this community as she progresses. She didn’t want to go back as a councilwoman and why would she? You don’t go backward, you keep going forward.”

Edwards, who lives in Dix Hills with her husband, was recognized by outgoing
Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) during a town board meeting Dec. 13.

“Four years ago, we were blessed with a person that I have never, ever encountered someone with more energy and the ability to move in and create change,” Petrone said. “A woman who has given so much in the short, short four years to the Town of Huntington and its residents … Tracey Edwards, we the members of the Huntington Town Board on behalf of the residents of Huntington wish to extend our sincere thanks to you for service to our community.”

Edwards thanked members of the community and assured all in the room her journey isn’t over.

“You haven’t heard the last of me,” she said. “You have not.”

Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone is honored by the Suffolk County Legislature for retiring after 40 years as a public official. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said his farewells as the prominent leader of the Town of Huntington, but not without — as he said it best and “straight” — a crypt and an alleyway.

Petrone led his final town board meeting Dec. 13 as he was honored and recognized by his fellow council members and residents for his 24 years of service as town supervisor. Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia presented the town’s chain of office, a 1-pound, 11-ounce chain featuring several medallions including some made of wampum, for Petrone to wear on the momentous occasion.

Supervisor gives one final farewell address to residents

Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) offered a public farewell speech to residents at the Dec. 13 town board meeting, upon receiving accolades for his accomplishments after 24 years of service. Below is an extended excerpt of his remarks:

Thank you all. It’s been a real experience, a real trip — if I can call it that — a highlight in my life. Actually 24 years is a career in itself, and it’s been made possible because of you.

I give it to you straight. Some people never liked it, didn’t like it,  but it’s always been given to you straight on how I felt and what I thought was best for the entire community or residents at large. Sometimes, maybe, I was not all right, and I made sure it changed and we changed that. You guided me and you gave me that opportunity. I am a rich man, as a result of this, a very rich man full of heart and love you have given me. I share you inside, all of you. I shared a board with 20-somewhat council people. I could share some stories, but I won’t.

But, I think I want to thank this board for really capping this career for me. We’ve really reached new heights during these past several years. I’ve thanked each and every one of them. I’ve given them awards tonight and everything that was said is true — all those pieces add up. Mark [Cuthbertson] has been a partner for 20 years, someone who suffered with me through tough financial times right there plugging along and making the hard decisions that I will forever be grateful for.

It’s not by myself, it was done with other people. I mentioned my board members who are leaving and their accomplishments. I want to thank Gene Cook for all he’s done and everything that he means. I’ve learned some good lessons from Gene. You are going to go forward now. You have a new team to work with, and I think you are excited for that. I think we are all excited there’s a team coming in that’s going to bring Huntington to other heights, which is so very, very important. We’re thankful for that, that’s what service is all about. We should be thankful.

“It’s been a real experience, a real trip — if I can call it that — a highlight in my life, actually, 24 years is a career in itself, and it’s been made possible because of you,” Petrone said. “I am a rich man, as a result of this, a very rich man full of heart and love that you have given me.”

The outgoing supervisor joked he feared Raia was going to present him with an urn or burial plot. Petrone explained when he expanded the town clerk’s archival vault he had promised to do so on one condition: a future spot set aside for his urn.

“We will still have that available, but you have many long years ahead of you,” Raia said.

Petrone was praised by Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D), who has served alongside him for 20 years, for taking the town, which was on the brink of bankruptcy when he took office in 1994, to fiscal stability.

“He is a consistent builder, a mentor; he is someone who put his heart into the job and gave of himself,” Cuthbertson said. “I believe in my heart of hearts this town is so much better for his service.”

The town board members gave a proclamation to the outgoing supervisor that they will rename Irwin Place, the alleyway adjacent to town hall, Frank P. Petrone Way, in honor of Petrone’s accomplishments.

“Such a record of accomplishments warrants a special recognition to cement Supervisor Petrone’s legacy and inform future generations of how much of a debt we owe Supervisor Petrone,” Cuthbertson said. “Such a recognition would traditionally take the form of naming a street after the deserving person. However, a clear policy was set by Petrone to reserve street naming for the deceased, which he fortunately is not.”

Renaming Irwin Place was chosen as Petrone was well known for his habit of parking his car on alleyway, carefully pulling it up onto the sidewalk alongside the building.

“Seeing Supervisor Petrone’s personal car parked in his special spot was a visual signal to all who visit town hall that their government was open for business,” Cuthbertson said.

Petrone thanked each member of the town council for serving with him, including Raia, and noted that even his wife Pat, was in the audience attending her very first town board meeting. He received a standing ovation in recognition of his more than two decades in office.

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) was joined by Legislators Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) and Lou D’Amaro (D-Huntington Station) to give Petrone a proclamation at the Dec. 19 county legislative meeting for his 24 years as town supervisor and more than 40 years of public service as an elected official.

Petrone wears Huntington’s chain of office. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“I can say without hesitation that in just about every conversation I’ve had over the last 12 years with residents in my community and in the greater Huntington community, they say ‘Things might be tough out there but in this town, things are pretty good,’” Stern said. “Some part of that is due to the leadership and steady hand of Supervisor Petrone for so many years.”

Petrone was lauded by the legislators for his sound fiscal management, innovative and affordable housing projects, preservation of open space and launching a revitalization of Huntington Station.

“Supervisor Petrone is a role model for all of us,” D’Amaro said. “I will always remember if you went to him and you needed something, and you needed to work together he was always cooperative, always willing to help no matter what the issue was … Mr. Supervisor, I wish you the best of luck in the future.”

Petrone said his first plans upon retirement are spending the next few months at his Florida home with his wife, and enjoying time with his first grandchild.

Huntington councilwoman Susan Berland, second from right, attended at her last board meeting as an elected town official Dec. 13. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington Councilwoman Susan Berland’s (D) 11th-hour resignation caused the outgoing Democratic board to make a last-minute appointment to fill her seat as its final group action.

Joan Cergol, a registered Democrat and town employee, was appointed to replace Berland, who resigned from her position effective immediately at 10:43 p.m. at the Dec. 13 town board meeting.

A lifelong Huntington resident, Cergol has served as the town’s director of the Huntington Community Development Agency, executive director of the Economic Development Corp., and executive director of the Local Development Corp.

“The voters who placed me on this town board in five successive elections deserve to have someone whose qualifications, focus and accomplishments are coordinated with mine, who is dedicated to serving public interest over any political or individual pressures, and who will continue to represent them on this board,” Berland said in presenting Cergol.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) called for Cergol’s immediate appointment, despite the objections of Councilman Eugene Cook, the lone Republican on the board.

“I absolutely think this is the wrong thing to do,” Cook said. “The voters of the Town of Huntington went out and voted for a new direction coming in. You are taking that away from them. This should be going out to a new board.”

As Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) is retiring, the political majority of the board will flip come Jan. 1, 2018 from longtime Democratic control over to the hands of the Republicans. Supervisor-elect Chad Lupinacci (R) and Republican Ed Smyth will take over the seats held by Petrone and Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) respectively. Edwards will leave the board in January after running an unsuccessful campaign for town supervisor against Lupinacci.

“I believe Councilwoman Berland was elected as a Democrat,” Cuthbertson said in defense of Cergol’s appointment. “This board has every right to choose her replacement based on her resignation, whether registered Democrat or not, and we’re entitled to fill that vacancy. It’s the responsible thing to do.”

Cuthbertson was supported by his outgoing political party members Petrone and Edwards.

“Joan has worked with all members of the board and she’s noted for being someone who is nonpartisan when it comes to her activities in town hall and her actions as a professional,” Petrone said. “I echo, as outgoing supervisor, I would have been delighted to serve with Joan Cergol.”

Cergol will serve in Berland’s place through November 2018. Then Cergol will have to run for election to serve the remaining year of Berland’s term through December 2019, in accordance with state law.

Berland, who was elected in November to represent the 16th District in the Suffolk County Legislature, will begin her two-year term Jan. 1, 2018. She has served for 16 years on the Huntington town board.

“I have always strived to do the best job possible and made decisions not political, but in the best interests of the people,” she said in a farewell address. “Please know I am always just a phone call away and my heart will always be with the people of Huntington.”

The newly renovated Commack Public Library's children area is brightly lit with LED lighting. Photo by Ola Wilk/Wilk Marketing Communications

Commack residents may have to look twice to find the sleek and modern entrance of the newly renovated Commack Public Library. Hint, there’s a brand new entrance.

The Commack Public Library celebrated its grand reopening Dec. 6 after completing a $8.5 million renovation and expansion. The Hauppauge Road building was aged and out-of-date with state safety codes, according to its Director Laurie Rosenthal, as it had not undergone any significant upgrades since its construction in 1976.

Rosenthal, the library’s director for more than 15 years, said “I’m really excited to be home … this library is like a second home to me and many of our patrons.”

The Commack Public LIbrary celebrated its grand reopening Dec. 2. Photo fromWilk Marketing Communications.

The newly renovated building was designed by Beatty Harvey Coco (BHC) Architects of Hauppauge to be more consistent with the modern technological era and more community friendly by providing more space for programs.

“In the beginning of the design phase, the library’s leadership defined the functional requirements for the renovation, which included expanding the dedicated spaces for children and young adults, enlarging event and community facilities, specifying more comfortable furniture, improving telecommunications and audiovisual technology, and increasing the visibility of the building’s main entrance,” said Christopher Sepp, a senior associate for BHC. “These requirements reflected the new role of the library as a community and social center for residents.”

The main entrance of the library was moved from the intersection of Commack Road and Hauppauge Road to the side of the building facing the parking lot to make the building more accessible and safer for visitors.

The former community room was expanded from 1,203 to 1,735 square feet in order to accommodate more patrons into its programs, the library director said. In addition, a new audiovisual system and movable curtain wall partition was installed to allow more than one program to be held at a time.

What Rosenthal likes to call the “coffee cup,” a brightly LED-lit entrance to the new children’s section, features soft furniture with lounge seating, train and brick play stations and colored LED lighting strips radiating out from the central ceiling that change colors based on themes and events. The library director said new iPads in protective cases will be available to allow
children to interact with technology as well as a sensory area, or quiet low-lighting room specifically designed for children with sensory and auditory needs.

The entrance to the Commack Public LIbrary was relocated and given a facelift during the $8.5 million building renovation. Photo from Wilk Marketing Communications

Young adults have been given a 620-square-foot space off the main floor of the library which features age-appropriate reading, its own computer terminals and a booth like seating area with television and comfortable chairs where teens are invited to do homework or relax.

Throughout the library, there are varied tables, and study areas have their own built-in electrical units with Wi-Fi connections possible to allow residents to come in, sit down and connect anywhere, Rosenthal said.

In addition to the extensive redesign of the building, Islandia-based general contractor Stalco Construction made sure it was more energy efficient.

“All of the work was done with the use of sustainable and energy-efficient systems and materials to significantly improve the building’s operational efficiency, save money for years to come, and prevent the release of volatile organic compounds that could impact indoor air quality,” said Jason Vasquez, Stalco’s project manager.

The rebuild included installation of a new high-efficiency heating ventilation and air conditioning system and LED lighting fixtures throughout the library to reduce energy for lighting to one-third its prior rate. Other features include a new elevator for handicapped accessibility and fire sprinklers to bring it into compliance with state fire codes.

All Commack residents, regardless of township, are invited to come in to see or tour the library, Rosenthal said. Any Suffolk County resident with a library card can check out materials, she said, with some exceptions, as high-demand items are only for library district taxpayers.

A screenshot of Huntington Supervisor-elect Chad Lupinacci's transition team website Dec. 6.

The Town of Huntington’s first major change of leadership in more than 20 years is getting underway.

Huntington’s Supervisor-elect Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) announced the launch of the New Direction Transition Team website Nov. 30, for individuals interested in applying for town personnel openings during the transition period.

“In an attempt to keep the hiring process transparent and evaluate all options in personnel matters, I have launched the New Direction Transition Team website,” Lupinacci said in a press statement.

The website, www.Chad2017.com, was inspired by similar ones constructed by recent presidential administrations and Nassau County Executive-elect Laura Curran (D), according to spokesman Brian Finnegan. Those interested may submit a cover letter and resume, then select from more than 15 town departments for which they are interested in working. There are no plans at this time to list specific job openings or descriptions, according to Finnegan. Applicants will not be asked for their political party affiliation.

“Regardless of party affiliation, the supervisor-elect plans on vetting and considering all qualified candidates based on merit,” Finnegan said. “He takes great pride in the fact he’s worked beneath several bipartisan administrations.”

At the town’s unveiling of Huntington Station community center plans Nov. 25, Lupinacci spoke about how his first public service position was working as a laborer under former town Highway Supervisor William Naughton (D). He left the town to become a communications liaison for late Republican State Assemblyman Jim Conte, who represented the 10th district for 24 years. Lupinacci was elected to his first political office in 2012, when he took over Conte’s vacated seat.

“Now, no matter your party affiliation or vote at the ballot box, is the time to work together, get things done, check politics at the door and put people first,” reads Lupinacci’s transition website.

The state assemblyman defeated Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) receiving nearly 54 percent of the votes. He takes office Jan. 1 from resigning Supervisor Frank Petrone (D).

Lupinacci’s move back to town government will leave an open state assembly seat for 10th district residents, which spans from Lloyd Harbor south along state Route 108/Plainview Road to SUNY Farmingdale State College, and as far east as Elwood. It is unclear who will take his place as Lupinacci’s term doesn’t expire until Dec. 31, 2018.

“Shortly after the first of the year we will have a screening process to interview potential candidates to fill that seat,” said Toni Tepe, chairwoman of the Huntington Republican Committee.

Under New York State Senate law pertaining to public officers, “A special election shall not be held … to fill a vacancy in the office of state senator or in the office of member of assembly, unless the vacancy occurs before the first day of April of the last year of the term of office. … If a special election to fill an office shall not be held as required by law, the office shall be filled at the next general election.”

Tepe said the decision on whether or not a special election will be held to fill Lupinacci’s state office will ultimately be made by state Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

Kings Park’s boys basketball tournament won its fifth chamber of commerce tipoff tournament title with a win over Huntington. Photo from Chris Rube

By Jim Ferchland

Gene DeGraw was a fixture in the youth basketball scene in Kings Park, cultivating talented players and poised young men. Now in its fifth year, the Kingsmen hosted an annual tipoff tournament in memory of their former coach. Four schools — Kings Park, Huntington, Plainedge and Commack — played two games each over the two-day event Dec 1. and 2.

Gene DeGraw worked with current Huntington head coach Brian Carey who coached at Kings Park and grew up with DeGraw. Photo by Jim Ferchland

King Park head coach Chris Rube met DeGraw when he was 22 years old in his first year teaching in the district. He volunteered as an assistant coach on the varsity boys basketball team, where got to know the seasoned coach. Rube remembers him as much more than a well-versed instructor.

“He was always the epitome of class,” Rube said of DeGraw. “I admired how he was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. I’m a basketball coach after a teacher,and I’m a teacher after father and a husband. His grandson Michael McSloy was on the team. I remember talking to him and really understanding how special that moment was for him. Not only was he a great coach, but a better person.”

Huntington head coach Brian Carey is a Kings Park alumnus who said he practically grew up with the former head coach. Carey said he admired how much DeGraw loved his players.

“Pop was the perfect assistant — he knew the kids,”Carey said. “He knew me; we were both Kings Park guys. No one could have been more perfect for Kings Park basketball.”

The Kingsmen won the Long Island championship title in 2007 when DeGraw was the assistant coach. Carey coached Kings Park for 10 years, from 1997 to 2006, leaving just before the Kingsmen put up their magical season.

The tournament is in memory of former Kings Park coach Gene DeGraw who coached current Kings Park varsity leader Chris Rube. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“When I got here at Kings Park, the team wasn’t doing so good,” said Carey, who has been coaching for 20 years and was inducted into the Kings Park athletics department hall of fame in 2003. “A few years before I was at Kings Park, the team won four or five games, but the players have been through a system by Gene DeGraw. He was a gentleman and he was the best at getting the kids to come together.”

The now Huntington head coach gave DeGraw the unpaid assistant coach position at Kings Park, having known and graduated from high school with DeGraw’s cousin.

The former assistant coach’s life was cut short due to a heart condition. Aside from being a coach, DeGraw was also a detective in the Suffolk County Police Department.

Bill Denniston, a four-year Kings Park athletic director who was the Shoreham-Wading River athletic director back in 2013 said although he didn’t know DeGraw, he’s heard plenty of good stories.

“From what I’ve heard, he was a well-respected coach,” Denniston said. “It’s always nice to have this tournament to kick off the season in his honor.”


Since 2013, Kings Park has an annual chamber of commerce-sponsored tipoff tournament. This year, the Kingsmen, Commack, Huntington and Plainedge competed over the two-day event.

Huntington’s Mekhi Harvey passes the ball. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Game 1

Huntington beat Commack 62-58 Dec. 1. Blue Devils senior Mehki Harvey led with 17 points, while classmate Nat Amato added 16.

Commack’s top players were
senior Nick Guaglione and junior Aidan Keenan, who scored 24 and 21 points, respectively. They were the only players in double figures for the Cougars.

Game 2

Kings Park easily outscored Plainedge 69-35. Senior Jason Hartglass and freshman Jack Garside each tallied 11 points for the Kingsmen. Senior Andrew Bianco added seven and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Game 3

Commack took down Plainedge 60-41 in the consolation match.
Game 4

Kings Park’s Andrew Bianco looks to the rim. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Kings Park edged out Huntington 57-53, winning the tournament title for the third time in five years.

Andrew Bianco, who was named tournament MVP, recorded 23 points and 12 rebounds.

“He’s just tough as nails,” Kings Park head coach Chris Rube said of Bianco.

With eight seconds left, Kings Park was up by two, 55-53, when freshman Jack Garside buried both free-throw attempts to seal the victory.

Kings Park senior guard Zach Wolf scored 15 of his 18 points in the second half. He had three three-pointers in the third quarter.

“It was hard fought,” Rube said of the win over Huntington. “Huntington is pretty talented. Beating them was an achievement.”

Up next

Kings Park travels to Islip Dec. 7 for the first game of their regular season. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:45 p.m.

A conceputal rendering of what the building will look like. Image from Town of Huntington

A lifelong Huntington Station resident and politician remembered as a “pillar of the community” will have a building named in his memory.

Town of Huntington officials unveiled conceptual plans for the transformation of the former New York State Armory on East 5th Avenue into the James D. Conte Community Center.

Former Assemblyman James Conte was a lifelong Huntington Station resident. File photo

“We’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time,” Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said at the Nov. 25 ceremony. “As many of you know, Jimmy worked very hard to retain this facility for the residents of the Town of Huntington. We know that his special love when he served in the assembly was for Huntington Station.”

Conte, a former state assemblyman who represented the 10th district for 24 years, died October 2012 of T-cell lymphoma. He achieved the status of minority leader pro tem, the Republican’s second highest-ranking post, and was a strong proponent of organ donation, having undergone two kidney transplants himself.

“Jimmy was involved in everything,” said state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), a colleague of Conte. “He made this town a better place — he continues to make it a better place, and I can’t wait to see the end product here that will be a testament to him and his family.”

The late assemblyman was instrumental in getting the state to transfer ownership of the decommissioned building over to the Town of Huntington, according to Petrone, with the intention of the space being used  as a community center.

Earlier this year, the town board retained the Holbrook-based firm Savik & Murray to engineer and design proposals for the building. The town’s 2018 budget has designated $3.75 million for the first phase of the project in addition to acquiring a $1.5 million state grant.

Residents are eager to get a first look at the building plans. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“This past year, as a town board member, working on and consulting with the architects on the design of this project, it has really been a labor of love,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “They came in with some ideas that were outside of the box. We’ve tweaked what they had. I think the final product is something that probably still needs work, but is something that is a really good start.”

The conceptual plans propose the 22,500-square-foot building be repurposed with space for uses such as arts and crafts, a computer lab, a recording studio, an all-purpose gymnasium, a strength training facility, CrossFit center, rock climbing arena, a community meeting space, a multipurpose room, classrooms, office space and an elevated indoor running and walking track. The town has also promised the Greenlawn American Legion Post 1244 a designated area to run as a veterans canteen.

“A couple of months ago my mother and I went down to Town Hall to view the plans that are going to be on display today, and we were just blown away,” said Conte’s daughter Sarah. “This is exactly what my father would have wanted for this community. Myself and my family are so honored to be here and to have this named after him. We know he would be honored as well.”

The architects have suggested possible outdoor uses for the 3.6-acre site including an amphitheater, meditation gardens, a spiritual walkway and bench seating.

The Conte family and town officials unveil the sign naming the future James D. Conte Community Center. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“[My father] would be jumping up and down and dancing in this room if he knew Huntington Station was going to get a project this big,” said Conte’s daughter Samantha. “He valued the community. He knew the value of what a building like this could offer.”

The town has estimated the entire project will cost $10 million and aims to have it completed by 2019. Oversight of its construction will be transferred to the incoming town board helmed by current state assemblyman and Supervisor-elect Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station). Lupinacci previously worked as a community liaison for Conte before taking over his state office in 2012.

“We know even though he is gone his legacy will continue with his family and the many generations of children that will walk through this building, and of course, the veterans who will have a special place on Fifth Street,” Lupinacci said. “We know his legacy will continue for many generations after we’re all gone.”