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Albany

State Sen. Anthony Palumbo spoke to TBR News Media about his first month in Albany, and what his plans are for the rest of the year. Photo from Palumbo

State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) has been in his new role for a little over a month now, and has made it clear that before anything gets done on his laundry list of things to do, COVID-19 recovery is the first battle. 

When the former state assemblyman and legislator announced he would be running for former state Sen. Ken LaValle’s (R-Port Jefferson) seat, he had some big shoes to fill. 

“This is not necessarily my first rodeo,” Palumbo said, adding that his new role is nearly two-and-a-half sizes larger than his previous district. 

Palumbo’s former Assembly 2nd District — now led by Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) — runs across the North Shore from Fishers Island all the way to Mount Sinai. He was first elected in 2013 with a 57% vote. His new District 1 spans across the whole East End, beginning near Port Jefferson all the way out to Montauk. 

And since he took office in January, he’s been busy, he said. This past week, he helped secure about 650 vaccines at Peconic Landing in Greenport — one of the hardest hit nursing homes on Long Island at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Palumbo said that in less than three hours, 300 residents were given their first shot in hopes to combat the virus. 

“The immediate goal is COVID,” he said. “It’s getting us back to business and safely opening back up.”

Palumbo said in order to get there, the biggest solution is obtaining and distributing vaccines, which New York State has been ridiculed for. 

“Micromanaging the distribution of the vaccines has been a disaster,” he said. “And unfortunately, this is how it began. The governor [Andrew Cuomo (D)] had strict guidelines, and that was really the hiccup.”

Palumbo said he has been “highly critical of the government” especially after being able to distribute the vaccines to the seniors in Greenport, with the help of Stony Brook University Hospital. 

“A prime example is what [we did at Peconic Landing],” he said. “Then, the hospital said they can quadruple their vaccines if they have the opportunity.”

And Palumbo wants to look to ask the federal government for help. 

“We have the capability to do this,” he said. “Unfortunately, we were slower than most states because of the executive orders control in the government. It needs to loosen up more.”

The vaccine wins at Peconic Landing last week brought him back to reality, he said. 

“This affects people’s lives,” he said, “And as elected officials, this is what we’re supposed to be doing — facilitating.”

Passionate about rolling out the vaccine to everyone who wants it, Palumbo said it has been frustrating. 

“We knew the vaccine was coming for months,” he said. “We had time to prepare.”

He criticized Cuomo’s plan. Palumbo said that since other states, like Florida, have been open, they are doing OK in terms of COVID-positive numbers and deaths.

“What are we doing?” he said. “We really need to get back to work.”

Palumbo added that not only was the distribution an issue in terms of acquiring vaccines, but obtaining them has been a nightmare for his constituents, too. 

“We don’t have a website that works when we knew early on people were going to frantically go to it,” he said.

And once the vaccine rollout is complete, Palumbo said things can go back to ways they were. 

“Big-box stores haven’t been closed for a day throughout the pandemic,” he said. “But [around] 95% of other businesses can’t open.”

He mentioned that one of those industries is hospitality on Long Island. 

“Hospitality is the number one revenue for the city and state,” he said. “With them being closed, it’s killing us. We’re losing billions in revenue.”

But while conquering COVID is the primary goal, Palumbo has other plans that he wants to accomplish within his new role as state senator. 

“We have a lot of issues that are continuing,” he said. “They’re not on the backburner — they’re a close second.”

Palumbo noted that his district “has more coastline than any other district.” As a member of the Environmental Conservation Committee, he said he knows the importance of clean drinking water and runoff in his district — especially out on the East End — and plans to keep working toward them. 

A former prosecutor, he said he will continue monitoring issues within law enforcement throughout his term, and also wants to make sure young people stay on the Island. 

“People are fleeing the state in droves,” he said. “And we’re probably going to lose two congressional seats because of it.”

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Patrick Lagravinese hurls the ball to first base. Photo by Ray Passaro

The University at Albany is getting a special baseball player from Smithtown East next year, but if his family and coach are to be believed, they are getting a special person as well.

Patrick Lagravinese, who will be playing at Albany when the 2016 college baseball season begins, had a standout senior season playing shortstop and pitching for the Bulls. Smithtown East saw its record from 2014 to 2015 improve by 12 wins for one major reason — Lagravinese transferred back to Smithtown East ahead of his senior season after spending two years at St. John the Baptist.

Patrick Lagravinese makes contact with the ball. Photo by Ray Passaro
Patrick Lagravinese makes contact with the ball. Photo by Ray Passaro

While he was playing at St. John’s, all he managed to do was help the team win back-to-back Catholic league championships. He made the difficult decision to transfer back to Smithtown East, the school district he attended until his freshman year, despite the opportunity he had in front of him to win a third consecutive league title.

“Nothing’s better than being able to finish up your high school career with the friends and family that were there when you first started playing the sport,” Lagravinese said.

When Lagravinese decided he wanted to return to Smithtown East, he said he spoke with his parents and they supported the decision.

“He loved St. John’s but he felt like he was missing something his senior year,” Lagravinese’s dad, Chet, said. “But it wasn’t something I was going to do for him.”

The shortstop notified his head coach John Habyan, and said that phone call was “the hardest thing ever.”

“The amount of memories and relationships I made with this team will go a long way and I don’t regret any decisions I made crossing this path,” Lagravinese said.

With St. John’s in his rear view, Lagravinese was outstanding in 2015. He went 5-0 on the mound and hit .363 while playing solid at shortstop and earned an invitation to the Grand Slam Challenge, a Suffolk County versus Nassau County All-Star game.

“Senior year at Smithtown East was everything I could ask for,” Lagravinese said. “The coaches and players were great to me and made me feel like I never left.”

Welcoming him back was easy, though watching him move on will be much harder for the Bulls.

Smithtown East’s Pat Lagravinese gets up to bat. Photo by Alex Petroski
Smithtown East’s Pat Lagravinese gets up to bat. Photo by Alex Petroski

“We’re going to do the best we can to slot someone in [at shortstop], but you don’t replace a Pat Lagravinese,” Smithtown East head coach Ken Klee said about the reality of being without Lagravinese, who he called extremely coachable and hard working, next season. “He’s unique in the fact that he’s clearly the best kid on your team, but doesn’t want any of the credit.”

Klee added that when the team heard Lagravinese was returning, it immediately raised the Bulls’ expectations for the season. It was like the team found its missing piece.

Leadership was a word frequently used by those who are close to Lagravinese. Klee said that Lagravinese being around again raised everybody’s game.

“During practices I would try my best to be a leader even though I wasn’t a captain,” Lagravinese said. “Not being a captain doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help out and take charge when needed. Kids on my team looked at me as if I was a captain and I really appreciated that.”

That is a quality usually representative of truly special players like the one that Lagravinese said he models his game after.

“My favorite player is Jose Reyes,” he said. “I would always watch videos on YouTube and try and use the same style of play. I was a huge Mets fan up until he left, and now I love watching him play on the Toronto Blue Jays.”

University at Albany head coach Jon Mueller did not immediately respond to requests for comment, though he was quoted on the school’s official site after Lagravinese’s commitment to Albany: “Pat is a smooth fielding left-handed hitting infielder with good arm strength. He comes from both a great high school
program and summer organization. We anticipate Pat having an immediate impact for us in 2016.”

Chet Lagravinese spoke with pride when describing his son, both for the player he is and the person that he has become.

“He’s one of those kids that anything I say, he takes everything with pride,” he said. “He does whatever he has to do to make things right.”