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Andrew Cuomo

Jim Malatras at Stony Brook University last year. File photo by Rita J. Egan

Jim Malatras, chancellor of the State University of New York, submitted his resignation last week following political pressure for him to step down after text messages showed him belittling one of the women who accused former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) of sexual harassment. 

Malatras faced bipartisan backlash over the last few weeks after new evidence was released by state Attorney General Letitia James’ (D) investigation surrounding the allegations against Cuomo. 

Part of the evidence included text messages from May 2019 between Malatras and other Cuomo officials disparaging Lindsey Boylan, a former economic development official who accused the former governor 18 months after the SUNY chancellor sent the text, The New York Times reported.

Boylan and Malatras then argued over Twitter.

Since the documents were released, the chancellor decided to resign, stating in a letter to the SUNY board of trustees that the controversies were taking him away from his work.

“The recent events surrounding me over the past week have become a distraction over the important work that needs to be accomplished as SUNY emerges from COVID-19,” he said. “I believe deeply in an individual’s ability to evolve, change and grow, but I also believe deeply in SUNY and would never want to be an impediment to its success.”

As chancellor, Malatras was tasked with overseeing the State University of New York comprehensive system of higher education. 

Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratory. 

In total, SUNY serves about 1.3 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. 

Two of those schools locally are Stony Brook University and Suffolk County Community College. 

“I am aware that the chancellor has tendered his resignation and respect that decision,” said SBU President Maurie McInnis. “I look forward to working with the next leader of SUNY as we continue our important research and teaching mission.”

A representative from SCCC added that nothing will change at the college amid the scandal, and it “will continue to work with our partners at SUNY to ensure that high quality higher education remains accessible and affordable to students.”

Malatras’ resignation goes into effect on Jan. 14.

“The past two years have been among the most trying in SUNY’s history — and Jim’s leadership and collaboration with our faculty and staff have allowed our institution to continue to thrive and serve our nearly 400,000 students at 64 campuses across our state safely and in person,” said a statement from the SUNY board of trustees. “He has been a champion for our students, for access, for equity, and for deeper public investment in this great institution. The entire board expresses our gratitude for his dedication and leadership.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul. File photo by Julianne Mosher

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) packed up his moving trucks at the governor’s mansion, the soon-to-be governess headed to Long Island.

With just a few days left until she becomes New York’s first female governor, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) made a quick stop in Hauppauge for a roundtable discussion with local labor leaders where topics included job training, green jobs and new legislative efforts to support essential workers.

Although the discussion was closed to media, Hochul made an appearance to quickly discuss her intentions during the meeting.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul. Photo by Julianne Mosher

“One of my first priorities is continue creating good jobs,” she said. “Getting the offshore wind institute off the ground and give opportunities to just really train people in the underserved communities and the jobs of tomorrow where there will be tens of thousands of jobs in that space.”

Hochul said she and the business leaders in attendance also talked about workforce development and creating opportunities to keep young people fully employed on Long Island.

The visit wasn’t anything new, she said, mentioning that over the last seven years, “coming out and seeing the people is what I do.”

“If you ask anyone, I’ve been told that Nassau and Suffolk counties are planning on taxing me as a local resident because I’m here so often,” she joked.

As chair of the Regional Economic Development Councils, she said that she is going to continue and be accessible throughout her term.

“I’m going to continue showing appreciation to the labor community, the job creators, the business community and elected officials,” she said. “I have a deep appreciation for all the various roles of government, and I want them to know that they have a governor who recognizes and appreciates that.”

Hochul is set to take on her new role early Tuesday, Aug. 24 when she will move into the governor’s mansion.

“I haven’t thought about getting a U-Haul. I was just going to pack an overnight bag and see what happens,” Hochul joked. “I’ll then keep our residence in Buffalo as well. It’s going to be very fluid.”

When briefly asked about her policy surrounding the mask mandate, she said she will not be making an official statement until Tuesday but hinted that “people should be ready.”


Port Jefferson Earl L. Vandermeulen High School. File photo by Elana Glowatz

With New York state opening back up since the March 2020 shutdown, businesses can now start resuming normal operations again.

However, four local Suffolk County public school superintendents believe schools have been overlooked when it comes to no longer wearing masks, leaving teachers, parents and students confused and frustrated.

A June 10 letter signed by the Comsewogue, Port Jefferson, Miller Place and Rocky Point school superintendents, directed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New York State Department of Health officials, criticized the one-size-fits-all approach to school mask mandates.

“Our communities need our schools to be able to adapt to updated health guidelines that are applicable to our specific areas, yet we as administrators are constrained by inflexible regulations that are not reflective of individual community positivity or vaccination rates,” the letter said.

In order to avoid any further confusion amongst parents and school districts, the schools solution would be to work directly with local health officials rather than the government.

According to Port Jefferson Superintendent Jessica Schmettan, the Suffolk County Department of Health Services has been extremely helpful in aiding the county’s school districts throughout the pandemic.

Working closely with regional data is something Schmettan feels will be a more effective strategy for mitigation of the virus rather than blanket guidelines for the entire state of New York.

“I have great hope that the governor and the NYDOH will consider our request,” Schmettan said. “We are proud of the work our schools have done through this pandemic. We hope to end the year without restrictions just as they have been removed for other businesses across the state.”
Many parents of the students have made it clear they are also dissatisfied with the state’s mask mandates on school districts, and believe it should be a parent’s choice on whether or not their child should wear a mask.

Rocky Point school district superintendent, Scott O’Brien, said although the state’s mask mandates have been overwhelming for all, students have done an excellent job following the guidelines.

“It has been that level of cooperation from students, parents, teachers and staff that have enabled our schools to successfully stay open and deliver in-person instruction throughout this school year,” O’Brien said. “We are grateful to the entire Rocky Point school community for coming together and making this most challenging school year a success.”

The other superintendent signatories to the letter were Jennifer Quinn, Comsewogue, and Marianne Cartisano, Miller Place.

By creating a unified voice to highlight the importance of local control regarding mask mandates, the four county school districts hope the letter to Cuomo will make a difference for their students, even though the final day of school is June 24.

Photo by Kimberly Brown

By Julianne Mosher & Kimberly Brown

Parents, students and school districts had a confusing week with mask mandates for kids pre-K through 12 needing clarification from the governor. 

On Friday, June 4, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said an announcement was coming to drop in-school mask mandates for children. But shortly after, the state Department of Health’s announcement didn’t align with what he said. 

Health officials said they had not yet received an OK from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and on Monday, Cuomo announced the CDC would not be changing guidance for wearing masks, therefore they are still required inside schools. 

According to Cuomo, school districts can lift the requirement that students must wear masks outdoors. The state’s guidance on mask use indoors remains in place, but school districts may choose to no longer require masks outdoors, for example during recess. This change aligns with guidance relating to summer camps, where even unvaccinated campers are not required to wear masks outdoors. 

“Children wear masks in school inside, and when they’re outside of the school building in recess, etc., it’s hot, they’re running around, but they’re outside, there is no mandate for masks outside. We’ll leave that up to the local school districts,” Cuomo said Monday. 

This came just days after rallies were hosted across Long Island, demanding that the governor “unmask our kids.”

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) and upset parents gathered Wednesday, June 2, outside the H. Lee Dennison building in Hauppauge to demand a mask-free environment for children in schools and camps. 

“This is the right decision for children across New York, who have sacrificed so much throughout the pandemic and suffered emotionally, physically and mentally from lockdowns and remote learning,” Zeldin said at the rally.

The week before, May 26, Andrew Giuliani (R) — another contender for Cuomo’s seat in 2022 and son of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) —  stopped by the same spot to show his support for the same cause. 

These rallies were put together by parents and advocacy groups who hoped to influence Cuomo’s decision to lift the mandate. 

“It’s a parent’s right to take care of their children the best way they feel fit,” said Mike Hathaway from Long Island Loud Majority, a conservative organization. “Not the government, not for political pull, and not for control.”

Moms for Liberty, an advocacy group from Suffolk County that focuses on unifying America while educating and empowering parents to defend their parental rights, has been working to get the mask mandate lifted in New York. 

A member of the group, Barbara Abboud, said her children, among many others, have been suffering in school, whether that be academic, mental or physical.

“Everyone here today knows what’s at stake,” she said. “It’s more than just unmasking our children, it’s about getting our basic freedoms back.”

Zeldin also discussed his animosity with the prior COVID-19 restrictions, where businesses were forced to close at earlier hours to prevent the spread of the virus.

“There was a time when they said you couldn’t go to the gym after 10 [p.m.] because, apparently, that spreads COVID,” Zeldin said. “However, if you go at 8:30 with a whole group of people, that would mitigate the spread.”

Cuomo said virtually all restrictions can be lifted once 70% of New Yorkers aged 18 and older have received the first dose of the vaccine.

Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio joined Brides of Long Island founder Heather Cunningham asking the state to lessen wedding restrictions. Photo by Kimberly Brown

By Kimberly Brown

The Brides of Long Island organization, state Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) and other Republican lawmakers gathered at the H. Lee Dennison building in Hauppauge last Friday, April 16, to call for action by Gov. Andrew D. Cuomo (D) to lessen the overly restrictive COVID-19 regulations on weddings.

Some of the state’s pandemic regulations include up to 150 guests or 50% of a venue’s capacity whichever is smaller with mandatory COVID-19 testing, distanced dancing in designated areas, congregating only at guests’ assigned tables, and wearing face coverings unless while eating or drinking.

Brides of Long Island founder Heather Cunningham. Photo by Kimberly Brown

Heather Cunningham, founder of The Brides of Long Island — a website and Facebook group that consists of thousands of brides across the Island — expressed her concern for the overmanagement of regulations the state has put in place, causing brides to postpone their weddings to unknown future dates.

“We take for granted that the world will wait for us, but time can take away a father who is supposed to dance with his daughter and it can send a fiancé halfway across the world in early deployment,” Cunningham said, “It may be easy for elected officials like Governor Cuomo to say that weddings are nothing but parties, but weddings are so much more than a party, they are the days that connect us to our roots, beliefs, values and to each other.”

Questioning the science behind the regulations around weddings, Giglio said the state government has gone too far when it comes to preventing COVID-19 in large gatherings.

“Honestly, does the virus pack up and leave after midnight or 1 a.m.?” Giglio said, “Because that’s what the governor wants you to do at your wedding — pack up and leave.”

Since the shutdown began last year, wedding businesses have been one of the many industries that have taken a hard hit financially. 

The wedding industry on Long Island generates an estimated $6 million a year in sales tax, as well as being one of the state’s largest employers.

John Salkowsky, owner of Silverfox Studios located in Lindenhurst, said the wedding industry has been brought to its knees, and lessening restrictions will help bring the businesses back to life.

“People make their decisions at the ballot box, and hopefully the governor will hear that and realize that by doing the right thing and lifting these restrictions will do great justice to this industry,” he said. 

Ronkonkoma business owner of Absolute Entertainment, Kevin McClafferty, said planning a wedding is supposed to be one of the most joyous experiences for couples. 

However, he has found that his clients are overly stressed when trying to plan their wedding around the state’s restrictions.

“A successful day at work for us is seeing exciting, smiling, happy faces — no masks,” he said. 

Pointing out the flaws in the state’s regulations and restrictions on weddings, McClafferty mentioned a few of the over-managed rules he observed while on the job. 

One of his observations included the state’s enforcement of “dance boxes,” where guests are allowed to use the dance floor in restricted zones with only the immediate members of their party. 

He said this is one of the most over-managed of all the reopening strategies.

“It’s a good idea in theory, but a terrible idea in application and needs to be eliminated now,” McClafferty said.

Brides who joined Cunningham last Friday also expressed their disappointment in not being able to plan their weddings properly, with some brides being forced to cancel or relocate their weddings to other states in order to celebrate appropriately. 

“We just want fair treatment.” Brittany Burton, an upcoming bride, said, “The people who are making the rules don’t see behind the scenes or worry about financials. They see money on their end before us.” 

With over 6,500 signatures as of April 20 on Cunningham’s BOLI petition, titled Lessen the Overly Restrictive COVID-19 Regulations on Long Island Weddings, the brides of Long Island are waiting to see if their voices will be heard.

A statue of Joseph Dwyer in Rocky Point. File photo by Kyle Barr

By Chris Cumella

As the deadline for approval of New York State’s final budget approached on April 1, U.S. Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY1) joined the state Senate Republican Conference March 24 on a call to action from Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to restore funding for the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program for veterans.

The Dwyer program was introduced in 2012 by Zeldin, then a state senator and a U.S. Army veteran himself, having served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Essential health support was provided to veterans in the state. Zeldin’s home county of Suffolk was among the first to utilize the program.

The program has received bipartisan support from local governments up to the State Capitol. However, funding has been omitted in this year’s Cuomo budget proposal.

“It has been an honor to help lead the effort to take a model here in New York and try to expand it nationally,” Zeldin said. “Every veteran in every corner of America deserves to have that resource available to them.”

According to Zeldin and the Republican Conference, the operation was labeled as “immensely impactful” based on the ability to provide various mental health services designed to help veterans reintegrate back into civilian life.

The program was named in honor of Dwyer, an Army combat medic in the Iraq War who was in an iconic 2003 photo carrying a young Iraqi boy away from danger.

After Dwyer’s return home from service overseas, he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder. He died in 2008.

The Dwyer program stands as a peer-to-peer support model, which provides a safe, confidential and educational platform where all veterans meet in support of each other’s successful transition to post-service life.

The program also seeks to help aid “vet-to-vet relationships” to enhance positive change through shared experiences, a process combined with learning and personal growth.

“As a combat veteran, I fully understand the difference the services provided by the Joseph P. Dwyer program can make in the lives of our veterans who are struggling,” said state Senate Republican Leader Robert Ortt, an Army National Guard veteran who served in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. “The need for these critically important services has never been more important, and they should be made permanent.”

On March 15, the state Senate majority proposed funding of up to $4.5 million for the Dwyer program, which is the same funding level adopted in 2020-21. However, the state Assembly majority has proposed $6.05 million in funding.

Suffolk County alone has been described as having “one of the largest veteran populations in the nation” by state Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk).

Two local beneficiaries of the Dwyer program felt the experience was well worthwhile.

“I was struggling with both substance use and abuse and thoughts of self-harm as well as a suicide attempt,” said Smithtown resident Robert Carrazzo in a Zeldin press release. “The Dwyer program and those involved helped me battle all this, and now I am over five years sober, have a family, two degrees and a new career.”

“I was a single mom who was furloughed and attending grad school online, which was taxing on my mental health,” said Northport resident Danielle Koulermos in the same press release. “The Dwyer program grew into a sisterhood of support and guidance geared toward the needs of us as female veterans.”

“Playing games with our veterans’ lives is unacceptable,” Zeldin said. “Not only must full funding for the Dwyer program be restored in this year’s final budget, but this program’s funding must become a permanent component of all future state budgets.”

File photo by Erika Karp

By Leah Chiappino

Despite high marks from his handling of the pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has recently faced seven allegations of sexual harassment. 

The allegations come after a Jan. 28 report by the state attorney general, Letitia James (D), alleging the governor’s administration undercounted COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes by as much as 50 percent.  

Due to these recent developments, many elected officials have called on the governor to resign,  including U.S. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). 

“Confronting and overcoming the COVID crisis requires sure and steady leadership,” they said in a joint statement March 12. “We commend the brave actions of the individuals who have come forward with serious allegations of abuse and misconduct. Due to the multiple, credible sexual harassment and misconduct allegations, it is clear that Governor Cuomo has lost the confidence of his governing partners and the people of New York. Governor Cuomo should resign.”

Graphic by Leah Chiappino

U.S. Rep.  Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), an ardent Cuomo critic who is eyeing a run for governor next year, echoed calls for Cuomo to resign. 

When news of the seventh allegation broke, Zeldin issued a statement, also March 12, which read, “Andrew Cuomo has abused the power and privilege entrusted to him by the people of New York, and his most recent remarks could not make this more clear. His continued attempts to discredit the individuals who have come forward, question their ‘motives’ and more underscore just how far he’ll go to dodge any and all responsibility. His actions are inexcusable and unforgivable, and it’s up to each and every New Yorker — legislators, the media and voters — to hold him accountable.”

The congressman also criticized Cuomo’s handling of nursing homes. “The [U.S.] Department of Justice needs to immediately open an obstruction of justice investigation into Governor Cuomo and his administration,” he said in another statement, Feb. 12. “It’s now being reported there has been a direct admission of their nursing home coverup with the intent of blocking a DOJ investigation. The families of thousands of dead New York seniors deserve accountability and justice for the true consequences of Governor Cuomo’s fatally flawed nursing home policy and the continued attempts to cover it up.”

Local state Republicans, have also called on Cuomo to resign. State Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James) said that if Cuomo does not resign, the State Assembly and Senate should move forward with impeachment proceedings. “While I did not come to this decision lightly, the time has come for new leadership so that all elected officials can return to doing the work our residents need without the numerous distractions that have plagued our state recently,” the March 11 statement read. “As a husband and a father, the continual unveiling of new sexual assault allegations — now sexual abuse — against Governor Cuomo are simply appalling. Equally important, his administration’s admitted altering of data and misdirection regarding our state’s nursing homes are simply unacceptable.”

State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) agreed the governor should resign in light of the harassment allegations against him. “In the wake of numerous sexual harassment allegations and now a deeply disturbing claim of sexual assault against Governor Cuomo, I truly question his ability to lead our state through these difficult times,” he said in a statement, also March 11.  “While I am a firm believer in due process and feel strongly that everyone is entitled to their day in court, these scandals undermine the governor’s ability to conduct his official duties and have irreparably damaged the public’s trust in the state’s top executive.”

The majority of local Democrats are awaiting the independent investigation called for by AG James before making a final determination. 

However, state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport), released a statement in coordination with the Long Island State Senate majority, calling on Cuomo to step down until the attorney general finishes her investigation into the sexual harassment claims. “The gravity of these claims makes it clear to us that the governor cannot lead the state while faithfully responding to multiple investigations,” the March 12 statement read. “This is especially true in light of the impending state budget deadline, the need to continue guiding the state through the pandemic and the fragility of the state’s economic recovery.”

Graphic by Leah Chiappino

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY3), said that if Cuomo cannot simultaneously comply with the investigations against him and govern the state, he should consider resigning. “The governor is entitled to due process on the many serious and disturbing allegations that have been made against him,” he said in a March 12 statement. “I have confidence that the attorney general and the NYS Assembly will conduct thorough investigations. … I believe the governor must seriously consider whether he can effectively continue to govern in the midst of these unfolding allegations.  If he cannot effectively govern with all of the controversy surrounding him, he must put the interests of all New Yorkers first and he should resign.”

State Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills), said he supports the investigation by the state attorney general into the accusations against Cuomo. “These allegations of sexual harassment must be taken seriously, and it is imperative that a transparent and independent inquiry begin immediately,” he said. “I also support the Assembly Judiciary Committee’s simultaneous investigation to determine if any impeachable offenses were committed. The committee will have the authority to interview witnesses, subpoena documents and evaluate evidence, all of which is provided under the New York State Constitution.” 

While Cuomo has repeatedly apologized for making his accusers feel uncomfortable, he has denied that he ever groped anyone and has refused to resign.

A March 15 Siena poll, as reported by Politico, indicated that a total of 57% of respondents are “satisfied with the way Cuomo has addressed the allegations” while 32% are “not satisfied.” As for the resignation issue, 50% say he should not leave office, 35% say he should and 15% are undecided.

State Senator Mario Mattera at the podium. Photo by Kimberly Brown

By Kimberly Brown

Republican elected officials gathered at a press conference in Hauppauge Thursday, Jan. 14, calling out Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on the state’s failed vaccine rollout.

Elected officials in Hauppauge. Photo by Kimberly Brown

State senators, including Mario Mattera (R-St. James) and Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk), demanded that Cuomo implement a plan to fix issues that have arisen since the vaccine was authorized to be distributed.

Senior citizen and West Babylon resident, Anna Foley, shared her experience of how difficult it has been to obtain the vaccine, which she has still not received.

“I’m 83 years old, fighting two types of cancer and other underlying medical problems,” she said. “I can’t seem to get anyone to help. I have looked at the New York State website, called pharmacies, doctors, hospitals, and I even tried my union to see if I can get any information, to no avail.”

Foley mentioned the difficulties senior citizens are facing while trying to make an appointment for the vaccine, saying that most people ages 80 and over are not computer savvy, and the locations where the vaccine is administered are too far to drive to.

Mattera pointed out how the federal government still has not released the new vaccine to pharmacy chains like Walgreens and CVS, giving residents fewer options of locations where they can receive the vaccine.

State Senator Mario Mattera at the podium. Photo by Kimberly Brown

In his plea to the governor, Mattera said, “Get the vaccine here and get more locations. Right now, there are four locations, and do you know what they say? They say, ‘We don’t know what to do, we can’t help you.’ It’s unacceptable.”

The partial and full closings of businesses, mandated by Cuomo, were intended to combat rising numbers of COVID-19 cases. However, Palumbo said even though businesses are partially closed, the cases are still increasing.

“The Legislature needs to get involved, we need to get control back,” he said. “We need to get those vaccinations out, and as quickly as possible — not throw them in the garbage.”

Many of the politicians also discussed the bill Cuomo signed into law June 17, which would allow every pharmacist in New York state to administer the COVID-19 vaccine. State Assemblyman Doug Smith (R-Holbrook) demanded to know why the bill has not been put into full force.

“Now we’re in January, governor, where is your plan?” Smith said. “Why is every single pharmacy in the state of New York not able to administer this vaccine?”


Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has called on residents to donate PPE for health care workers and first responders. File photo by Kyle Barr
As the number of people infected and hospitalized by the coronavirus Covid-19 rises, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is asking the community to donate personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of first responders and health care workers.

“We are launching a supply drive for personal protective equipment,” Bellone said on a conference call with reporters. “This is an opportunity for all of us to come together to support the men and women who are on the front lines to keep us safe to contain the spread of the virus.”

Bellone is seeking N95 masks, ear loop masks, gloves, and gowns from individuals or businesses. As Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) order to shut down barber shops, nail salons and other personal care services takes effect, some of the businesses may have equipment that could save the lives of those people who are helping others afflicted with the virus.

“We are going to be making a direct appeal to those industries,” Bellone said. “We will be doing direct outreach to them so we can ask them to support this effort.”

Starting on Monday, individuals and businesses can bring the supplies from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank, located at 102 East Avenue.

Bellone expressed appreciation that Cuomo said this morning that Long Island would receive 500,000 masks, but indicated that the need in the coming weeks and months would likely exceed that supply.

“We need to do more,” Bellone said.

Starting on Monday, the Suffolk County Police Department, meanwhile, will require residents to report all non-emergency incidents online or by phone. These include harassing communications, lost property, criminal mischief and vandalism, minor traffic incidents, identity theft, among other non emergency reports.

“The last thing we can afford to do is take the people on the front lines off the battlefield,” Bellone said.

Bellone praised the efforts of schools to provide grab and go meals for students. He thanked Island Harvest and Long Island Cares for their ongoing efforts to meet this growing need.

The number of infected residents has climbed to 662. That includes 55 people who are receiving treatment in the hospital, with 14 of those in Intensive Care Units.

The virus has killed two additional residents. A woman in her 80’s passed away at Huntington Hospital, while another woman in her late 80’s died at Peconic Landing. A total of nine residents have died from the pandemic.

Officials expect the number of infected individuals will continue to climb, especially after the Stony Brook University Hospital mobile testing site started administering tests this week. At this point, the mobile unit has tested over 1,500 people.

Suffolk County Chief of Police Stuart Cameron reiterated the necessity of keeping up social distancing to contain the spread of the virus. He suggested that people aware of someone violating restrictions should call 631-852-COPS. He is aware of 26 such reports, with only one instance of a violation when officers arrived. Officers will attempt to seek compliance first.

“My experience, talking to younger folks, is that they don’t seem to be concerned about this because of reports that they won’t be seriously ill,” Cameron said on the call. “They need to be told that they can affect someone who is vulnerable and that [the person who gets the virus] could die.”

Cameron suggested that officers would start engaging in non-traditional law enforcement roles to protect the public amid this ongoing crisis.

Cuomo, meanwhile, urged seniors to follow Matilda’s law, which is named for his mother. This law provides protection for New Yorkers who are 70 and older and for people with compromised immune systems and those with underlying illnesses. He urged that group to remain indoors unless they are exercising on their own outside, pre-screen visitors by taking their temperature, not to visit houses with multiple people, wear a mask when others are near, ask others to wear masks in their presence, maintain social distancing of six feet and avoid public transportation when possible.

A ship Orsted plans to use to transport the wind turbines. Photo from SKDKnickerbocker

1,700 megawatts.

That’s enough to power 1 million homes from offshore wind farms to be located off the East End and South Shore of Long Island, or at least that is what New York State officials are hoping for. It’s part of signed contracts with two offshore wind power ventures, looking to set a path toward a statewide carbon-free electricity system in another 20 years.

Port Jefferson could soon become a big part of that.

Announced back in April, one of the wind power projects, whose contract was approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) July 18, plans to open a headquarters for their joint venture wind project right in Port Jefferson.

The project, dubbed Sunrise Wind, is being headed up by Denmark-based Ørsted, partnering with Massachusetts-based energy company Eversource. The miles of wind turbines set 30 miles east of Long Island are expected to produce 880 megawatts.

“We will lead the way in developing the largest source of offshore wind power in the nation,” Cuomo said during his speech. “We have committed to building 9,000 megawatts of wind power capacity, and we start today by designating companies to build two offshore wind farms for a combined total of 1,700 megawatts of clean energy.”

The Port Jefferson Power Station was in operation during winter cold periods as well as recent heat waves. Photo by Kyle Barr

Cuomo, also joined on stage in Manhattan by former Vice President Al Gore (D), signed on for miles of ocean off the South Shore to be used by Norway-based Equinor’s project Empire Wind which will provide 816 megawatts. This is to work alongside the Ørsted-Eversource project.

Ørsted and Eversource looked to Port Jefferson’s deep harbor as a means of loading and unloading boats making the long trip off the South Shore to make repairs on the wind turbines.

This would become the nation’s largest offshore wind power agreement in U.S. history, though the state has already awarded approximately 4,700 megawatts in renewable energy contracts since March 2018, according to a release from the governor’s office. Collectively, the combined output of renewable energy resources is expected to power nearly 10 percent of New York state homes by 2025.

What this means for Port Jefferson

When Ørsted and Eversource announced its original bid for the state contracts April 3, representatives of the companies said they expected the hub venture to produce around 100 jobs, plus temporary construction jobs while the project is being built. The headquarters and maintenance facility for the project could be run out of Port Jefferson Harbor.

Port Jefferson village Mayor Margot Garant said when approached back in April, the project managers explained service boats will use the village’s harbor and use the pier owned by National Grid. The 35 employees would come through on a two- to three-week basis, loading materials and provisions onto the vessels which would be the ones to travel out and do repairs on the propellers, staying out in the ocean for weeks at a time.

“I think it strengthens our harbor — it strengthens our site in terms of being a partner with Cuomo’s energy plan,” the mayor said. “Any time you can put your community on the map with the state, that it’s a good thing.”  — Mayor Margot Garant 

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said he has emphasized Port Jefferson’s deep water harbor as a hub for wind energy for years. He sees the Sunrise Wind project as a testbed for Atlantic-based wind energy. Now, he has a grand design in mind, of Port Jeff becoming a model and a wind energy headquarters for the Eastern Seaboard.

“They’re pioneering a project — the first offshore wind project of this scale for the entire Atlantic coast,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Ørsted and Eversource project said the company did not have anything yet to say on specifics relating to Port Jefferson as a hub for the wind farm, and instead referred to existing press releases about the project.

In talks about a land-based location for offices or warehouses, Garant told project managers they may need to look for space close by, but they would be hard pressed to come across thousands of square feet of space like that within village limits.

But with all the talk of green energy, the question of the Port Jefferson power station’s validity remains. The LIPA-owned plant, which recently settled in a tax certiorari agreement with the Town of Brookhaven over its tax assessments, has been running at low percentages for the past several years. It was only 11 percent in 2017, for example. LIPA has said the reduction in taxes may help move the plant toward a clean energy recourse but has not provided more details on what that could entail.

The recently passed state Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act calls for a transition to a carbon-free electric grid for New York by 2040. In response to a query, a LIPA spokesperson said the Port Jefferson power plant will be more than 70 years old by 2030. LIPA has already decommissioned fossil-fuel power plants in Far Rockaway and Glenwood Landing.

“The 880-megawatt Sunrise Wind project will be a key new source of carbon-free electricity for Long Island when it becomes operational in 2024,” said Michael Deering, LIPA director of customer service oversight and stakeholder relations.

Englebright, the chair of the state Assembly’s environmental conservation committee, said that in order to hit milestones of clean energy, plants like Port Jefferson’s will need to be phased out to make way for more renewable energy. He added that LIPA has for now been keepings its options open when it comes to future use of the plant.

“The people in Port Jeff are in need of a respite from fossil fuels and a declining plant,” the assemblyman said.

Garant said she does hope the plant remains viable into the next several years, adding it still sees use, with the stacks flaring up again as people turned on air conditioners during recent heat waves, though she looks forward to what the future may bring.

“As the world changes, things are going to change,” she said.