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Eastern Suffolk BOCES CEO Julie Lutz speaks to residents. Photo by Kyle Barr

Who would be Port Jefferson’s perfect superintendent?

It’s a question of priorities, according to Eastern Suffolk BOCES CEO Julie Lutz, who hosted a public meeting Jan. 3 at the Port Jefferson High School asking residents what they would like to see in a new PJ superintendent once Paul Casciano, the district’s current superintendent, vacates his position July 1. 

“A superintendent’s job is to work at the direction of the board, and to organize his or her cabinet to implement the business and instructional practices of the district,” Lutz said. “He’s or she’s the voice of the district to the community, he’s basically responsible for everything that happens.”

‘We need to keep us as a school district of excellence, not cutting programs or anything like that.’

— Arnold Lustig

Twenty-four people applied for the superintendent position through the month of December while the position was being advertised, according to Lutz. BOCES and the Port Jeff school district are still currently screening interviews. All candidates require a School District Leader state-level certificate, and while around half of all superintendents in the Eastern BOCES area have doctorates, it is not required for the job.

Lutz guided a conversation among around 20 Port Jeff residents who came to the meeting about what residents wanted from a superintendent from the perspective of personality and professionalism.

Longtime Port Jeff resident Arnold Lustig said he is currently satisfied with how Casciano has handled the district as of late, and he wants the new superintendent to continue in that.

“We need to keep us as a school district of excellence, not cutting programs or anything like that,” Lustig said.

Karen Sullivan, the president of the Port Jefferson Special Education Parent Teacher Association, said the district is different than other schools across Long Island due to its small class size and its large amount of retirees who live within the district. She said she would want a superintendent willing to reach out to the different segments of the village population.

“We’re an anomaly,” Sullivan said. “If that person can meet with all the stakeholders besides just the parents in the district we would be better for it.”

Leza DiBella, the president elect of the PJSEPTA, said the district is well known in the area for taking special education to heart, and she hopes that will continue with a new superintendent. Other community members agreed a new superintendent should not pay sole attention to high achieving students or students who need the most assistance, but those students in the middle of the pack could also use that consideration.

“This is a district handpicked by residents known for being inclusive and welcoming,” DiBella said.

‘If that person can meet with all the stakeholders besides just the parents in the district we would be better for it.’

— Karen Sullivan

Some in the meeting said they wanted the new superintendent to have had classroom experience, while others asked that he or she should have a strong business sense to handle the district’s finances.

Port Jeff resident Bob Gross, whose child is currently enrolled in the district, said he would want continuous improvement in the school district, whether it’s renovating some of the aging school buildings or building upon current programming, though he was concerned if the district will be able to finance these improvements or pass its budget due to recent events at the end of 2018.

The Town of Brookhaven and the Village of Port Jeff settled a lawsuit with the Long Island Power Authority over the Port Jefferson power station’s tax assessment. The effects of the lawsuit will reduce the $32.6 million tax assessment by 50 percent incrementally over the next nine years to $16.8 million, starting with the 2017-18 tax year. 

The school district is still analyzing what the overall impact on the community could be, but Casciano said at the time residents should expect a tax increase, and the decreased funds the district will receive from LIPA could result in programming being slashed.

Lustig said while many in the district remain concerned over how the LIPA decision might impact them, it’s time to move forward.

“The LIPA issue is done, in fact, it’s no longer an issue,” he said. “The tax rate will go up, and we may be comparatively taxed compared to other local districts. We have to decide what we are going to do to keep the school moving along.”

The Marriott Hotel in Islandia is the proposed site of a casino plan. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Residents of Islandia crowded outside village hall at a tense board meeting on Aug. 2, regarding the possibility of a casino at the Marriott Hotel in Islandia on Expressway Drive North.

“I do not want to see litter on the floor, people sleeping in cars or having sex.”
— Dwayne Johnson

Delaware North, a Buffalo entertainment company, reached out to the village and submitted a permit to build a casino inside the hotel space, and residents of the town are divided on their opinions of this possibility.

A public hearing was held Tuesday night, but no vote has been held on the issue by the village board.

The 54-person village hall meeting room closed its doors more than a half-hour before the 7:30 p.m. start, as public safety said capacity was already reached.

A speaker system was set up on the steps of the entrance for the residents outside to hear the audio of the meeting.

Mayor Allan Dorman started the meeting by saying he was “limited” in expressing his personal opinions on the casino, and any board member that “goes out and gives the impression that they have already made a decision … they put this village in jeopardy.”

Residents stand outside village hall listening to the meeting. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Residents stand outside village hall listening to the meeting. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Despite this statement, he referred to residents outside loudly protesting the casino as “miserable people.”

He also said the casino issue garnered attention from people all over the area, including many nonresidents, and that only residents were allowed to speak.

“We’re not looking to build a bigger hall so we can put more people who are not residents here,” he said in response to the hall not fitting in all the residents.

Locals expressed their frustration at not being allowed to participate inside, but as the meeting got to public comment, public safety allowed one resident in at a time to voice his or her opinion.

And community members made sure they were heard, even when they were stuck outside — booing at statements the mayor made.

Thomas Brauner, an Islandia resident, was the first to speak in support of the casino.

During the meeting, Dorman referred to non-residents who opposed the casino.

“I am in favor of Delaware North,” he said. “I feel that this proposal, when properly vetted, will cause no problems in our village. No town or village survives without the aid of a healthy business community.”

Dwayne Johnson, another resident who said he lives just a few blocks from the site, said he is staunchly against the proposal.

“The last thing we want to see is for our area to turn into Brooklyn — or worse,” he said, to a round of applause from the audience outside. “I do not want to see litter on the floor, people sleeping in cars or having sex. What happens when you have a casino is you draw the worst attention. Next thing we’re going to have is a strip club.”

Johnson was one of the many residents who asked for a public vote on the casino.

Dorman also expressed concern about his deputy mayor, Diane F. Olk, during the meeting, saying he does not have trust in her. He demoted her and asked Trustee Michael Zaleski to become the deputy mayor.

The meeting was adjourned after cursing was heard over the microphone from inside the meeting, and village security officers escorted a man out who tried to confront village officials.

No decision has been made on the issue.

Many Suffolk County residents oppose a proposed gambling facility in the Town of Brookhaven. File photo

Local civic members are going all-in to fight a proposed gambling facility in Brookhaven Town.

After New York voters passed a referendum in 2013 that allowed for seven casinos in the state, the Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation proposed putting a 1,000-machine casino at the former Brookhaven Multiplex Cinemas in Medford. But town residents, particularly those living in the Medford area, have railed against the project, citing concerns about it causing traffic congestion and promoting crime, drug use and prostitution.

The proposal, for a nearly 32-acre site off of the Long Island Expressway near Exit 64, is awaiting approval from the Suffolk County Planning Commission.

Delaware North, the company that runs the Finger Lakes Gaming & Racetrack and Hamburg Gaming in upstate New York, would operate the Medford facility.

The local residents who oppose the 1,000 lottery machines, known as video lottery terminals, have found allies in the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association. At the group’s March 25 meeting, the members voted to take an official stand against the gambling facility, upon a suggestion from executive board member Frank Gibbons.

The Terryville resident said residents must push their elected officials to derail the casino.

“If all of us get united across this entire township and say, ‘You do this and we’re going to vote you all out of office,’ I bet they’ll find a way.”

Town officials have said that their hands are tied, and they have no role in choosing where the gambling facility will be built. The town board has hired global law firm Nixon Peabody LLP to issue its own legal opinion on the matter.
The town board also approved an anti-casino statement in late January, introduced by Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point).

“These are blights in a community and serve no purpose in the suburbs,” Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said at the time.

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville civic members voted against a gambling facility being built at the proposed site in Medford or anywhere else in Brookhaven Town.

“Because if it’s not Medford, it could be Bicycle Path,” President Ed Garboski said. “It could be Centereach.”

Jeff Napoleon, a Port Jefferson Station resident, said members should authorize the executive board to “to make our feelings known that we’re against this and to take whatever steps … in any way they deem appropriate. That way as they uncover things, they can take action.”

The civic supported that measure, adding it to their vote of opposition to the gambling facility.

“This is obviously a complicated issue,” Napoleon said. “A lot of angles to it.”