Tags Posts tagged with "Councilman Eugene Cook"

Councilman Eugene Cook

From left, Bruce Tilden, Jeanne Tilden, Councilman Eugene Cook, Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, Councilman Ed Smyth, Councilwoman Joan Cergol, Mark McAteer, Sarah Lansdale, August Ruckdeschel and Larry Foglia. Photo from Town of Huntington

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson, Bruce and Jeanne Tilden, Huntington Town board members, representatives from Suffolk County, Larry Foglia, Suffolk County Farm Committee Representative and environmental groups were on hand Oct. 21 to announce the Town and County’s 50-50 partnership in the acquisition of the development rights to the approximately 13.69 acres of Tilden Lane Farm, a farm that has been in operation since 1793. 

In July of 2015 Councilman Cuthbertson started the process for the Town of Huntington to consider acquiring the development rights to the farm (TOH resolution 2015-345 & 2017-327) in conjunction with Suffolk County. 

In January 2020 the Town and County closed on a joint acquisition of farmland development rights of the Tilden Lane Farm.   This acquisition was possible due to the Farmland Development Rights program, which began in 1974. Suffolk County was the first in the nation to create a program like this, which permanently preserves farmland.  

Other farms in Huntington that are protected in this manner include the 49-acre White Post Farm on West Pulaski Road in Huntington and the 1.9-acre former Ketcham Horse Farm in Fort Salonga both of which had their farmland development rights acquired by the County.  In 2009 the Town and County shared in an acquisition of farmland development rights for 16.4 acres of the Richter’s orchard in East Northport and Fox Hollow Farm in South Huntington which is now ELIJA Farm. 

Since the creation of the program, Suffolk County has preserved over 11,000 acres. Additionally, other municipalities and land trusts have preserved 9,000 acres, bringing the countywide total to 20,000 acres. In 1998, when the first Huntington Environmental Open Space and Park Fund Review Advisory (or the EOSPA) Program was approved by Huntington residents, 15 open space acquisitions were made with the County’s support, matched by Town dollars. This helped to protect 2/3 of the total acreage conserved through the EOSPA program. 

The County Farmland Protection Program is known across the country. It preserved agricultural lands and farm livelihoods. It allows families and farmers to ply their heritage and opens opportunities for starting farmers to engage at a more reasonable cost. 

“I want to thank the Tilden family, Suffolk County, and the EOSPA committee. This collaboration will allow the Tilden Lane Farm to continue to operate as a working farm” said Councilman Mark Cuthbertson. “The thousands of acres of farmland in Suffolk County that have been preserved, are a “win-win” in that it preserves the land and allows farming operations to continue in perpetuity.  There is such little farm land in Western Suffolk County, I am proud to be a part of preserving every farm we can.”

“Everyone at Tilden Lane Farm appreciates the support of our elected officials in the Town of Huntington and the County of Suffolk that will enable us to keep operating our 8-generation family farm!,” said Bruce Tilden.

“Through the County’s first in the nation Farmland Preservation program, and thanks to the partnership of the Town of Huntington, we have been able to preserve more than 13 acres of farmland in Western Suffolk County – a major accomplishment when it comes to ensuring the future of farming all across Suffolk,” said County Executive Bellone. “This family run farm, which has been in operation for centuries, will be able to continue their tradition of providing Christmas Trees to the surrounding community for generations to come.”

“It is vital that we preserve as much of Long Island’s usable farmland as possible. I commend and thank Councilman Mark Cuthbertson for his hard work, as well as everyone on our Open Space Committee and in the Suffolk County Executive’s office who was involved in this important farmland acquisition” stated Councilwoman Joan Cergol

“Thanks to the Town-County partnership that allowed the preservation of Tilden Farm and other ones like it, future generations will also be inspired to become advocates for the environment and protecting our green space,” said Supervisor Chad Lupinacci.

“Thank you to Bruce, his wife Jeanne, and the entire Tilden family as well as the county and EOSPA committee for working with the Town of Huntington to help preserve this open space and retain Tilden Farm’s agricultural purpose for generations to come. Acquiring Tilden Farm is an incredible example of what can be accomplished when local governments work together,” said Councilman Ed Smyth.

“The purchase of the development rights for Tilden Farm is a wonderful way for Suffolk County and the Town of Huntington to partner in maintaining this farmland in perpetuity,”, stated Councilman Eugene Cook. 

“I want to thank the Tilden Family who will continue to operate this Greenlawn Christmas tree farm, while protecting it from development.  I am proud to be part of preserving not only an important part of Long Island history, but a part of the charm that Huntington was built on.”

From left, Town Clerk Andrew P. Raia; Councilman Ed Smyth; Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci; Lona Graepel; Receiver of Taxes Jillian Guthman; and Councilman Eugene Cook. Photo from Town of Huntington

Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci and Town officials Councilman Eugene Cook, Councilman Ed Smyth, Town Clerk Andrew P. Raia and Receiver of Taxes Jillian Guthman joined Lona Graepel from Long Island Farmers Markets for a ribbon cutting at the opening of the Huntington Winter Farmers Market in the Town’s John J. Flanagan Center in Huntington on Dec. 5.

“Who doesn’t love a farmer’s market?! Thanks to Lona Graepel from Long Island Farmers Markets for keeping the ‘shop local’ tradition going through the cold weather months!” said Sup. Lupinacci. 

“It was my pleasure to join my colleagues at the Winter Farmer’s Market on Saturday.  I would recommend to everyone to find some time on Saturdays to explore the Winter Farmer’s Market with their family, as there are many wonderful vendors there, with something for everyone,” said Councilman Cook.  “Please remember to mask up and social distance while enjoying the market.” 

“The Farmers Market is a year-round reminder to shop as locally as possible,” said Councilman Smyth. 

“It’s exciting to be a part of the Grand Opening for the Winter Farmers Market here in Huntington. A major part of our local economy is shopping for fresh, local goods and Lona Graepel, Market Manager at Long Island Farmers Market, is doing this by keeping our residents thriving for fresh foods,” said Raia. “This year, I have the pleasure of displaying a “Farming in Huntington” Exhibit in the Town of Huntington Jo-Ann Raia Archives, which features farmers present and past. Farming has always played a strong role in the development of Huntington, and it is important to continue eating fresh foods while supporting our local farmers.” 

“What a treat to purchase a uniquely made item from a member of our community.  You can find everything from micro-greens to designer cutting boards and doggie treats and more all while supporting our local economy,” said Guthman. 

The Huntington Winter Farmers Market runs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  through March 27, 2021 at the John J. Flanagan Center, 423 Park Avenue, Huntington (behind the Cinema Arts Centre). Shop for local gourmet foods and beverages, sweet and healthy treats, organic bath and body products, in an “all under one roof” Farmer’s Market setup while enjoying live music. Masks are mandatory. Call 631-944-2661 for more information.

Town to send letter to New York State comptroller asking for review of town's finances

Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh.

A request by Huntington’s new town board to have the state comptroller review the town’s finances was met with criticism.

Huntington Town Board voted 4-1 at its Jan. 3 meeting to go forward with a request to New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (D) to conduct a review and audit of the town’s finances, policies and procedures. Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) was the sole vote against the measure.

“I just think this is a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money,” he said. “I think it’s a shot at the prior administration that had healthy financials and won a number of awards each year for the records we keep and our finances.”

In December, the Town of Huntington received its 17th consecutive certificate of achievement for excellence in financial reporting from the Government Finance Officers Association.  The nonprofit professional association serving nearly 18,000 government financial professionals across North America, had reviewed the town’s comprehensive financial report for the year ending Dec. 31, 2016.

I just think this is a ridiculous waste of taxpayer money.”
— Mark Cuthbertson

Councilman Eugene Cook (R), who sponsored the audit resolution, denied that it was a strike against former Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and his practices, but rather a way to provide for a fresh start.

“Any business owner knows if they are buying a new business and going into a new business, they want to check all the records,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Cuthbertson suggested given the lengthy time and funds it would require for the state to audit the town, the new administration and town officials would be better served by studying the town’s yearly internal audits performed by an outside contractor.

Cook sponsored a similar resolution in 2012 calling for state review, but it failed to gain the board’s approval. Petrone then offered a revised resolution that was approved, and ultimately resulted in a 2013 audit conducted by the state comptroller.

The 2013 audit report, which reviewed the town’s finances from Jan. 1, 2011, to May 31, 2012, found issues with the town’s ability to track overtime hours and paid leave for town employees adequately.

“We found that the town may have higher payroll costs than necessary because town officials did not monitor and control these costs,” states the 2013 audit’s summary findings.

Any business owner knows if they are buying a new business and going into a new business, they want to check all the records.”
— Gene Cook

The state comptroller’s office also found the town was awarding contracts to attorneys without going through the standard bidding process and then paid without providing detailed invoices in some cases. Recommendations were made and discussed between state and Huntington officials on corrective actions to be made.

“While serving as an affirmation of the policies that have helped Huntington maintain its AAA bond rating, we also appreciate the audit’s insight on how to make Huntington’s government operate even more efficiently,” Petrone had said in his response to the 2013 audit. “We will consider changes to implement the recommendations we have not already put into place.”

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D), who worked for the town prior to 2013 and was sworn in to sit on the town board this month, voted in favor of requesting the state comptroller’s office perform an audit, though she said the measure was not necessary.

“I welcome an audit, but I don’t think it’s going to happen,” the councilwoman said. “If there is one, I think it will prove we run a tight ship.”

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said the resolution merely sends a letter to the state comptroller’s office to review the town’s financials “if they feel it is necessary,” to indicate the town would be both willing and cooperative in the process.

A Larkfield Road home is at the center of a lawsuit by its two former owners against Town of Huntington, Councilman Eugene Cook and his two business partners. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Two former East Northport landowners are suing Huntington Town, Councilman Eugene Cook (R) and his two business partners for $5 million over alleged loss of property rights.

A federal lawsuit filed Sept. 11 in U.S District Court for the Eastern District of New York claims that town officials have intentionally overlooked zoning code violations at a multi-family home on Larkfield Road — but only after it was purchased by TGJ 2014 LLC in 2014. The company is owned by Cook and two business partners, Huntington real estate agent Timothy Cavanagh and Commack attorney Joshua Price.

The former homeowners, Mary Ann Dellinger, of Huntington, and her brother, Carmen Tomeo, allege the town officials’ efforts to unfairly enforce zoning codes on the five-family dwelling caused them to lose money in the sale, according to their attorney Christopher Cassar. The house was purchased for $400,000 by TGJ 2014.

“This house was their primary asset,” Cassar said.

The plaintiffs claim the Larkfield Road home’s use as a multi-family dwelling predates the creation of Huntington Town code in 1934, according to court documents. Cassar said the family has a March 11, 2007 letter from the town which grandfathered the property’s right to be legally occupied as a five-family residence.

The lawsuit alleges town code enforcement officers began to issues summonses in 2012 against the property owners demanding it be returned to a single-family home, despite earlier promises.

“Town of Huntington has permitted and tolerated a pattern and practice of unjustified, unreasonable and illegal use of the enforcement of town code against the plaintiffs,” the lawsuit reads.

Cassar said the town’s actions caused Dellinger and Tomeo to have difficulty selling the house, as two prior deals fell through. One potential buyer would have paid $900,000 for the property, according to Cassar, half a million more than Cook and his partners paid.

The former homeowners also claim the $5 million sought is for damages including loss of income from the property, loss of property value, embarrassment, harrassment, loss of liberty and infringement of their property rights, according to court records.

In 2015, town officials  hired attorney Edward Guardaro Jr., of the firm Kaufman, Borgeest & Ryan LLP, to look into the East Northport house, to determine whether it was a legal rental and if the work being performed was legal.

Cassar said the town has issued a summons on the property, since Cook and his company took ownership, over issues with an exterior staircase and debris. However, the attorney said the town did not ever issue a code violation against it for being a multi-family dwelling.

Huntington has not been served with the lawsuit as of Sept. 20, according to town spokesman A.J. Carter, and he declined to comment further on the matter. Cook also declined to comment on the lawsuit after the Sept. 19 board meeting, as did Cavanagh. Price returned calls but did not comment on the matter.