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East Northport

Construction aims to improve the area's ability to withstand storms without damage

A utility pole downed during Hurricane Sandy. File Photo.

More than five years after Hurricane Sandy wiped out electricity to more than 90 percent of Long Island residents, PSEG is making improvements to its power grids in the Town of Huntington.

PSEG Long Island announced Feb. 16 it will begin a four-month circuit reliability project in East Northport and Fort Salonga to replace existing wires, install more durable utility poles and move some of the main electrical lines underground. The work is expected to begin by the month’s end.

“PSEG Long Island works hard every day to ensure that its customers have the most reliable and resilient service possible,” said John O’Connell, vice president of transmission and distribution operations for PSEG Long Island, in a press statement. “Undertaking this FEMA-funded project in East Northport and Fort Salonga ensures that even more Long Islanders are served by equipment that can withstand extreme weather and provide the kind of service that our customers deserve.”

The project will affect approximately 3.25 miles along the following streets: 10th Avenue between Athens Court and 2nd Street North; Vernon Valley Road between Crest Drive and Fort Salonga Road/Route 25A; Dickinson Avenue between Vernon Valley Road and Laurel Road; Fort Salonga Road/Route 25A between Vernon Valley Road and Deauville Court; and Middleville Road between Fort Salonga Road/Route 25A and Highwood Drive.

Our crews will be knocking on doors; if nobody is home then a door hanger will be left.”
—Jeremy Walsh

In this area, crews will be replacing selected utility poles with new ones approximately 2 to 3 feet from current locations. The poles are approximately the same height but have a stronger base to prevent toppling during storms, according to PSEG’s public construction plans.

PSEG warned that local residents may experience traffic or temporary electrical outages as construction progresses. Notification will be given of any planned outages, said Jeremy Walsh, PSEG spokesman.

“Our crews will be knocking on doors; if nobody is home then a door hanger will be left,” he said. “As much face-to-face contact that can be done will be done.”

In addition, PSEG is also looking to move its main electrical lines underground in the following areas: 10th Avenue between Athens Court and Elwood Road; and Elwood Road between 10th Avenue and the electrical substation north of Pulaski Road.

The work is funded by more than $729 million of federal recovery funds received in a 2014 agreement between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy and tropical storm Irene. A breakdown of how money will be spent in East Northport and Fort Salonga was not available from PSEG Long Island,
according to Walsh
.

This is the 14th section out of more than 35 circuits in the Town of Huntington to which PSEG has planned to make grid improvements. The order in which the improvements are made largely depends on when engineering approval is received, availability of necessary materials and understanding of the impact of construction traffic, Walsh said.

“We try not to inundate any single area with too many crews at once out of consideration for our customers,” he said.

Clarification: PSEG crews will be replacing selected utility poles on the specified routes but not all, as previously indicated.  Story updated Feb. 22 at 1:16 p.m. 

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Commack Firefighters and New York police officers joined together in remembrance of Charles Oddo Feb. 17. Photo from Commack Fire Department.

Commack firefighters demonstrated the meaning of “gone, but not forgotten” for a fallen brother.

Commack Fire Department held a memorial ceremony Feb. 17 for former member and New York police officer Charles Oddo, who was killed in the line of duty 22 years ago.

Oddo, an East Northport native and highway patrolman, died February 1996 after being struck by a car while placing flares around an overturned gas truck on the Gowanus Expressway. He was 33.

“Charles Oddo was a guardian and protector from his earliest years,” said Steve Silverman, a spokesman for the Commack Fire Department. “He transitioned from watching over his younger sister in this very park, to protecting the people of Commack. He continued to follow the calling to the NYPD’s elite Highway Patrol Unit.”

The ceremony was held at the former Verleye Park, which was renamed Charles A. Oddo Verleye Park in his honor June 2016. Oddo grew up within walking distance of the park and had played there as a child.

“Standing here brings back happy memories for me of a carefree time when life was simple, innocent, fun, filled with love and laughter under the protection of my brother,” said Maria Oddo Forger, Charles’ sister, at the park’s 2016 renaming.

Oddo graduated from John Glenn High School in 1981. In 1982, he joined the Commack Fire Department, where he served as a volunteer firefighter, paramedic and mechanic. The East Northport native became a member of the New York City Police Department in 1990 and was transferred to the Brooklyn highway unit five years later.

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Four people were arrested in the Town of Huntington during the evening Jan. 27 for allegedly selling liquid nicotine for electronic cigarettes to minors, according to Suffolk County Police.

In response to community complaints, 2nd Precinct Crime Section officers and representatives from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services Tobacco Regulation Enforcement Unit conducted an investigation into the sale of e-liquid nicotine to minors at 10 businesses between 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Saturday.

The following people were arrested and charged with Unlawfully Dealing with a Child 2nd Degree:

  • Sandipkumar Bhatiya, 42, of Ronkonkoma, employed at Mr. Tobacco Shop II, 2031 East Jericho Turnpike, East Northport
  • Joanna Oh, 25, of Malverne, employed at Whatever Vape Shop, 675 East Jericho Turnpike, Huntington Station
  • Diville Moss, 20, of Smithtown, employed at East Coast Psychedelics, 6124 East Jericho Turnpike, Commack
  • Dean Papas, 34, of South Huntington, employed at Huntington Village Vapes, 4 Elm Street, Huntington

The owners of the above businesses were issued a notice of violation by the Suffolk County Department of Health.

The following businesses complied, and refused the sale of e-liquid nicotine to minors:

  • FMS Vapes, 825 Walt Whitman Road, Melville
  • Long Island Vape, 469A East Jericho Turnpike, Huntington Station
  • Gotham Smoke & Novelty Shop, 681 East Jericho Turnpike, Huntington Station
  • Karma Vapes, 217 Walt Whitman Road, Huntington Station
  • Abbey Road Tobacco & Vapor, 63 Larkfield Road, East Northport
  • Liquid Lyfe Vapor Shop, 6160 E. Jericho Turnpike, Commack

The four people arrested were issued field appearance tickets and are scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip at a later date.

File photo

Suffolk County Police have arrested two people as a result of a month long investigation at businesses located within the 4th Precinct. Fourth Precinct Crime Section officers conducted an investigation into the sale of alcohol to minors during which nine businesses were checked for compliance with the law in Commack, Smithtown, Kings Park and East Northport, according to police.

The following clerks were arrested and charged with first-degree unlawfully dealing with a minor after they sold alcohol to a minor.

  • Thomas Watson, 22, of Northport, employed at Speedway gas station, located at 152 East Northport Road, Kings Park
  • A 16 year-old male juvenile, employed at BP gas station located at 94 Pulaski Road, Kings Park.

The following establishments were in compliance:

  • Shell gas station, located at 700 Commack Road, Commack
  • BP gas station, located at 621 Commack Road, Commack
  • Citgo gas station, located at 100 Crooked Hill Road, Commack
  • Speedway gas station, located at 2104 Jericho Turnpike, Commack
  • Speedway gas station, located at 38 Indian Head Road, Kings Park
  • Mobil gas station, located at 819 W. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown
  • BP gas station, located at 1007 W. Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown

Watson and the juvenile were issued Field Appearance Tickets and are scheduled to appear in First District Court in Central Islip Jan. 2, 2018. The State Liquor Authority is conducting a follow up investigation.

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File photo

Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad detectives are investigating a two-vehicle crash that killed a Centerport man Nov. 6.

Tyler Gomes was driving a 2007 Subaru eastbound on Cuba Hill Road in Greenlawn when he lost control of his vehicle, crossed into the westbound lane and struck a 2016 Toyota 4Runner, driven by Allison Raich, at approximately 9:35 a.m.

Gomez, 26, who was alone in his vehicle, was transported to Huntington Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Raich, 33, of East Northport, and her 9-month-old son were transported to Huntington Hospital where Raich was treated for broken bones and the child was evaluated and released.

Both vehicles were impounded for a safety check and the investigation is ongoing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the 2nd Squad at 631-854-8252.

A conceptual rendering of the proposed K.I.D.S. Plus adult group home in Greenlawn. Photo from Facebook

Greenlawn residents rallied before Huntington Town officials Oct. 17 seeking answers to their questions about proposed plans for a group home on Cuba Hill Road.

More than a dozen community members spoke out at the town board meeting in which the Northport-based nonprofit K.I.D.S. Plus presented plans for an 8,000-square-foot group home for adults with physical and developmental disabilities. Residents raised concerns about traffic, noise, overall size of the home and density of group homes in the area, but ultimately found themselves with more questions than answers.

“I’m really trying hard not to have the knee-jerk reaction of not in my backyard,” said Manan Shah, a Cuba Hill Road homeowner. “We want to be partners. We want to understand. But to ask us to give you an 8,000-square-foot home without giving us information is unfair.”

Sergio Gallardo, of Greenlawn, said the Cuba Hill Road residents weren’t given an opportunity to speak with K.I.D.S. Plus founder Tammie Topel to learn what types of disabilities the home’s residents would have or review the business plans.

“We assumed you would have sat down with the people who live in the area prior to this hearing,” Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said. “Obviously, that didn’t happen.”

Topel, a Northport resident and member of the Northport school district’s board of education, is a well-known advocate for children with special needs as she has spoken publicly on several occasions about her son, Brandon, who is diagnosed with autism. She explained her “dream” plan is to build a group home for eight adults, 21 years of age and older, on the 2-acre wooded lot. The house would have an administrator/coordinator on site 24/7 to oversee the health and safety of residents in addition to a rotating staff of specialists and caregivers based on individual residents’ needs, according to Topel.

“There is a waiting list in New York state of greater than 11,000 people who need homes and we are trying to mitigate the problem,” she said. “We are trying to provide assistance for parents of children, young adults and adults who need a supportive independent place to live.”

However, residents were quick to point out that the K.I.D.S. Plus home would not be the first facility of its type in community.

“Within a half-mile of my home in any direction, and my neighbors as well, there are three group homes already — this would be a fourth,” said William Whitcomb, a Cuba Hill Road homeowner of 10 years. “Regardless of the nature of the residents, four is simply too much.”

Another major concern voiced repeatedly was the proposed size of the group home in comparison to the existing homes. Neighbors expressed fears that it would alter the area’s character, giving it a more commercial feel.

“The homes tend not to be very large; the properties are large, that’s why we like to live there,” said Taylor McLam, a Cuba Hill Road homeowner who said his residence is approximately 1,200 square feet by comparison. “Seven times the size of my house seems a little much.”

Jules Smilow, a resident of Darryl Lane, expressed sympathy, saying that a group home that was more commensurate in size to the existing residences would be more agreeable.

Many Greenlawn property owners, including Rebecca Gutierrez and Stephen Wuertz, pointed to the three existing group homes in the area with concerns of noise from handicapped transportation and delivery trucks, increased traffic and possible behavior incidents involving future residents.

“I think one of the things that is happening here is some people don’t know what disability looks like and what it is all about,” said George Wurzer, a licensed clinical social worker.

Wurzer said he operates a number of group homes for children diagnosed with autism. While many were met by resistance  from their surrounding communities at first, he said that over time there was more acceptance and the neighbors learned more about developmental disabilities from the experience.

“Tammie’s vision is the next evolutionary stage in helping people with disabilities,” Wurzer said.

Petrone admitted it was, in part, the town’s fault that residents did not have critical information to fairly evaluate the group home proposal. He directed Anthony Aloisio, the director of planning and environment, to arrange for a community meeting between residents and Topel.

Topel has posted a proposed blueprint of the building on the K.I.D.S. Plus Facebook page. There are several upcoming public meetings to provide those interested  with more information Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. at Signature Premier Properties in East Northport, and Oct. 20 at 7 p.m. at Cause Cafe in Fort Salonga.

Northport-East Northport school parent Mary Gilmore urged school officials to conduct a longitudinal study of air quality in the schools. Photo by Kevin Redding

The Northport-East Northport board of education called on a specialist last week in an attempt to clear the air with concerned parents over potential health risks from gas fumes detected at Northport Middle School last spring.

At the Sept. 28 meeting, Dr. Lauren Zajac of Mount Sinai Hospital, a pediatrician specially trained in environmental health, fielded questions by the board and residents and encouraged the district to implement an indoor air quality program in all its schools.

“As a pediatrician and a mom myself, I would want to make sure our schools have good air because nobody is doing that right now — let’s become a leader in the state when it comes to indoor air quality,” Zajac said over a Skype call in the cafeteria at William J. Brosnan School.

“I hope we don’t hear 10, 20 or 30 years down the road students are developing illnesses. No level of unnecessary exposure to these chemicals is at all acceptable … ignorance to this is no excuse.”

— Denise Schwartz

She assured the agitated residents in the room that moving forward is the best plan of action.

“We can’t change what happened in the past and I’m sorry it happened, and I know it’s stressful,” Zajac said. “I recommend channeling this passion and energy into making sure a really good program is put in place.”

The board assured Zajac and residents it has begun the process of implementing a Tools for Schools program, which shows school districts how to carry out a practical plan to resolve indoor air problems such as volatile organic compounds and mold “at little to no cost using straightforward activities and in-house staff,” according to the U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency website.

“Today we had a kickoff meeting for that program,” Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer said. “Tools for Schools is comprehensive and deals with anything having to do with air quality.”

Zajac’s appearance before the board followed consistent urging from the community for a longitudinal study of the school district to get to the bottom of four chemicals commonly found in perfumes and latex paints found in high concentrations in classrooms 74 and 75 in the K-wing corridor April 24. After an earth science teacher smelled fumes in the classroom, an investigation found the source to be a petroleum-based warehouse beneath the K-wing.

That discovery six months ago led to the closure of those rooms for the remainder of the school year. It remains off limits today.

The materials were removed and a series of air quality tests have since been conducted, one by a company called EnviroScience Inc. three days after the odor was first found. A second air quality test was performed by J.C. Broderick & Associates Inc. July 22.

Although the tests came up with “nothing that sounded the alarms from a health perspective,” according to Zajac whose team analyzed the data reports, parents have long feared for their children’s health in connection to the fumes.

Zajac pushed for the school and community to forego the longitudinal study as it may not provide the answers everyone is looking for. There are many unknown factors surrounding the possible exposures, and chemical levels in general are apt to change with each day, according to the specialist, resulting in an unreliable study.

“I think I’m going to explode if I hear ‘move forward’ one more time. You have to look back, you have to protect the children and staff that were there.”

— East Northport resident

“It would be very hard to draw conclusions as to whether a student’s visit to the nurse has anything to do with exposure concerns or unrelated illnesses,” she said, steering the conversation back to the future. “It could be done, but it would have so many limitations and I wouldn’t want it to take away effort from the most important thing — reducing the exposures from here on out.”

But some residents in the room weren’t as willing to let go of past problems within the school.

East Northport parent Denise Schwartz, whose three children have gone through the middle school, said she recently uncovered old newspaper articles documenting the school’s history of being a “sick building.” Mold, fungus and gas leading to headaches and fevers is not a recent problem here, Schwartz told Zajac.

“Every time it has come up, there has been some clean up that appeased people and then we move forward,” Schwartz said, implying negligence and incompetence by those in the school district. “I hope we don’t hear 10, 20 or 30 years down the road students are developing illnesses. No level of unnecessary exposure to these chemicals is at all acceptable … ignorance to this is no excuse.”

Mary Gilmore, a mother of two students whose classrooms were in the K-wing, urged for a longitudinal study to be done despite the unknown variables.

“Isn’t that the only way to know if there will be long-term health effects on the kids and staff that were in that building?” Gilmore said.

“My concern is that a study would be intensive and may not lead to any answers,” Zajac responded. “I’d be afraid so much would be put into this study and it wouldn’t be fruitful.”

Another East Northport resident, who asked to remain anonymous, agreed with the others that more focus should be on the past.

“I think I’m going to explode if I hear ‘move forward’ one more time,” she said, pleading for a study. “You have to look back, you have to protect the children and staff that were there.”

This version correctly identifies that Denise Schwartz’s children have already graduated from the middle school.

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.

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A Facebook post had the power to unite a community to make sure a former East Northport resident didn’t make his final journey alone.

More than 400 veterans, servicemen and Northport-East Northport community members attended the funeral mass of Saverio DeLaurentis at St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church to honor his life and military service Sept.1.

DeLaurentis, 85, died in August. He was a U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Korean War aboard the aircraft carrier the USS Oriskany, according to old newspaper clippings. DeLaurentis’ final wishes were to have his funeral at St. Anthony’s of Padua followed by a burial at Calverton National cemetery, according to Jean Chiovarelli, co-chair of the ministry of consolation at St. Anthony’s of Padua.

“We found out he had no immediate family or friends,” Chiovarelli said. “We thought no one would come out to the church. We put some phone calls and emails.”

Chiovarelli started a chain of phone calls to spread the word among the area’s American Foreign Legions and Veteran of Foreign War posts of DeLaurentis’ funeral.

Then, a Facebook post made Aug. 30 by Lorretta Hamann, co-chair of the ministry of consolation at St. Anthony’s of Padua, caught the attention of local residents.

“We received a notice this morning about a funeral mass at 9:45 [a.m.] on Friday for a 85-year-old gentleman,” Hamann wrote. “No family, a court appointed representative made the arrangements. We are calling around to ask anyone who might be available to attend the mass. It would be nice if he didn’t make his last journey alone.”

American Foreign Legion Post 1244 of Greenlawn, American Legion Riders Post 1244 of Greenlawn, Northport Veterans of Foreign Wars, Commack Fire Department, Fire Riders of the City of New York, and several Boy Scouts were among the many who turned out to salute DeLaurentis’ as his casket was carried into the church.

“It’s overwhelming how many people are here to show their love, their support,” said Father Raj Savarimuthu during the funeral mass. “Thank you. Thank you.”

The American Legion Riders were escorting DeLaurentis’ funeral process to Calverton where he will be buried with full military honors.

Families and community residents gathered in East Northport this past weekend to enjoy some summer fun at the East Northport Firemen’s Fair. Participants enjoyed carnival rides, food, live music and more.