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East Northport

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Suffolk County Police arrested two women following a massage parlor raid in East Northport Sunday, May 7.

In response to numerous community complaints, Suffolk County Police 2nd Precinct Crime Section officers, Suffolk County Police Criminal Intelligence Section detectives, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security special agents and Town of Huntington Code Enforcement officers conducted an investigation into illegal activity at The Spa, located on Larkfield Road.

Ling Gao and and Xiaoguang Li were arrested May 5 and charged with unauthorized practice of a profession, a class E felony under the New York State Education Law. Li was also charged with two counts of prostitution.

An investigation by Huntington Code Enforcement officers revealed numerous occupancy and town code violations.

Gao, 53, of Flushing, and Li, 45, of Flushing, were scheduled to be arraigned at a later date at 1st District Court in Central Islip. No attorney information was immediately available.

Local nonprofits gathered in East Northport to share ideas and network. Photo by Kevin Redding

A community bank and a financial education group recently partnered up in an effort to help local nonprofits thrive.

On March 25, the Equity First Foundation, an organization that primarily works with small businesses in financial distress, hosted a community breakfast for nonprofit organizers and supporters at Investors Bank in East Northport.

The networking event gave the crowd of good-hearted people who advocate for important causes across Suffolk County a rare opportunity to exchange business cards and ideas with one another.

Equity First Foundation Founder and President Rhonda Klch, a Rocky Point resident, speaks to local nonprofits during a community breakfast. Photo by Kevin Redding

Representatives from a wide range of volunteer organizations — that help everybody from families to children to veterans — bonded over their shared interest in providing a service to those who need it most.

Priscilla Arena, executive director of Suffolk Asperger-Autism Sport and Information, a Mount Sinai nonprofit that serves the needs of the autism community throughout Long Island, said the event benefitted nonprofits far better than social media ever could.

“There’s nothing better than a face-to-face meeting with anyone, with any decision makers,” Arena said. “And here you have a room of decision makers and people that make things happen. You have the right people in the room, it’s communities helping other communities and it’s fantastic.”

Communities helping other communities is exactly what pushed Investment Bank Branch Manager and Miller Place resident Amanda Seppi to pursue the idea of the gathering with her frequent collaborator Rhonda Klch, a Mount Sinai resident and executive director of the Equity First Foundation.

Seppi, whose bank is geared toward community grassroots organizations and overall community giving, said she wanted to bring nonprofits from the local area together to network with one another and potentially help strengthen their individual causes.

“I was finding that nonprofits don’t necessarily interact with one another to develop strategies to grow, and I figured it was a win-win for everybody to be able to learn about one another,” Seppi said. “[Ultimately], I want them to be able to reach a wider audience, to be able to raise funds in order to escalate and continue to do the good they’re trying to do for the community.”

The nonprofits don’t have the exposure they deserve, she added.

“I’d like to bring as much attention to the people who are doing good for nothing, it’s important to me to have them grow and do well,” Seppi said.

Klch agreed, feeling as though the nonprofits could use all the help they could get in terms of funding, which all nonprofits rely on to survive.

Through Investors Foundation at the bank, nonprofits can receive grants and scholarships.

Members of local nonprofits share ideas and network. Photo by Kevin Redding

“With a lot of changes happening in the economy, a lot of grants are no longer available, qualifying for funding is much more difficult and even your local business community that would normally support different fundraising initiatives, because of their own setbacks, aren’t able to provide as much,” Klch said. “What we’re looking to do is have nonprofits partner and work uniformly. If I have money or resources coming into my organization, I can offer it to somebody else.”

Klch presented “The Haven,” a beachside retreat that nonprofits can offer to clients who may be facing economic hardships caused by illness, death and addiction. The retreat would serve as a mental reprieve for individuals and families, as well as a sponsorship opportunity.

Among some of the organizations at the gathering were Youth Directions & Alternatives, a community agency that serves youth and families in the Northport-East Northport-Elwood-Harborfields school districts; Maria’Z Hope Foundation, a group made up of women dedicated to providing support for those seeking an alternative approach to medical healing; and East Northport-based General Needs, which helps homeless Long Island veterans and their families through charitable donations and support.

Lonnie Sherman, founder of General Needs, started the group 10 years ago when he realized there were 5,000 homeless veterans on Long Island without basic necessities like socks, underwear and boots. Today, the group takes care of about 3,000 of them, cooking food, helping to treat those suffering from PTSD and delivering hundreds of pairs of boots so they can get jobs.

A recent grant from Investors Bank allowed the group to help veterans get apartments.

“When I go to an event like this, I want to walk out having had a conversation with one person that’s going to listen, so we get the word out … ultimately that’s going to make a difference,” he said. “We [nonprofits] are the ones who can make a difference.”

Nicholas Bono was arrested for robbing a bank. Photo from SCPD.

Suffolk County Police arrested a man who robbed a bank in East Northport Wednesday night, March 15.

Major Case Unit detectives arrested Nicholas Bono at 9:40 p.m. for robbing the Bank of America, located on Larkfield Road. He demanded money, and the teller complied with the Bono’s demands and gave him cash from the drawer. He then fled the bank on foot.

Bono, 29, of East Northport, was charged with third-degree robery. He will be held at the 2nd Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip March 16.

The high school football field, which currently floods easily during games. Photo from Northport-East Northport School District.

The Northport-East Northport school district is set to roll up their sleeves and get to work, as the community recently voted to approve a nearly $40 million bond to improve infrastructure, athletic and physical education needs, classrooms and more.

Residents voted Feb. 28 overwhelmingly to support the bond, with 2,802 yes votes to 1,025 no votes.

Superintendent Robert Banzer was pleased the community was behind the board in this endeavor.

“I thank all community residents who took the time to vote today and for their support of the referendum,” Banzer said. “Through this support, we will be able to make improvements that will enhance our instructional learning, upgrade our physical education and athletic facilities for students and the greater community, and make needed infrastructure improvements that are long overdue. As we move through the process of finalizing plans and submitting them to the State Education Department for approval, we will continue to keep the community updated on our progress.”

One of the boys bathroom stalls with urinals that no longer work. Photo from Northport-East Northport School District.

The $39.9 million bond has been in the works for more than a year, with committees touring school grounds and facilities to see which areas are in dire need of improvements, meeting with officials and administrators from other districts to see how they’ve tackled upgrades and more. The school board voted to approve the scope of the work in December, and then worked to educate the community on the project with building tours and community forums.

Half of the funds — $19.9 million — will be going towards infrastructure improvement. This includes repairing and replacing asphalt pavement, curbing, sidewalks and masonry; renovating bathrooms; upgrading classroom casework; renovating classroom sinks and counters; replacing windows and some ceiling areas at several buildings; and reconfiguring the south entrance of Northport High School.

The other 50 percent of the bond will be divided for classroom and security enhancements and athletic improvements.

Ten million dollars will go towards renovating three outdated science labs at East Northport Middle School, five at Northport Middle School and 10 at Northport High School; constructing a security vestibule at every school building; upgrading stage rigging and lighting at East Northport Middle School and replacing the auditorium stage floor at Northport High School.

For the first two scopes of work, the majority of the ideas came from the Capital Projects Committee, created in 2016 to review district buildings’ conditions.

For the athletic and physical education improvements, the Athletic Facilities Citizens Advisory Committee, formed in 2015, suggested most of the work.

Projects will include replacing the track and reconstructing the baseball and softball fields at East Northport Middle School; replacing the track and tennis courts at Northport Middle School; and renovating and redesigning the athletic fields at Northport High School, as well as installing a synthetic turf field at the high school’s main stadium and reconstructing the track and reconstructing Sweeney Field with synthetic turf.

According to the board, approximately 90 percent of the projects included in the proposed plan are eligible for New York State building aid at a rate of 28 percent, which would reduce the cost impact to local residents. The cost to the average taxpayer in the school district would be approximately $122 per year. To ease the cost to residents, the board has timed the project so a portion of the new debt created by the plan essentially replaces debt that expires in the near future.

A view of one of the four cars involved in a car crash on Larkfield Road in East Northport. Photos by Steve Silverman.

Suffolk County Police Second Squad detectives are investigating a multi-vehicle crash that killed a woman and seriously injured a man in East Northport Dec. 26.

Officers said Karla Kovach, 52, was driving a 2008 Kia northbound on Larkfield Road, near 5th Avenue, when her vehicle hit a 2008 Nissan that was slowing in traffic at 9:50 p.m. The Nissan, driven by Darin Costello, 37, hit the side of Mario’s Pizza, on Larkfield Road. After striking the Nissan, the Kia spun into the rear of a 2013 Mercedes, driven by Elias Francois, 46, which forced the Mercedes into the rear of a 2011 Cadillac, which was stopped on Larkfield Road.

A view of one of the four cars involved in a car crash on Larkfield Road in East Northport. Photos by Steve Silverman.

East Northport firefighters used heavy rescue extrication tools to remove the victims from two of the cars. East Northport Fire Department was on the scene with three trucks, three ambulances and fire police, under the command of Chief Wayne Kaifler Jr. and Assistant Chief Dan Heffernan and Dan Flanagan. The Greenlawn Fire Department and Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps assisted with two additional ambulances, while the Northport and Kings Park fire departments provided standby coverage at East Northport fire headquarters.

Kovach, of East Northport, was transported to Huntington Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Costello, of Northport, was transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore with serious injuries. François, of East Northport, and her two child passengers were transported to Huntington Hospital with minor injuries. The driver of the Cadillac, Anthony Nullet, 25, of East Northport, and his passenger were not injured. Both Commack Volunteer Ambulance Corps. and East Northport Fire Department responded and transported the victims to hospitals.

The Kia was impounded for a safety inspection.

The investigation is continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call Second Squad detectives at 631-854-8252.

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Suffolk County Police Second Squad detectives are investigating the robbery of an East Northport doughnut shop in the early morning hours Dec. 2.

A man, police said armed with a large kitchen knife, entered Dunkin Donuts on Larkfield Road, jumped over the counter and stole cash from the register at 12:23 a.m. The employee who was behind the counter at the time was not injured.

The suspect was described as white or Hispanic, approximately six feet tall wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and a mask. He fled on foot to a waiting vehicle.

The investigation is ongoing. Detectives are asking anyone with information on this robbery to call the Second Squad at 631-854-8252or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

Huntington legislators and members of Charles A. Oddo’s family stand in front of the sign at the park now named after him. Photo from A.J. Carter

By Victoria Espinoza

Commack volunteer firefighter Charles A. Oddo was memorialized last month after a park in East Northport was named after him.

The late East Northport native and New York City police officer was killed in the line of duty in February 1996, after being fatally struck by a car while placing flares around an overturned gas truck on the Gowanus Expressway. He was 33.

More than 250 people — family, friends, neighbors and former colleagues in the police force and fire department — attended the ceremony, which included a color guard from the New York City Police Department and the Commack Fire Department, and an emotional address from Oddo’s sister, Maria Oddo Forger.

“Today, we gather together once more in the town he and I grew up in, in our neighborhood park, and celebrate his memory, his fervent heart and selfless love which sent itself out daily in helping others, never blowing a trumpet before him and never seeing his actions as being noble, no, just necessary to ensure a better outcome for someone in need,” Forger said at the park. “Today, you show us by your loyalty to him and his memory that you are indeed, family.”

Oddo grew up walking distance from Verleye Park and played there as a child. He 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.

“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,” Forger said.

The Commack firefighter joined the New York City Police Department in 1990. Five years later, he was transferred to Brooklyn’s Highway Unit #2, following in the footsteps of his father, who was a Suffolk County Police Department Highway Patrol sergeant.

Members of the Huntington Town Board and leaders from first responder agencies were also in attendance for the official rename of Verleye Park to the “Charles A. Oddo Verleye Park.”

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said that park renaming is not very common in Huntington, so this was a special case.

“Charles was an inspirational person, as a family member and as a person everyone liked,” Petrone said. And when he was lost, people came by. They came in droves because people recognized who he really was and today, we want to put that memory here, in his home town, and make sure it is everlasting.”

Councilman Gene Cook (R) said recent events like the mass shooting in Orlando “are a sobering reminder of the courageous, selfless contributions that police officers, firefighters and first responders make every single day across the country.” Cook sponsored the resolution to rename the park that was unanimously passed by the town board in May.

The Commack Fire Department had asked Cook about creating a memorial. After a discussion with Petrone, it was decided that renaming the park would be most appropriate.

Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) said how this park will ensure Oddo’s legacy will never fade.

“For generations to come, children are going to come here and ask, ‘Who was Charles, what did he do, why is the park named for him?’” she said. “What they will hear is the story of a selfless man, who gave of himself to the fire department, to the police department, who helped his community. The best legacy he could leave would be to encourage youngsters to pursue the same goals.”

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A bus company employee driving a minibus hit an East Northport woman Tuesday morning.

Suffolk County Police Second Squad detectives are investigating the crash, which happened on Railroad Avenue in East Northport, at the driveway of Baumann and Sons Buses, where Joanne Fuller-Astarita, the victim and an employee of that business, was hit by a minibus turning into the location at about 10:15 a.m.

Fuller-Astarita, 57, of East Northport, was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. The driver of the minibus, Robert Heartland, 61, of Huntington Station, was not injured.

The minibus was inspected at the scene by officers from the Motor Carrier Safety Section. The investigation is continuing.

The high school football fields may be replaced with turf and capital improvements. File photo

The Northport board of education voted to move forward with improvements to science, athletic, and structural parts of the district Thursday night.

Superintendent Robert Banzer said the major goals of the capital improvements were to replace aging infrastructure and provide students and the community with more useful physical education and athletic facilities.

Infrastructure improvements included replacing bathrooms, windows, and ceilings in classrooms from kindergarten through high school. At the presentation last Thursday night, Banzer went through several photos showing cracked countertops, and antiquated lavatories.

“Some of our buildings are very old and we need to take a cold, hard look at them,” he said.

Tony Resca, a member of the capital projects committee, said the district needed to create state-of-the-art science labs, which would “foster inquiry-based scientific experimentation” and “strengthen overall STEM learning outcomes.”

Changes would include new desks designed to form into lab stations as well as new fume hoods and cabinetry for lab chemicals.

“These lab benches and work desks … are modular, they are moveable and flexible and they can be moved at a moment’s notice to accommodate a wide variety of science-related activities,” Resca said.

Talks for improving the athletic facilities at Northport have been underway for more than a year and projects included better irrigation systems for athletic fields, a new stadium at the high school with a turf field, a new track, a concession stand, outdoor bathrooms, and a replacement of tennis courts.

Paul Klimuszko, director of physical education, athletics and health, and a member of the committee, talked about the importance of replacing certain fields at Northport and improving irrigation at others.

“Whether it rains during the game or days before, this is what the field typically ends up looking like during a game,” Klimuszko said as he pointed to a photo of the high school football team playing in a field covered in mud. He also said that field was heavily used, which diminished its quality and made it less accessible to the greater Northport community.

“Even when the team is out for half-time, the marching band is putting on a half-time show, so that field never gets a break,” he said.

Under Banzer’s suggestion, the district will now seek prices and plans from an architect to achieve the plans listed in capital projects that were voted for in the May budget.

By Victoria Espinoza

In the Northport-East Northport school district, change is coming.

Residents approved a $161 million budget on Tuesday night with 2,568 votes in favor to 687 against, ousted an incumbent from the school board and reduced the number of board of education members from nine to seven. The district clerk’s office said the latter change will go into effect next year. Trustees Regina Pisacani, Donna McNaughton and Jennifer Thompson will all be up for re-election next year, but only one of their three seats will be open.

Shawne Albero, left, hugs Allison Noonan after results are announced. Residents voted in Noonan but not Albero. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Shawne Albero, left, hugs Allison Noonan after results are announced. Residents voted in Noonan but not Albero. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Northport’s budget stayed within the 0.55 percent tax levy cap, and a separate proposition for $2 million in capital improvements, which was approved with 2,848 to 390 votes, will include many athletic facility upgrades for the coming year, including a new gym ceiling and field repairs.

Board President Andrew Rapiejko did not support the reduction in board members.

“It was not a board-supported proposition,” he said. “I think nine members is more representation. It’s a very large district and if you look at even right now, we just have one board member who’s from East Northport out of nine people.”

Armand D’Accordo, a member of the United Taxpayers of Northport-East Northport, the group that introduced the idea for a smaller board, said he was pleased with the results.

“Clearly the nine-person board was not getting the job done,” he said. “Now we have an opportunity to break up the majority of incumbents that have been on the board for too long and get more independent and objective members. Most importantly, fewer members will provide more effective governance over the district and improve academic outcomes.”

Rapiejko and Trustee Lori McCue were both voted in for another term with 1,984 votes and 1,560 votes, respectively.

“I’m very grateful for the people who came out and supported me,” McCue said. She looks forward to finishing an energy performance contract with the district that aims to make it more energy-efficient.

Northport resident Allison Noonan came in first for the night, with 2,039 votes, and said she felt grateful and humbled by the results, and is excited to add a fresh voice and a fresh perspective to the board.

Incumbent Julia Binger came in fourth 1,543 votes and Shawne Albero collected 1,410 votes, so both fell shy in their bids for the board.