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Elections

John Avlon

By Aidan Johnson

As the primary elections move closer, New York’s 1st Congressional District has experienced some shakeups within the Democratic race. Three candidates, Craig Herskowitz, Kyle Hill and James Gaughran, have exited. 

Herskowitz left the race to instead pursue the New York State Senate 2nd District, saying, “In the meantime, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work electing Nancy Goroff as our next representative in Congress for District 1.”

In a press release, Hill announced that he was suspending his campaign, stating that he encourages “Suffolk Democrats to maintain their focus on flipping NY-1 because this election is entirely up for grabs.”

Gaughran is no longer running due to the redistricting of the congressional districts. Despite still living inside the new district, and therefore being qualified to run, he feels that his Democratic base has been gutted, saying in an interview that “the redistricting took away all of the large Democratic communities in the Town of Huntington that I represented in the state Senate and gave them to [U.S. Rep.] Tom Suozzi [D-NY3].” Since leaving the race, Gaughran has endorsed the newest candidate, John Avlon.

Owning homes in Sag Harbor and Manhattan, Avlon announced his bid for the congressional seat on Feb. 21, saying in a video posted to social media platform X: “This election is not a drill. It’s up to all of us to step up and get off the sidelines.” He is currently facing off against fellow Democrat Goroff.

Avlon has previously served as a CNN contributor and editor of The Daily Beast. Additionally, he helped found No Labels, a centrist political organization. However, Avlon has since condemned the organization’s attempt to run a third-party presidential candidate in the upcoming election, saying he “hasn’t had anything to do with the organization in more than a decade.” 

Avlon is married to Margaret Hoover, host of the PBS public affairs program “Firing Line.” She is a great-granddaughter of Herbert Hoover, the 31st U.S. president. They have two children.

In a phone interview, Avlon detailed how he first became involved in politics, explaining that his grandparents were immigrants “and like a lot of immigrant families, we grew up really patriotic.”

“My grandfather would talk about Abe Lincoln (R) or Harry Truman (D) like they were present in our lives, and that really inspired me and just got me interested,” he said.

Avlon went on to volunteer for both of Bill Clinton’s (D) campaigns, saying his “third-way approach to politics made a lot of sense to me.”

The new candidate decided to run for Congress after feeling frustrated that the seat wasn’t considered a national priority. 

“I’ve voted here for years, it’s my home,” he said. “It’s a community I love and it’s a district that I have watched with some frustration knowing that it’s a swing seat, knowing the Democrats can compete here.”

Avlon believes that Democrats need to “play offense, not defense,” saying that it was necessary to not just reach out to the Democratic Party, but to independent voters and Republicans who are against Donald Trump (R).

“I deeply believe that hyperpartisanship and polarization is a danger to American democracy and that we need to come up with new solutions, commonsense solutions that can help us reunite as a nation,” he said.

Avlon described one of his fundamental issues as strengthening the middle class in the United States as a whole and Long Island in particular.

He believes that a way to combat the affordability crisis is to “restore state and local tax deductions as they were. If they’re restored, which they will be if Democrats control Congress, that’s real money in people’s pockets.”

Avlon also said that the child tax credit should be expanded again, citing the near 50% decline in childhood poverty rates that the expansion led to during the pandemic. 

While he feels that things are moving in the right direction to address affordability concerns, he said that they are not going fast enough, citing statutes such as the CHIPS and Science Act as “huge opportunities that could be transformative for the middle class, but they’re going to take time to be fully felt.”

“[We have] less inflation than most industrialized nations and a faster recovery from the pandemic, but it can’t come fast enough,” he said.

Avlon stressed working with the communities to build affordable housing that is being built should be “consistent with the character of the communities.”

Additionally, Avlon noted the impact that climate change has had on Long Island’s coastal communities, saying that the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee of Transportation & Infrastructure, which former CD1 Congressman Tim Bishop (D) served on, would be “a perfect place to deal with some of these issues.” 

In a phone interview Goroff, who is now the only other Democratic candidate for the congressional seat, said, “I believe that the voters should decide who will represent them, and that includes primary voters deciding who the candidate should be, and so I welcome anyone who wants to join this fight.”

The Democratic primary is on June 25.

By Aidan Johnson

Three out of the four Democratic congressional candidates for District 1 — Nancy Goroff, Kyle Hill and Craig Herskowitz — attended a meet-the-candidates night at the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee headquarters Tuesday, Feb. 6. During the meeting, the candidates addressed why they are running, their most important issues and policies they would support. The fourth candidate, former District 5 state Sen. James Gaughran [D-Northport], was unable to attend. The current congressional seat is held by Nick LaLota (R).

Introductions

Goroff, who has formerly served as the chair of the chemistry department at Stony Brook University, and previously ran for the congressional seat in 2020 against former Congressman Lee Zeldin (R), said that she was running “to protect our right to bodily autonomy” and “to build an economy that’s going to work for everybody,” along with environmental issues such as coastal erosion, climate change and water quality.

Herskowitz has interned for Sen. Edward M. “Ted” Kennedy (D) and Rep. Steve Israel (D). The candidate believes that his “judicial, legislative and executive experience, as well as criminal prosecution and criminal defense experience,” which includes him working at the Office of the General Counsel in the U.S. Marshals Service, the FBI and the Department of Justice, before being appointed as assistant counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), before working as a criminal defense attorney and being appointed as an administrative law judge within the New York City Department of Finance, will allow him to connect with the congressional district. 

Hill went to graduate school at Stony Brook University, after which he worked for Israel on Capitol Hill, where he “became a health care policy expert.” He worked on rallying congressional support to update the organ transplant rules, and since coming back to Long Island, he has become a volunteer EMT and is involved with the Brookhaven Town Democratic Committee. He has become frustrated “every single day with [Congress’s] dysfunction,” and believes that by winning the CD1 seat, along with gaining a Democratic majority, Congress can function better. 

Health care

Hill would support passing the Social Security 2100 Act, which, among other things, would change the current law that caps earnings subject to the Social Security tax which, at the time the bill was introduced, was $160,200, but now stands at $168,600, to instead have earnings over $400,000 once again be subjected to the tax. However, all earnings in between would not be subject to the tax. He also said that it is necessary to build upon incentives for doctors and health care agencies to keep folks healthy and out of the hospital

Herskowitz said that he was “the only candidate in this race that’s supporting Medicare for All” and said that “we need to make sure people are paying their fair share of taxes,” and that “people that are damaging our environment are paying more for our health care system because they are the ones who are polluting our water, polluting our air.” He also said that “we need to find ways to ensure that Social Security is available to everyone.”

Goroff called Social Security and Medicare “two of our most successful government programs ever.” She said that it is necessary to “lift the cap on salary at which we take Social Security taxes,” adding, “That one change would make Social Security and Medicare both financially secure going into the future.” She also said that the age to receive Medicare should be reduced. 

Voter engagement

Herskowitz said that it is important to fight against misinformation, activate the voters and get people excited to vote, adding that a strong grassroots campaign was necessary to make sure “every single voter is touched, several times throughout the campaign, to make sure that people come out to vote.” He also said that it was necessary to appeal to the moderate center voters.

Hill said that “we’ve seen cycle over cycle that the Democrats who are coming out to vote have become fewer and fewer and more folks are registering as unaffiliated,” adding that it was necessary to figure out why they are not coming out to vote, and that it was necessary to have a message that brings out both Democrats and those in the middle. He said that Democrats need to lean into their strengths, citing issues such as infrastructure, drug pricing reform and the cost-of-living crisis.

Goroff said that in order to get people to vote who don’t automatically do so, or who vote for either a Democrat or a Republican, “it’s not about the issues, it’s about them believing that this person is going to represent them.” She said that she is committed to making sure voters know who she is as a person, educator and community leader, adding that it matters that they know they would have someone working hard for them “versus somebody who is just spewing talking points.”

Climate change

Hill said that he supports changing every car that the federal government owns to an electric vehicle, including from government agencies such as the post office. “We can use the purchasing power of the federal government to shape the market and make EVs more available, bringing down the price, make it more accessible, have more charging stations everywhere, and that’s something the federal government directly controls and already has its hands on,” he added.

Herskowitz said that it was necessary to move away from fossil fuels and invest in technologies that could remove carbon emissions from the atmosphere and nitrate from the soil and ground that leaks into the water. He also said that it was important to combat misinformation surrounding renewable energy.

Goroff said that the United States should be carbon neutral in energy production by 2035, and in transportation and buildings, along with the rest of the economy, by 2050. She supports the Inflation Reduction Act, which would invest in clean energy: “We need to be investing in clean energy and technologies now, making sure that we’re having proper oversight, and investing in new technologies for the future.”

Immigration

Goroff said that DACA recipients need a pathway to citizenship, and that it’s important to recognize the challenges for communities in getting resources for large numbers of migrants and nonnative English speakers. “The only way we can deal with that fairly is for the federal government to make sure that for school districts, like in Riverhead where they have very large numbers of nonnative speakers of English, that they’re getting adequate funding for those programs,” she said.

Herskowitz said that the vast majority of people who are in this country illegally do so by coming here legally and overstaying their visas, and clarified that coming to the border and requesting asylum is 100% legal, adding that more judges are needed to adjudicate asylum claims. “The migrants that are here want to work, and they should be able to work, and we should be able to expedite [that] so they can work, they can pay taxes, they can contribute to the economy,” he said, adding that comprehensive immigration reform was needed because “obviously the immigration system is broken.”

Hill said that it is necessary to address what’s causing the issues, “which is the rampant gang violence in Central America. Part of all of these comprehensive solutions has been greater investment in our southern neighbors to make sure there’s economic development [and] a reason to stay in their home.” He added, “Every time these comprehensive packages don’t end up happening, those things get left off the table.” He also said the budget, which Congress has yet to pass, would be an opportunity to address the concerns by “more appropriately [targeting] our foreign aid,” and better funding for the Department of Justice “so that judges can adjudicate asylum claims so that folks can enter society and be part of the society.”

The Democratic primary is on June 25. 

Skyler Johnson (left) and Rebecca Kassay (far right) at the Three Village Democratic Club meet the candidates event. Photo courtesy Serena Carpino

By Serena Carpino

Three Village Democratic Club held a meet-the-candidates night at the Setauket Neighborhood House Jan. 11. The two candidates, Skyler Johnson (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Rebecca Kassay (D-Port Jefferson), hope to represent New York State Assembly District 4, a seat currently occupied by Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson). At the campaign event, Johnson and Kassay discussed pressing issues facing Long Island. 

Johnson, 23, has served in multiple leadership roles. He is on the board of the directors of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund and the chair of the Suffolk County Young Democrats. He is also on the board of Temple Beth Emeth of Mount Sinai, the synagogue in which he was raised and is currently working for the Sound Justice Initiative, a nonprofit dedicated to educating incarcerated individuals. 

Johnson has spent much of his political career in Albany and helped pass the Fair Access to Victim Compensation Act. He has been endorsed by former Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant as well as several members of the New York State Assembly and Suffolk County Legislature.

Johnson’s opponent, Rebecca Kassay, possesses both political and entrepreneurship experience. The 34-year-old is currently deputy mayor in the Village of Port Jefferson and a village trustee. Kassay is also a member of the Port Jefferson Rotary Club and owns with her husband The Fox and Owl Inn, a bed-and-breakfast in Port Jefferson. 

In 2013, Kassay was involved in creating a teen environmental program at Avalon Nature Preserve, as she hoped to “​​get them off their phones, get their hands dirty and build their confidence about [being] the future environmental stewards of this area.” During the COVID-19 pandemic Kassay contacted local community members who had been handmaking masks helping them to create a legitimate organization. With Kassay’s intervention, the group was able to donate over 40,000 homemade masks. 

The candidates discussed many issues, but two topics dominated the night: affordable housing and the climate crisis. 

When asked about the biggest issue currently facing New York state, both Johnson and Kassay agreed that it is the high cost of living. “We have a crisis on housing on our hands – of affordable housing,” Johnson said. He further explained that, for him, affordable housing is defined as that which is accessible to families who make between 60% and 120% of the area median income. Here, that would equate to an apartment rent of $1,700 per month. “I checked [how many apartments would be available] — about three. And I’m sure one of them is an illegal basement apartment,” he joked. 

The candidates also talked about recent environmental problems on Long Island. They addressed the latest extreme weather events including the severe rainstorms and flooding. 

Kassay reassured the audience that she wanted, “in no uncertain terms, for voters to know that the Democratic Party is the party that’s going to lead the way to make an economically and environmentally sustainable Long Island.”

The candidates were then asked about New York’s immigration crisis. 

Both Johnson and Kassay pointed out that immigrants are an important part of this country and pay a significant amount of taxes. They agreed that they would both like to see comprehensive immigration reform and a change in the attitude of how America views immigrants. 

Johnson further said, “Those who say that immigrants are not welcome are almost never on the right side of history,” and explained that much of the negative commentary about immigrants is “a fake narrative to throw immigrants under the bus.”

Finally, the candidates called out Flood’s voting record and criticized his stance on certain legislation. 

Flood’s consistent support for anti-vaccination movements is most embarrassing to Kassay. She disagrees with Flood’s position, especially given the presence of Stony Brook University in the district. She explained, “As an assemblywoman here I would be looking to the university for help instead of embarrassing them and embarrassing the entire district by going forth with anti-vax legislation and having that be a mark on the community.”

Johnson agreed and said that Flood has “taken some really egregious stances in his short tenure in Albany.” In particular, he pointed out Flood’s opposition to abortion care, LGBTQ+ rights and other bills “simply because Democrats proposed [them].”

He encouraged the audience to go on votesmart.org and further look into Flood’s voting records. 

 In their closing remarks, the candidates left the stage with powerful statements. 

“We really can’t afford to lose this race. Our community has been suffering under the leadership or lack thereof of Ed Flood.” Kassay said. “This campaign is about reconnecting people to the government that was built to serve and protect them — it’s about Long Island’s overwhelming cost of living and the climate crisis. It’s about defending women’s choice regarding their own bodies and then going up to that legislative body and doing a little more to make it more representative of our population.”

In his closing remarks, Johnson said, “I announced that I was running on Nov. 18. On Nov. 19, Jesse Garcia, the chair of the Suffolk GOP, had a quote in the paper attacking me.” He further explained that other Republicans attacked him on Twitter, and GOP members across the state liked those tweets. “So,” he said, “if you are not sure who will beat Ed Flood, just remember: The Republicans are worried about what would happen should I become the nominee.”

As Bellone Rides Off, Others Step Forward. Editorial cartoon by Kyle Horne: kylehorneart.com @kylehorneart

It is shaping up to be a big election season for the residents of Suffolk County. It may be early in 2023, but we’re already thinking about Election Day. County Executive Steve Bellone (D) is termed out, triggering massive turnover across levels of local government.

As local Democratic and Republican committees put forward their slate of candidates for county executive, town supervisor and various legislative positions, it is time for We the People to do our homework.

County, town and village officials have a different set of responsibilities than those serving on the state or federal levels. Their duties locally include making decisions about land use, law enforcement, roadwork, waste management, recreational facilities and matters that affect our everyday lives.

Preserving open space, treating our garbage and paving roads are not issues of Democrat versus Republican. These matters impact every resident, which is why it’s important to put aside party affiliation when we enter the voting booth this year.

Experience matters.

Before you vote, take a look at the candidates’ respective backgrounds. Does a candidate have relevant experience in the public or private sectors that will aid his or her decision making? Here at TBR News Media, we will take a deep dive into these candidates over the coming months, introducing our readers to their professional backgrounds and policy positions.

We know all the candidates will have much to say in the months ahead, and many will back their goals for our future with concrete plans.

As journalists, it is our job to provide our readers with the information necessary to make informed decisions on Election Day. We take this responsibility seriously and look forward to following these elections closely.

In the meantime, we remind our readers that you play a part in this as well. By writing letters to the editor about the various local races, you have the opportunity to interpret and contextualize our election coverage. Letters are your chance to influence the shape of our democracy, so don’t squander it.

Before voting, remember to research your ballot thoroughly, check your party affiliation at the door and keep an open mind. We will be here to help along the way.

Cartoon by Kyle Horne: kylehorneart.com @kylehorneart

As citizens of a free nation, we have the right to make our voices heard at the ballot box. 

This coming Tuesday, Aug. 23, we will cast our votes for congressional and state senatorial primary elections. But democracy doesn’t end when we leave the polling place. In fact, that is only where
it starts. 

Cartoon by
Kyle Horne:
kylehorneart.com
@kylehorneart

Recently, TBR News Media has witnessed a flurry of popular energy within our coverage area. Look no further than Port Jefferson Station/Terryville to learn what democracy looks like while in motion. 

Since the inception of councilmanic districts in the Town of Brookhaven in 2002, Port Jefferson Station/Terryville has fallen within Council District 1. However, two maps on the Brookhaven Redistricting Committee’s website propose dividing that community across separate council districts.

For three weeks running, the people of the united hamlet of Port Jefferson Station/Terryville have turned out in numbers, eager to keep their community intact under a single council district. In the face of uncertainty, the Greater Comsewogue community has stood up to power, spoken out and may make a difference.

While the redistricting process remains ongoing, Port Jefferson Station/Terryville has illustrated the power of a united public. Through their mobilized efforts, the people have demonstrated what democracy can and
should be. 

Politicians are in office to carry out the will of the people. When they defy the popular will in favor of their own agendas, it is the right and obligation of the people to correct course. 

Though democracy may die in darkness, it shines brightest when ordinary citizens light the way. In their moment of history, the people of Port Jefferson Station/Terryville remind us that there is no greater force in nature than a united people. 

Communities across Long Island should learn from this example. Through their actions, we uncover the formula for positive change in our own communities. If we all take a page out of their playbook, then there is no end to what we can achieve together. The redistricting commission and Town Board should take careful note of the wishes of We the People.

METRO photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

However devoutly to be wished, the election results concerning the next President of the United States of America are not yet known. Nor will they be for a good while, it would seem, as the avalanche of mailed ballots needs to be counted and recounted for accuracy. The suspense and anxiety remain.

What can any one of us do?

For starters, we do the obvious. We wait. As adults, we know we don’t always get what we want when we want it, and that goes for the political world as well.

This year, 2020, will be known as the year we all waited. We are waiting for a vaccine to save us from COVID-19 too. But while we are waiting, there is a lot we can do.

First, we can calm ourselves down. It does no good to hurl accusations and invectives at each other for believing differently. We are, for better or worse, all Americans, and we will be moving forward from here. As to how we can calm down, I suggest (and it may seem ironic) that we watch and listen to less news. One or two good and brief news reports a day should do nicely. My own preference is CBS News at the top of the hour on my clock radio first thing in the morning and PBS News Hour or the BBC in the early evening. I stress “early” because I don’t want the news to be the last thing I hear before going to bed.

As for the rest of the day, besides the daily efforts to keep life going — from brushing one’s teeth to doing our best job at work and at home — we can use our energies productively instead of shouting into a void. We can make a big difference on a local level economically and socially. We can donate food, and perhaps even time, if done safely, to local soup kitchens and food banks.

We can also donate unused clothing and even furniture through the offices of local houses of worship. We can spend a little time on the phone, calling those we love who live elsewhere in this large country, and those who live nearby but are elderly and don’t get out much, to keep relationships vibrant and perhaps share a laugh or two. Sometimes people just need to talk with someone who will listen in order to feel better. It is a merciful thing just to be willing to actively listen.

We can shop locally, especially at this holiday time when store owners depend on revenue gained during the last quarter of the year to keep them in business. By and large, those store owners and their employees are also local residents and the first ones to underwrite educational and sporting events for our children and funds for community betterment. If we don’t want to go indoors because of the risk of contagion, we can call in to the store or restaurant and the merchandise or orders will be brought to the curb. Or we can call and ask what precautions are being taken to ensure safety within a store: masks, social distancing, hand sanitizing and so forth to help us decide if we feel safe there. Together we form a tight community and look out for each other.

These are all pretty obvious, but we need to be reminded, especially when there is so much noise abroad. And I will further share with you my personal ways to escape the tumult of our times. Thanks to the marvels of technology, I think of my children and grandchildren as being in the computer room, in a way, where we Zoom with each other regularly.

And I regard my smart TV as a temporary replacement for the plays, musical performances and other cultural events that have of necessity been put on hold.

Netflix and other services allow talented actors to hang out in my family room, available with their performances at the mere flick of a switch. At the moment, I’m watching “Outlander,” a love story couched in time travel. Being transported to a different time can remind us that people have had their challenges whenever they have lived, and by and large survived them.

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One newcomer and one incumbent elected to Port Jeff Village Board

Stock photo by Kyle Barr

In a contentious race between a slate of newcomers and longtime incumbents, it was the old guard who won out in the end.

Current Mayor Bob Sandak got 280 votes to challenger Enrico Scarda’s 169. Scarda is the president and founder of The Crest Group development agency which owns multiple properties around the Port Jeff area, including Danfords Hotel & Marina and The Waterview at the Port Jefferson Country Club. Sandak has been mayor since 2016, and has previously worked as a school administrator for multiple districts on Long Island.

The morning after the votes were counted, Sandak said in a phone interview he was glad the election is over, and moving forward he has already spoken to the other candidates “to arrange meetings and get their thoughts on what they wanted to accomplish — it’s always good to have new ideas,” he added. “We just want to move forward.”

In a statement, Scarda said he remains positive. He congratulated Sandak on his win and offered to assist the village should the admin want any help. He added regarding future elections that, “If the residents want me involved I will be there for them.”

“I will continue to stay involved with the village administration,” Scarda said. “Belle Terre needs residents to get involved and help Bob and the trustees to move the village forward.”

On the trustee side, incumbent trustees Sheila Knapp and Jacquelyn Gernaey won back their seats with 315 and 272 votes, respectively. Newcomer candidate Peter Colucci, a 12-year village resident, gained 128 votes. Fellow newcomer Lou Bove, the president and CEO of East Setauket-based contractor Bove Industries, gained 124 votes.

Poll workers the night of the vote Sept. 15 said this was the most attention any Belle Terre election has had in at least a few decades, especially for a village with just a little under 800 residents. Village Clerk Joanne Raso said they were up until midnight counting votes, which included two write-in votes and 73 absentee ballots.

Port Jefferson Village Elections

On the Port Jeff side, one incumbent and one newcomer trustee candidate have been elected to the village board. Both seats were uncontested after nine-year trustee Bruce D’Abramo announced this would be his last term on the board.

Rebecca Kassay, a local activist and owner of The Fox & Owl Inn in Port Jeff, gained 103 votes. Incumbent trustee Bruce Miller won 114 votes.

A total of 171 votes were cast, including 10 absentee ballots.

The Belle Terre village board. File photo by Kyle Barr

With two trustee seats and the mayoral position up for election in the Village of Belle Terre, three individuals have thrown their hats into the ring along with the three incumbents. 

This year, incumbent Mayor Bob Sandak is joined by Deputy Mayor Sheila Knapp and Trustee Jacquelyn Gernaey. Opposing them are newcomers Enrico Scarda, who’s running for mayor, along with trustee candidates Peter Colucci and Lou Bove.

The mayoral race has already started to heat up in anticipation for the Sept. 15 voting date. Ballots can be cast at the Belle Terre Village Hall from 12 to 9 p.m.

Mayor

Enrico Scarda

Enrico Scarda

Scarda, the president and founder of the Crest Group development agency, said he is running to help bolster local property values and update how the village communicates with residents. 

“We’re all getting up in age and want to sell our homes to downsize, and I believe we could do much better with property values than our [competing villages],” Scarda said. “The village has the opportunity here to get an attorney who has experience in the community for free.”

The Crest Group owns multiple properties around the Port Jeff area, including Danford’s Hotel & Marina and The Waterview at the Port Jefferson Country Club. Scarda is a 20-year resident of the village, having moved there with his wife to help raise his three children. With his two sons having already graduated from college they are helping him run the business, and with his daughter also graduating soon as well, he said he has more time to spend caring about local issues.

The village, he said, could do better with its communications efforts, including buffing up its website. He suggested Belle Terre should create a ticket system for things like road repair that can be submitted electronically, such as he has in his business. The village would give updates through the system for when a ticket has been accepted and when a project is complete. 

He added there could be small additions that would make the beach program more attractive, including more renovations to the beach pavilion. 

All these small changes, he said, would go to making the village more attractive, and thereby increasing everyone’s property values. 

His home on Seaside Drive is only one of several Sound-facing homes which are facing issues with eroding bluffs. Scarda said though he has already received permits from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to begin revetment of those bluffs, the village should work with all property owners along that road to shore up the bluffs, especially because fixing one residents’ bluffs will still leave an issue for others all along the shore. It’s not to benefit him or any one person but creating some kind of initiative to do bluff repair would go a long way.

“If one home falls into the sound, the property values of the rest of the village are going to go down,” he said. “If we all did the work at the same time, we could protect that bluff, we would all be safe.”

Similar houses in Belle Terre compared to Old Field are going for a worse rate than their counterparts, he claimed, saying it’s because of small things that are leaving the village in the past.

Other issues for the candidate include safety, as he calls for more cameras including one by the village gate. He also said the village should do more to beautify the roads, including repair and garbage pickup.

Overall, he said his experience would make him a great pick to lead Belle Terre.

“The village is getting an experienced developer who has built communities as large as Belle Terre from the ground up,” he said.

Bob Sandak

Four-year Mayor Sandak has been a village official since he became trustee in 2004. He came on as trustee during Vincent Bove’s 25-year reign, and originally ran unopposed in 2016.

Sandak said he and fellow trustees have already made many strides since the time he’s sat on the board. The mayor is a former school administrator, having worked in districts such as Hicksville, Half Hollow Hills and William Floyd at times overseeing millions of dollars’ worth in construction along with other administrative tasks over 38 years. He said this work has translated well into administrating a small village like Belle Terre.

“We’ve tried to pass codes that make this a nice place to live for everybody,” he said. “Noise is something we deal with — there’s no construction on Saturday and Sunday — we try to make it a nice place to live.”

The village, he said, has done well in creating public/private partnerships to create municipal projects that are partly funded by both residents and Belle Terre. These include the restoration of the gatehouse and entrance wall, the design and construction of the children’s playground, the installation of the walking/cycling track, the reconstruction of the “Circle” at the end of Cliff Road, and most recently the reconstruction of the bathhouse pavilion at Knapp Beach. The latter was originally built in the 1930s and needed to be made handicap accessible. That project, which he said started in concept around two years ago, was done with volunteered architectural designs by a resident and donations from the community. 

The community also donated their time and money to help construct kayak and canoe racks at Knapp Beach. These proved so popular that the village plans to help construct additional racks in the future, along with some mats that people may walk down onto the beach.

In the future, Sandak said Belle Terre needs to be readier to handle potential storms. He said he wants to propose the community center should be turned into a shelter for residents, especially those who lose power in a storm. This would require backup generators for people to use the location as a refuge. 

“We’ve really noticed a real change in weather patterns — we’ve been hit by nor’easters — they really batter us,” he said. “It leads to a lot of road reconstruction.”

In terms of property values, the Belle Terre mayor said the noticeable loss in property values was due to a large number of people who inherited their homes from longtime residents all started putting homes on the market at once, many of whom had not been fixed up since the 1960s. To his knowledge, there are only four houses up for sale in the community, and he expects property values to increase up to levels comparable with similarly sized villages on the North Shore.

Sandak also agreed that erosion around homes on the edge of the Sound was a major issue, though he said he had two years ago proposed to property owners a special taxation area that could help pay back a bond that would be used to fix the erosion issues, but only two of 11 homeowners were interested in that.

“We certainly want to try and help stop the erosion there,” he said. 

Trustees

Sheila Knapp

Sheila Knapp

Knapp, who has spent a lifetime amongst the Belle Terre community, said she is running again to continue to make the village live up to her memories of spending time there as a child.

“A year before I was born my parents bought our home in Belle Terre. It was the most wonderful place to grow up,” she said in an email response to questions. “The beach, the friends, the belonging to a community that was like family … I want everybody to love this place as I do.”

Knapp has been beach commissioner since 1977, trustee since 1997 and deputy mayor since 2004. She said the best part of the village is the natural beauty and peacefulness, and that every board she has served on has had the goal “to keep everybody’s quality of life here at it’s best.”

Close to 70 years ago, when Harbor Hills Country Club was built, she said her father got the land for what is now the current beach, which she has long worked to take care of. Otherwise, she said the village has passed noise and construction ordinances to keep the village serene on the weekends. She said the new wall along the beach parking lot is a “dream come true” and their recently installed cell tower has allowed more reception range throughout the village.

The 43-year beach commissioner said that in the future she would continue on with Belle Terre’s current trajectory.

“Things are not broken here,” she said. “We improved communication and do our best to keep residents informed with the website, meetings, emails and letters. All of the trustees and mayor publish our private phone numbers. We want to be accessible.”

Peter Colucci

Peter Colucci

Colucci, who has lived in Belle Terre along with his wife for 12 years, said he is running because he deeply cares about the community and believes he can improve several aspects of the village.

Two things he’s running on are security and modernizing the village’s communication systems. In 2017 he and his wife were victims of a home invasion and burglary where police at the time said the perpetrators got away with several hundred thousand dollars in cash and jewelry.

“I would like to see modernization in all areas,” Colucci said in an email response to questions. “Simple things are easily done such as upgrading security cameras and increasing communication to all residents especially during times of weather-related emergencies.”

He said he would like to continue with current efforts to keep the beauty and quaintness of the village going, but he said he would also look forward to working on a plan to alleviate the issues with Anchorage Road, where people park all along the road making it dangerous for both cars and pedestrians looking to access McAllister County Park. 

Jacquelyn Gernaey

Jacquelyn Gernaey

Gernaey, who has been on the board of trustees for six years after she was originally appointed to the board, said the best part of being on a board like that in Belle Terre is that “trustees really don’t have a personal agenda, and I like being part of a group that can make changes for the village not personally focused.”

The trustee has lived in the village for 25 years, originally hailing from Kings Park. She said she came to love the community feel of Belle Terre, especially since it emphasized keeping trees and nature serene.

As the fiscal officer in the village, Gernaey said one of the big issues she said is that village residents will be losing out in taxes due to the settlement over the Long Island Power Authority power plant tax certiorari case. Over a 10-year glide path, LIPA’s property taxes will decline, which will necessitate village residents pay more in Port Jefferson School District taxes over time.

“We want to continue to get state grants, something we’ve been very successful in doing,” she said, adding they have gotten several hundred thousand for roads from the state and $800,000 in FEMA aid for storm damage.  

In addition, she said she wants to keep the pressure on Suffolk County to remediate the parking issues with McAllister Park on Anchorage Road. She said they have been working with more county park officers to deter any more parking along that road. 

Erosion issues for houses along the sound are also a major issue. While the village has received a small $100,000 grant towards stabilizing the beach, the issue may be in the near future the whole cliff could start to go, making the homes along the bluff structurally unsound. 

“In the last since we applied, we lost 30 feet,” she said. “That’s something we’re really working on.”

As a founder and CEO of two companies, one a human resource outsourcing company and a small business consulting firm, she jokingly said “she certainly doesn’t need this to keep me busy,” but that “she was always taught to give back.”

“We work hard for the village — all about the village, not about us,” she said.

Lou Bove

Bove is the president and CEO of East Setauket-based contractor Bove Industries and is now seeking a seat on the Belle Terre village board.

The candidate did not return several requests for comment through his company. If he does respond in time for the election, his comments will be put on the website version of this article at tbrnewsmedia.com.

Congressman discusses impeachment hearings and more

Congressman Lee Zeldin. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

The U.S. House of Representatives has recommended filing articles of impeachment of the 45th president of the United States of America Donald J. Trump (R). Many elected officials, mostly Democrats and constitutional scholars, see a moral and legal imperative for their position, while Republicans have largely remained loyal to their party leader. With some experts saying that the nation is under threat, the situation demands   everyone’s full attention. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) is the elected congressional representative for most of Suffolk County. His district extends to the west to the eastern edges of Kings Park and includes Smithtown and Hauppauge and parts of Commack. Hours after the recommendation was announced on Dec. 5, Rep. Zeldin agreed to an email interview on the topic of impeachment. 

Do you see any compelling reason for impeachment?

No.

In your view, what constitutes a crime or misdemeanor offense worthy of impeachment?

Treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors as laid out in Section 4 of Article II of the Constitution.

(Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution: The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.)

What’s your reaction to the impeachment?

Instead of focusing on opposing everything and anything, House Democrats should focus on the issues most important to the American people, working on bipartisan victories to pass the [U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement] USMCA, combat the heroin and opioid abuse epidemic, secure our borders and so much more. 

(Editor’s note: The White House and House Democrats reached a deal Dec. 10 to pass the USMCA.)

Why did you, along with other House Republicans, interrupt a committee meeting that had members of both parties in attendance and stall the impeachment probe?

The premise of your question is false. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I was already in the SCIF in my seat when those other members walked in.

What is your take on House Republicans interrupting on Oct. 23 the impeachment probe committee meeting?   

There should have been greater transparency and a fairer process in the first place. They were very frustrated as elected members of Congress being completely in the dark while being asked questions back home from constituents and local media about what was going on with the impeachment inquiry.

Do you believe a U.S. president should use U.S. taxpayer dollars as leverage to coerce a foreign leader to investigate a political rival? 

If you are asking that question related to the Ukraine fact pattern, then I disagree with the premise of your question.

What is your take on what happened with President Trump requesting [help from]Ukraine leader Volodymyr Zelensky? 

Can you clarify this question?

Clarification: Do you find any of these actions objectionable? President Trump requested in a July 25, 2019, phone call that Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky take a call from his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to discuss an investigation into the son of his political rival. The White House then placed that same day a formal hold on $250 million congressionally approved security funding for Ukraine. The funds were ultimately released Sept. 11 after a whistle-blower filed a complaint, 85 days after the Pentagon announced that aid had become available, 19 days before funds expire.

That is your version of the story. You are entitled to your opinion but I obviously would disagree with the premise of your question.

Do you believe that Ukraine and not Russia interfered in the 2016 election?

Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Ukrainians also interfered in the 2016 election. That is indisputable. The scope and nature of the interference was different in the two examples, not on the same scale, and should not be equated.

Are you planning to make the impeachment proceedings a point in your upcoming reelection campaign?

The Democrats are ripping our country in half with their destructive impeachment obsession.

Has anything in the ongoing impeachment proceedings changed your mind concerning the actions of the president?

No.

Can you please tell us how many former members of Trump’s campaign, cabinet and personal lawyers have been investigated and/or convicted of crimes? What’s your reaction to this?

I’m not aware of any new information to add beyond what you know already.

As a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, when did you become aware of the removal of U.S. troops from Kurdish territories? Do you believe other countries or leaders have benefited from that strategy?  

As I relayed to you immediately following the announcement, the Kurds have fought, bled and died fighting alongside the US. They have been warriors and brothers in battle along the way. The president is right to want to end endless war, but the Turks wiping out the Kurds would absolutely not be an acceptable outcome after all of that.

(On background, Zeldin voted in favor of the House resolution [H.J. Res. 77 Opposing the decision to end certain United States efforts to prevent Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurdish forces in Northeast Syria] regarding this issue. The resolution indicated that the policy was in the best interest of Russia and not U.S.)

What do you believe are President Trump’s top three accomplishments in office? 

Helping grow the economy, tackling illegal immigration and going after MS-13, among many other victories.

Could you list three negative things that he has fostered? 

The SALT deduction change, an offshore drilling proposal impacting the Atlantic and certain funding levels in the federal budget.

Many of your North Shore constituents are calling for more Town Hall-style meetings. Are you planning any?

I had a town hall in September hosted by the Mastic Beach Property Owners Association. The event was completely open to anyone in the public and was widely promoted and attended by the Democratic Party and they got their questions and comments in, including multiple times with 2, 3, and more follow-ups to their original question/comment. This is in addition to Mobile Office Hours, Coffee with Your Congressman and many other meetings and events. This is the pace that I’ve set and maintained since entering Congress in 2015. As I’ve said time and time again, if someone wishes to participate in a future meeting or would like to schedule a time to meet one-on-one, they can contact my office at 631-289-1097 to find a time most convenient for them, including after work or on the weekend. For example, this year in Smithtown alone, I’ve held Mobile Office Hours and Coffee with Your Congressman. 

Can you please define for your constituents what corruption means? 

An example is a corrupt Ukrainian energy company run by a corrupt Ukrainian oligarch hiring someone with no Ukraine experience and no energy experience for at least $50,000 per month for the sole reason that they are the vice president’s son.

Can you please offer the distinctions between a democracy, autocracy and dictatorship? 

The widely accepted definitions are as follows:

Democracy: A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.

Autocracy: Government in which one person possesses unlimited power.

Dictatorship: A form of government in which absolute power is concentrated in a dictator or a small clique.

Also, Michael Cohen is behind bars for campaign finance violations that include paying Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to keep quiet about their affairs with Donald Trump. Cohen testified that it was done in coordination with Donald Trump. Does paying “hush money” to influence the outcome of an election equate with bribery or a high crime or misdemeanor? Why or why not? Is it corruption?  

He made these claims before Congress after pleading guilty to crimes, one of which was lying to Congress. He’s not a reliable witness to say the least.

Dr. Caroline Englehardt and Dr. Richard Rusto were elected to the Belle Terre village board.

Village of Belle Terre residents have spoken, electing a newcomer candidate over an incumbent during a village election June 18.

  • Incumbent candidate Dr. Richard Rusto retained his seat with 106 votes.
  • Newcomer candidate Dr. Caroline Englehardt won a seat with the most votes of all candidates at 108.
  • Incumbent candidate Judy Zaino received the least number of votes at 96.

In addition, there were 24 write-in candidates.