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Gov. Andrew Cuomo

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Suffolk County has been managing to keep the number of beds available above the rate of hospitalizations due to the coronavirus pandemic, though cases continue to climb.

In his daily call with reporters April 2, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the number of cases in Suffolk County has breached 8,927, climbing well over 1,000 by yesterday’s count. This has been attributed to the greater amount of testing being done, with over 21,000 being completed to date in Suffolk alone.

Meanwhile, the county has been trying to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) executive order to increase the number of available hospital beds by at least 50 percent, with the goal of reaching 100 percent increase. Bellone said Suffolk has increased its count of hospital beds to 2,831 beds countywide, with 438 Intensive Care Unit beds also available for the most severe cases. Currently, 472 hospital beds and 64 are vacant and available.

This is also while Cuomo said in this morning’s briefing he is becoming even more concerned with the limited number of ventilators for use during the crisis, now being down to about 2,200.

Healthcare workers on the front lines have struggled to deal with the number of cases now coming into hospitals. Bellone said the surge is still building, but the voices of health care workers are being heard.

“They’re operating in an incredibly difficult, stressful traumatic environment in which they are working overtime, double shifts, day after day after day, in a struggle to save peoples’ lives” Bellone said. “It is emotional, it is stressful and it is extraordinarily difficult.”

The number of deaths increased by 15 from the previous day. All had underlying health conditions. This includes eight individuals in their 80s, four in their 70s, and one in their 40s and 50s. One individual in his 60s died while in mandatory isolation at a local nursing home.

Currently, there are 1,323 cases in Brookhaven, 435 in Smithtown and 1,390 in Huntington townships. While close to 9,000 total cases are growing in Suffolk, New York State currently totals at more than 92,000.

The economic impact has also been felt far and wide, and Bellone said he is continuing to build out what the county can internally do to help businesses separately from the federal government’s response. So far, the county has been keeping a survey of businesses through their recently created Business Response Unit, and as of March 31, there were over 1,200 responses to said survey from businesses that employ more than 13,000 individuals, with over 7,000 responding they had lost their jobs or employment. The overall New York number, however, is much more staggering, with approximately 6.6 million filing for unemployment, a number not seen since the 1981 recession.

“Particularly our downtowns are facing tremendous hardships, and we will need a targeted effort there,” Bellone said. 

He added while some businesses have maintained some employees, “without assistance, they will not be able to keep that up much longer.”

The County Executive said he has spoken with financial institutions, who will be handling the disbursement of loans via the CARES Act, the federal financial assistance bill that promises loans to businesses to help keep people employed. The rollout of that has not been foolproof, however, with the federal Small Business Administration telling business owners they would need to reapply for their loans at https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/

Anybody who previously applied via email, fax or snail mail will have to reapply.

Bellone said any difficulties that said financial institutions may have must be overcome if the region is to see any kind of recovery by the time the crisis begins to ebb. 

“The public wasn’t expecting this, we weren’t expecting this, but we have to deal with it,” he said. “We were on call with financial institutions and continue to convene with them.”

Dr. Bettina Fries and her neighbor Agjah Libohova holding new face shields that will soon be put into the PPE pipeline at Stony Brook Medicine and many metro area hospitals. Photo from SBU

By Kyle Barr and David Luces

In other years, the first day of April dawning would have been a time for celebration and maybe a few pranks. This year, during the coronavirus crisis, not many were up for such jubilation. 

In a daily call with reporters, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said as of today there were now 69 individual deaths from COVID-19 in Suffolk County. 25 of those individuals died in the past 48 hours and 16 in the past day. The vast majority of deaths were of people who had underlying medical issues.

“We are going to get through this but it is going to get worse before it gets better,” said County Executive Steve Bellone. “We all have the power to make this better by practicing social distancing. If you feel sick stay home.”
The total for all of New York was even more staggering, with Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announcing the morning of April 1 nearly 400 people have died in New York State in the span of 24 hours. 

Cuomo compared it to the movie “Groundhog Day,” where the main character keeps experiences the same day over and over.

“When does it end? how does it end? I don’t know,” he said during his morning press briefing.

In Suffolk, the current number of people confirmed with the virus is 7,605. Currently over 25,000 have been tested, including 5,400 from the Stony Brook site in the South P lot as of Wednesday morning, Bellone said. 

The County Executive also emphasized the 2020 Census, saying as we’re in the midst of this battle, we need to recognize the economic human service impacts. 

“If we don’t do what we need to do we will be experiencing shortfalls in aid for the next 10 years,” Bellone said. “We have to make sure we’re getting those census documents filled out.” 

The county executive added Child Protective Services continues to do house visits and they have done as many interviews as they can telephonically.

“The government does not close — we are here to deal with crises,” he said. “CPS is one of those they are continuing to operate.”

Stony Brook University Begins Drug Trials to Combat Coronavirus

In a COVID-19 briefing update, Stony Brook Medicine officials said that the hospital has begun a number of clinical trials designed to identify effective therapies for critically ill patients.

Remdesivir, an antiviral drug developed to treat two other RNA viruses, Ebola and Marburg, has been administered to two patients with severe coronavirus. The clinical trials on the drug are led by Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Officials said the drug has appeared to be effective in treating COVID-19 in both China and Washington State. 

Doctors will also be involved in a Regeneron-sponsored clinical trial on Sarilumab (Kevzara), a monoclonal antibody which blocks binding of interleukin-6 to its receptor. Sarilumab is already FDA approved for the treatment of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and more recently for the cytokine storm that accompanies the use of CAR-T cells for acute leukemia. The first Regeneron patient was recruited on March 30. 

Stony Brook Medicine will soon be launching a clinical trial of donated, post-convalescent plasma from COVID-19 patients “very soon,” based on the level of antibody titers to SARS-CoV2 in the donor plasma. Serum or plasma therapy for infectious diseases dates to the 1890s, when serum made from immunized animals provided the first effective treatment for Clostridium tetani and Corynebacterium diphtheriae.

In addition, SBU professor Lily Mujica-Parodi has been part of a national effort to employ a wearable technology device called Oura to collect sufficient physiological data, and use deep learning algorithms to predict the onset of SARS-CoV2 infection. This type of device would be most productive and predictive in hospitals where there is a large number of healthcare workers in high-risk-for-infection roles. 

 LI Company to Begin New Face Shield Production

Clear-Vu Lighting, a Central Islip-based design company, will begin manufacturing an order of 20,000 new face shields that will be deployed to Stony Brook University Hospital. Mass production  is expected to start by early April. Clear-Vu Lighting is gearing up with an expectation to produce 40,000 faceshields per day and approximately 1.2 million per month. Production of face shields to Stony Brook will include supplies for Stony Brook University Hospital and all affiliated hospitals on Long Island. 

Preventing a Possible Shortage of Ventilators

Due to the projections of the COVID-19 pandemic, Stony Brook University Hospital is suggesting it may be required to use a single ventilator for up to two patients in case there is a shortage once the number of patients is at its peak. In a Stony Brook Medicine research laboratory, medical professionals are working on a solution to ventilating multiple patients with one ventilator. Putting two patients on one ventilator requires matching patients with similar characteristics, such as sex, height, age and lung sizes, to avoid one patient being over ventilated and the other being under ventilated.

Stony Brook said researchers and doctors are examining the forces that cause unequal distribution of lung volumes and airway pressures, while using complex test models of diseased lungs. With this research, doctors are able to vary airway resistance and compliance and mimic acute respiratory distress syndrome-like conditions, which allows to test the use of inline valves and resistance devices to solve these problems. 

Addressing the Growing Need for Additional Staff

To address potential staff shortfalls, the medical school is preparing to allow graduating students to volunteer on the front lines of the epidemic while awaiting the eventual surge of patients.

The Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University is allowing senior medical students to graduate in early April so they can begin their professional career as a physician at Stony Brook University Hospital. They will be able to work under the supervision of residents, fellows and attending physicians to address the growing number and complexity of patients being admitted to our hospital, precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The graduates would then proceed to begin their residencies July 1.

 

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. Photo by Alex Petroski

Amid a changing landscape during New York Pause, the requirement by Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) that non-essential businesses close or go to remote locations, businesses like construction have been unsure of their ability to continue working.

The installation of individual advanced septic systems can continue, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters.

“It’s a critical issue for us because of the water quality challenges we face,” Bellone said. “Public health and safety is our top priority.”

Meanwhile, three more residents of Suffolk County died from complications related to the virus that has crippled world economies and led to thousands of deaths and hospitalizations. All three fatalities were men who had underlying medical conditions. A man in his 60’s died at home in Southampton March 26, another in his 70’s died at Southside Hospital on March 27, and a third man in his 30’s died at St. Joseph’s hospital in Nassau County yesterday. The total number of Covid-19 related deaths is now 40.

The man in his 30’s, who was a resident of Babylon, is the youngest Suffolk County resident who has died from the pandemic.

“We know this virus attacks seniors. We’ve seen that, but we also know it is attacking those with underlying medical conditions,” Bellone said.

The number of positive tests for the virus increased to 5,023 people, which is an increase of an average of 36 positive tests per hour over the last day. Additionally, the number of people hospitalized rose to over 500, with 160 people in the Intensive Care Unit.

On the positive side, Bellone reported that the first officer who tested positive for the virus, who works in the Highway Bureau, returned to work today.

The Suffolk County Police Department has received over 160 reports of noncompliance with social distancing and a pause in business activity. Of those, the police determined that 14 merited police involvement. In every one of those cases, Suffolk County residents complied with the requests to comply with the request to change their behavior and limit the spread of the virus.

Peter Scully, a Deputy Suffolk County Executive who tested positive for the virus, has returned to work. On the call, Scully indicated he is, “feeling fine.”

Bellone continues to encourage people to donate personal protective equipment. He said his sense at this point, however, is that the equipment that’s available for donation has “probably run its course.” While he will continue to encourage people to donate, he may shift from three sites for donations back down to one.

From left, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). Photo from the governor’s office

In the panic of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic that killed, by several differing estimates, 50 to 100 million people worldwide, nobody trusted anybody, whether it was their neighbors or even their friends or family. The distrust started early when the government started lying to them, telling them it was just another standard flu, not to be worried about. 

Once people saw men and women bleeding from their mouths and noses in the middle of the street, they knew it wasn’t just a mild influenza. The level of trust was so bad there were reports people starved in their homes, with nobody willing to bring them food in the most rural areas of this country.

A crisis requires clear leadership. It cannot be politically motivated. It cannot be muddled in the daily sparring of political actors. It has to be precise, meaningful and factual. 

We here at TBR News Media are thankful that some officials are doing just that today in our time of crisis. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has to be commended for his response to the coronavirus crisis. Cuomo laid his cards on the table. He has been upfront about getting people statistics and updates on what the state is doing. He has made more and more drastic decisions in order to curb the number of infected people within the state.

“If you are upset by what we have done, be upset at me,” he said at a March 17 press conference. “County executives did not do this. The village mayor did not do this. The city mayor did not make these decisions. I made these decisions.”

Cuomo added, “The buck stops on my desk … I assume full responsibility.”

By owning the problems these executive decisions have caused, the governor has accepted the responsibility for everything that is happening and will happen. 

That doesn’t just take guts, that takes a true sense of civic responsibility and leadership.

We agree with that. We need only look at Italy to see just how destabilizing the disease can be if it’s left unchecked for too long. Doctors and nurses there have been made to triage, making decisions that mean life and death for some patients rather than others. 

We should also laud County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who on his daily calls with the press has been forthcoming in all details related to COVID-19. His answers have so far been consistent, and we hope such reliable communication continues.

There is no way to know the true impact of everything going on here long term. As expansive testing makes its way onto Long Island, finally, the number of known cases has spiked. We have not seen the end of it, nor really the peak, medical experts have warned.

That’s not even mentioning the economic impacts. Companies, both large and small, being shuttered for weeks on end could mean many thousands of unemployed people in just a few short months regardless of stimulus packages from Congress. Business owners have had to limit hours and foot traffic, or otherwise close completely. Many of those storefronts may never open their doors again.

There’s something strange about how mankind seeks strong leadership in trying times. There have been more than one book and movie about how people have handed power over to tyrants when the stage is set for mass upheaval. 

But this is a case of officials doing what they were elected to do. Every measure is instigated with a calm reassurance with a note of trying to make things better. This is New York at its best. We saw it with 9/11, and we’re seeing it here again. 

That is the kind of leadership we need now.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has feuded with the federal government about getting resources to New York during the coronavirus pandemic. File photo by Erika Karp

The coronavirus pandemic is going to get much worse in New York State and in Suffolk County in the next few weeks.

That’s the message from Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) and County Executive Steve Bellone (D), who describe efforts to increase hospital beds, change EMS policies, and collect personal protective equipment to help health care workers and first responders.

The state created a viral pandemic triage protocol. By taking a patient’s temperature and screening for a sore throat or cough, EMS personnel will determine whether a patient needs to go to the hospital.

“If a patient doesn’t qualify to be transferred to the hospital, the on-site emergency responder will provide a hand-out with a list of what you need to do and whom to contact should the symptoms worsen,” Bellone said on a daily conference call with reporters.

The new policy shouldn’t create alarm for residents, Bellone said, but merely reflects the current state of the pandemic.

Indeed, on the same day Cuomo created this new EMS protocol, he indicated the need for hospital beds for the state was even greater than anticipated just 24 hours earlier. The number of hospital beds in the state, currently stands around 53,000, with 2,626 beds currently in Suffolk County. Based on the current trajectory of infections and hospitalizations, the number of beds necessary for residents of the Empire State will be closer to 140,000 at its peak, which means that hospitals will need to more than double the number of beds in a short time.

What  Cuomo had requested by doubling the number of beds was a “Herculean effort,” which may not be adequate to the anticipated need, Bellone said.

“The surge may be happening much earlier than anticipated,” Bellone added. “It is a reminder of what we need to do.”

To prepare the health care community and first responders for that increase, Bellone has been urging people to donate personal protective equipment. Two days after his office started collecting the gear in Yaphank, Bellone has received 284,000 pieces of equipment, which includes five van loads from Eastern Suffolk BOCES. Over the next 24 hours, Bellone’s office is working to create additional donation sites on the Western and Eastern ends of Suffolk County.

As testing for the coronavirus Covid-19 increases, so, too, do the number of positive cases. As of this morning, 1,880 residents had the virus among 7,000 who were tested. The number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds has increased to 50 from 38 yesterday.

For the sixth day in a row, Bellone’s office announced additional COVID-19 related deaths, as four people passed away with the virus, all of whom also had underlying medical conditions. A woman in her 80’s died at Mather Hospital on March 19, a man in his 60’s died at Huntington Hospital on March 20, a woman in her 80’s died at Huntington Hospital on March 22 and a woman in her 70’s died at Southside Hospital yesterday.

Bellone extended his condolences to the families. The death toll for the virus in Suffolk County is now 17.

Meanwhile, Stony Brook Hospital is expected to receive 25 ventilators, although the delivery date is undetermined at this time.

Bellone said Amneal Pharmaceuticals, which manufacturers an anti-malarial treatment that the state is testing as a potential treatment for coronavirus called hydroxychloroquine, has donated two million pills to the state.

“We are grateful that a local company is helping to contribute to this effort,” Bellone said. Amneal, which is headquartered in Bridgewater, New Jersey, has a factory in Yaphank.

During the pause in activities in New York that  Cuomo created and that started yesterday, landscapers can continue to perform necessary maintenance functions. Bellone said he was still awaiting clarity from the governor’s office about construction jobs.

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In the first day of soliciting donations of Personal Protective Equipment to help health care workers and first responders, County Executive Steve Bellone was pleased with the outpouring of support from the community.

“Today we have seen, in the spirit of cooperation, an outpouring of generosity of people who come together in a time of crisis,” Bellone said on his daily media call with reporters.

Residents and business leaders brought 40,000 gloves of various sizes, 3,000 N95 masks, 1,500 gowns and over 3,000 ear loop masks to the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank. Bellone is seeking donations from 10 am to 2 pm during the weekdays.

Given the shortage of masks, some people have started sewing homemade masks.

Gregson Pigott, the commissioner of the county Department of Health Services, cautioned people about their effectiveness.

“That’s not advised,” Pigott said on a conference call. The masks need to be “properly tested and certified.”

Stony Brook has started to make face shields with 3-D printers, which hospital personnel has reviewed and determined to be medically compliant. The team that designed these shields, call iCREATE, made some parts of the shield replaceable so health care professionals could change them out.

Today also marked the first day of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s (D) order to pause, as he asked all non-essential businesses to close to reduce the spread of the coronavirus Covid-19. Suffolk County received some clarity from the governor’s office about whether landscapers would be able to continue their work. Landscapers can continue to work for maintenance and the control of pests. These workers, however, cannot do any ornamental planning and are restricted to mowing lawns and protecting the public against health risks that might occur if they didn’t do their jobs.

Meanwhile, the number of people with coronavirus continues to climb, with 1,458 people testing positive. Among those with the virus, 116 are in the hospital, with 38 in the Intensive Care Unit. The County suffered another coronavirus-related fatality, as a woman in her 80’s passed away at St. Catherine’s Hospital. The death toll in Suffolk County stands at 13.

Bellone said he is working with town supervisors and mayors to encourage residents to follow the governor’s order. As with other parts of the country, Suffolk County is working to encourage younger people to maintain social distancing.

Younger people may feel “they are not vulnerable to the virus,” Bellone said. “They [need to understand] that they can not only contract it, but they can also contract it and can transmit it to others around them. They pose a danger to vulnerable populations.”

The county executive added New York Mets pitcher Steve Matz, who is a graduate of Ward Melville High School in Setauket, has been putting out the message.

At the same time, Bellone has been gathering information about the impact of the virus on businesses. Over, 4,000 furloughed or laid off employees have reached out to the County Executive’s office through 311.

These are “some of our more vulnerable employees,” Bellone said. His office is reaching out to the employers, so they can connect with their staff so they “don’t fade into the background.”

In his daily press conference, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) urged the Donald Trump (R) administration to invoke the Defense Production Act, which would allow them to order manufacturers to increase production of much-needed PPE items. The president has signed an executive order invoking the act, but has yet to make a single order. Cuomo said those companies would be “paid handsomely” for the effort, but that it was needed more than ever.

The governor also said he was signing an executive order mandating hospitals around New York State to increase the number of available beds by at least 50 percent, with the goal being to reach a turnaround of 100 percent. Stony Brook University is also the planned site of an additional hospital pavilion to add extra beds to the area, though Bellone said details on that are still being worked out.

At the urging of his wife, Bellone himself contacted the mobile unit at Stony Brook Hospital to seek a coronavirus test. He was exposed to the virus from meetings with one of his deputy chiefs, Peter Scully, who tested positive last week.

Bellone called the mobile unit number, waited half an hour on the phone to speak with a medical professional, and is awaiting a call back for an appointment.

Bellone plans to have a Facebook live town hall on his page tonight at 6:30 pm to provide an update to residents.

“There continues to be a lot of anxiety,” Bellone said. “our lives have been turned upside down.”

File photo

Hospitals in New York State have to develop plans to expand capacity by 50 percent within the next few weeks, and then, down the road, 100 percent, as the number of coronavirus cases increases.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) today announced a State Department of Health Emergency Order requiring the expansion to prepare for the expected rising medical need.

“We’re going to continue to work with the state and with hospitals to do everything we can to help them meet that mandate,” Steve Bellone (D), the Suffolk County Executive, said on a daily conference call with reporters.

Bellone reiterated Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) expectation that the effort to contain the virus is likely a long-term commitment, which could be anywhere from two to eight months or more.

“We know we are engaged in this fight for the foreseeable future,” Bellone said.

Bellone also announced that Suffolk County Transit is implementing policies that are similar to the ones the MTA has created. Riders will no longer have the option of using cash for their payments. They should use Suffolk FastFare, which is a mobile app. The app is available for use on all Suffolk County buses. Riders can use smart phones to purchase tickets.

Starting on Monday, Suffolk County Transit will also do rear door boarding on fixed bus route service and will need to leave the first few rows of the bus empty to create a safe distance between drivers and riders, Bellone said.

“We are continuing to operate critical transportation infrastructure,” Bellone added.

Meanwhile, the number of positive tests in Suffolk County climbed to 1,034, according to the State Department of Health. As of earlier today, there were 89 people hospitalized because of the virus, with 28 people currently in the Intensive Care Unit.

The virus has contributed to the deaths of three more Suffolk County residents, increasing the number of virus-related fatalities in the county to 12. A man in his 80’s died in his home March 18, a man in his 60’s, who was also in a car accident, died at Stony Brook University Hospital March 14, and a man in his 50’s died at Southside Hospital. The man in his 50’s, who had other health issues, is the youngest Suffolk County resident felled thus far by COVID-19.

The Stony Brook University mobile testing site has conducted over 2,000 tests. Bellone cautioned people not to just show up because they wouldn’t receive a test. They need to receive a referral from a doctor or from a source through telemedicine.

Hospitals in Suffolk County currently have beds available, with 644 vacant beds out of 2,626 and 86 beds available out of 275 in intensive care.

As for Cuomo’s order to close businesses that are considered non-essential by 8 p.m. tonight, Bellone said his office was continuing to speak with state officials to determine which industries would be deemed essential.

Landscaping, for example, is “essential in the sense that we are in the growing season,” Bellone said. “We know that there can be public health costs associated with landscaping that is getting out of control.”

The dry cleaning business as well could be an essential service, especially because these establishments are cleaning uniforms for first responders.

Bellone said continued to meet with representatives from the food industry, who indicated that the supply chains remain open. The shortages on shelves are coming from people who are hoarding items, rather than from a reduction in the production of food, toilet paper, or other consumer staples.

“We confirmed with the industry today,” Bellone said. “They are going to continue to bring in those supplies as quickly as they can. [Food supplies] will be coming next week and the week after that. It is not stopping or shutting down.”

Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer points to a chart showing the impact discovery law changes have had on small municipalities. Photo by David Luces

Town supervisors in Suffolk County say recent criminal justice reform has caused “unintended consequences” to municipalities and local code enforcement. They are asking the state to exempt small municipalities from new guidelines, among other things. 

The issue they have is with the state’s new discovery provisions, which require names and contact information for complaints to be turned over within 15 days of arraignment. In turn, it has eliminated anonymity, which many municipalities rely on when it comes to handling code violations. 

“You’re not going to call, you’re not going to complain, what does that do for the quality of life?”

— Ed Romaine

Rich Schaffer (D), Town of Babylon supervisor and chair of the county Democratic committee, said at a March 5 press conference they usually receive a lot of anonymous tips from concerned residents but have noticed many are not willing to come forward with the new changes. 

“They don’t want to put their names down, and quite frankly we don’t want to [either],” he said. “We want to be able to go after the offenders and educate them on how to clean up their act and be a good neighbor.”

A letter signed by all of the county’s town supervisors was sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in January. The group said with the new standards in how case information is turned over to the courts, it means there are currently no distinctions between a homicide case and a “municipal code violation for high grass.” 

The supervisors said the reform was rushed through the legislature and didn’t give municipalities enough time to formulate a public education campaign. In addition, the changes hurt them on a local level because the state “got involved in things that we didn’t need their involvement in,” Schaffer said.

Supervisors also complained the requirement for after issuing a summons, a court date must be set within 20 days. Officials said it used to take a month to process cases, but now there are four additional “hoops to jump through” to process a complaint. A case could take up to two years to be resolved.

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said the criminal justice reform has had a “chilling effect on code enforcement.” 

“So now, if you live next to a guy that has a house with two illegal apartments and four or five unregistered vehicles and trash on the property, if you call, we are obligated by state law to tell the guy next door that you called,” he said. “You’re not going to call, you’re not going to complain, what does that do for the quality of life?”

The four supervisors called on the state Legislature to pass a bill that would allow townships to handle their own code enforcement cases and reinstate anonymity.  

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) and state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) are proposing bills that would allow anonymity for those reporting local code violations, let municipalities take these cases out of district court and allow them to create their own administrative bureau. 

Chad Lupinacci (R), Town of Huntington supervisor, said many of the problems discussed can be eliminated if municipalities had their own administrative bureau. Huntington is one of three municipalities in the state to have one. 

“The bureau should be up and running sometime in May,” he said. “Code enforcement officers, instead of having to comply with these changes, will be able to just enforce the code and ensure that neighborhoods are safer.”

Brookhaven assistant attorney David Moran said they will work in compliance with the law but called it an “unfunded mandate” with no real direction given how to be in compliance. 

Schaffer said he’s volunteering Babylon to be the guinea pig regarding not following the new law and seeing what comes out of it. 

“I’d like to be the test case to challenge the system,” he said.

A sign inside Wild by Nature in East Setauket warns customers they will no longer supply plastic bags starting March 1. The store will also collect 5 cents for paper bags used. Photo by Heidi Sutton

Beginning March 1, Long Islander shoppers will have one less option when packing their groceries, as a New York State ban on single-use plastic bags goes into effect. 

The ban would prohibit retailers from giving out plastic carryout bags to customers. State lawmakers hope that this will lead to more residents deciding to bring their own reusable bags and a decrease of plastic waste. 

The legislation is a step toward reducing the 23 billion plastic bags used by New Yorkers every year, reducing litter and helping the fight against climate change. 

According to a Siena College Research Institute poll conducted after the bill was passed, 62 percent of New Yorkers support the ban compared to 33 percent who don’t. 

“We are expecting a successful implementation.”

-Adrienne Esposito

While plastic bags will no longer be handed out at retailers, paper bags will still be available. In Suffolk County, consumers will be charged 5 cents for each paper carryout bag provided at a checkout. In areas that have the opted into the 5 cent charge, the fee does not apply for SNAP and WIC food benefit recipients. 

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the ban will have a positive impact in curbing plastic pollution. 

“This is a significant accomplishment — Suffolk County needs to be commended for implementing the 5 cent bag fee,” she said. “The state noticed the success of it and it led to this ban.”

Some environmentalists are concerned about some final tweaks in the legislation by the DEC that would allow usage of bags which are thicker and heavier. Esposito said they aren’t concerned about it as it won’t be widely distributed as regular bags and will only be used for packaging of certain foods. 

“If for some reason it needs to be tweaked further, we will be a part of those discussions,” she said. 

State lawmakers are hoping the ban will increase usage in reusable bags. Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced a campaign, dubbed BYOBagNY, which has been spearheaded by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. 

The agency has been running ads on the ban on TV, radio and social media. In addition, the DEC provided educational materials to its nine regional offices to use for outreach events and will be distributing more than 270,000 reusable bags to low- and moderate-income communities. 

Stop & Shop branches throughout the county began offering free reusable bags to customers who bring in one or more carryout plastic bags for recycling. 

Similarly, in the county, a plastic straw ban took effect this January, which required businesses to switch biodegradable alternatives. A Styrofoam ban was also implemented, prohibiting businesses from using items such as cups, trays and containers that are made from polystyrene. 

“We are expecting a successful implementation — we as a society can learn to bring a reusable bag when we go out shopping,” Esposito said. “Most people have already made the change, some have lagged behind, but this is one thing they can do to reduce plastic waste.”

The hill going down on West Broadway in Port Jefferson is well known for its potholes and ripped up pavement. Photo by Kyle Barr

A section of North Shore roadway will benefit from new state funding for the renewal of streets impacted by extreme weather events.

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced Jan. 23 that $151 million in new funding to complement $743 million in direct state aid provided through the PAVE NY Initiative for local road and bridge projects. Of the new allocation, $6.6 million will be used to renew Route 25A from Nicolls Road in Stony Brook to Main Street/East Broadway in Port Jefferson, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

A portion of Route 25A in Setauket will benefit from state aid. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“New York continues to make nation-leading investments in the renewal and modernization of the state’s roads, bridges, transit systems and airports,” Cuomo said in the release. “These investments are laying the foundation to ensure sustained growth throughout the 21st century in tourism, business and workforce development, and economic opportunities.”

According to the release, the improvement will enhance highway safety and reduce the roughness of roads, which in turn will make them more fuel efficient. Work is estimated to begin this spring and be completed in the winter of 2020.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) brought the severity of local road conditions to the attention of the state Department of Transportation last year, according to a press release from his office. The designated areas have been subjected to serious degradation due to water seepage into road seams and large clusters of filled potholes creating rutted, uneven and unsafe surfaces. One of the worse sections is the roadway near the East Setauket Post Office to CVS, but other sections have deteriorated rapidly, including the hill from Poquott into Port Jefferson.

“Last summer, we noticed an acceleration in the deterioration of different sections of Route 25A,” Englebright said in the statement. “So, I met with DOT staff to communicate the urgent need for repair. After evaluation of the road confirmed the urgency, [NYSDOT] regional director, Joseph Brown, indicated that he would do his best to find funds to do repairs. We want to thank the regional director and his staff for working to include the main highway of our community in this funding program.”

Town of Brookhaven Highway Supervisor Dan Losquadro (R) said while he’s always grateful when he hears of state funding coming the town’s way, when he heard the recent news, he was disappointed as to how little aid was coming to Suffolk County. He pointed to the fact that the section of Route 25A is the only one designated in the area. He added there is a desperate need for state funding to be reinstated for work on Route 347, specifically for the Nicolls Road overpass and intersection.

Losquadro said he will continue conversations with state legislators about state roads, also the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program, otherwise known as CHIPS, allocation for local streets.

“I really hope that this is a starting point and not an endpoint when it comes to the proposal for funding for infrastructure for Long Island, because paving one road in Suffolk County really isn’t to me an adequate investment on the part of the state Legislature,” Losquadro said.