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Grant

Pictured, from left, are Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, Library Director, Middle Country Public Library; Sal DiVincenzo, Coordinator of Digital Services, Middle Country Public Library; Edward Russo, Mortgage Loan Officer, TD Bank; Tom Kelly, Manager, TD Bank; and Elizabeth Malafi, Coordinator, Miller Business Center, Middle Country Public Library. Photo from MCPL

TD Bank recently provided a generous grant of $5,000 to the Middle Country Library Foundation in support of Strictly Business and the Women’s EXPO. 

As the Strictly Business Enterprise sponsor, TD Bank supports the library’s efforts to bring valuable educational, networking, and tradeshow experience to the local and regional business community. 

Held on May 7, the 16th annual Strictly Business event, a partnership between Middle Country Public Library’s Miller Business Center, the Greater Middle Country Chamber of Commerce, and the Brookhaven Chambers of Commerce Coalition, featured more than 80 local businesses and business organizations and welcomed over 550 attendees. 

The 24th Women’s EXPO, a showcase and a marketplace for Long Island women entrepreneurs, will be held on Oct. 10 and features more than 80 exhibitors and over 2,500 attendees each year.

Pictured, from left, are Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, Library Director, Middle Country Public Library; Sal DiVincenzo, Coordinator of Digital Services, Middle Country Public Library; Edward Russo, Mortgage Loan Officer, TD Bank; Tom Kelly, Manager, TD Bank; and Elizabeth Malafi, Coordinator, Miller Business Center, Middle Country Public Library. 

For more information about the many programs of the Miller Business Center, visit www.millerbusinesscenter.org. 

Photo courtesy of MCPL

Children entering grades 2 though 6 can learn how to care for farm animals such as these pygmy goats at a Fun on the Farm class on Aug. 9. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

The Town of Brookhaven Holtsville Ecology Site & Animal Preserve was recently awarded a $38,748 grant through the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Zoos, Botanical Gardens & Aquariums Program. The money will be used for operating costs related to the care of the more than 100 unreleasable wild and farm animals residing there. The grant will be automatically renewed annually through 2026.

Town of Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Daniel LoSquadro at the Holtsville Ecology Site. Photo from TOB

“The Holtsville Ecology Site is a beautiful facility enjoyed by more than 200,000 visitors each year, free of charge. This grant will enable our caretakers to continue to provide the animals entrusted in our care with the attention and shelter they deserve,” said Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Daniel P. Losquadro.

After completing numerous infrastructure improvements, including upgrading enclosures and replacing damaged concrete and fencing, the Animal Preserve, located at 249 Buckley Road, Holtsville is now fully reopened to the public, seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

In addition, the Ecology Site is now accepting registration for its summer programs.

For those interested in learning more about the animals who reside at theAnimal Preserve, tours are available, including self-guided, guided and behind-the-scenes tours. Behind-the-Scenes tours are available by appointment only, for groups of six or more, for $10 per person. In addition, from July 5 through Aug. 26, tour guides are available by appointment to take visitors on a guided tour (minimum of 10 people) for a cost of $5 per person. Call 631-451-5330 to schedule any tours.

The Ecology Site staff also hosts several fun and educational summer programs, including “A Day with an Animal Caretaker” for children entering 4th through 6th grade. Participants are invited to spend time with the caretakers as they feed and care for the animals on Tuesday, July 12, Thursday, July 21, Tuesday, Aug. 2, Thursday, Aug. 11, OR Tuesday, Aug. 23, from 9 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. The cost is $50 per child.

On Thursday, July 14, from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., children entering 2nd through 6th grade can attend “Where the Wild Things Are” to learn why wild animals do not make good family pets and, rather, belong in the wild. Cost is $10 per child.

Children entering 2nd through 6th grade interested in learning about caring for farm animals such as cows, pigs, chickens and goats, can attend “Fun on the Farm” on Tuesday, Aug. 9, from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. The cost for this class is $10 per child.

“Ice Ice Baby” is a program for children entering 2nd through 6th grade who are interested in learning about cold-blooded animals including snakes, lizards and turtles. Participants may choose to attend this class on either Tuesday, July 19, or Thursday, Aug. 4, from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

All participants must pre-register for the summer programs by calling 631-451-5330.

Muppet

Old dogs have something to wag about this summer, as The Grey Muzzle Organization announces the recipients of its annual grants, and dogs at Little Shelter Animal Rescue and Adoption Center in Huntington are among the winners.

Little Shelter is one of 77 animal welfare groups chosen from 266 applicants to receive a grant to help local senior dogs.  The winning groups received more than $616,000 in grants to help save or improve the lives of at-risk old dogs in their communities.

“This grant will help us give senior dogs like 13-year-old Muppet the veterinary and dental care he needs so he’ll be ready to go to his forever home,” said David Ceely of Little Shelter. “No one is more grateful or loving than an old dog, and we’re looking forward to helping more senior dogs get the second chance they all deserve.”

Over the past 13 years, the national nonprofit Grey Muzzle Organization has provided $3.1 million in grants to support its vision of “a world where no old dog dies alone and afraid.”

“Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we’re delighted to help deserving organizations like Little Shelter make a difference in the lives of dogs and people in their communities,” Grey Muzzle’s Executive Director Lisa Lunghofer said. “Many senior dogs on Long Island are enjoying their golden years in loving homes thanks to the wonderful work of Little Shelter.”

Little Shelter is a non-profit no-kill animal shelter located at33 Warner Road in Huntington and has been dedicated to saving abandoned dogs and cats and placing them in loving homes since 1927. Age, physical condition, and socialization issues are never criteria for rescuing a dog or cat whose life is in jeopardy.https://www.littleshelter.org/

The national nonprofit The Grey Muzzle Organization improves the lives of at-risk senior dogs by providing funding and resources to animal shelters, rescue organizations, sanctuaries, and other nonprofit groups nationwide. For details, please visit https://www.greymuzzle.org/

For more information, please visit https://www.littleshelter.org/ or call 631-368-8770 x 21

 

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In 2020, Higher Ground was able to work on the roof of the Eato House on Christian Avenue. Photo from Higher Ground

The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation is playing a part in helping to restore the historic Eato House on Christian Avenue in Setauket.

The foundation recently awarded the Setauket-based Higher Ground Inter-Cultural & Heritage Association, Inc. an Organizational Capacity Building Grant. Higher Ground, which works to preserve the culture, indigenous inhabitants and historic inventory of the Native and Afro-American community, is currently restoring the house.

According to RDLGF, this type of grant will enable Higher Ground to work with four professionals in the areas of governance, collections, site assessment and outreach as the foundation will pay for the services. Higher Ground has been working on the continued preservation of the Bethel Christian Ave., Laurel Hill Historic District, and currently, the organization co-owns the house with Bethel AME Church.

“The Higher Ground project speaks to a story of diversity,” said Kathryn Curran, executive director of RDLGF. “This association highlights this area’s role in establishing and recognizing that important cultural heritage.”

Robert Lewis, president of Higher Ground, said the first stage of the Eato House’s restoration was completed Dec. 1. He added that the first stage of work focused on preventing water from penetrating the structure. To accomplish the goal, existing roof rafters were fortified and a new roof was insulated. New gutters and leaders were also added to match the 1900 architecture and the

A future second stage of work will focus on the foundation of the structure and interior stabilization.

“The second stage is obviously dependent on funding availability,” Lewis said. “The prospects for acquiring additional funding in the future will be much brighter when the RDL Gardiner Capacity Building Project is completed.”

The grant from the RDLGF grant will enable members of the Eato House Restoration Committee to be trained “to pursue and manage historic preservation activities; manage projects, and to adequately fulfill standard requirements for State registered non-profits,” according to Lewis. The grant will also introduce the organization to promotional activities, marketing strategies and high technology processing.

“Participation in the OCB project will increase the competency of Higher Ground to protect structures, documented history, environmental history; to preserve artwork, oral history and archaeological documentation,” Lewis said.

While RDLGF is known for helping to preserve Suffolk County’s history, other works of the foundation aren’t as well known.

“Less known, but equally successful, are the efforts of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation to identify, and engage with small, relatively hidden areas of valuable, Native, and Afro-American history being lost in minority communities where small preservation organizations labor to survive,” Lewis said.

In a 2017 interview with TBR News Media, Bethel AME historian, Carlton “Hub” Edwards, said the Eato House was once home to the Rev. David Eato, one of the church’s first pastors, and his wife Mary Baker, a freed slave.

Baker moved to the North after being freed from slavery and settled in Port Washington where she was an organist at a church. It was there that she met Eato and, after marrying, the couple moved to Setauket, and the reverend became one of the first ministers of Setauket’s Bethel AME in the early 1900s. Mary took on the role of superintendent of the Sunday school and held the position until the late 1930s.

Edwards said the members of the Eato family owned the house until the church purchased it a few years ago.

Photo from Investors Bank

TIME TO PLAY

Village Chabad Center for Jewish Learning of Stony Brook was awarded a $25,000 check from Investors Bank in Setauket on Nov. 5 for the organization’s new preschool playground. “This project has been proudly supported by a grant from Investors Foundation,” said Hope Kinney, Branch Manager of Investor’s Bank, pictured in center with Village Chabad co-directors Rabbi Chaim and Rivkie Grossbaum.

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Port Jefferson Village Hall. File photo by Heidi Sutton

The Town of Brookhaven is looking to save money by consolidating property tax collections with other municipalities in the town, starting with Port Jefferson Village.

At the Brookhaven Town Board meeting Feb. 14, councilmembers voted unanimously to use approximately $478,000 of New York State grant funds to consolidate tax receiving methods with the village. 

“So, the tax collection will be on the front end and the back end.”

— Louis Maroccia

“I am grateful that some our discussions with the village have resulted in actual shared services,” Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said. “We are always happy when we are able to work collaboratively with other municipalities to streamline services to our residents and reduce costs.”

Brookhaven Town Receiver of Taxes Louis Marcoccia said the first phase of the program, which he expects to be implemented by June, will include printing out tax bills and sending them to village residents. Under the agreement, the village will reimburse the town for postage costs, which are estimated to be $2,000.

The second phase of the new program will introduce third-party software into the village, so it may integrate the entire financial system, though Marcoccia added the town still has to sign a contract with the company concerned and didn’t wish to name the software. He said the new program is expected to start being implemented in the third quarter 2019 and be finished before the end of next tax season in April 2020.

“So, the tax collection will be on the front end and the back end,” the tax receiver said.

Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant said the village will still be doing property assessments and creating the warrants, but instead of creating bills internally will send all the info over to Brookhaven. She added the new system will also enable village residents to pay bills online, but people will still be allowed to file taxes in person at Village Hall.

“If it creates efficiency, after all they say time is money,” Garant said. “I’d say it’s different than how it was years ago, more than 50 percent of us are paying our bills online.”

“If it creates efficiency, after all they say time is money.”

— Margot Garant

The funding of the new program comes from Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition Award, which granted Brookhaven $20 million in June 2018 to use in municipal consolidation. The intent behind the award was to reduce property taxes through the consolidation of government services, and the town has outlined a total of 16 projects it hopes to tackle in the next few years. 

Brookhaven’s tax receiver said the new system is expected to save the town more than $50,000 in the first year through cutting down on labor and reducing redundancy in the tax collection system. While Port Jeff is the first village to receive this new system, Marcoccia said in upcoming years it will be expanded to encompass all eight of the town’s villages.

“You take the $50,000 and multiply it if we’re able to do all eight, that’s not chump change,” he said.

Along with the consolidation of tax services, Brookhaven Town is also looking to reduce government bloat by consolidating public works operations within the villages, consolidate billing in ambulance districts, establishing shared information technology for cloud-based services and cybersecurity, and create townwide records storage and archive management.

From left, Kathryn Curran, executive director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation; Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy; and Rev. Bette Sohm, pastor of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church with the $35,000 check. Photo from St. Paul's United Methodist Church

A Northport congregation’s prayers for help to save its historic steeple have not fallen on deaf ears.

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church received a $35,000 grant from New York Landmark Conservancy’s Sacred Sites program Dec. 4. The funds from the nonprofit organization, whose mission is to preserve and revitalize architecturally significant buildings, will be used to help restore the church’s historic steeple that towers over Northport village.

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Northport. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“We’re absolutely thrilled to hear that we’ve earned this to fund the steeple work,” said Greg Polli, chairman of St. Paul’s board of trustees.

St. Paul’s church, originally built in 1873, is a red-brick late Greek Revival-style church designed by local architect and builder B.T. Robbins. Rising from the building is the iconic, white-painted wooden shutter board steeple capped with a copper dome.

“Long Island’s long history is reflected in its religious architecture,” said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy. “The conservancy is pleased to be able to help this remarkable building continue to serve [its] congregations and communities.”

The Conservancy’s Sacred Sites grants are supported by the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, a Hampton Bays nonprofit that supports the study of New York State history.

The bell tower’s issues date back more than a decade. Parishioner Alex Edwards-Bourdrez, a member of the church for 26 years, said churchgoers noticed rainwater was leaking into the sanctuary, but determining the source of the issue took a lot of guess work. For nearly a decade, St. Paul’s churchgoers used a system of pots and pans to catch the water and even went as far as to replace the building’s roof without solving the issue.

A stained glass window in the church’s sanctuary. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“That’s when we realized the real problem was the steeple,” said Pastor Kristina Hansen, former religious leader of St. Paul’s. “The steeple was the culprit all along.”

The leak gradually limited the church’s activities, according to Edwards-Bourdrez, restricting use of the balcony for seating and preventing performances of its bell choir during inclement weather. St. Paul’s launched a successful capital campaign in October 2017 that exceeded its original goal of raising $300,000, according to Polli, to make much-needed structural repairs that included the steeple, securing its aging stained-glass windows and upgrading its bathrooms to be handicapped accessible.

“Before we began the formal capital campaign, we communicated to our congregation what we wanted to do, asked what they wanted to do and what our priorities should be,” he said. “The steeple was the top priority.”

Polli said the church has received a preliminary estimate of $150,000 to repair the structure and hopes to start work in the early spring of 2019. Some interior projects, like the renovations of the womens bathroom, have already been completed.

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On Long Island, the cost of property taxes weighs heavily on many people’s minds. In Brookhaven, the town is working with villages, schools, libraries, and other special districts to consolidate municipal services, which should lead to savings for homeowners. Any initiative to save taxpayers money is a worthwhile endeavor in our book.

After a two-year long process, New York State recently awarded Town of Brookhaven a $20 million grant for its application as part of the Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition. The grant is a byproduct of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) attempts to cut costs, share services and streamline inefficiencies in order to reduce property taxpayers’ burdens statewide.

In a field of finalists that were all upstate counties other than Brookhaven, the town came out on top, and Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) wasted no time in gathering representatives from villages, ambulance and fire districts, school districts and library districts to create a Council of Governments Committee. On Oct. 10 the council met to discuss the best practices of governance, shared services and intermunicipal opportunities expected to come from the $20 million cash influx.

Due to his leadership qualities and ability to work across party lines, we have confidence that Romaine has the ability to implement the money in an effective way. Project proposals have included using town contracts to buy in bulk things like asphalt replacement, which can save money for villages since the town can get a better price due to its size. Villages such as Port Jefferson could benefit not only from highway services but a town purchasing portal, electronic records management and storage.

While we know the council is in good hands, we hope the committee will take a serious look at how to run each agency more efficiently, even if some are not consolidated, and we also have suggestions for the future.

In addition to implementing current plans established during the grant application stage, the council hopes to explore possible other future initiatives. As the town moves forward, one suggestion we have with any potential plans is to call on local village officials and district heads to organize public meetings where residents can attend and discuss their concerns with town officials or brainstorm suggestions.

We also hope that Brookhaven will lead the way for other municipalities outside its scope. While we know not every town has the privilege of a $20 million grant, after implementing changes in Brookhaven, we hope to see town leaders reach out to other towns in Suffolk County for examples and suggestions to save their residents money.

The chance to save taxpayers money has the potential to cross town lines in the next few years.

Brookhaven is looking to increase it's cyber security through a state grant, but the town is not saying how. Stock photo

The Town of Brookhaven is looking to beef up its cyber security.

At the Aug. 2 Brookhaven Town board meeting councilmembers voted unanimously to apply for a $50,000 grant under the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Cyber Security Grant Program. If the town attains the grant, Brookhaven will use town funds under specified cyber security initiatives and seek reimbursement through the grant.

The grant will make $500,000 available for any county, town or village in the state at a maximum of $50,000 per entity. Other municipalities in Suffolk County such as the Town of Smithtown are applying for the grant.

According to the state grant application, the money can be used for a number of items, including hiring a cyber security consultant, software packages for items such as firewalls and encryption, new equipment such as servers or hardware used against cyber threats, and for staff training involving cyber security awareness.

Jack Krieger, communications director for Brookhaven Town, said the town does not comment on current or future cyber security measures when asked what the money might be used for.

In June 2017, the Town of Brookhaven’s website, among 76 other municipalities, was successfully hacked by what was described as a “pro-ISIS group.” ISIS is referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, the group that took over parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014 and is now being pushed back by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces and the Syrian army.

The group, Team System DZ, created a static webpage using the Town of Brookhaven servers, but it did not affect the official Brookhaven website. A link was set up through town servers to a static, look-alike webpage.

Deputy Town Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville) said at the time they did not see any information extracted from the servers. The town’s website was taken down temporarily but was restored within a few days.

Much emphasis has been put on cyber security by government officials of late, as it was revealed that Russia had made efforts to hack into Democratic National Convention servers during the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, taking information which was later released via several outlets including WikiLeaks, an international whistleblower organization. U.S. intelligence officials have warned that Russia is already attempting to influence the 2018 midterm elections through multiple electronic means including phishing scams that target people’s passwords and by setting up fake accounts on social media, according to Bloomberg News recently.

Meanwhile, the Suffolk County Board of Elections is also keeping tight-lipped about cyber security measures as Long Island and the rest of the country heads toward a heated midterm election taking place Nov. 6.

“The board generally doesn’t comment on its security measures because we understand that doing so could aid nefarious individuals in their attempts to exploit our voting processes,” said Republican board of elections commissioner, Nick LaLota, when asked about the board’s preparedness to ward off security threats.

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine at his state of the town address April 3. Photo by Alex Petroski

Sharing is a beautiful thing. It can foster friendships and good will, and even net a municipality a $20 million check.

Brookhaven Town was selected June 14 as the winner of the Municipal Consolidation and Efficiency Competition, an initiative announced by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in 2016 that challenged local governments to submit in-depth proposals for reducing the cost of living through streamlining services offered by overlapping taxing jurisdictions like villages, schools, ambulance companies, library and fire districts, towns and counties. Brookhaven was amongst six finalists as of summer 2017, the others being smaller upstate municipalities. Each of the nine incorporated villages within Brookhaven passed resolutions identifying the areas in which a consolidation of services makes sense, and officially pledged partnership with the town in pursuing the projects last year.

“High property taxes are a burden that far too many New Yorkers must bear and we will continue to deliver innovative solutions to keep taxes down without sacrificing the services they provide,” Cuomo said in a statement June 14. “I congratulate Brookhaven for putting forth a creative plan to better serve their community and crafting an innovative model to save taxpayer dollars.”

Some of the projects in the town’s proposal included the consolidation of tax collection and tax assessor services; utilizing Brookhaven’s staffed maintenance workers rather than putting out bids for contracts; creating a regional salt facility to be used during snow removal; using town contracts to buy in bulk for things like asphalt replacement , which yield a better price due to Brookhaven’s size compared to the smaller villages; and creating a digital record keeping and storage system.

“We expect this grant to help us reduce costs to our taxpayers and save our taxpayers millions of dollars,” Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said in announcing the win for the town prior to the June 14 public meeting. “So while we’re delighted that we won, out of all of the municipalities in the state, we were selected — we’re very happy for our taxpayers.”

The supervisor estimated in July 2017 in total, the projects would result in a savings of about $66 million for taxpayers – a return of more than three times the investment made by the state. He thanked town’s Chief of Operations Matt Miner for his work in crafting the proposal, and Deputy Supervisor Dan Panico (R-Manorville) for going to Albany to present the town’s plan. Romaine added that winning the grant wouldn’t have been possible if not for the work of the entire town board and other staff members from all town departments.

“We worked very hard — we all contributed,” the supervisor said.

In a 2017 interview, Romaine and Miner both stressed the importance of allowing the villages to maintain their autonomy despite the consolidation of services. The projects will emphasize ways to eliminate unnecessary redundancies in government services while allowing incorporated villages to maintain individual oversight. Romaine also dispelled possible concerns about loss of jobs. He said he expects the phase out of antiquated departments through retirements, stating no layoffs will be required to make the consolidation projects happen.