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Elected officials stand with brides, business owners and concerned community members asking Albany to change the executive order from 50-person events to 50% capacity. Photo by Julianne Mosher

Brides, business owners and elected officials all stood together outside the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge Oct. 2 begging Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to increase the capacity of events like weddings, Sweet 16s and other catered parties. 

“By limiting us, it’s creating a more dangerous situation.”

— Gennaro Tallarico

Right now, restaurants have been allowed to operate at a 50% capacity, while catering venues are still capped at just 50 people. Those at the rally said desperate families, who have waited their whole lives to celebrate their special day, are more likely to host events elsewhere, instead of safely inside their chosen venue.

“These events haven’t stopped, these events moved,” said Gennaro Tallarico, manager of The Inn at Fox Hollow in Woodbury. “They moved into people’s homes, to their backyards. They moved into event spaces where they don’t have liquor licenses and who are not afraid to open up and break the rules. … By limiting us, it’s creating a more dangerous situation.”

Kiran Wadhwa and Indu Kaur of Port Jefferson Station’s The Meadow Club also showed their support, especially since their venue has three separate ballrooms. After having to close due to a fire in 2018, the club has been under renovation for more than two years, and then had to delay its reopening because of the pandemic.

“Not being able to open at 50% capacity would be devastating to our family business,” Wadhwa said. “We need to be able to recover the loss of two years of income, and we won’t be able to break even with 50-person events.”

Friday’s event was headed by Riverhead Town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio (R), who is also a candidate for New York State Assembly. She said the current 50-person limit these events are allowed is detrimental to not only anxious brides and grooms, but to the Long Island economy.

“Facilities with the capacity for 300, 500 and 700 guests are being forced to operate as if they were all the same size,” Giglio said. “They are going bankrupt and need to feed their families. We need the governor to let them safely serve their customers, put their employees back to work and pay their bills.”

Caterers across the state have filed a class-action lawsuit against Cuomo saying their businesses can be just as safe, if not safer. They argue that with many venues being able to hold more than 300 people, a 50% cap would still allow social distancing, with guests still being able to celebrate.

“An industry that is supposed to be happy is losing hope. It’s crushing the dreams of a fairytale wedding.”

Jodi Giglio

With the wedding industry on Long Island generating an estimated $6 million a year in sales tax, according to a representative from Scotto Brothers, as well as being one of the state’s largest employers, no one has made a profit this year thanks to COVID-19, and many businesses are on the brink of closure.

“An industry that is supposed to be happy is losing hope,” Giglio said. “It’s crushing the dreams of a fairytale wedding. … All of our local businesses have suffered. Our message to the governor is we can do this safely, we can adjust  — and flexibility is a must.”

Along with the maximum-person cap, mingling and dancing are also prohibited under the state’s executive order.

Heather Cunningham, founder of the website and online-based bridal group Brides of Long Island, said she is just seeking fairness.

“I’m not asking for a packed dance floor,” she said. “I’m asking for that moment where a father can dance with his little girl.”

“We need to look at things differently,” Suffolk County Legislator Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) said at the event. “They are responsible business owners. They know how to keep their customers safe.”

John Salkowsky, owner of Lindenhurst-based Silverfox, said that “catering halls are the heart and soul of our community.” Businesses, like his photography and videography service, then follow. “I hope this shines a bright light,” he said. “I hope this makes a change.”

The general feeling among owners is if things continue this way, many of them might have to close for good.

“We hope Governor Cuomo has heard our industry’s plea because we are suffering and cannot go on like this for any longer,” Wadhwa said.

The H. Lee Dennison Building lawn in Hauppauge was a sea of flags Oct. 4 as participants showed support for law enforcement officers across the state.

A few thousand people gathered around the war monuments in front of the Suffolk County building waving American, thin blue line and Trump 2020 flags at the “Back the Blue” rally organized by law enforcement associations and unions representing more than 80,000 law enforcement officers from the New York metropolitan region.

Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association President Noel DiGerolamo, Nassau County Police Benevolent Association President James McDermott, New York City Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch, U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY2), family members of fallen officers and more were on hand to address the crowd during the two-hour rally.

Genesis Familia, of the Bronx, was one of the first speakers and was visibly emotional. Her mother, New York Police Department Detective Miosotis Familia, was killed July 5, 2017, by a gunman while she sat in her mobile police command post in the Bronx. The 12-year veteran was 48 years old.

“Ever since that night, my life has been somewhat of a living nightmare,” the daughter said. “My mother was targeted for her blue uniform that she proudly wore for over a decade.”

Familia remembered the last time she saw her mother alive when she asked her for another hug before saying goodbye. She said after her mother’s murder she has helped raise her younger brother and sister. Officers like her mother at times sacrifice time with their families to protect all New Yorkers, Familia said, and she wanted to remind everyone that police officers are “human beings with families and loved ones who need them to come home, just like I needed my mom to come home to me that night.”

Kathy Vigiano, president of Survivors of the Shield, an advocate group for fallen police officers’ widows and children, had a plea for the press to report the “real numbers” regarding crime. Vigiano is a retired police officer and the widow of Joseph Vigiano, a police officer who died in the line of duty on 9/11.

“How many times do police officers put their lives on the line to take illegal guns off the street?” she asked. “New York City police officers took 607 guns off the street in the month of September alone without incident.”

She said officers put their lives in danger every time they stop someone.

“He doesn’t know who he’s stopping,” Vigiano said. “He doesn’t know when he pulls you over for a broken light who you are, but we all know who he is. It’s his job to ensure our safety. It’s his job to come home to his family. To the criminals I say, ‘How dare you? How dare you put his life in danger resisting whether passively or violently.’”

According to a press release from Suffolk PBA, crime is up in the state. It cites national numbers as at mid-July where the number of cops killed in the line of duty was 32, an increase of 28% compared to the previous year’s numbers. It also cites the murder rate in New York City which was up by 50% in August, according to NYPD data.

“The number of police officers killed in the line of duty has surged 28% nationally, as anti-police rhetoric, protesting and riots continue across the nation,” the local PBA said in the release.

During the rally, attendees would sporadically chant, “Back the blue,” and play sirens and blow horns, while drivers passing by on Veterans Highway could be heard honking and shouting words of encouragement.

Suffolk County Police said they arrested a man for alleged assault and driving while ability impaired by drugs and alcohol after he ran over his brother with a truck in the parking lot of a Hauppauge hotel Sunday, Aug. 9.

Police said brothers Thomas Delaney, 38, of Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, and Michael Dubhlaine, 36, of Port Jefferson, were engaged in a verbal argument in the parking lot of Hyatt Regency Long Island, located at 1717 Motor Parkway, at around 9:10 p.m. Sunday. Police said Delaney then got into his 2015 Ford F-250 pickup truck and “ran it over” Dubhlaine.

Dubhlaine was airlifted via Suffolk County Police helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of serious injuries.

Police charged Delaney with assault 2nd degree and driving while ability impaired/combination drugs and alcohol. He is being held overnight at the 4th Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Aug. 10.

Detectives are asking anyone who witnessed the incident to call the 4th Squad at 631-854-8452.

File photo.

Suffolk County Police last night arrested a woman for allegedly driving while intoxicated after her vehicle crashed into a utility pole and caught fire in Hauppauge July 29.

Melanie L’ hommedieu was driving a 2009 BMW southbound on Wheeler Road, at the intersection of Marlo Lane, when the vehicle crossed a double yellow line, crashed into a utility pole and caught fire at approximately 10:05 p.m. Two men in a vehicle traveling behind the BMW witnessed the crash and stopped to offer assistance. The Good Samaritans safely pulled L’hommedieu from the BMW. There were no injuries.

L’ hommedieu, 45, St. James, was arrested and charged with DWI, aggravated unlicensed operation and multiple traffic violations. She is being held overnight at the Fourth Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on July 30.

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File photo

Suffolk County Police Fourth Precinct officers May 8 arrested a Hauppauge man after he allegedly crashed into two police vehicles while fleeing police officers who were investigating him for a prior robbery.

Fourth Squad Special Operations detectives were heading to Rose Court in Hauppauge to conduct surveillance on the home of Theodore Martinez at approximately 4:45 p.m. Martinez, who was a suspect in a prior robbery, recognized the detectives as he was driving past them in a 2012 Volkswagen sedan and allegedly sped away. A few minutes later, Martinez’s car struck a marked police vehicle at Old Nichols Road near Motor Parkway, then fled the scene.

Police officers in the marked vehicle initiated a pursuit, but terminated the pursuit when the suspect entered a residential area in Hauppauge. Moments later, while police were canvassing the area, the suspect struck an unmarked detective vehicle with the Volkswagen, then allegedly fled that scene.

As Martinez was fleeing, he crashed the Volkswagen into the original marked vehicle on Wheeler Road, north of the North Service Road in Hauppauge, where he was arrested and taken into custody at 4:51 p.m.

Martinez, 32, was charged with robbery, two counts of criminal mischief, two counts of assault, criminal possession of a controlled substance, reckless driving, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, and unlawful fleeing. The suspect’s mother, Loretta Martines, 57, who was a passenger in the vehicle, was also arrested and charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance.

A police officer and a detective sustained minor injuries during the incident.

“Climate change is not a lie, please don’t let our planet die,” a crowd of more than 50 people yelled in unison in front of Suffolk County’s H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge Sept. 27. Students, community groups, environmental activists and elected officials gathered to call for immediate action by governments and corporations on the current climate emergency.   

Kallen Fenster, 13, speaks about the impact of climate change. Photo by David Luces

The protest came on the last day of the Global Climate Strike, spearheaded by 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg, who joined some 250,000 protesters in Manhattan Sept. 20. 

Kallen Fenster, a 13-year-old middle school student and founder of the youth organization Leadership for Environmental and Animal Protection, spoke on the effects climate change could have on future generations. 

“Myself and the others here are like millions around the world that we represent today that are worried for their lives and yours,” he said. “Entire species are dying, our oceans are filthy with plastic waste, our beaches are unsafe to swim in, the air is polluted. What hope is there for my future children, or even worse, theirs?” 

The middle schooler called on lawmakers to put more of an emphasis on climate change policy. 

“Tonight, we the youth demand that local, state and federal lawmakers put climate policy first,” Fenster said. “We ask every adult to be a climate action hero and advance policy that will protect communities and its families. It will take all of us, it will take work and it will take sacrifices, but we have no choice, we have no ‘planet B.’”

Other youth activists who spoke at the protest had similar sentiments. 

Gabe Finger, a 7-year-old elementary student, said he wants more people to take this movement seriously. 

“I want people to stop seeing climate change as a political belief and look at it as the dire crisis it is,” he said. “More and more people are seeing that global warming is something not to be ignored. This is not just a fight for the environment, but a fight for our lives — do whatever you can to help because hope is not lost yet.” 

Camilla Riggs, a student at The Laurel Hill School in East Setauket, mentioned climate change will affect everyone. 

“You may not believe in the science but it doesn’t mean you are immune to it or your children’s children. This is not about us anymore, this is about the future of all of us,” she said.

Elected officials called out the current White House administration, which has dialed back on climate change reform.  

“This president has engaged in an assault on all previous efforts to control and contain these greenhouse gas emissions, leaving the Paris accord was an embarrassment, said state Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove). “It is hard to imagine an American president would hire the worst polluters to run the agencies that are supposed to protect us.” 

Lavine said despite that, the state has started to move in the right direction in curbing greenhouse emissions. He mentioned the state Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, congestion pricing going into effect in New York City and a ban on single-use plastic as key steps forward. 

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) said we hopefully haven’t run out of time when it comes to climate change. 

“We have to hand [the Earth] over to them responsibly but, to be honest with you, my generation hasn’t been responsible and we have to step up to the plate,” he said.

Elmer Flores, of New York’s 2nd District Democrats, spoke on how climate change is already affecting certain communities. 

“Our low-income communities and minority population will disproportionately feel the negative impacts of climate change,” he said. “Research has shown that climate change, if left unaddressed, will worsen or cause unintended health consequences.”

Flores mentioned that when it comes to air quality, Hispanic and Latino residents have an asthma hospitalization rate that’s three times more than their white counterparts.  

Cheryl Steinhauer, special events manager of Hauppauge-based Long Island Cares, which helped organize the event with Action Together Long Island, spoke on the importance of calling for change. 

“I feel like this is a necessary thing to do. There are a lot of issues at the moment but really this is at the top and most important, at least to me, is taking care of our planet,” she said.

Location is largest of its kind in the United States

LGBT Network President David Kilmnick and state, county and town officials help cut the ribbon on the new 15,000 square-foot Hauppauge facility. Photo from DuWayne Gregory’s office

For Long Island’s LGBT community, a new 15,000 square-foot center is hoping to become the go-to center for helping those in the gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

“Twenty-five years later that need is just as great, if not even greater considering the climate we live in today — hate crimes are on the rise.”

— David Kilmnick

On May 31, on the eve of Pride Month, community members and elected officials gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the nonprofit association LGBT Network’s new facility at 125 Kennedy Drive, Suite 100, Hauppauge. 

The new center will feature 7,500 square feet of community space which includes a café and workforce development program for young people. The Hauppauge facility will be the nation’s largest suburban LGBT center yet.

When LGBT Network president and CEO, David Kilmnick, began the organization 25 years ago, individuals were simply looking for a place to be themselves. 

“Twenty-five years later that need is just as great, if not even greater considering the climate we live in today — hate crimes are on the rise,” he said.

The organization started during Kilmnick’s time as a graduate student. As part of a project, he conducted a workshop in several school districts throughout Long Island, talking to students about growing up LGBT in the suburbs.

He said after every workshop a few individuals would come up and ask him if there was a place to go where they could meet people like themselves. 

“When I heard this from kids across the Island, I knew this project had to turn into something more,” he said. 

The new site will include meeting and conference facilities, expansive health and human service programs including drop-in HIV testing five days a week, year-round arts and cultural programs, as well as additional services for LGBT-headed families and LGBT immigrants. The LGBT Network will employ more than 55 full-time staff at the new facility, making it one of the top 10 percent of employers in the region.

The LGBT Network president said he has heard from numerous individuals that if it wasn’t for the organization they don’t know if they’d be alive. 

“Now there is a safe place for our youth and others to go.”

— DuWayen Gregory

“Our centers are saving lives every day, and this center will continue to do that for now and the next generations,” he said. “So today we begin a new chapter in helping all Long Islanders to be themselves, stay healthy and change the world.” 

Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) shared his personal experiences of being a parent to his son, who came out to him as gay when he was 12 while they were getting ice cream. 

“At first I was concerned, you don’t want your child to be a target,” he said. “Now there is a safe place for our youth and others to go.”

Gregory said he has supported the organization for quite some time and is glad the new site is finally open. 

“This center will be great for future
generations,” he said. 

The nonprofit’s reach extends now into Long Island City all the way to the East End. The organization is supporting an initiative called Teach LGBT NY, which is a bill that will require LGBT history to be required curriculum.

Also, in a couple of months, shovels will go into the ground in Bay Shore at the organization’s former center location to build 75 units of LGBT and LGBT-friendly affordable senior housing.

By Bill Landon

The Warriors continued their winning ways defeating Hauppauge, 17-4, at home in a Div II matchup April 2. 

The victory extends Comsewogue’s winning streak to four in a row with a record of 4-0 in league, 4-1 overall. Senior attack T.J. Heyder tallied five assists and two goals, and Sean Kennedy recorded three goals and three assists for the Warriors. Senior Chris Wolfe stretched the net three times and Jake Deacy split the pipes twice.

Hauppauge’s Riley Henselder had one goal along with an assist, and Andrew Sellitto, Dylan Sas and Andrew Maiorini also scored.

Comsewogue hits the road on April 6 against Kings Park while Hauppauge retakes the field hosting Harborfields April 4. Game times are scheduled for 10 a.m and 4:30 p.m. respectively. 

By Bill Landon

Hauppauge’s girls basketball team led by seven after the first eight minutes of play but the visiting Mustangs of Mount Sinai, the No. 5 seed, slammed the door, outscoring the Eagles 14-5 before exploding in the 3rd quarter. Mount Sinai senior guard Gabby Sartori caught fire, swishing 3-pointers from seemingly anywhere to lead her team to a 56-43 win, upsetting top-seeded Hauppauge in a class A semifinal game Feb. 16.

Sartori’s hot hand led the way for the Mustangs, hitting four triples, four field goals and a free throw for 21 points. Sartori tallied three assists and eight rebounds to boot. Senior Brooke Cergol hit four field goals, a trey and a pair of free throws for 13 while senior teammate Holly McNair banked 12.

Hauppauge sophomore guard Kayla Bullard topped the scoring chart for the Eagles, tallying 13 followed by junior forward Lauren Romito who chipped in 10.

The win pit the Mustangs against Westhampton Feb. 20 at Centereach High School which they won, and now they will face Pierson High School for small school champion title Feb. 27 at 4:30 in Walt Whitman High School.

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The space in Smithtown where Chick-fil-A wants to establish a new branch. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Chick-fil-A is finally coming to Hauppauge, though the last store operating where the corporate company intends to build doesn’t see much of a reason to celebrate.

“We knew it was going to happen, but of course it’s very sad because we’ve been there for over 30 years,” said Donna Ahr, matriarch of the family-run Bagel Gallery Inc., locally known as Hot Bagels in Hauppauge and Smithtown.

The bagel shop is the last store that remains open in the doomed shopping plaza.

We knew it was going to happen, but of course it’s very sad because we’ve been there for over 30 years.”

— Donna Ahr

The Town of Smithtown town council conditionally approved the site plan for the restaurant chain to demolish the existing 15,743-square-foot  shopping center at the corner of Route 347 and Route 111 in Hauppauge to make room for a 4,650-square-foot counter-service restaurant.

The round-the-clock open bagel shop has endured in that location since 1980, owned and operated by the Ahr family since 1985. In 2016, local residents got wind that Chick-fil-A was intending to tear down the shopping center where Hot Bagels was located to put in one of its restaurants. In the months that followed, close to 5,000 people signed a Change.org petition to try and keep Hot Bagels around. Though the fast-food chain won its petition for a zoning change two years ago to create a drive-thru, the restaurant’s site plans were only approved this month.

“I got a year and half more out of it than I originally thought I would, so God is good,” Ahr said.

The location houses two shopping centers, both of which are independently owned. Those stores in the building directly opposite the impending Chick-fil-A fear what could happen once construction begins.

It’s going to kill my business, or at least hurt my business with all the construction going on.”

— Tony Barbato

“It’s going to kill my business, or at least hurt my business with all the construction going on,” said Tony Barbato, the owner of Ciro’s Pizza located at 550 Route 347. “I think the chicken shop coming in is the stupidest thing ever. Everybody in that shopping center was pretty successful, but then they threw everybody out so they could send more money to [a national corporation] instead of keeping it local.”

In February 2018, the Ahr family opened up a second location along Hauppauge Road in Smithtown, a little less than two miles from their  original storefront. Even though Ahr and her family appreciate that many of their loyal customers will still be sticking around, their old location is where the family holds many of their fondest memories.

“It will be a very sad thing when the store goes because as much as people love the new location its still not the store that we all grew up in; my customers, me, my kids, my customers kids,” she said.

The approved Chick-fil-A site plans call for a reconfiguration of the parking lot surrounding both current shopping centers to allow for drive- thru access and additional spaces.

“It will be a very sad thing when the store goes because as much as people love the new location its still not the store that we all grew up in.” 

— Donna Ahr

Al Amato, founder of the Garden City-based Amato Law Group, PLLC, who is representing Chick-fil-A, attended the Sept. 20 meeting and said both locations would provide an adequate amount of parking individually, and that the new property would not block access to the other shopping center. Neither Amato nor a representative of Chick-fil-A were available to say when demolition on the old structure and construction of the new restaurant will begin.

In the meantime, Bagel Gallery is the last store in that shopping center that remains open. Ahr said she has been notified a tentative date to move out is Nov.10. She said she hopes to host a going away party for their old shop before they have to close for good.

“When I do have the exact date I want to do [something] special,” Ahr said. “They will tear it down in front of our eyes, and we’re all going to cry.”