Tags Posts tagged with "Huntington Station"

Huntington Station

Three candidates for Huntington Town Board debate the issues facing town government. From left, Theresa Mari, Jen Hebert and Don McKay. Photo by Raymond Janis

By Nasrin Zahed

Huntington Town Board candidates Jen Hebert (D), Theresa Mari (R) and Don McKay (D) came together in a recent TBR News Media interview held Friday, Oct. 20, to share their thoughts on issues facing their community and their strategies to address them. Brooke Lupinacci (R) did not attend. There are two open seats on the board.


Huntington’s town budget concerns revolve around multiple factors, including a decrease in revenue from sources like mortgage tax receipts. With economic uncertainties placing pressure on finances, the candidates acknowledged the need for a comprehensive budget strategy.

McKay highlighted the significant unallocated fund balance, suggesting a prudent approach for addressing projects such as public amenities. “The budget could be managed by tapping into the town’s unallocated fund balance, which currently stands at $27 million,” he indicated. “We need to use these reserves wisely to address shortfalls in the budget, particularly for projects like maintaining local sports fields.”

Hebert also stressed the need for better budgetary management. “I really am looking to be a good steward of taxpayer money,” she said, adding that the town should be working to have a more open-ended discussion regarding budget related issues and spending, and looking at ways to put funds back into the community’s small business scene. “Small businesses are a vital part of our local economy,” she said. 

Mari added to this discussion, advocating for a resident-centric budget plan and limiting overspending wherever necessary.

“I think it’s a matter of ensuring we are not overspending — cutting where we can and making sure we all work together to try and make sure that everybody’s open and transparent, and that the budget is good for our community,” Mari said. “The top priority always has to be what benefits the Town of Huntington and its residents.”

Land use

One issue that resonated with all the candidates was overdevelopment, each stressing the importance of ensuring that development aligns with the character of the existing community. 

Each candidate emphasized the need for transparency and community involvement in the decision-making process regarding development projects. Balancing growth and preserving the town’s unique identity emerged as a common goal.

All candidates agreed that balancing the budget and managing taxes is a crucial task for the Town Board. They shared a commitment to keeping taxes at bay, especially during challenging financial times.

Hebert emphasized the importance of responsible budgeting and partnering with developers in order to provide new and affordable housing options to the area.

With concerns about community youths not having the opportunity to grow and afford to live on Long Island, she added, “We should transform empty commercial spaces into attractive, affordable housing options. This approach provides homes for a diverse range of residents and improves the town’s financial health by generating revenue from otherwise vacant properties.”

Mari noted the importance of maintaining the town’s charm and collective visual appeal. “The fact is, any building should fit in the character of the community. At one point, Classic Galleries was looking at putting up six apartments, and that just doesn’t work in our village,” she said. Sharing her commitment to keeping gaudy development projects out of Huntington’s view, she stated, “I will look at each project very closely, and each project will get evaluated on its own merits.”

McKay stressed the consequences of projects such as the Indian Hills Golf Course in Northport that are underway. “This project was an absolute disaster,” he said. “They had environmental reviews by scientists saying that you can’t do X, Y and Z. They ignored all the studies … and they’re actually being built as we speak.”

He continued by pointing to perceived faults during the site plan approval process, arguing that the town’s municipal boards largely excluded residents from the decision-making process. 

“They’re advocating on behalf of developers, not advocating on behalf of the residents of town,” he said.

Quality of life

The candidates also shared their perspectives on improving the quality of life in Huntington. Each candidate expressed a common and urgent need to give the Town of Huntington their best foot forward.

Hebert expressed her commitment to enhancing community services for youth, saying, “We need to get the kids early, [but] we don’t offer them enough programs and options. They’re going home to empty houses, they’ve got social media, they need to have more options.”

She pointed out that students need opportunities that allow them to grow in the safety of their local area so that when it is time for them to be on their own, they are ready.

Mari gave an overview of Huntington’s broader quality of life needs: “Making sure that we are representing our community, holding the line on taxes, making sure that our community feels safe, that they don’t feel overburdened, that they feel like they can drink their water, they can go to their beaches, they can go to their parks, and they can live in Huntington [and] keep it their home.”

McKay pressed on the importance of being a board member for the people. A “Town Board member needs to be responsive,” he said. “To improve the quality of life for the residents of Huntington, there need to be public figures working to get projects done that revitalize and work toward a greater collective township.”

Local revitalization

Huntington Station, the candidates acknowledged, faces a set of complex local challenges. Crime rates, particularly property crimes, have been a cause for concern, requiring focused law enforcement efforts and community engagement. Additionally, infrastructure improvements and revitalization efforts are needed to address aging buildings and public spaces.

The candidates expressed their commitment to revitalizing and improving this area of the town.

Hebert urged the unique claim that Huntington Station is the immediate reflection of what the Town of Huntington can do. “That is the gateway to Huntington as you come down [Route] 110,” she said. “We want people as they drive through Huntington Station to look around and think to themselves what a beautiful neighborhood this is.”

By renewing aging spaces and breathing new life into them, Huntington Station has the opportunity to become a thriving district of growth that leads into an already prosperous and attractive town. “We do need to try to give that community the things they not only want, but that they need,” Hebert added.

Mari put great emphasis on the safety concerns related to the area, as residents have come forward with small measures they feel would make their neighborhoods more comfortable. “People say to me that it is as simple as they need more lights in their neighborhoods because of the concern of safety,” she said. “Revitalizing Huntington Station is to make sure that we have enough police to make sure that the area is safe.”

McKay underlined that, financially, the town is in a prosperous position to be able to invest back into that area of the community. “The good news is we got money from the state and so there is money available — that’s the positive thing right now,” he said, adding that there are too many ideas to start solidly and that the community must come together in deciding what route to take. “But the golden question is, how do you use it? What are the next steps in revitalizing an area such as Huntington Station?”

Residents will have the final say on these Town Board candidates. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

State Assemblyman Steve Stern at Friday's press conference with county DA Ray Tierney and the family members of murder victim Luis Cameron Rimmer-Hernandez. Photo from Stern's office

With the help of a local assemblyman, a high-tech tool used to fight crime is returning to Huntington Station.

Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney (R) and state Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix HIlls) held a press conference at the DA’s office on July 8 to announce that Suffolk County Police Department’s 2nd Precinct will once again be utilizing ShotSpotter. The system detects where a gun is fired and then relays the information to local law enforcement.

It will be relaunched in Huntington Station, which was chosen due to a spike in gun violence in that community.

The DA’s office will receive a $250,000 county grant for the system. Tierney appeared before the Suffolk County Legislature to request funding for a countywide program in June to which Stern immediately responded.

“The money that Assemblyman Stern has given us will save lives,” Tierney said. “ShotSpotter will prevent shootings, because criminals will know that the police will be there in near minutes. Quick response by police will also allow police to quickly render aid to any victims.”

He added the technology will help the DA’s office to start its investigations earlier. Tierney said that while it’s not “a cure-all,” ShotSpotter is a tool in an overall approach.

As part of a $1 million public safety package, Stern also secured $500,000 for the DA’s office to enhance and update electronic surveillance equipment; $250,000 for the SCPD to purchase mobile plate readers; and $10,000 for Tierney’s office from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant. The latter funds can be used at the DA’s discretion for law enforcement, prosecution and crime prevention matters.

Stern thanked community members for their input, including Erica Rimmer who lost her son Luis Cameron Rimmer-Hernandez last summer when he was shot and killed. Rimmer and her family were in attendance at Friday’s press conference.

“I will always be the first to say that the best ideas always come from my neighbors, and that’s what makes today so important,” the assemblyman said. “This is an effort, really from all of us, particularly our district attorney, who has made it his business — and that of his outstanding staff — to go out to the community and learn from residents what’s important to them.”

He added Suffolk County residents value quality of life and public safety. 

“That means that we must always have the most-qualified local law enforcement,” Stern said. “We must always have the very best trained public-safety officials. That also means that it’s imperative to have the most advanced and cutting-edge technology, which is such an important part of fighting crime today and going forward into the future.”

The county eliminated funding for ShotSpotter in 2018. At the time, it was deemed ineffective; however, technology has advanced significantly, according to Tierney. The DA added that the system now uses an app, where the ShotSpotter notification will go straight to a squad card instead of a call going to a dispatcher. The police officers will be given a map with directions, number of shots, location, and the system can provide the elevation of shots.

Tierney said that 50% of all shootings between 2019 and 2022 occurred in 22 square miles in Suffolk spread out over nine areas in the county. In addition to Huntington Station, the communities are Wyandanch, Brentwood, Central Islip, Bay Shore, Gordon Heights, Mastic Beach, North Bellport and North Amityville and represent 10% of Suffolk. He said the hope is to extend the ShotSpotter system to every such area in the 22 square miles.

“We want to provide safety for all of the citizens in those communities,” he said.

Sal Ferro

Even before being elected to Huntington’s Town Board in November, Sal Ferro (R) strived to make his community and the surrounding areas a better place to live.

Ferro, president and CEO of Alure Home Improvements in Commack, also heads up the Ferro Foundation. The nonprofit organization is committed to helping those in need, especially students, seniors and veterans. The foundation offers an annual scholarship fund for Long Island students and assists local seniors and veterans with minor home improvements.

Seth Selesnow, director of marketing at Alure and a Ferro Foundation board member, said Ferro and the board members had been discussing starting a foundation for a while. 

“Sal has always been incredibly philanthropic in the community, with his employees and family, and he always talked about starting his own charity one day,” Selesnow said. “We support a lot of endeavors, and year after year he would always say, ‘Eventually we have to start our own charity and do some of this stuff.’”

Selesnow said the scholarship program awards one four-year scholarship a year where a student receives $2,500 a year. One of the recipients, Cheyenna Bardsley of Freeport, graduated from high school in 2020. She is currently in her second year at Farmingdale State College SUNY studying law enforcement management and criminal justice.

Ferro on a work site for Alure Home Improvements. Photo from the Ferro Foundation

She said she first heard about the scholarship through a family friend and said to be eligible she had to write two essays. Bardsley said when she heard there would only be one winner, she didn’t think she would have much of a chance and was surprised when she was notified that she was the winner. The college student said she was grateful for the scholarship that supplemented other financial aid she received.

“I don’t have to worry about where the money is coming from,” she said. “I’m not in any student debt or anything. So, it’s a real advantage.”

As for the home care arm of the foundation, Selesnow said it has helped seniors and veterans with minor home repairs such as wheelchair ramps, grab bars or roof repairs. The foundation also supports other charities and endeavors such as Farmingdale College Foundation, Nassau Community College and the United Way.

While working on homes for paid jobs enables the employees to see what repairs one may need, Alure Home Improvements gained widespread attention when Ferro and his team appeared a few times on the original “Extreme Makeover” series, which aired on ABC from 2003-12. The company’s appearance on the show led to many calling the company asking if Alure Home Improvements could work on their houses. 

“It was overwhelming,” Selesnow said. “At least by creating a charity, it gave us somewhere to say, ‘Go fill out an application,’ and we at least have a board that can look at it and vote on those things.”

Selesnow said when the team worked on the episodes of “Extreme Makeover,” Ferro shut down the company and the workers were with the show for at least one week at a time per house. The marketing director added that some even volunteered to work extra hours on the homes. Ferro donated the labor to the show’s projects.

Selesnow said it was no surprise that the workers volunteered for extra time as Alure is a reflection of Ferro’s personality, who he described as “a unique individual” with so much compassion in his heart.

“I never in my life walked into a company like Alure where everybody was just so friendly and family oriented and actually was so helpful,” he said.

He said when he first started with the company he would tell his ex-wife that he couldn’t believe the work environment was real.

“I came to realize this is no accident,” Selesnow said. “This is from top down.”

When Ferro decided to run for town council, Selesnow supported him and was Ferro’s campaign finance chair despite, Selesnow said, the two of them being on different ends of the political spectrum.

“Even though we’re not aligned on some things politically, I do believe that he’s a very unique type of person who can listen to both sides and make a decision based on what makes the most sense and not party lines,” Selesnow said.

Ferro’s fellow councilman-elect, David Bennardo (R), agreed. He said Ferro “brings people together, and he makes them find their commonalities.” When Bennardo decided to run for office, he had a vision of a change regarding traditional party politics, and he said Ferro shared that vision.

“We wanted to demonstrate to people that you can work as ladies and gentlemen in politics, and I think that’s what excited me so much about working with Sal as he is truly a gentleman leader,” Bennardo said.

As a former school principal in the South Huntington school district, Bennardo has known Ferro for 20 years when the latter’s children were in school.

While Bennardo was a principal, he was able to see Ferro in action with his charitable projects, as he turned to him a couple of times to “quietly help out families who were in a jam.” He said each time Ferro responded with no questions asked. 

“He feels people’s pain,” Bennardo said. “He really does. He’s got tremendous empathy. In fact, that’s probably his greatest strength.”

File photo

Suffolk County Police 2nd Squad detectives are investigating an incident during which a teenager was shot in Huntington Station early in the morning Sept. 8.

A 19-year-old female was on the first floor of a home located on East 9th Street, off Depot Road, when she was struck in the leg by one of several gunshots fired from outside the residence at approximately 12:45 a.m. The victim was transported to Huntington Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries. There were no other injuries.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on the shooting to contact the 2nd Squad at 631-854-8252 or Crime Stoppers at 800-220-TIPS. All calls will remain confidential.

Photo depicting where Harrison was when the vehicle struck the protester. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Suffolk County Police arrested a man they said allegedly falsely reported that he was struck by a car during a protest in Huntington Station earlier this week.

Keith Harrison, 56, was at a Black Lives Matter protest on Broadway July 6 when a vehicle driven by Anthony Cambareri, of Coram, allegedly struck protesters at around 6:45 p.m.

Police said Harrison allegedly filed a police report, stating he was also struck and was transported to Huntington Hospital.

An investigation by 2nd Squad detectives determined Harrison was not struck. Police provided media with the image show of who they say is Harrison not near where the car originally struck protesters.

He was arrested at his home in Hempstead, at around 4:30 p.m. July 8 and was charged with falsely reporting an incident. He was issued a field appearance ticket and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip July 28.

Another man, Jeremiah Bennett, 26 of East Meadow, was treated for non-life threatening injuries at Huntington Hospital. Bennett alleged on Facebook the vehicle sped up when he came near protesters. Other activists have started a campaign to advocate for more serious charges against Cambareri.

No attorney information for Cambareri is yet available. He is set to appear in front of Suffolk First District Court July 24.

Suffolk County police car. File photo

At about 1:30 a.m. May 26, Suffolk County Police officers rescued five people, including a 6-year old and a 15-year old, from a fire in Huntington Station.

After a 911 call, officers found the building at 1344 New York Avenue, which has a commercial business on the first floor and two apartments on the second floor, on fire.

The family at the rear of the building climbed to the roof, where they awaited help. Officer Giacomo Marchese steadied a ladder as Officer John Farrell and Michael Haggerty climbed to the roof.

Farrell handed the 6-year old to Haggerty, who carried the child to safety. The officers escorted the other family members off the roof. The family went to Huntington Hospital as a precaution.

Meanwhile, Officer Matthew Berube entered the burning building in a street level entrance, climbed to the second floor and escorted a woman, who was unharmed, out of the building.

“Five lives were saved today in part due to the immediate actions of these four Suffolk County police officers,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart in a statement. “Every day, police officers put on their uniform not knowing what is ahead of them and today, these officers risked their lives running toward a burning building to save Huntington Station residents. The Suffolk County Police family could not be more proud of these heroic officers.”

The cause of the fire appears to be non-criminal, according to an SCPD spokesperson.

Suffolk's own data shows areas with large numbers of black and latino populations have been impacted greatly by the ongoing pandemic. Photo screenshot from Suffolk data map

Black and Latino communities have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and on Long Island where communities are as segregated as they are, much of it comes down to geography.

COVID-19 cases in Suffolk County have an identifiable curve. Data on maps provided by Suffolk County show a darkening red on a path rolling from the eastern end of the Island toward the west, homing in on the western center of the Island — Wyandanch, Brentwood and Huntington Station. In such areas, data also shows, is also where many minority communities live.

Suffolk County health services commissioner Gregson Pigott shares COVID facts in Spanish online April 8. Photo from Facebook video

Data from New York State’s Department of Health maps shows the coronavirus has disproportionately harmed black and Latino communities. Brentwood in particular has shown 3,473 cases, or nearly 55 per 1,000 persons. New York State Education Department data shows the Brentwood school district, as just an example, is nearly 85 percent Latino and almost 10 percent black. Huntington Station, another example of a location with large black and Latino populations, has just over 1,000 cases, or 33 persons per 1,00 have the virus. As testing continues, those numbers continue to grow.

Though data showing the numbers of COVID-19 deaths is out of date, numbers from New York’s Covid tracker website show the percent of black residents who died from the virus was 12 percent, higher than the 8 percent share of the overall Suffolk population. For Latino residents, the fatality percent was 14 percent, lower than their population of 19 percent.

While whites make up 81 percent of the population, their proportion of residents confirmed with the virus is only 64 percent. If the white population were suffering the same proportionate death ratio higher than their overall population, then dozens more white people would have already perished from COVID-19.

“I’m not surprised by the information given,” said Brookhaven town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station). “We need to be testing as much as possible, we need to be tracing, we need to make sure once we get that under control, we need to make sure people get treated.”

The COVID Hot Zones

Toward the beginning of April, Suffolk County established three “hot spot” testing centers in Wyandanch, Brentwood and Huntington. Those sites quickly established a higher rate of positive cases compared to the county’s other sites, especially the testing center at Stony Brook University. A little more than a week ago, such hot spot sites were showing 53 percent of those tested were positive. On Tuesday, April 29, that number dropped slightly to 48 percent hot spot positive tests compared to 38 percent for the rest of the county.

Though such testing centers didn’t arrive until more than a month into the crisis, county leadership said plans for such sites developed as data slowly showed where peak cases were. 

“When we started working with the IT department to find the addresses where these cases were, Southold was leading,” said Dr. Gregson Pigott, the Suffolk Department of Health Services commissioner. “Then Huntington Station became the hot spot. Then Brentwood became the leader in cases, and to this day Brentwood has the most cases.”

Suffolk County has also started plans for recovery after things finally start to open up. The Recovery Task Force is being headed by multiple partners, including Vanessa Baird Streeter, an assistant deputy county executive.

The task force will need to provide aid, but Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said there needs to be emphasis on addressing the glaring inequities, and put an emphasis on “coming back stronger.”

“There’s no question the issue is we know there have been disparities,” he said. “The crisis like this is only going to exacerbate those issues and have those disparities grow.”

But as it became clear to officials the virus was greatly impacting the majority of minority communities harder than others, said communities were watching day by day how the virus was upending lives, infecting whole households and leaving many without any chance of providing for their families.

Latino Community During Coronavirus

Martha Maffei, the executive director for Latino and immigrant advocacy group SEPA Mujer, said Latino communities are hit so hard especially because of many people’s employment. Either they were effectively let go, or they are working in jobs that if they tried to take time off, they would be out of a job. Instead, such workers, even in what has already been deemed “nonessential business,” are still going to work even in places where workers have already gotten sick.

“We were receiving calls of jobs they know the workplace has been infected, they continue to ask employees to come to work,” she said. “They don’t have the option to say no, because they’re basically forcing them and they don’t want to lose their jobs.”

A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in early April found approximately 41 percent of Latinos have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic, compared to just 24 percent white and 32 blacks being laid off or furloughed. This jives with research showing about 50 percent of people on the lower income scale have either lost their job or had to take a pay cut.

Many who relied on their jobs to support their families have now lost them completely, and since many are undocumented, they have no access to any kind of federal assistance. In homes that are often multigenerational and cramped, workers out on the front lines come home and have very little means of sequestering themselves.

SEPA Mujer shows their support for immigrants by donning yellow bracelets. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

SEPA Mujer also advocates for women in violent domestic situations, and Maffei said its crisis hotline phone has been ringing daily. Bellone has told reporters the incidents of domestic violence are up 3.5 percent from early to mid April.

At issue is the immigrant community’s trust in local government and law enforcement, and that same government’s ability to get the life-saving and virus-mitigating information to them.

The hot spot testing centers now include Spanish-speaking translators, at least one per each, according to Pigott. Bellone also announced, working with nonprofits Island Harvest and Long Island Cares, they are providing food assistance to visitors at the testing sites. Brentwood is already seeing those activities, and Wyandanch will also start providing food April 30.

When the first hot spot site opened in Huntington Station, Maffei said she had clients who were struggling to schedule an appointment. Though she suspects it has gotten better with more sites opening up in western Suffolk, true help to the community should come in the form of facilitating access to information. 

“We’re trying to do the best we can, but a lot of people don’t have access to the internet, don’t have Facebook,” Maffei said. 

Pigott related the county is providing multi-language information via their website and brochures at the testing sites, but community advocates argue there is a demand for such details of where people can get tested and how they can prevent infection, straight into the hands of people, possibly through mailings or other mass outreach.

Why Minority Communities are Vulnerable

Medical and social scientists, in asking the first and likely most important question, “why?” said the historic inequities in majority minority populations are only exacerbated by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. 

Dr. Johanna Martinez, a physician with Northwell, is in the midst of helping conduct a research project to work out the variables that are leading to how the pandemic has deepened and exacerbated existing inequities.

“It’s not something biological that is different between black and Latino people. It really is the historical inequities, like racism, that has led to the patients being marginalized,” Martinez said. “It is most closely linked to social determinants.”

The links are plain, she said, in socioeconomic status, and perhaps most importantly, one’s access to health care. Immigrant communities are especially likely to lack insurance and easy communication with doctors. It’s hard for one to know if one’s symptoms should necessitate a hospital visit if one also doesn’t have a doctor within phone’s reach. It also means an increased spread of the virus and a potential increased load on hospitals.

“If you’re uninsured, the place where you’re going to get health care from is the emergency room,” the Northwell doctor said. “Right now, we’re trying to use telemedicine, but if you don’t have an established primary care doctor, you don’t have the ability to speak to the doctor of the symptoms you’re having and if this is something you can stay home for or go to the hospital.”

Current data released by New York State has mostly been determining age, as its well-known vulnerable people include the elderly, but Martinez’ data is adjusting for other things like comorbidities. Data shows that diabetes, hypertension and obesity put one at a higher risk for COVID-19-related death, and studies have shown poorer or communities of people of color are at higher risk for such diseases. 

“It’s almost like a double whammy,” she said. “It’s something that makes them even more vulnerable to a very serious disease.”

“It’s not something biological that is different between black and Latino people. It really is the historical inequities, like racism, that has led to the patients being marginalized.”

— Dr. Johanna Martinez

Housing is also a factor. Once one leaves the hospital, or on recommendation from a doctor, it’s easy to tell people who are showing symptoms to isolate a certain part of the house, but for a large family living in a relatively small space, that might just be impossible.

Whether Suffolk’s numbers detailing the number of confirmed COVID patients is accurate, Martinez said she doubts it, especially looking at nationally. Newsday recently reported, upon looking at towns’ death certificates compared to New York’s details on fatalities, there could be many more COVID deaths than currently thought.

“We need more testing to see the prevalence in certain communities,” she said.

Cartright, who works as a civil rights attorney, said these factors are what the government should be looking at as the initial wave of COVID-19 patients overall declines.

“We know black people are dying at a disproportionate rate,” she said. “We need to look at how many people are living in the same household, how many people actually have health care, how many are undocumented who were scared of going to the emergency room. There are so many factors we need to be able to take a look at.” 

Stock photo

Several weeks after viral hotspot testing sites in Suffolk County opened, the percentage of positive tests is coming back higher than for other areas.

After 1,077 people were tested in six sites, including Huntington Station and Wyandanch, 577 people tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19.

“That is definitely a lot higher than the overall number in the county, which stands at 40 percent,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on his daily conference call with reporters.

By testing in these communities, the county hopes not only to get an idea of the rate of infection in these areas, but also to communicate the importance of social distancing and isolating for people who have positive tests.

“By doing the testing, we have the direct one-on-one contact with patients and it is with Spanish speaking health professionals who can have an effective dialog,” Bellone said. The communication is “well-received by the patients.”

For some residents who live in more densely populated areas or who share a home with others who might have underlying medical conditions or whose age makes them vulnerable to the virus, the county has offered housing on a case-by-case bases, Bellone said. That has included hotels and shelters.

These situations could include people who are “coming out of a hospital where there is an issue in a home with vulnerable people,” Bellone said. “It’s not just with hotspot areas.”

Bellone also shared the results of broader testing throughout New York that Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has conducted to determine the rate of infection, which could include people who were asymptomatic or who had mild symptoms that dissipated quickly enough not to merit testing.

Based on preliminary data, Suffolk County could have about 250,000 people who have the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

If that’s the case, “that tells us that there are a huge number of people who have had the virus and didn’t know they had it,” Bellone said. A scaled up testing program to detect the presence or the virus or of antibodies, along with an aggressive contact tracing program, could enable the county to contain the virus.

That could mean that Suffolk County could “reopen our economy with protective measures in place,” Bellone said. The testing and contact tracing, which former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Johns Hopkins University committed to supporting, are “very good news,” with the caveat that the county needs to “see those full results,” Bellone added.

The number of people who tested positive in the county in the last day was 709, which means that more than 30,000 people have received positive tests for the coronavirus.

The closely-watched hospitalization number dropped again in the last day, falling by 37 to 1,340 residents. The number of people in Intensive Care Unit beds has also declined by five to 494.

For the second straight day, about 10 percent of the population of people with COVID-19, or 131 people, have been discharged from the hospital.

The death toll also continues to climb towards 1,000, with 33 people dying from complications related to COVID-19, bringing the number for the county to 959.

On the supply front, the county executive’s office distributed over 24,000 pieces of personal protective equipment yesterday. The county also received 80,000 ear loop masks from New York State.

The procurement team in Bellone’s office received 27,000 isolation gowns, which have been in short supply and high demand.

The Stony Brook University Hospital extension, which was an all-out effort as the hospitalization was climbing dramatically, is completed. The beds at the facility are not occupied.

“I don’t think there are plans right now” to use those beds, Bellone said. “We are working to prevent a second wave rom happening. We know that has happened in past pandemics.”

A blood sample with respiratory coronavirus positive. Stock photo

Starting today, Suffolk County is providing free testing, by appointment only, at Huntington Station as a part of the county’s efforts to develop a hotspot testing program for communities struggling with a higher incidence of coronavirus infections.

Additionally, Suffolk County will open testing sites in Brentwood and Riverhead on Friday and is searching for additional sites.

Hotspot testing is “targeted and focused on those communities where we are seeing higher rates happening,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said on a daily conference call with reporters. Testing will hopefully allow the county to get a better understanding of what the numbers are and will help people battling symptoms of COVID-19 to connect with necessary resources.

Bellone thanked Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, who connected county officials with Reef Technology, which is a large scale logistics company. At no cost, Reef will provide tents and help to handle the logistics at these sites, Bellone said.

“It’s a great example of a private sector business stepping up to help,” Bellone said.

At the same time, another company, called East/West Industries based in Ronkonkoma, which designs and manufactures products for airline crews and has contracts with military and commercial airlines, is working to provide face masks which are in line with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for first responders, police officers, deputy sheriffs. The masks will be cloth masks and will be made of reusable cloth. East/West is also donating the company’s time to produce this protective equipment.

Separately, Bellone said the nonprofit Long Island-based outreach center United Way is collecting donations to help people who are struggling amid the severe economic slowdown. People who are interested in donating to this effort can contact the United Way at UnitedWayLI.org. Those who are interested in accessing those resources can also visit the same site, Bellone said.

The county executive reiterated the county and state government’s 90-day prohibition on evictions.

“We understand that this crisis has created a terrible financial impact for many people, put extreme pressure on landlords” who have bills they have to pay, but “we want to may it clear that evictions are not permissible.”

Bellone highlighted that today marks exactly one month since Suffolk County recorded its first case of the pandemic. The numbers have been climbing since then and have shown some slowdown in recent days.

By the end of the day today, Bellone expects the number of deaths to approach or exceed 300, which is up from 263 yesterday.

The number of confirmed cases is approaching 17,000. Amid a determined effort to increase hospital capacity, the county has increased the number of beds by 1,000 to 3,322. The number of intensive care unit beds is up to 746, which is an increase of 49 from yesterday.

The number of people hospitalized also continued to increase, with 1,585 hospitalized and 517 in the ICU, which is 11 higher than yesterday but still below the peak.

Bellone was pleased to report that 130 residents have been discharged from the hospital in the last 24 hours.

Bellone urged residents to stay the course, even as the temperature climbs, with social distancing.

Meanwhile, Stony Brook University disclosed some of the vast array of donations to its health care workers, who are on the front lines of the ongoing battle to beat back the infection in a county that has more positive tests for the virus than every other state but New York and New Jersey.

Between March 20 and April 4, the University received 201,959 pieces of personal protective equipment, 232 iPads 4,793 comfort care items and 65 foot deliveries. The comfort care items have included fidget spinners, aromatherapy masks, vide messages and stress balls, while patient comfort care has included puzzles, socks, sleep masks, notebooks and pens.

File photo
Jessly Diaz, 14, of Huntington Station has been reported missing. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police have issued a Silver Alert for a missing Huntington Station woman who suffers from depression.

Jessly Diaz, 14, went missing from her home located at 7 Kingston Place  Feb. 16 at approximately 9 p.m. Diaz is Hispanic with brown hair and black eyes. Diaz is 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs approximately 100 pounds. She was last seen wearing a white jacket with grey snowflakes.

Anyone with information on Diaz’s location is asked to call 911 or the Second Squad at 631-854-8252.

As a reminder, Silver Alert is a program implemented in Suffolk County that allows local law enforcement to share information with media outlets about individuals with special needs who have been reported missing.