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Huntington

From left, Steve Henaghan is still active marching for LGBT rights; Leah Gustavson is a regular participant in Long Island’s historical martial arts scene; David Kilmnick is the president of the LGBT Network on LI.

For several weeks in a row people of all races have crowded the streets of Huntington, sidewalk to sidewalk, calling for an end to prejudice.

A 1991 front page of Newsday along with the one of the original tank tops for the first LGBT pride parade in Huntington. Photo by Kyle Barr

Those same streets in Huntington village have held other marches, but one started just under 30 years ago still holds unique significance today. Go back to June 9, 1991, the sky was open blue while the sun blazed down on people who also marched through Huntington against prejudice. It was a time of oversized glasses, poofy hair and tees tucked into jeans. Many marched with rainbow flags in their hands and pride on their faces, but some also reportedly marched with bags over their heads. It wasn’t a fashion statement, it was a way to hide their identities during a time when many people in the LGBT community would be retaliated against at the workplace or even at home. 

About 800 people stood between close to 3,000, according to what journalists wrote at the time. Most cheered for the marchers, but others screamed at them, warning of eternal damnation and holding signs reading, among other expletives, “Kill Yourself.” SWAT teams lined the surrounding roofs because there had been threats of violence toward the marchers.

It was June 10, 1991, when the first Long Island LGBT-led parade strode through Huntington. Marchers shouted “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.” That parade would be a landmark day for the LGBTQ community on Long Island, but for the people who marched, it meant much more than that.

“It was the proudest day of my entire life,” said Leah Gustavson, a Rocky Point resident and one of the original members of the committee who established the parade. “I felt like we started something, stuck to it and got to an end goal.”

That parade took place 24 years before the U.S. Supreme Court gave gay people the right to marry. It was 29 years before the court confirmed it was unconstitutional for businesses to discriminate against people on the basis of sex, a huge boon to the LGBTQ community, which has long experienced discrimination when applying for jobs and in the workplace.

But getting it together would take months of backbreaking effort destroying barriers, including taking a Long Island town to federal court to win their right to assemble.

Today, as protests and marches have broken out at every corner of the U.S., the memories of the struggle to have voices heard three decades ago adds a new perspective for those advocating for an end to prejudice. It’s a glimpse of how far Long Island has come and how far it might still have to go.

Beginnings of the March

The Lesbian/Gay Pride and Freedom Committee was established after June, nominally known as pride month, in 1990. It was after the group had attended other major pride celebrations that year, including the New York City pride parade as well as one earlier in March on St. Patrick’s Day, where members of an Irish gay and lesbian protest group led a parade before the main parade could start.

A few members of the local gay and lesbian community were having meetings at a gathering place near Stony Brook University. The school had an active LGBT scene with a school club found in the basement of the old Union building on campus. It was in a space that was once a closet, something that became an oft-used joke in the small burgeoning community. 

No one who was there remembers who exactly brought up the idea, but everyone who was in that room one spring day remembers the conversation about pride parades and the simple question, why wasn’t there one on Long Island? Why didn’t they try to start one, because, after all, how hard could it be?

In that small group of likeminded people, what would become the 10-member Long Island Pride and Freedom Committee was born. Gustavson related that gung ho attitidue to a sense of ”ignorant optimism,” something that can be a powerful force, especially for people who know things need to change, and that now is the time to do it.

She, and other original members of the committee, said coming together to plan this march was a way for many of these people who have long felt marginalized on Long Island to finally show they have a voice. Even still, numerous people on the committee would only publicly go by their first name, knowing they could be retaliated against in the workplace.

“We knew we were not necessarily welcome by people, but the point wasn’t to be welcomed, we were demanding that we would have equality.”

— Steve Henaghan

Those who were there look back on it as a time that was not nearly as fraught and violent as previous decades, but there still was massive underlying prejudice toward the gay community. Steve Henaghan, of Mastic, was another of the original committee members trying to get the parade started. In the 1980s, he and other gay/lesbian rights activists helped create a political action committee called Citizens for Equal Rights PAC to raise money for candidates that would support issues of equality. 

“At that time very few would come forward and say they were supporting our issues,” Henaghan said. “In 1988 and ’91 we were making inroads politically especially within the Democratic Party.”

The committee approached several places throughout the Island to hold their march. In March of ’91 they received rejections from multiple towns and villages on the Island, including both the Village of Port Jefferson and Village of Northport. 

The Record, one of a few Port Jefferson area newspapers at that time, wrote about the village board rejecting the application, saying trustees felt the committee was not “locally based,” citing that it was based in Upton, though committee members argued that was simply their mailing address. 

The Port Jeff mayor at the time, Harold Sheprow, was cited as referencing the controversy of that year’s gay rights group in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Trustees argued a Sunday march would hurt businesses, create congestion and open up the village to having to host other marches. Trustee William Glass Jr. was quoted at the time as saying, “This is political with a ‘P.’”

Henaghan could not help but laugh at hearing that quote read to him again.

“It didn’t surprise us we were rejected, it angered us,” Henaghan said. “We knew we were not necessarily welcome by people, but the point wasn’t to be welcomed, we were demanding that we would have equality.”

Northport rejected the parade for similar reasons, especially citing it was policy to only permit “community based organizations” to schedule parades. 

David Kilmnick was one of the original members of the LGPF Committee who now is president of the nonprofit LGBT Network, an association of nonprofits that looks to support the LGBT community on Long Island. He said if the committee didn’t end up securing a march route and permit, they were willing to do one anyway somewhere on Long Island, even if it potentially meant being arrested.

“We were told we would be arrested, we didn’t care,” he said. “It was our right to be able to do this. We were being flat out discriminated against because of our sexual orientation.”

With a number of rejections under their belts. LGPFC members knew they had to settle on one place, and that place was going to be Huntington.

Taking a Town to Court

The committee worked with police on creating a route through the town. Their original path was longer, about 1½ miles, but in speaking with Inspector Alden Berry of the Suffolk County Police Department, the group determined on a newer, shorter route that reduced the overtime cost for officers, closed only one lane of traffic and offered more protection to those demonstrating. By April 12, 1991, that route was approved by police and sent to Huntington.The group had already sent a request to the Huntington Highway Department. While they had confirmation the request was received, they didn’t hear back until after they sent out the notice of the parade route. 

Huntington Highway Superintendent William Naughton, a Democrat, responded to the marchers with a letter the same day they sent in the revised route. The language used in the letter would become the basis for further legal action, one that would bring in the support of the American Civil Liberties Union.

From left, Steve Henaghan is still active marching for LGBT rights; Leah Gustavson is a regular participant in Long Island’s historical martial arts scene; David Kilmnick is the president of the LGBT Network on LI.

Along with citing overtime costs for the highway department and police, it said those looking to hold parades in the town should instead ask to be included in separate parades. It also read that, “Requests from several groups have been made in the past to hold additional parades, but my policy has always been to approve the traditional parades only.”

“We saw that as blatant discrimination, and we had the right just like every other group to have a march or parade,” said Kilmnick.

March planners got in contact with the New York Civil Liberties Union, which in turn picked out several attorneys to work on the issue. Two local attorneys were picked to lead the effort.

Mitchell Gittin, who is now an East Setauket resident and attorney with the Hauppauge-based Fitzgerald Law Firm, was then a volunteer on the legal committee of the NYCLU Suffolk Branch. He was tapped to lead the litigation effort alongside fellow attorney Joel Kupferman, who described himself as having been just recently out of law school back in early ’91.

“We tried to negotiate with them and asked them why they were so concerned and their reasons for denying the permit,” Kupferman said. At the time he was also a resident in Huntington. “[Huntington attorneys] said people get drunk and destroy property in these parades. I I told them we’ll concede that as soon as you stop having St. Patty’s Day parades — they were ridiculous concerns.”

The attorneys quickly noticed the language of the highway superintendent’s letter was not concurrent with basic tenets of the U.S. Constitution. Outright denying a march in line with the First Amendment because it was not one of those “traditional parades” did not stand up to scrutiny.

“That’s what was so gratifying with the case, because frankly the law was on our side,” Gittin said. “The other side didn’t have any kind of legal counterargument, you can put restrictions on gatherings … there was no reason from a logistical perspective the pride parade would have been more burdensome than any other parade — it really did come down really to discrimination.” 

The attorneys sent a letter to the town May 9, but did not receive a response. Both the committee and Town of Huntington would end up in court. 

The deadline of June 9 for the parade was fast approaching. In early June, both sides appeared in front of U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Wexler. Instead of a protracted back and forth, after just a few hours in court, the town agreed to grant the group a permit for the march.

Though the group did experience pushback from local elected officials there were a few that showed support, even if in small ways. New York State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) was a Suffolk County legislator back in 1991. He said the LGPFC approached his office after being rejected by the Huntington highway superintendent. He told the assembled people that he was giving them approval to use his office’s parking lot as the end point for their parade.

“Back then there were a lot of officials who were afraid to take a stand,” he said. 

Gitten said that recalling the case gives him a unique sense of pride. 

“I look back on it, and not that it was a heroic thing, it was a lawyer job, I was in the right place at the right time,” he said. “It feels nice as a lawyer to look and having been part of a movement and part of a wave that’s still going on.” 

The Day Of

The parade itself would be just three quarters of a mile, a short jaunt made by many pedestrians today in what is normally glowing nights on the town in historic Huntington village, or at least it was prepandemic. For the people at the march, it would be an experience none of them would ever forget.

The committee members took up positions at the head of the column. Moving up along Gerard Street, they marched down New York Avenue then turned east onto Main Street. Above them, marchers could see the hints of helmets and glint of rifles in the sunlight. SWAT snipers had been positioned on rooftops to watch over them, as there had been several threats of violence.

That was when the marchers saw the true extent of the crowds. Newsday reported at the time 3,000 people came out to see those in the parade. It was more than they expected, and surprisingly many were shouting support. Of course, there were many community members shouting at them, saying they would “go to hell” for what they were doing. Before it became well known thanks to the show “Game of Thrones,” those marching found use in shouting “shame, shame” at those heckling their procession.

“Our adrenaline was flowing so hard and strong and then we turned the corner, that’s where the protesters were,” Henaghan said. “It was like electricity was running through our bodies, we were so charged. You realize at that moment, you are not standing down, you are going to stand up. It was one of the greatest days of our lives,”

“In 30 years I will never forget that day, that day was a victory for all of Long Island.”

— David Kilmnick

There was a general sense of both exhilaration and apprehension. This was uncharted territory for them, despite participating in other pride parades. This one was theirs, and they had to own it.

“People would call it a parade, but it was a march,” Kilmnick said. “We didn’t have the pageantry, we marched down New York Avenue and had a rally in the back of Huntington Town Hall … In 30 years I will never forget that day, that day was a victory for all of Long Island.”

When they finally reached the end, the emotions of the day were overflowing. 

“The relief was palpable,” Gustavson said. “People were hugging each other and cheering … A lot of people came to celebrate with us. Some of them were not gay, but a lot of them were. It was a party in the best sense of the word, it was celebratory.”

Douglas Futuyma, Stony Brook professor emeritus of evolutionary biology,  was convinced to speak at the 1991 march in back of the town hall building. The professor has long been known on campus as an openly gay man, unafraid to talk about it in front of students when it came up. When it came time to speak at the rally, he wanted to talk about things beyond the biology of it, that gays and lesbians did not simply choose to be so, they were born that way. He spoke of Huntington’s native son Walt Whitman, and how that poet spoke to the quick of “humankind’s exploratory and vibrant spirit.” It was the fundamental question of human rights.

“It was certainly exhilarating, despite the heckling or harassment,” he said. “It was as it should have been, a celebration.”

Today and the Future

This month, the annual pride event was canceled due to the pandemic. Instead the LGBT Network held an online pride event June 14 featuring multiple celebrities and other local elected and civic leaders as speakers. 

It’s been a roller coaster ride for the past 30 years with the annual pride parade. Gustavson left the committee after the third year. Henaghan stood on for several years before leaving as well. He came back on in the early 2000s, but again left the committee to its own devices. 

The pride parade came under the auspices of the LGBT Network in its later years, and because of lagging participation a celebration was held instead of a parade in Huntington’s Heckscher Park. In 2017, the parade moved to Long Beach, and Kilmnick said the parade picked up steam once again. The LGBT Network president said last year an estimated 30,000 people participated. The biggest change from just a few decades ago, he said, is the number of young, school-age people coming out to march and support the annual parade. 

SBU evolutionary biology professor Douglas Futuyma spoke at the first LI pride parade in ‘91. Photo from SBU

“In ’93, so many kids were being bullied in school, afraid to come to the parade,” he said. “We didn’t have any student groups that marched in that parade. Now they make up more than 50 percent of that parade.”

This year, the parade was set to move to Jones Beach after a dispute with Long Beach over a $70,000 fee the LGBT Network said other organizations did not have to pay for similar events. Leaders of the parade are hoping for a renewed involvement come 2021, which will be the 31st pride parade and its true 30-year anniversary.

But the fight for equality is not one lane for just one group of people. Those who spoke about their experience with the first pride parade all identified with those marching against police brutality and racism today. 

Gustavson said things changed for the better in the past three decades, such as general awareness along with much more acceptance at the grade school level, but some things have not progressed nearly enough. For white gay people, she said things are “a lot better.” For gay people of color, trans people and especially trans people of color, there are way too many problems with prejudice both on the governmental and societal levels.

“It was as it should have been, a celebration.”

— Douglas Futuyma

“I don’t want to see violence, I never want to see violence,” she said. “But there are times when that’s what gets people talking and thinking and there are always people who will never understand why riots happen and why they destroy their own sh**. They will never understand that, and it’s passionate. When you’re passionate and you’re screaming because you’re afraid for your life, that it doesn’t really matter so much what gets ruined as far as ‘things’ go. Things are things. We’re fighting for our lives here, we’re fighting for our sanity, we’re fighting for our ability to walk in society without fear of being beaten to death because you’re a ‘fag,’ or because you’re Black.”

Henaghan, despite saying he has occasional bouts with pessimism, does believe the world is heading in the right direction. His partner for 23 years became his husband eight years ago, just a year after the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision. For the people marching in the streets today, he said many of those who spoke out against that march in ’91 are the same people or the ideological descendants of those who verbally harassed them 30 years ago.

“Many people will not let go of that hate they have, whether it’s for people of color, gays or lesbians, trans people, there are many people in our society they will not let go of that hate,” Henagan said. “They will fight you to the end. We still won’t stand for it.”

For the third time this week, close to a hundred protesters marched into downtown Huntington to protest the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, racism and police brutality June 4. The group convened at the Big H parking lot at Home Depot and then its way into the village and down New York Avenue.

More peaceful protests have been held in other parts of Huntington.

Another march is scheduled for later today.

Julia Frangione, director of Huntington’s Senior Division, left, accepts care packages for seniors from Kristin O’Leary, Erin Whelan and Amanda McCrea. Photo from Huntington Hospital

During these days of self-quarantining and social distancing, three Huntington-area women are working together to ensure local seniors have what they need.

With health care professionals and elected officials recommending the elderly stay home during the novel coronavirus pandemic, Erin Whelan, Amanda McCrea and Kristin O’Leary decided they needed to do something for the community’s senior members. Whelan, a phlebotomist/accessioner at Huntington Hospital who lives in Northport, said during a phone interview she reached out to the Town of Huntington’s director of Senior Division, Julia Frangione, to see what was needed and offered to make care packages with her friends for those who receive services from the facility.

“We noticed a lot of elderly people looking very lost in the supermarkets with empty shelves and chaos,” Whelan said.

McCrea added that with shoppers needing to visit multiple stores to get everything on their lists, they realized shopping had become a chore for many.

In the last couple of weeks, the women have been busy creating care packages with essentials such as toilet paper, wipes, bread or English muffins, coffee or tea, oatmeal, cookies and more. They have even added things like crossword puzzles to keep recipients entertained.

“We attached a personal note on each one just to let them know their community is thinking of them,” Whelan said. “We’re all in this together.

Putting together essentials for those in need is nothing new for the three women, who for the last few years have worked together filling backpacks with school supplies and donating them to the Family Service League in Huntington.

McCrea, who also works in Huntington Hospital’s laboratory, said it was Whelan who came up with the idea.

“I can’t ever say ‘no’ to her ideas,” she said. “Who doesn’t want to do good things and feel good?”

The women said that in order to get the items together they had to visit multiple stores. One day they spent about seven hours hunting for items. The women have been balancing the endeavor with work, as Whelan and McCrea are considered essential employees, and O’Leary, who teaches in the Merrick school district, is working from home and teaching online.

McCrea said it’s been worthwhile making the time to pick up these essential items, despite all of them still working their full-time jobs.

“We’ve all kind of made the time, and it gives us something positive to focus on,” she said. 

Whelan and McCrea said they have received help from several friends, some of whom have given their time, while others have donated money.

“It just kind of snowballed with so many people wanting to help,” Whelan said.

McCrea said one day when they only had 30 rolls of toilet paper they posted their dilemma on Facebook, and a friend sent them a message saying where they could find some. Within an hour, with others helping them, they went from 30 rolls to more than 180.

So far, each care package has cost them around $17 dollars, and they have put together 55 packs and are planning to create more. On March 23, they were able to drop off the first of the packages that filled three cars at the Huntington Senior Center.

Frangione said the carloads were welcomed.

“We were happy to distribute these bonus items to our seniors,” she said. “We were amazed when 55 overflowing bags were delivered. It was so heartwarming, it brought tears to our eyes. The next day, the bags were distributed to our seniors who were truly touched by the thoughtfulness and caring of our friends in the community.”

Approximately 350 seniors receive meals from the center, which last Tuesday began delivering all five meals for the week in one day.

Whelan said that helping the seniors has taken stress and anxiety away.

“I’m a frontline person in the hospital,” she said. “It takes a toll on you, it’s stressful. There’s anxiety. I feel that we’re all helping these seniors, and we’re protecting the community from it spreading more, but we’re also helping ourselves because it’s something positive to focus on.”

To help with their endeavors, the women have set up a Facebook fundraiser page at www.facebook.com/donate/212883923126746/.

Parking meters in Northport have been covered to provide free parking in Northport during the COVID-19 pandemic. Parking meter fees have also been waived in Huntington Village. Photo by Bruce Adams

Huntington officials have made some adjustments during the coronavirus pandemic.

Parking meter fees in Huntington village are being waived until further notice to assist the restaurant and business communities. The town will continue enforcement of handicap, fire zone and other safety-related parking violations that interfere with traffic patterns or line of sight.

Huntington Town Hall is closed to the public, and this week’s planning and zoning boarding meetings have been postponed, along with traffic court.

Residents are asked to use the white mailbox outside the main parking lot entrance to Town Hall labeled “Town Hall Mail Only” to drop off mail or paperwork. There is a black mailbox to the right of the main entrance to Town Hall labeled “Tax Payments Only” to drop off tax payments. 

All playgrounds and bathrooms at town parks and beaches are closed until further notice. Parks remain open but all permits for play on town fields are canceled through March 31. Crab Meadow Golf Course and Dix Hills Golf Course are closed until further notice. The town will reevaluate March 27.

The town Senior Center’s Home Delivered Meal Delivery program will change starting Tuesday, March 24. The last day for single hot and frozen meal delivery was Monday, March 23.  Starting March 24, five frozen meals will be delivered on Tuesdays only, and the Senior Center has stopped taking new signups for the program. 

The Senior Center’s Congregate Frozen Meal pickup program will change starting Tuesday, March 24. Five frozen meals will be available for collection at the Senior Center on Tuesdays only for registered seniors between 12:30 and 2:00 p.m. Employees will bring the frozen meals outside. There will be a car lineup for registered seniors to be checked in. 

All Huntington schools remain closed.

Northport

Parking meters in Northport have also been covered to provide free parking.

Town Hall is closed with only essential staff on-site. Much village paperwork can be found and completed online at www.northportny.gov.

The Northport-East Northport Public Library will remain closed until further notice. All late fees are suspended. Residents can return items using the outside book and media returns drop box. 

All Northport-East Northport schools are closed until further notice.

The Huntington-based Main St. Board Game Cafe has had to let staff go in the hopes of surviving. They are still selling board games to-go. Photo from Board Game Cafe Facebook

By Kyle Barr and Leah Chiappino

As Monday rolled around this week, and as local businesses were looking to find ways to attract customers during the ongoing coronavirus crisis, a new order handed down by New York State put most of those considerations on hold.

On Monday, March 16, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) ordered many nonessential businesses to shut down, or in the case of restaurants, to lessen foot traffic and only allow takeout orders and deliveries.

PJ Cinemas has closed due to the state’s coronavirus mandates. Photo from Google Maps

“Our primary goal right now is to slow the spread of this virus so that the wave of new infections doesn’t crash our health care system, and everyone agrees social distancing is the best way to do that,” Cuomo said. “I have called on the federal government to implement nationwide protocols, but in their absence, we are taking this on ourselves.”

New York State, Connecticut and New Jersey will all be limiting social meetings of any sort to 50 people. Movie theaters, gyms and casinos were closed starting at 8 p.m. Monday.

The governor also announced restaurants and bars will be closed to sit down service and would need to refocus on takeout.

PJ Cinemas already announced closure until they, “receive further guidance from state, local and federal authorities.” All ticket sales will stay valid until they reopen.

Local elected officials said the restrictions were due to people’s reports that numerous bars had high activity over the weekend, despite warnings.

“We are discussing ways to make sure that it is enforced,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). “We expect bars and restaurants will comply … by and large we’ve had great compliance from people.”

Businesses and local business groups took the news with a mix of understanding and worry. Most understood the reason why the state has taken such drastic measures but could hardly fathom how this might impact them long term. The change could not just mean shuttered businesses for the next few weeks, but permanent closures.

Jennifer Dzvonar, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, said local businesses are the “lifeblood of the community,” and times such as these require the community to come out in support, whether it’s ordering takeout from restaurants or buying vouchers or gift certificates.

The difficulties will be severe. As people are asked to stay home, some away from work, less will have money to spend. She said service businesses, including plumbers, carpenters and the like, will be hard hit since less have the money to spend.

Jennifer Dzvonar, the PJS/T Chamber president, said local businesses will be hit hard by the state mandates. File Photo

“Businesses need as much positive reinforcement as possible,” Dzvonar said.

She added businesses also often sponsor Little Leagues or other community events, so while the governor’s order is in effect such groups may have to go without for the time being.

Other chamber leaders in the area wrote quickly to members to try and offer assistance. 

Gary Pollakusky, the president of the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce, said he is especially worried about businesses shutting down permanently. 

“When we look at our small businesses as the lifeblood of our communities, we should be focused on our mom and pop shops, more than ever in this time of need,” he said.

Jane Taylor, the executive director of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, said restaurants providing takeout meals is a good bridge until business returns to normal, but, “There is no question that our local businesses and restaurants are going to face challenges.” 

Northport Chamber of Commerce President James Izzo says the impact of the restrictions on the village could be devastating.

“Small businesses especially are trying to keep their [employees] paid, and it’s difficult to do that with no money coming in,” he said.

He added most village restaurants are trying to focus on takeout, removing or making their seating inaccessible. Most are trying to deliver food, which can be expensive.

“There’s two sides to this,” Izzo said. “You have some people who are afraid to come out who need food, need to eat and need supplies, and you have other people that want to come down, but everything is so limited. We have bars, but they don’t serve food, and you can’t have more than 10 people in a space, so that’s a done deal.”

Some boutique stores are open, but most are trying to supplement the lack of foot traffic with online shopping.

Izzo said that the village was quiet with minimal traffic Tuesday afternoon, while Sunday was busy with foot traffic.

“You can’t make a living one day a week,” he said. “We are a seasonal community and businesses depend on this time of the year after a long cold dark winter.”

He said the mood in the village is still hopeful, though uncertain.

“This is uncharted territory and everyone is trying to figure it out day by day,” he said.

Merchants are talking about using vehicles owned by the village to deliver meals to those in need. The chamber is working on providing advertising to businesses for free, to promote their delivery services or online products.

Izzo, a real estate broker, says the impact to his business has been minimal, stating most of his work is done online. Open houses have been slower than usual at this time of year, but not completely dead. However, he is anxious to see what this upcoming weekend will bring, in the wake of the new restrictions.

“This is uncharted territory and everyone is trying to figure it out day by day.”

— James Izzo

“A lot can change in six days, we will have to see what happens,” he said.

Copenhagen Bakery and Cafe has had to close its seating but is still open for takeout. The owner,  Flemming Hansen, says that most of the business is in takeout baked goods, and while the number of customers is down, there has been a steady flow of people purchasing breads and soups.

“So far we’re doing alright,” he said. “We’re taking it day by day.”

He added that cake sales have dropped, as people are not having gatherings.

Neil Goldberg, the owner of Main Street Board Game Café in Huntington, said the restrictions have forced him to lay off the entire staff in hopes of buying time.

“Nobody is going to make any money, it’s just about keeping the doors open,” he said.

The cafe’s purpose normally is to be a place where people can come in, socialize and play board games; however, they have had to eliminate all food services, besides prepackaged drinks and are only selling games.

“It’s not worth it for us to turn the ovens on,” he said.

He added the store had some purchases “from people who realize that they’re going to need more entertainment than just watching TV and watching the news.”

The cafe will offer curbside delivery of games and are looking to offer delivery services within a 15-mile radius in the coming days.

Goldberg said the local village businesses are checking in on each other and sharing advice and ideas.

“There’s no plan for this,” he said. “Nobody has insurance for this, because it doesn’t exist, and all you can do is lean on each other and hope things will improve.”

Despite all of this, Goldberg has seen moments of humanity. On Tuesday, former employees came in and bought games to help the shop stay afloat. Then, a mother, who has a son that plays in a game tournament at the shop, bought $1,000 worth of gift cards.

“That was really moving,” he said. 

Goldberg added the best way to support small businesses during this time is to patronize them as much as possible.

“Gift cards are good because, you will eventually use them and you are essentially providing a no-interest loan to the business that you like,” he said. “Honestly, the best thing that you can do is to stay socially distant so we can get through this quicker. Everything that everybody is doing is just Band-Aids at this point to a large problem, and the best thing for businesses is for things to go back to the way they were.”

Meanwhile, federal officials in the House and Senate are considering an aid bill to help workers. The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would provide free testing, extend the unemployment payment period and offer paid sick leave and emergency leave for workers in companies with 500 or less employees. The latter could exempt companies with 50 or fewer employees if that measure would bankrupt the company.

President Donald Trump (R) has called for a $850 billion aid stimulus to major companies such as airlines impacted by the spread of the virus. The White House has also suggested deferring tax payments and even sending home checks to every American to cushion the blow of being out of work. As of press time, details have been sporadic, and the president’s office has flip-flopped on several initiatives already.

The Village of Port Jefferson declared a state of emergency March 16, after both the state and Suffolk County declared theirs. As of Tuesday, March 17, Village Hall and all village-owned facilities are closed to the public. Further board of trustee meetings will be held remotely, along with the budget presentation that was planned for March 30. The executive order only ends after a further order from the village mayor.

“The only thing we can do is ask residents to continue to support the local businesses.”

— Margot Garant

According to Mayor Margot Garant, the executive order allows code enforcement to enforce the new restrictions on businesses. 

“The only thing we can do is ask residents to continue to support the local businesses,” she said, adding those stores are “going to adapt, they will find means to keep those businesses viable.”

Barbara Ransome, the executive director of the PJ village chamber, said the chamber is working on a social media campaign encouraging takeout pickups and deliveries.

With nobody really able to say how long life will be disrupted because of COVID-19, the true consequences of this loss of business are still unknown. 

“My mother always used to say you can live with anything bad as long as you know it’s not long term, or you see it ending,” Ransome said.

Businesses, she said, are all hedging on when that end finally arrives.

By Julianne Mosher

On Sunday, March 8, hundreds of people lined the streets in Huntington Village for the 86th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Led by this year’s grand marshal, the Honorable Judge Jerry Asher, the Ancient Order of the Hibernians kicked off the parade starting on New York Avenue and heading down Main Street. 

The streets were lined with green, with parade watchers celebrating the festivities outside village restaurants and bars. Music played from nearby pipe bands and the marching bands from Huntington and Walt Whitman high schools. The local Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops marched alongside a group of dog lovers, whose pups were dressed all in green. 

Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) waved to the crowd as he walked by along with other elected officials. Members of the Order of the Ancient and Honorable Huntington Militia marched in old-fashioned costumes, as they fired shots to the excited crowd, and Irish step dancers performed in the middle of the street.

Along with the performers and politicians, the local fire and police departments marched along, showing off old-fashioned fire trucks and waving to the kids who watched in awe on the sidelines. 

Huntington’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade will take place March 8 with the Honorable W. Gerard Asher leading the way as grand marshal. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Julianne Mosher

Decades after moving to Huntington with his family at 13, the Honorable W. Gerard Asher will lead the 86th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade down Main Street.

Huntington’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade will take place March 8 with the Honorable W. Gerard Asher, above, leading the way as grand marshal.

“Huntington is a great community and it has been for many, many years,” he said.

Known locally as Jerry, the 78-year-old has been a proactive citizen in the town for more than six decades. A graduate of Huntington High School’s class of 1959, Asher was president of the senior class, captain of the championship football team and team captain of the basketball team — hobbies that still interest him today. 

“I like to attend the local high school sporting games,” he said. “I want to show my support because I played when I was a student there.”

Asher married his high school sweetheart, Sylvia, and they have been together for 56 years. He graduated from Princeton University in 1963, Cornell Law School in 1966 and then served two years in the U.S. Army as captain and commander of a Hawk missile battery in Korea.

When Asher came back to Long Island in 1969, he began practicing law with an emphasis in real estate, surrogate law, litigation and sports law for 36 years in Huntington.

“Huntington has great people,” he said. “All of my family still lives here. and I’ve made so many friends throughout the years.”

In 2004, Asher was elected to district court, where he tried numerous criminal matters and was the drug court judge for Suffolk County for two years. In 2010, he was elected justice of the state Supreme Court — a title he held up until he resigned in 2017 at age 76.

“I like to keep working,” he laughed. “I’m semiretired, but I like the idea of having something to do everyday.”

Asher said that throughout his time volunteering and working within Huntington, he was constantly told he should become grand marshal, but wasn’t able to as a sitting judge. 

Now it’s his time to shine. 

“I’m honored to have this bestowed onto me,” he said. “I’m moved by the whole thing, and I’m excited to be the Grand Marshal for the 86th Huntington St. Patrick’s Day Parade.”

Greg Kennedy, his good friend and past president of Division IV of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, said that Asher was an immediate thought when the past grand marshals meet every year to decide who the next one will be.

“He’s a pillar to the community,” Kennedy said. “He’s someone that you would go to
for advice.”

While holding dozens of honors, titles and participating in plenty of philanthropy, Kennedy said that this is Asher’s time to represent Division IV. 

“It’s his time to lead us proudly down Main Street on March 8,” he said.

The Huntington St. Patrick’s Day Parade will begin at 2 p.m. in Huntington Village March 8, rain or shine. The parade runs along Route 110 beginning slightly north of Broadway and makes a left on Route 25A to end by St. Patrick’s R.C. Church.

The Bulls of Smithtown West were too much for Huntington to handle where the Bulls won the league III matchup 69-37 at home Jan. 3. Sam Frank led the way for Smithtown West, scoring 16 points followed by Matt Behrens who netted 13. Huntington sophomore topped the scoring chart for the Blue Devils with 11 points and Daniel Danziger banked nine.

The win lifts Smithtown West to 3-0 in league III, and 10-1 overall, while Huntington drops to 0-4.

The Bulls retake the court when they hit the road Jan. 8 to take on top seeded Northport for the league III leader-board. Tipoff is 6:15 p.m.

 

Huntington’s boys basketball team trailed by two after the first eight minutes of play but then the Bulls of Smithtown East dropped the hammer and outscored the Blue Devils by 28 points to put the game away 66-36 in a non-league matchup at home, Dec. 5. Zac Chandler had the hot hand for Smithtown East draining four triples, three field goals andthree3 points from the line to lead his team with 21 points. Jared Borner followed with 12 points and Nick Lardaro added 11.

Huntington seniors Omari Stephen and Daniel Danziger topped the scoring chart for the Blue Devils with 10 points apiece. Huntington has another non-league game at Cold Spring Harbor Dec. 10 before they open league Dec. 12 when they host Harbor Hills East. Game time is 5:45 p.m.

Smithtown East will host Roslyn Dec. 7 at 10 a.m. before their league opener Dec. 12 at home against East Islip. Tipoff is 4 p.m.

Community gathers at the Old First Church in Huntington to celebrate those who have conquered addiction and remembering those who have been lost.

The Town of Huntington Opioid and Addiction Task Force invited residents to join a special program Oct. 28 at the Old First Presbyterian Church in Huntington celebrating those who have conquered addiction and remembering those who have been lost.

 The program, “A Recovery Event: Celebrating Hope in Huntington,” featured first-hand accounts from those who have conquered addiction, information about local prevention, treatment and recovery programs, and a stirring performance by the Old First Church Sanctuary Choir.  Sharon Richmond shared her story about her son Vincent.  The ceremony was dedicated to his honor. (See page A5 for her story.)

 “Huntington, like every other community in America, has been hit hard by the opioid crisis,” said Huntington Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D), who sponsored the program with the task force. “We created this event to show that there is a cause for hope and that in fact that there are thousands of local residents who have found a path to recovery,”

The event drew more than 100 people to the Old First Church. A highlight of the evening was a candlelight circle to celebrate, honor and remember those who were lost as a result of their addiction.

Created by a town board resolution in December 2017, the Opioid and Addiction Task Force includes local health care professionals, educators and community leaders. It works to unify, support and strengthen prevention, treatment and recovery efforts within the town. Its goals include reducing the incidence of substance abuse, promoting timely access to care for consumers and their families, creating environments conducive to recovery and reducing the stigma associated with substance use disorders.

“Many of our families have been greatly affected — their lives changed forever after losing a loved one to addiction,” Cuthbertson said. “We know that substance abuse is preventable, addiction is treatable and recovery works.”

The town is hanging resource information posters around town.

“Somebody is waiting for you to come to them,” said Stephen Donnelly, who has sponsored different opioid services in the past. He encourages people to ask people impacted:  “How can I help you?”

For Treatment Referral List contact the 24/7 hotline 631-979-1700. Help is a phone call away.

Photo by Donna Deedy