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Legislator Kara Hahn

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn announced her bid to run for Congress on June 2. Photo from Hahn’s campaign office

As TBR News Media papers were going to press Wednesday, June 2, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) was scheduled to discuss something big in the front courtyard of the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook later in the day.

Hahn, who is also deputy presiding officer of the county Legislature, announced in a press release June 2, her bid to be the next congresswoman for New York’s 1st Congressional District. The seat is currently held by U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R) who has his eyes on the New York State governor’s seat in 2022.

The June 2 event was organized for Hahn to make her first public remarks about her decision. When she was younger, Hahn was a waitress at the Three Village Inn.

She said in the press release she is running for Congress “to make an even greater impact for the community where she grew up and continues to raise her family today.”

“For too long, our community has paid the price for a representative in Washington who is more dedicated to partisan politics than the needs of this district,” Hahn said. “The cost of living on Long Island is squeezing students, workers and homeowners across this district, and it’s time we have a representative that’s laser-focused on building an economy that supports Suffolk County’s working families.”

In her time in the Legislature, Hahn has risen to the deputy presiding officer leadership post and her accomplishments include authoring laws to protect land and water from pollutants, leading the charge to confront Long Island’s opioid epidemic, and working to keep women and children safe from domestic abusers.

The legislator lives in Setauket with her husband Chris and two daughters. For more information on her campaign, visit www.karaforcongress.com.

The Three Village Chamber of Commerce welcomed Koeppel Dental Group (A Dental 365 Company), Druthers Coffee and Jersey Mike’s Subs to the community with a celebratory ribbon cutting on April 5. All three businesses are located in Stony Brook Square at 1113 North Country Road in Stony Brook. 

The event was attended by New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Kim Bryant from Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn’s office,  Town of Brookhaven Councilman Jonathan Kornreich and members of the chamber. 

“The Three Village Chamber of Commerce is working to beat back the economic impact of COVID-19 by helping new businesses open and existing businesses safely reopen. As someone who knows just how difficult it is to start a small business, I applaud the entrepreneurs behind Druthers Coffee, Koeppel Dental Group, and Jersey Mike’s Subs for opening their doors here in Three Village,” said Councilman Kornreich in a statement. 

“Main Street America’s Small Business Day took place on April 13, and I’m optimistic that we will see more growth and opportunity across the First Council District,” he added.

Photo from Kara Hahn

Before she gets to the long list of initiatives she wants to act on this year, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said combating the coronavirus is priority number one. 

After just four weeks into the new year, the deputy presiding officer for the county Legislature said that while she has a lot of goals to accomplish before the end of 2021, COVID-19 is the biggest hurdle to overcome. 

“The most important thing that anyone can be working on right now is COVID response and recovery for residents, for businesses, for communities as a whole,” she said. “A lot of things have been kind of put on the backburner because of the need to focus on COVID.”

Hahn said that while the pandemic has been ongoing for nearly a year now, she keeps reminding the county Department of Health Services that notes need to be taken and research must continue. 

“We have to be looking at this not only in the now,” she said. “What are we learning from this? How can the next time this happens — because there will be a next time, it’s just a matter of when — how can we have learned from this?”

Hahn said in order to move forward, the virus and the issues it brought on throughout 2020, like food insecurity and evictions, will have to be addressed even after the vaccine. 

“Getting through this from a health perspective, and then recovering from it for every person’s financial impact, mental health … people are just going to start to hurt even more,” she said. “We haven’t seen the full repercussions.”

Hahn made it clear that while the county recovers from the aftermath of COVID-19, she keeps busy with some of her other plans to help the environment, reduce traffic and keep people safe on Long Island. 

Infrastructure 

Hahn is hoping that the federal government with disperse funding to county infrastructure projects, she said, and two of the most prominent projects in her district include the electrification of the Long Island Rail Road from Port Jefferson Station, and an overpass on Route 347 going over Nicolls Road. 

The decades-long debate about electrifying the LIRR has been discussed by many and will continue to be debated, along with the possibility of EPA Superfund site, the Lawrence Aviation property, to become a rail yard for electric trains. 

“So that if that happens, it is the most critical thing that could happen for my district from an infrastructure perspective,” she said. “Right now, the electric train stops at Huntington and the time it takes to get into Manhattan to Penn Station more than two hours.”

With the electrification, she said, 20 to 25 minutes will be cut off the journey, with no switches in Huntington.

“They can go a little bit faster, they are much more efficient in energy and obviously less polluting,” she added. “Once you cut off almost a half an hour from that trip, the property values around those stations go up significantly, just being within that kind of vicinity to Manhattan.”

Hahn said that electric trains could help students at Stony Brook University, revitalizing the downtown, and allowing students to live in the village, close enough to hop on a train to class. 

“You can create different things with an electric line that would make for better movement of people between Huntington and Stony Brook, Huntington and Port Jeff, or Port Jeff and Stony Brook,” she said. 

And that could help eliminate traffic on Nicolls Road. The overpass there, which has also been heavily discussed for years, is another project she’d like to see through.

“The intersection of Nicolls Road and 347 is incredibly unsafe,” Hahn said. “There are accidents there all the time. I’ve witnessed more than one in my lifetime.”

The overpass would be federally funded and wouldn’t be completed for many years, she said, but it would be critical in alleviating traffic that comes from the university and the hospital. 

“Having that intersection function better is critical to a number of regional objectives,” she said. “So, having those funds would be terrific.”

Retail recycling

As chair of the Environment, Parks & Agriculture Committee in the county Legislature, as well as chair of the Economic Development, Planning & Housing Committee, Hahn hopes to see the launch of a recycling retail campaign called Reclaim Our Land.

“Every year the amount of land left to preserve and protect is smaller and smaller,” she said. 

So, in an effort to buy back land for greenery and parks, Hahn said the vision is to reclaim areas that have been built on and have abandoned. 

In terms of development, reclamation costs more than preservation, she said, so building on an empty acre is cheaper than buying a previously built building, demolishing and rebuilding something new. But now with constant bankruptcies and the fall of big-box stores, Hahn said the number of vacant buildings across Suffolk County, alone, is constantly increasing. 

“I’ve been noticing it in the last two years prepandemic, but COVID just really accelerated it,” she said. 

Bookstores, supermarkets and stores like Sears or JCPenney in the Smith Haven Mall have left huge spaces with nothing to fill.

“When JCPenney’s was going out of business, I thought, ‘This is great place to have some housing, have some maybe office space,’” Hahn said. “It’s large, it’s got parking, it’s got sewers, it’s got electric — it’s already there. There’s already a bus that goes to the university campus.”

With problems of students living in communities or causing issues with illegal housing, Hahn said there has been discussion on how to create a place that young people can live, that’s convenient and appealing.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could encourage these stores that have been vacant for a long time to be recycled into something the community needs?” she said. By creating affordable micro apartments for single, young people, it could help smaller shops and reduce traffic. 

“That’s what was so important to me about the recycling retail,” she said. “Let’s try to incentivize developers to recycle what already exists, so that we don’t have to build on the green space.”

Teenagers across the North Shore have been seen playing chicken with motorists by cycling into oncoming traffic, popping wheelies in the middle of the road and more. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County lawmakers are looking to tackle bicyclists who have been intimidating drivers across Long Island. 

There have been several different reports of reckless bicyclists putting themselves and others in danger on the road, which included a group of teenagers who harassed a Terryville gym over the summer. 

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said she had a “terrifying” experience first-hand a few years ago. While traveling down Route 25A at night, a person wearing all black began popping wheelies toward her car in the middle of the street.

“I wasn’t going fast,” she said. “I chose to stop in the middle of the roadway. It was really scary, and whoever it was, was recklessly trying to frighten me.”

Back in September, county Legislator Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic) introduced a “reckless biking” bill, which he advanced from Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) who passed away from cancer that same month.

After talking with other towns and villages in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, Sunderman said that although he represents the South Shore, the issue is widespread across the Island. 

“Other areas that we spoke to [with a bill in place] have already seen a decline in reckless biking,” he said. 

If Sunderman’s bill passes, it would prohibit cyclists from trick riding or weaving through traffic. Violators could also see their bikes impounded, receive $250 fines, or spend 15 days in jail. 

And on the North Shore, Hahn said she had been receiving complaints from other people from the area regarding similar concerns of packs of children doing similar things on Route 112, Nesconset Highway and Middle Country Road. 

“It’s dangerous,” she said. “The police aren’t able to do very much. They need a tool to confiscate the bike to individuals who do this.”

But along with concerned residents reaching out, Hahn said she was hearing criticism over Sunderman’s bill from bicyclist groups who use their bikes recreationally. 

“The intent is very good, and it is needed to curb this kind of [bad] activity,” she said. “The groups absolutely agree with the fact that anyone who rides in a pack and pops wheelies in traffic, that should happen. But because they’re experienced bicyclists, they see the real danger every day.”

Hahn said she is in full support of Sunderman’s reckless biking bill, but there were a few small pieces to his legislation that she wanted to suggest improvements. Her bill was laid out on Nov. 4. 

“Suffolk County is notorious for not being safe for bicyclists,” she said. “The purpose of my law is just to make drivers aware — give the cyclists the room, close your door when someone is passing you, people are not looking out.”

Her bill, which will go to public hearing on Dec. 1, will help drivers of cars and bikes be more educated of the dangers they both could face if they choose to act irresponsibly. A decision, or amending, of Sunderman’s bill will be decided on Dec. 15. 

Current models show Tropical Storm Isaias will hit Long Island with the strongest winds of the storm. Photo from National Hurricane Center

As Tropical Storm Isaias climbs from the southeast coast towards Long Island, county officials are deploying resources in the event of any damage from the wind and rain and encouraging residents to track the storm and, if necessary, avoid travel tomorrow.

The worst of the storm, which could have winds of 39 miles per hour to 55 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 65 miles per hour, may hit the island in the afternoon through the evening. Most of the county could get between two inches and three inches of rain, with one to two inches on the east end.

“When you consider the amount of rain we’re talking about, if we get hit with those numbers, that is a serious event,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said in a press conference today.

Bellone urged residents to secure loose objects or bring them inside on Monday to prevent any damage.

Residents who lose power can text OUT to PSE&G at 773454. Residents can also report an outage online, assuming they have the ability to connect online, through PSEGLINY.com, or they can call (800) 490-0075.

The storm surge could bring as much as 10 to 15 feet of breaking surf on Tuesday afternoon. The vulnerable shoreline could also have two to three feet of flooding with the high tide on Tuesday between 9 p.m. and midnight.

Suffolk County is prepared to handle evacuations, although Bellone said such actions aren’t expected.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) suggested in an email that customers remain in their homes while PSE&G crews are working nearby. If residents need to speak with representatives of the utility, PSE&G urged residents to practice social distancing and remain at least six feet away.

Hahn also suggested that residents keep their cell phones and tablets charged so they have a full battery. Lowering screen brightness and shutting down applications preserves battery life.

Bellone urged people to stay away from flooded streets. Cars that get trapped or that stall in flooded waters drain resources from the county, requiring rescue for the occupants of the vehicle.

The Emergency Operations Center, which has been active for months in the midst of the pandemic, is up and running and will have increased hours. The staffing at the center includes members of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services, the Suffolk County Police Department, the Sheriff’s office, the Department of Public Works, the Red Cross, Long Island Railroad, the State Police and PSE&G.

The SCPD has deployed humvees to each of their precincts to prepare them for the storm. The Department of Public Works has also pre-deployed a number of resources, such as 62 chain saws, 13 full saw, 22 10-wheeled dump tracks, 35 debris clearance crews, among other machines and crews.

“All of that diverse equipment is pre-deployed and prepared to go in case we need to clear roads, address flooding or help evacuate individuals,” Bellone said.

Bellone urged residents to sign up for the Suffolk County code red emergency notification system, which provides customized messages to residents. People can sign up through the we site suffolkcountyny.gov/department/fres. The code red sign up is on the right side in blue.

Bellone urged residents to monitor the media for updates and to track the progress of the storm. Even if this storm doesn’t bring considerable damage, it may provide a dry run for what could be an active hurricane season, which will occur in the midst of the county’s ongoing efforts to recover from the pandemic caused by COVID-19.

This fall, in particular, could present numerous contemporaneous challenges, with the COVID threat, possible flu outbreaks, and the start of an uncertain school year.

Brookhaven’s single-stream recycling facility in Yaphank. File photo by Clayton Collier

Suffolk County is looking to tackle a pressing environmental issue on Long Island with the creation of a Regional Recycling Assessment Task Force. 

The legislation, sponsored by Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), was passed at the end of 2019. The task force going into 2020 will lok to address the recycling burden found throughout the county. 

Hahn said towns and villages throughout the county are struggling to handle the increased recycling burden. 

“Recycling and waste management is a global problem not just a regional one,” she said. 

Since China’s 2018 decision to ban the import of most plastics and other materials used by its recycling processors, a number of municipalities have altered programs and in cases have reduced or eliminated recycling. 

Hahn said currently recycling in Suffolk County is handled through a patchwork of programs. 

“We need to come together to help each other, and come up with ideas and encourage other solutions,” the legislator said. 

In Brookhaven as a result of the market crash and the town’s recycling contractor, Green Stream Recycling voiding its contract, the town has switched from single-stream to dual-stream recycling and has asked residents to drop glass off at 21 points in the town instead of picking it up at curbside. 

Ed Romaine (R), Brookhaven town supervisor, said he applauds Hahn’s and others efforts to solve the current recycling issue. 

“It is a very good idea, we have to do something to solve the solid waste crisis in the near future,” he said.

Romaine said with current plans to close the landfill in 2024, and there being no market to send glass, only compounds the issue the town and municipalities face.  

“I wish the DEC would be more involved but I’m glad someone is looking into realistic solutions to this problem. We look forward to participating [in the task force],” the supervisor said. 

Similarly Smithtown was also affected by the departure of Green Stream Recycling, as it had a recycling contract with Brookhaven. Smithtown had an agreement to sell all its recyclables through Green Stream for a $180,000 annual profit. In January 2019, Smithtown residents were told to separate their recyclables when the town switched back to dual-stream recycling. 

Hahn, the chairwoman of the Legislature’s Environment, Planning & Agriculture Committee, plans to put together a 17-member advisory group made up of municipal recycling professionals, county agencies and environmental advocates. Members have not been officially announced and meetings are scheduled to begin sometime later this year. 

The task force’s aim would be to review existing recycling programs, develop strategies for increasing the efficiency of recycling regionally, and to develop mechanisms to encourage the streamlining of the local recycling process.  

Hahn stressed the continuation of educating the public on the benefits of recycling and reducing plastic waste in their everyday lives. 

The 5-cent minimum fee for plastic bags in stores, which took effect in January 2018, has been successful — with reports showing a 70 to 80 percent reduction in the use of the bags. Hahn also sponsored a bill that would create a plastic straw ban in restaurants that took effect last month. In addition, the Styrofoam bill bars businesses from using items such as cups, trays and containers that are made from polystyrene, as well as ban retail stores from selling those products. It will require businesses in the county to use biodegradable products. 

“They go hand in hand — the success has been apparent in reducing plastic waste in the county,” she said. “I’m hoping we can work with Brookhaven and other municipalities in finding a way to properly handle this and do the right thing for residents.”

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The Port Jefferson Station and Terryville communities came together Dec. 18 to show that a National Guard Airman and community member is still remembered.

Comsewogue School District and Brookhaven Town officials gathered with community members at the corner of Bedford Ave. and King Street to honor Tech Sgt. Dashan Briggs, a Port Jeff Station resident who was assigned to the 101st Rescue Squadron, 106th Rescue Wing of the National Guard. He was among those killed when their helicopter was shot down in March, 2018. The 30-year-old was one of seven airmen on board carrying out a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, an American-led mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Underneath the sign for King Street now reads “Tech. Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs Way.” The street sign’s designation came after Brookhaven town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) sponsored and helped pass a town resolution in June.

“Tech. Sgt. Dashan Briggs was a husband, father, grandson, friend, neighbor,  and dedicated service member our country with honor and distinction,” she said. “We remember Briggs as a wonderful representative of our community and a leader who was committed to his work and to helping others.”

Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said Briggs’ sacrifice can be better be remembered by both school and community.

“As a mother your heart breaks for the sacrifice the family has given for our nation and that’s
the reality for protecting our freedoms,” she said. “It’s such an honor for the family and the sacrifice, but its really important for his children to see this from the community. The kids may not remember this specific moment, but as they grow up and travel through the school they will always remember seeing their father there every day.”

Before the street sign unveiling, the school district presented Briggs’ family with a portrait of their husband and father at the Boyle Road Elementary School. Both of Brigg’s children are in the Comsewogue school district.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the portrait does a great job as a reminder to everybody who moves up through the district.

““I think the portrait following the kids as they get older is a wonderful thing,” he said. “A whole generation of kids who grow up in this school and the school district will learn the lessons of sacrifice and service of country through the example of Tech. Sgt. Dashan Briggs. It’s a great way to honor him, it’s a great way to honor his family and it’s a great benefit to all of the kids in this school district.”

Additional reporting by Monica Gleberman

This post was amended Dec. 19 to add additional comments from Councilwoman Cartright.

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Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce celebrates its tree-lighting ceremony Dec. 7. Photos by Joan Nickeson

The Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce opened the holiday season Dec. 7 with its annual tree-lighting ceremony outside the chamber-owned train car at the corner of Routes 347 and 112.

Chamber leaders were joined by Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), not to mention Santa Claus himself. Members of the PJ Station-based School of Rock and Backstage Studio of Dance were available for live entertainment. Refreshments were served by Buttercup’s Dairy Store and Colonial Coffee.

The next night, Dec. 8, the chamber started its annual Polar Express Experience nights, allowing young people to watch “The Polar Express” inside the chamber’s train car, where they were served a candy cane, cookies and hot cocoa.

The chamber is hosting additional Polar Express experiences Saturday and Sunday through December.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright during a town board meeting. TBR News Media file photo

A local town council member has put forward attempts to offer emergency transportation for the homeless when the county cannot, though not all parties are on the same page if the service is necessary or even wanted.

The Brookhaven Town Board meeting Nov. 19 showcased a rare public heated moment between members of the town council, specifically over a resolution to offer jitney services for the homeless when the county cannot.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) has for months been supporting a resolution to allow the town to enter an intermunicipal agreement with Suffolk County for the town to provide jitney services to transport homeless people to a shelter or other facility in an emergency situation. The Democratic councilwoman’s move to table the resolution resulted in a heated discussion over the timing and merits of the bill, and after advice from town attorney Annette Eaderesto, the councilwoman withdrew the resolution.

In a letter to the Town, Suffolk County Deputy Executive Jon Kaiman said that the county had “no ability” to put forward a memorandum of understanding regarding using municipal town buses for transporting the homeless.

“There would be a number of issues such as cost of personnel, operations and administration that we would need to explore before we would consider making any recommendations,” said the letter sent to Matt Miner, the town chief of operations.

Kaiman did not respond to requests to his office for additional comment.

The lone Democrat on the Town Board asked why she had not seen the letter until 18 days after the town had originally received it. 

“I’m looking at an email that was sent to Matt Miner on Nov. 1. Today is Nov. 19,” Cartright said to Supervisor Ed Romaine (R). 

In a previous interview, Cartright described an encounter with one homeless couple several months ago. After the work of convincing them to accept residence in a Suffolk County shelter, the councilwoman waited outside with them for a cab that was ordered by the county. After more than two hours of waiting, the cab had not shown and had been misdirected to Port Jefferson village instead of Port Jeff Station. 

She said the event showed there was a missing piece to available transport for the homeless, who are often very hesitant to accept assistance from the government in the first place. If she wasn’t there, the councilwoman said, she felt the homeless couple would likely never have gotten in the cab to go to a shelter.

“This is basically a backstop measure in case of an emergency,” Cartright said. “Everybody is clear whose responsibility [transportation for the homeless] is.”

“This is basically a backstop measure in case of an emergency,  everybody is clear whose responsibility [transportation for the homeless] is.” 

– Valerie Catright

In the letter, Kaiman wrote that he was aware of the incident in October but described it as an “infrequent occurrence.” 

The county provides tokens for public transportation to the homeless in need of transit to a shelter, and on occasion Suffolk will facilitate pickup with a taxicab.

Cartright has sponsored the resolution since early October, but the bill has been tabled two times, Oct. 3 and 24. Both times Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point) moved to table the resolution and was accepted by the supervisor and all council members, except for Cartright. 

Romaine said he and the board initially thought they had the support of the county through Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), however, the letter, he said, disproved that assumption. The supervisor added he had no means to put forward an MOU without the consent of the county.

“I think we should defeat this until the county expresses an interest — it takes two to tango,” Romaine said. “We don’t have the willingness and cooperation from the county of Suffolk.”

He later added that transportation for homeless individuals was under the county’s jurisdiction, and not of the town’s.

“It’s like asking the county to pave our roads, they don’t do that,” he said. “That’s why we have different levels of government.” 

Hahn released a statement on the ongoing discussion.

“We are in the process of discussing the possibility of a multijurisdictional solution with cooperation between the Town and County to address a specific community concern identified by Councilwoman Cartright,” the legislator said. “It is premature to identify details before we have an agreement between the two municipalities.”

Eaderesto said, upon speaking to county attorney Dennis Brown, that the request should have come from the Department of Social Services rather than just from Hahn, who cannot speak for the entirety of the Legislature.

Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville) asked for their intentions not to be misinterpreted.

“This has never been put together properly on the county’s side,” he said. “The deputy county executive said he has no interest … If we can fill that need and truly fill that need, not just saying we do on paper, because it really isn’t the purview of the town government, it’s squarely the county’s purview.”

Cartright said after the meeting she is hoping the town and county attorneys can sort out differences between the two municipalities, adding she feels such a resolution is necessary, and it conforms to previous resolutions that offered town services in emergency situations with New York State Department of Transportation.

The councilwoman and other members of the Quality of Life Task Force will meet with the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, Dec. 17 at the Comsewogue Public Library, where they will discuss homlessness and other area issues. 

 

Kara Hahn in 2017 Photo by Desirée Keegan

The fact that the Republican Party didn’t produce a candidate who actively campaigned against Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) speaks volumes. For the Suffolk County legislator seat in the 5th District, we strongly endorse Hahn.

The legislator has worked to defend the environment and the public’s health and safety since she first ran for office in 2011. She has spearheaded laws that have led to the protection of our water supply and the preservation of open spaces. She not only has helped to put Narcan into the hands of our first responders to help them rescue those who have overdosed on opioids, but a recent initiative has created a program to train school coaches to help prevent those tragedies in the first place.

This year due to Hahn’s initiative in an effort dubbed Operation Remember the names of those lost during the Cold War, the Gulf wars and the War on Terror were added to local veterans memorials.

Hahn has moved the county in the right direction, and she is aware of the needs of those she serves in the 5th District. She shows up and listens to her constituents which is the first step in getting things done.