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Mark Cuthbertson

Incumbent Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D), Democratic candidate Emily Rogan and Republicans Jim Leonick and Ed Smyth are competing for two seats on Huntington's town board. Photos by Alex Petroski
Incumbent Mark Cuthbertson (D). Photo by Alex Petroski

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Four candidates for the Huntington town board are deeply divided on what steps are needed to ensure a brighter future for residents.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) is seeking re-election to his sixth term on town council with political newcomer Huntington resident Emily Rogan (D). She is a freelance writer who has served as a trustee for Huntington school board for 12 years, four of which as the board’s president. Rogan seeks to take over the seat of Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D), who chose to run for Huntington supervisor rather than seek re-election to town council.

They will face off against Republican candidate Jim Leonick, of East Northport, an attorney with his own practice who has previously worked as a state tax grievance arbiter. He is running with Lloyd Harbor resident Ed Smyth, also an attorney who has served in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and previously on the Village of Lloyd Harbor’s board of zoning appeals.

While the candidates all profess a love for Huntington, they disagreed on what shape or form its future development should take.

Republican candidate Jim Leonick. Photo by Alex Petroski

Cuthbertson said one of his main goals is creating more housing for senior citizens and millennials to enable them to stay in town. Rogan agreed to the need for a walkable community that incorporates mixed-use retail and apartment spaces in the town, citing downtown Huntington Station and Melville’s Route 110 as prime locations.

“The entire town benefits when all of our town is thriving and feels uplifted,” Rogan said. “People want to see Huntington Station become as desirable a place to be as downtown Huntington village, downtown Northport Village or Cold Spring Harbor.”

Leonick and Smyth both said they feel these developments aren’t considered desirable by residents, saying current town board simply isn’t listening. The Republican
candidates said rather than high-density apartments, they would make it easier for seniors to put accessory apartments in their homes for additional income.

Democratic challenger and political newcomer Emily Rogan. Photo by Alex Petroski

“Density is part of a plan that will allow us to sustain our local economy,” Cuthbertson responded in a recent debate at TBR News Media offices in Setauket. “We’ve already liberalized the rules of apartments to put apartments over stores in our downtown areas. In Huntington village, it’s been very successful.”

Rather than more housing, Smyth and Leonick said their focus would be outreach to bring large businesses to Melville’s Route 110 business corridor to increase jobs.

“The best path to affordable housing is a bigger paycheck,” Smyth said.

Leonick took it one step further calling for re-evaluation of the town’s comprehensive master plan Horizons 2020.

“The biggest thing we need to do is put the brakes on future development projects until we get a handle on what we need to be doing,” Leonick said.

Both Republican candidates said that if elected, they would focus on improving the status of the town’s roadways and traffic issues. Smyth called the town’s roads “deplorable,” citing Prime Avenue as an example, after utility companies have cut them up to lay wires and infrastructure, calling for changes to town code. Leonick heavily criticized town officials for a lack of parking in Huntington village.

Republican candidate Ed Smyth. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It takes a half hour of driving around to get a spot,” he said. “You can’t continue to develop in the village without solving that problem. We should have had a parking garage a while ago.”

Cuthbertson said the town’s work on a parking garage began two years ago, with a failed attempt at a public-private partnership, but is now moving forward. He pointed to the lack of empty stores downtown as a sign of success.

Rogan agreed that the town’s roadways need change, not more paving, but rather to become more pedestrian and bicyclist friendly. She wants to focus on a public campaign and signage to improve driver awareness.

Town of Huntington officials want to ensure that Italian-Americans can celebrate their culture with pride this Columbus Day weekend.

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) made a vow to protect the Christopher Columbus statue overlooking  Huntington Village against a growing movement to remove what have been referred to as controversial historical monuments.

“The Town of Huntington took on the crusade of putting the statue here,” Petrone said. “We are not removing the statue. The town board feels very strongly about this; we are not removing it.”

Huntington’s Christopher Columbus statue has stood at the corner of Main Street and Lawrence Hill Road for more than 40 years. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington’s Columbus statue has stood at the corner of Main Street and Lawrence Hill Road for more than 40 years, according to Petrone. It was commissioned by Sam Albicocco, a Huntington resident of Italian-American heritage, and its costs were financed by contributions from local residents.

The supervisor said he felt it was necessary to make a public statement in wake of a growing movement at the national and state levels to remove public monuments to controversial historical figures, such as Confederate war leaders and Christopher Columbus.

In August, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) assembled a committee to consider possible removal of “symbols of hate” throughout the city, including statues of Christopher Columbus, as national debate raged over taking down Confederate monuments.

Shortly after the committee was announced, The New York Times reported the Christopher Columbus statue in Central Park was defaced with its hands stained by red paint and graffiti, which included the words “Hate will not be tolerated” on the pedestal.

“This is a political frenzy that’s been unleashed on the Italian community,” said Robert Ferrito, state president of the Sons of Italy. “It’s a frenzy of political correctness and a rewriting of history.”

Ferrito said his Italian-American fraternal organization is working with other organizations throughout the state to ensure that all monuments to Christopher Columbus are protected and the holiday remains unchanged.

“This is a political frenzy that’s been unleashed on the Italian community. It’s a frenzy of political correctness and a rewriting of history.”

— Rob Ferrito

U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) recalled how his own father, an immigrant, was one of many Italian-Americans who faced strong discrimination during World War II and the years that followed and spoke of how it relates to the proposition of tearing down the statue.

“I was proud as a young boy to be an Italian-American,” Suozzi said. “We are going to make sure people realize Christopher Columbus gave so much to our country, just like Italian-Americans gave so much to our country, and we are not backing down.”

The announcement by Town officials comes on the eve of the annual Long Island Fall Festival in Heckscher Park, which is traditionally kicked off each year with a wreath laying at the Columbus statue.

“As anyone who has viewed the parade knows, it is not only about one man,
Christopher Columbus,” Petrone said. “It is about the millions of Long Islanders of Italian extraction who take pride in their heritage and their contributions to our town, our Island, our state and our country. Here in the Town of Huntington — a town that values diversity and inclusiveness, and, above all, history — we have no plans to cancel the parade. And we certainly have no plans to even consider taking down this statue.”

The wreath laying will be held Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. The town’s annual Columbus Day parade will be held on Oct. 8 starting at 12:30 p.m. and travel along the length of Main Street.

Petrone said that the town had not received any written objections to the parade or ceremony as of Oct. 1.

Huntington Manor Fire Department members unveil the new sign at the entrance of the newly-named Depot Road Richard W. Holst Memorial Park. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Eight years after the tragic death of a Huntington Manor firefighter, a town park has been renamed to honor his service to the community.

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and the town board announced Depot Road Park is now officially Richard W. Holst Memorial Park, renamed after the late fire police captain, chaplain, and posthumous honorary chief of Huntington Manor Fire Department.

“It is our honor to rededicate this park in his name for his heroic efforts and his giving to this community, continuously,” Petrone said.

Noreen Holst, Huntington Town Board members and Huntington Manor Fire Department members unveil a memorial plaque dedicated to Richard W. Holst. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Holst, a U.S. Navy veteran, joined the Huntington Manor fire department in 1978. He served for 31 years, spending 26 of those as the department’s chaplain and captain of the fire police. Prior to his death, Holst was elected chief chaplain of the New York State Association of Fire Chaplains in 2008. His fellow firefighters affectionately called him, “the Rev.”

“As chaplain, Rich spent countless hours looking after, comforting and at times consoling members and families of the Huntington Manor Fire Department,” said Jon Hoffman, first assistant chief of Huntington Manor Fire Department. “Today, we dedicate this stone and plaque in honor of Richie. It will stay here for years and watch over the people in this park as Richie did for us for so many years.”

In the early morning of Sept. 9, 2009, Holst was walking to 7-Eleven on Depot Road when he saw smoke rising from the adjacent shopping center. He reported the fire and immediately went to the scene to begin evacuation of the stores and checking for possible trapped occupants. Shortly after firefighters arrived, Holst suffered a heart attack and died.

The fire was determined to have started in Uber Cafe, a bagel shop, and police later ruled the incident arson, Petrone said. One of the shop’s owners pled guilty to attempted arson, the second owner was later convicted of arson.

Depot Road Park in Huntington was renamed for former Huntington Manor Fire Department member Richard W. Holst.

The newly renamed Huntington Station park off East 20th Street is only a few hundred feet from the site of the fatal fire. It features a playground and Little League baseball fields. 

“Depot Road Park is a special place, it’s a hidden gem in our park system,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “I think like many of you firefighters who knew Chief Holst, he was a hidden gem in our community. He was someone who was there to serve, dedicated his life to service in the [U.S.] Navy and in the fire department, then the important role of chaplain. So much of his time was dedicated to others.”

In addition to the park’s new signage, a large stone was unveiled bearing a memorial plaque with Holt’s image, notes about his accomplishments and details about his death. Deacon Edward Billia from St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church said a blessing over both the sign and memorial stone.

Noreen Holst appeared deeply touched by the tribute paid to her late husband. While she declined to speak publicly, she clutched a tissue in hand while Huntington Manor Assistant Chief Chuck Brady thanked all those who attended Saturday’s ceremony on behalf of the family. 

Huntington Manor Fire Commissioner Chris Fusaro encouraged the young members of the organization to take a long look around at those gathered and ask to hear personal stories about Holst’s exemplary life. 

“For all you who don’t know what firefighters do, it’s day and night, holidays and weekends when you get up from the table, get out of bed to go and respond,” Fusaro said. “Rich did that. He did it willingly and always from his heart.”

Huntington Manor firefighters salute their former colleague. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Councilman Eugene Cook has a proposal that would set term limits for all Huntington elected officials. File photo by Rohma Abbas

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A 3-to-2 split of the Huntington Town Board has sent a proposal aimed at placing term limits on elected officials back to the drawing board.

At an Aug. 15 town board meeting, council members voted against a public hearing on legislation that would limit the number of years a public official could hold office. The sticking point was which town positions it would affect.

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) made a motion to amend Councilman Eugene Cook’s (R) resolution which proposed a two-term, or eight-year limit, upwards to three four-year terms, or 12 years. Edwards said this would be more in line with term limits placed by other state and federal governmental offices. Suffolk County legislators are limited to 12 years in office.

Cook accepted these changes, but proposed that the elected positions of town clerk and receiver of taxes be removed from the bill as they are not legislative positions.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said he wouldn’t support these changes, citing term limits should apply to all elected officials or none. Supervisor Frank Petrone (D)  and Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) sided with him.

Berland proposed, with Cuthbertson’s support, that the issue of term limits on elected officials should be voted on in a townwide referendum this November. Petrone and the council members voted against a hearing on the current proposed legislation to see if a referendum is a possibility.

As incumbent bows out, potential challengers come out of the woodwork

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone drives through the Cow Harbor Day Parade on Sunday, Sept. 20. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

After more than two decades at the helm, 72-year-old Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) announced last week he will not be seeking re-election this fall for another term as supervisor.

“It is with a considerable sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, as well as a little bit of sadness, that I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for re-election this year,” Petrone wrote in an open letter last week. He said it was a difficult decision, but felt he had achieved what he wanted to when he first took office.

“Since becoming town supervisor … I have consistently pursued an agenda that mirrored my first campaign slogan: People before Politics,” he said. “My agenda was to run town government in a way that made quality of life for our residents my No. 1 priority. And now, looking back, I believe I have accomplished what I set out to do back in 1993. It is only when an elected official puts people first that politics can be used for the greater good.”

Since being elected supervisor almost 24 years ago, Petrone has worked on issues spanning from creating affordable housing, parking, revitalizing Huntington Station, improving local water quality and more. Petrone said he is proud of his fiscal management record, which includes reducing the debt service from 24 percent to about 7 percent in the operating budget and obtaining and maintaining an AAA bond rating. He also mentioned his environmental record, which includes spearheading the first open-space bond act on Long Island, protecting 1,000 acres of land from development, purchasing more than 300 acres for preservation, creating nine new parks and improving 73 others.

“Since becoming town supervisor … I have consistently pursued an agenda that mirrored my first campaign slogan: People before Politics.” — Frank Petrone

The supervisor credited his achievements to his ability to run a bipartisan government.

“We hired people based on their qualifications and not their party affiliation,” he said. “We worked together as professionals and, when necessary, we reached across party lines to move initiatives forward.”

He thanked the many people in government he’s worked with throughout the years, as well as his wife Pat Petrone “for understanding that the demands of this job are 24/7 and for allowing me to focus on my public responsibilities, sometimes at the expense of family ones.”

At the town board meeting Tuesday, April 4, residents thanked Petrone for his service, and those very people are exactly what he said he’ll miss most.

Town board members praised Petrone for his leadership.

“The supervisor has a great ability to bring people together toward a common goal,” Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) said in an email. “We will miss his guidance, leadership and passion for our great town.”

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) echoed the sentiment.

“A little more than 23 years ago, Frank Petrone assumed the office of supervisor and inherited a town adrift in fiscal instability, laden with debt and countless quality of life issues needing immediate attention,” he said in an email. “Pledging to place the people above politics, Supervisor Petrone worked in a bipartisan manner to restore Huntington’s fiscal health, implemented numerous programs and enacted commonsense legislation to protect our fragile environment, expand housing opportunities for seniors and moderate income families. Throughout his distinguished tenure as supervisor, Frank Petrone never wavered from doing what was in the best interest of his residents. He demanded the best from his fellow town board members and staff, always stressing the importance of upholding our commitment to fair and just public service. It has been an honor and privilege to serve alongside a compassionate and caring gentleman. He has been a faithful and trusted mentor, and I wish him the absolute best in his impending new role as grandfather.”

Town Councilman Gene Cook (I) said he hopes Petrone’s future is as bright as possible.

“I wish him the very best,” Cook said in a phone interview. “I have the utmost respect for him and I hope his future is everything he wants it to be.”

“Frank Petrone never wavered from doing what was in the best interest of his residents. He demanded the best from his fellow town board members and staff, always stressing the importance of upholding our commitment to fair and just public service.”
— Mark Cuthbertson

As for his own future, as a challenger to Petrone’s seat just four years ago, Cook said he’s interested in hearing from residents to see if they would like him to run for supervisor again.

“It’s up to the people of Huntington to decide and I’d really like to hear from them,” he said. “If there’s support I’ll look into it and see how I feel about it.”

Cook encouraged residents to call or email him if they would like to see him represent them as town supervisor, or even “give me a thumbs-up when you see me in town.”

Darryl St. George, a Greenlawn resident who announced his bid for town supervisor last month also praised Petrone.

“Supervisor Petrone has committed over 20 years of his life to town government,” he said in an email. “I thank him for the positive contributions he has made to our town.”

St. George said he believes the timing is right for a new leader to bring change.

“I commend him on his decision as I know it was a difficult one,” he said. “Now is a time for new and energetic leadership to engage our community, and bring real and meaningful change to our neighborhoods. I am dedicated to doing what is right for the people of Huntington and listening to their ideas and concerns.”

Petrone’s announcement seems to have widened the pool of candidates for his soon-to-be vacant seat, as Huntington Station resident Brian Muellers said soon after Petrone announced he is “very seriously,” considering a run.

Muellers is a former Nassau County Legislator. He served in the 18th District from 2000 to 2003, and is looking to enter the public arena again after leaving his leadership role at Pall Corporation, a global supplier of filtration, separation and purification products. He recently volunteered for the congressional campaign of U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) which Muellers said reinvigorated his desire to give back.

“I am determining for myself if there’s enough interest in the background, experience and leadership I bring for a run for office,” he said in a phone interview. “I have the ability to win tough elections, and I have a strong desire to serve my community.”

Petrone said he feels comfortable leaving office now, as many of the projects he set out to work on when he first campaigned are completed and successful.

“It was a good breaking time for me personally and a good breaking time for the town,” he said at the town board meeting. “Some new blood will come in and sit in this seat and will maybe have some new ideas that I didn’t have. And that’s what the town needs. It needs to keep moving forward and it needs to keep new ideas floating. So I think it’s time to give someone else an opportunity to do that.”

Image from Airbnb

Huntington residents came to clear the air at a town board meeting Jan. 11, after Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) and Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) scheduled a public hearing for a resolution to ban the use of short-term rentals like Airbnb in the town.

In the resolution, the town sought to regulate temporary rental properties in order to protect the safety, health and welfare of Huntington residents. The town board “finds the increase in residential homes being rented for short periods of time detrimentally affects the quality of life in the neighborhoods in which they occur,” according to the resolution.

Residents spoke in opposition to the resolution during the hearing.

“I started hosting for economic reasons but have found it to be a very positive experience,” Michael Krasowitz, a Huntington Station resident said. “I feel like I’m an ambassador for the Town of Huntington. When they come I take them in my car, I drive them around, I show them the beaches, the restaurants, and they appreciate that — to learn about the town. For me it’s a way of engaging new people. So far it’s been a positive experience and the people have really enjoyed it.”

Alison Rexler, a former Walt Whitman resident, said Airbnb is more than just an enjoyable way to spend time for her — it’s a necessity to survive.

“I was planning on purchasing my own home and unfortunately my mortgage fell through and I found myself basically homeless,” she said at the meeting. “I have been unable to find a lease in an apartment that would rent for less than a year. Airbnb is my only solution. I have a daughter I would like to be able to visit. I have cats I would like to be able to visit. I have family and friends here. Airbnb has allowed me to stay with my family and friends and stay within the community. Without it I don’t know where I’d be but truly homeless at the moment. It is serving a need that you cannot anticipate.”

Janet Bernardo, a Fort Salonga resident, said her guests help contribute to an increase in revenue for small businesses.

“I am so excited I get to share my space, my home, my view, the marshland, the preserve, all the local stores that my guests go to,” she said. “I can’t imagine any of the local shop owners have any concerns about all these additional people coming into the town. I can’t figure out why the town would want to put a ban on it.”

Before the public hearing, Cuthbertson said he created this proposal in reaction to concerns from residents.

“It came about because of a number of constituent complaints we had received,” he said. “I asked the town attorneys office to draft legislation and frankly the easiest way to draft that legislation was in the most restrictive manner which is a ban.”

He said the town can always reduce the amount of restrictions, but it’s easier for the town to start at a full ban and work its way backward.

“I have a very open mind about something less than a ban,” he said. “We’re here to weigh the quality of life concerns of transient rentals and off street parking and really balance them against I’m sure some of the very good arguments.”

According to the company’s website, Airbnb, which was founded in 2008, is a community marketplace for people to list, discover and book housing accommodations around the world for varying lengths of time.

After hearing reactions from the public, Cuthbertson said he is willing to consider drafting legislation that is not an outright ban.

“Based on the valuable public input we received, I am considering measures that would regulate Airbnb operations instead of banning them all together,” he said in an email. “The town needs to pass legislation that strikes a balance between someone who plays ‘host’ to sharing their residence versus someone who operates as the equivalent of a hotelier. Public safety and quality of life issues will also play an integral part of this legislation.”

No decision has been reached regarding going forward with a ban.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson speaks in Huntington Station about the problems at Melissa tavern. Photo from Stephen Jimenez

Huntington Station’s Melissa Restaurant Sports Bar & Grill has officially run dry.

After local officials fought to close the establishment, which has been plagued with numerous criminal and violent incidents, the tavern willingly decided to stop serving liquor.

According to a press release, the owners of Melissa tavern, located at 1419 New York Ave., voluntarily forfeited the license to state regulators last week. The tavern owners could not be reached for comment, and it is unclear whether the establishment will remain a dry restaurant or if ownership will change hands.

Since July, Huntington Town Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) has been urging the New York State Liquor Authority to revoke the license to curb the safety issues taking place at and around the tavern.

“This is great news for the Huntington Station community and I applaud our police, civic leaders and residents who assisted the town in applying constant pressure to put an end to violence and crime at Melissa tavern,” Cuthbertson said in a statement. “For far too long, this establishment has been a detriment to the quality of life for Huntington Station and I am pleased to announce Melissa’s last call is history.”

Inspector Chris Hatton of the 2nd Precinct agreed this is a victory for safety in Huntington Station.

“Absolutely this is a positive step,” Hatton said in a phone interview. “We’ve had a lot of incidents there in the past several years both inside and outside the tavern. It did draw crowds that tended to engage in criminal activities.”

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, Melissa tavern has been cited with 127 incidents in a five-year span, including a shooting in the parking lot this past March and a stabbing inside the establishment in September.

Cuthbertson worked with local officials and state offices to ensure the end of liquor sales at the tavern.

“Our first priority is public safety,” he said, “and I am pleased that the town had the support of the New York State Liquor Authority, the Suffolk County Board of Health and the Suffolk County Police Department.”

Jim McGoldrick, a Huntington Station resident, agrees that this is an improvement for the community.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” he said in a phone interview. “This is the best thing to happen to Huntington Station in a few years. Children can’t be exposed to the type of violence that was taking place there. It sends a message that this won’t be tolerated.”

Daniel Stratton (center) speaks at a press conference about a resolution to ban smoking at athletic fields with Legislator William Spencer, (left) and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (right). Photo from Jennifer Mish

By Wenhao Ma

Huntington legislators want to clear the air.

Town Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D), joined by Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport), announced new legislation, on July 14, that would prohibit smoking on athletic fields across Huntington Town.

Smoking in town parks and beaches has been banned for years — but athletic fields have not been specifically addressed in any town laws. The new legislation, according to Spencer’s office, is a response to residents who have expressed concerns about being exposed to secondhand smoke at sporting events.

Daniel Stratton is one of those concerned residents, and he brought the proposed code amendment to Cuthbertson’s attention.

“I noticed some of my children’s coaches leaving the dugout to smoke a cigarette just outside the fence of the field,” Stratton said in an email. “Aside from this being an obviously unhealthy behavior to model for the children, it seemed very counterintuitive when we are trying to get our children outside to be active and healthy.

“Even a child becoming conditioned to see cigarettes out in public or out at a ball field has an impact. [The legislation] is something that in the long term will save lives.”
— William Spencer

Stratton, who is a former health teacher, said he started researching laws and regulations for smoking at athletic fields and that is how he got involved with Cuthbertson.

“I discovered [there] was already a ban at Huntington beaches and playgrounds and I saw that this was spearheaded by Councilman Cuthbertson. So I contacted him to find out if there was already a law that encompassed [athletic fields] and if not, how I could pursue a resolution to this situation,” he said.

According to the legislation, no person shall smoke a tobacco product, herbal product, marijuana, cigarette, electronic cigarette, pipe, cigar, vapors, e-liquids or other legal marijuana derivatives in an outdoor playground or athletic field that is town-owned property.

Cuthbertson said the legislation is meant to keep the lungs of Huntington resident’s as safe as possible.

“The goal of my legislation is to protect residents and their families from the health concerns related to secondhand smoke,” he said in a statement. “If passed, this will extend my smoking legislation to include playgrounds, beaches and athletic fields.”

Cuthbertson’s proposal is seen as the result of the cooperation between the Town of Huntington and the Suffolk County Legislature.

In 2012, the county legislature passed a law restricting smoking in county parks and beaches to parking facilities only. Smoking on county-owned athletic fields was also prohibited. But county laws do not apply to town properties, which leaves smoking on town athletic fields untouched.

Spencer thanked Cuthbertson for drafting the new legislation, which he called “a bold step” in helping to reduce the rate of smoking among the youth and ensuring clean air for all who visit the town’s sports fields.

“Everything counts,” Spencer said in a statement. “Even a child becoming conditioned to see cigarettes out in public or out at a ball field has an impact. [The legislation] is something that in the long term will save lives.”

According to the American Lung Association, tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemical compounds and at least 69 of the chemicals are known to cause cancer. Secondhand smoke is also toxic, and causes more than 41,000 deaths per year. ALA’s website says more than 24 million children in the U.S. have been exposed to second-hand smoke, and it is responsible for between 150,000 and 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections in infants and children under 18 months of age.

“As a practicing pediatric ear, nose, and throat physician, protecting residents from the dangers of tobacco is a cause near and dear to my heart,” Spencer said. “This is why I stand here with my colleagues on the town level to advocate for these measures.”

A public hearing on this resolution is scheduled at a town board meeting on Aug. 16.

Brianna Coakley, left, and Emily Shenkelman, right, pose with their Best in Show-winning sandcastle during the Town of Huntington’s Sand Castle Contest on July 21. The friends worked on their creation for over two and a half hours. Photo by Rebecca Anzel.

Residents from all over Huntington headed to Crab Meadow Beach in Northport last Thursday, July 21, to compete in the town’s annual sand castle contest, sponsored by Councilman Mark Cutherbertson (D). 15 groups competed and winners received gift certificates to La Casa Cafe.

Councilmen Mark Cuthbertson and Gene Cook, at opposite ends, argue at a town board meeting on Thursday, Nov. 5. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Huntington Town Council approved its $188.7 million budget on Thursday, but not without a heated discussion between Councilman Gene Cook (I) and Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) over Cook’s vote.

The budget passed with a 4-1 vote, with Cook as the lone opposition.

The budget included a 0.2 percent decrease in overall spending, a 1.3 percent increase in property tax levy and a $15 million capital budget, the town said in a press release.

This budget will amount to a $29 increase for the average homeowner.

The $15 million capital budget also focused on improvements to the town’s infrastructure, such as rehabilitation of various plants and pump stations in the Dix Hills Water District and headwork improvements in the Huntington Sewer District. Funding was included for road rehabilitation, drainage infrastructure and paving.

The town budgeted an additional $1.9 million for the town’s highway department, due to last year’s severe winter. That increase was offset by “little-to-no” increases in the other major town funds, and decreased spending in some of the special districts, the town said in a press release.

“This was a difficult budget to put together, given the limitations of the tax cap and increases in costs, such as health insurance,” Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said in a statement. “But I am pleased that we were able to maintain services and programs our residents want and have come to expect.”

Cook said he was not in support of the budget.

“We, as taxpayers, will be given $15 million worth of bonding,” Cook said at the meeting, just before the budget was approved. “I find that horrendous. I think there are better ways of doing this, so I will be voting no.”

Cuthbertson said that this has become an annual right of passage for Cook.

“I have taken to calling this ‘having your cook and eating it too,’” Cuthbertson said at the meeting. “For the fourth year in a row now, Councilman Cook has offered no advice on the budget and no budget amendment. He simply votes no.”

Cook countered, asking Cuthbertson if he felt better after making that comment and Cuthbertson said he did, because he had stated his case.

“Tell us what you would do instead,” Cuthbertson said.

Cook, who just finished months of campaigning for a successful re-election bid, has said at many events that he feels there is a lot of mismanagement and misappropriation of funds within the town budget. He said he wants to see more consolidation to save taxpayer dollars.

“I want to start each department with a $0 budget, and have them tell us why they need money,” Cook said. “We need to have the directors of these departments be more responsible.”

Cuthbertson questioned if that was possible.

“I don’t see the building department starting off with a $0 budget,” he said. According to Cuthbertson, budgets start with requests from departmental heads.

“We scrutinize those requests very carefully,” Cuthbertson said in a phone interview on Friday. “But at the end of the day, we have to deliver services.”

Cuthbertson said that every councilmember has an obligation to offer amendments if they disagree with the budget.

“But he never does that; he never offers suggestions,” he said of Cook.

At the meeting, Cook suggested that he might present his own budget next year.

“I think it’s about time,” Cook said. “But the problem is, nobody listens to me.”