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New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood

Photo courtesy Ed Flood's Facebook page

By Aramis Khosronejad

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “in 2022 U.S. greenhouse gas emissions totaled 6,341.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents, and 5,487.0 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents after accounting for sequestration from the land sector.” In the wake of these statistics, New York State has been searching for a way to help decrease these concerning figures.

As an aid to the process, New York’s governor, Kathy Hochul (D), presented a new mandate this past September. The state mandate will require zero-emission new school bus purchases by 2027 and for school districts to operate zero-emission school buses only by 2035.

Although on the surface the use of electric vehicles seems like an efficient and smart way of reducing our greenhouse gas contribution to the global community, there are some drawbacks and consequences that state Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) as well as other state politicians have pointed out. 

Local state senators, Assembly members, fire safety and school officials gathered Feb. 25 at Levittown bus depot to a “Push the Brakes” rally on the state’s electric school bus mandate.

Flood categorized the conflicts that could arise with this new mandate in two simple categories: economic issues and the alarming lack of reliability. 

According to Flood, we need only look at the numbers to be able to reach the conclusion that the economic setbacks of a mandate such as this would be potentially devastating to the academic capabilities of many school districts within New York state. To successfully and fully implement these zero-emission buses it would take “roughly $20 billion” to do so, he said.

Flood and other elected officials have also been vocal regarding the proposed state-aid school budget cuts listed in the governor’s budget proposal earlier this year. School districts will have to cut programs, camps and other academic activities and opportunities for districts whose budgets would be affected by these cuts. 

Additionally, Flood has a concern for an increase in taxes if the bus mandate were to be carried through — he said that taxes in New York are already extreme without the addition of this new bus expenditure. Also, there has to be consideration for the cost of the establishment of charging stations for the buses, compounded by the stations’ running costs. 

Another heavy consequence of the implementation of these new fleets of buses, and what Flood argues is significantly more important, is the question of their reliability. The most important question for Flood is “What steps are we taking to ensure the safety of our children and these bus drivers?” 

It has already been observed in cities where e-buses are already in place such as San Francisco and Chicago that their batteries have problems with severe temperature fluctuations. Flood points out how the EV batteries can die quickly and may not prove efficient. In addition, EV batteries are prone to catch fire and are notoriously difficult to put out. If this were to happen while one of the buses was in use, Flood claimed that we’d be “looking at the loss of lives.” 

Flood provided a potential solution to these doubts over bus batteries by bringing up the idea that “having a backup system in place could address this issue” even if this backup uses carbon. “We need a more powerful EV source than the one we have,” he said.

The main belief that Flood carried was “not saying we shouldn’t be aiming for these goals but we’re trying so hard to be the global leaders in EV that we’re looking over the health and safety concerns that it’s going to cause to all these communities.” 

According to Flood, if there were a delay to this mandate, there would be sufficient time for all these concerns to be addressed and handled properly. Then, zero-emission buses would be safe to push into New York school districts, and we could do our part in making sure our planet suffers a little less. 

Rocky Point VFW rally for veteran funding on Feb. 1. Photo courtesy Office of Senator Anthony Palumbo

By Nasrin Zahed

State Sens. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) and Mario Mattera (R-St. James), alongside state Assemblymembers Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) and Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson), joined forces Thursday, Feb. 1, with local veteran groups to demand the prompt distribution of over $1 million in taxpayer donations destined for veteran organizations. 

The urgency of this allocation is underscored by the critical need to support veterans, particularly those requiring continuous care, through funds earmarked for state veterans homes.

The press conference, held at the Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6249, served as a platform to amplify the voices advocating for the dissemination of these funds. In addition to the elected officials in attendance were Bob Smith, chairman of the Long Island State Veterans Home Advisory Board, and Joe Cognitore, commander of VFW Post 6249 and a member of the LISVH Advisory Board, along with other local veterans and groups.

At the heart of the matter lies the delay in distributing approximately $410,000 allocated for state veterans homes, essential for providing round-the-clock care to veterans in need. Palumbo, recognizing the urgency of the situation, had previously taken action by issuing a formal letter to Amanda Hiller, acting tax commissioner and general counsel of the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, urging for the expedited allocation of these donations.

During the press conference, Palumbo emphasized the moral obligation to allocate these funds, stating, “Our veterans have sacrificed so much for our country, and it is our duty to ensure they receive the care and support they need without delay.” His sentiments were echoed by Giglio and Flood, who reaffirmed their commitment to advocating for the timely distribution of these crucial resources.

Smith continued the conversation, emphasizing the tangible impact of these funds on the lives of veterans, noting that every moment of delay translates to missed opportunities to provide essential care and services.

Cognitore expressed his gratitude, saying, “It was unbelievable, they went above and beyond their duty and our cause in representing us.”

 

From left, Rebecca Kassay, Sen. Anthony Palumbo, Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio, Sen. Mario Mattera, Assemblyman Ed Flood and high school students rally against proposed education cuts. Photo by Samantha Rutt

Elected officials from across Long Island joined forces in a rally Feb. 1 held on the front lawn of Ward Melville High School. A diverse crowd of educators, students, parents, concerned citizens and community figures gathered for the event, lining Old Town Road with signage reading “$ave Our School$,” as officials vehemently spoke in opposition to the proposed cuts to education funding outlined in the latest state budget proposal. 

The proposed cuts, part of a broader state budget plan aiming to address fiscal challenges, have sparked widespread concern among education advocates and community members. Long Island officials, representing various districts and political affiliations, united in their stance against these reductions, emphasizing the detrimental impact they would have on the region’s schools and students.

New York State Sens. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) and Mario Mattera (R-St. James), along with state Assemblymembers Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson), Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead) and Port Jefferson Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kassay (D) all stood before the podium expressing their respective concerns.

“Governor Hochul’s proposed budget is a choice to underfund our schools, and it’s shameful,” Palumbo said. “We’re here to bring attention to that. This is critical. This is absolutely important.”

Palumbo, who represents New York Senate District 1, spanning from Stony Brook to Montauk, opened the rally addressing the financial consequences of the proposal on his district. 

“The governor’s proposed budget cuts state aid by $168 million, affecting 337 school districts statewide,” Palumbo said. “My district, Senate District 1, around 330,000 people, stands to lose $20,025,000 if the governor’s budget is adopted. And where we’re standing here in Three Village, they stand to lose $8.9 million in funding.” 

Three Village Central School District is among the many school districts to be affected by the budget proposal, experiencing the highest values lost in aid. Among the other districts to be affected are Port Jefferson School District standing the potential to be hit by the largest percentage of funding loss on Long Island at over 28%. Mount Sinai, Cold Spring Harbor, Smithtown and Kings Park school districts also stand to be negatively affected by the proposal.

Concerns for education quality and job loss

The rally highlighted the importance of adequate funding for schools in ensuring the quality of education and opportunities for all students. Flood spoke to his concerns for the quality of education students would receive suggesting programs, extracurricular activities and staff would have to be cut as a consequence of the proposed cuts to education funding.

“It’s disgraceful that we’re talking about having to cut budgets, in terms of cutting buildings, cutting programs, cutting staff and faculty,” Flood said. “We as people, teachers and school employees have our own families and right now to play politics with the lives of our students and our workforce is just shameful.” 

Cuts to education funding can have a multifaceted impact that can undermine the quality of education by diminishing resources, increasing class sizes, reducing extracurricular opportunities and straining the workforce, ultimately impeding students’ academic success and holistic development.

Echoing Flood’s sentiments, Mattera highlighted the direct consequences of reduced funding on classroom resources and student support services. “All the workers that are inside, our custodians, everybody, our security officers have a chance of losing their jobs. Does anybody want to lose their jobs? No,” Mattera emphasized. “You know what, our governor is making sure that this is going to happen.”

The rally also featured testimonials from parents who shared personal stories illustrating the impact of education funding on their lives. Kristen Gironda, a member of the Three Village PTA Council board, spoke about the challenges students may face and the critical role of adequate funding in addressing those obstacles. “We rely heavily on Foundation Aid for the success of our current and future students,” Gironda said. “Cutting this money from the current budget would be detrimental to the future of our students, their education and the opportunity that we can continue to provide them with.”

Students were also present at the rally, donning signs and standing alongside the officials as cars driving past honked their horns in reaction to the public event.

After all other officials spoke, Kassay concluded, “We must work together as a full district to make sure that as changes need to be made and that they’re made with the voices of the people standing here, the voices of the school behind us, and all the schools in the area to make sure that the changes are incremental, not straining taxpayers and not sacrificing jobs.” 

As the rally came to a close, elected officials pledged to continue advocating for increased education funding and urged community members to join them in their efforts urging everyone to “Get vocal with Governor Hochul!”

Assemblyman Ed Flood speaks in front of local politicians, educators and community members at a press conference against Gov. Hochul’s proposed school funding cuts. Photo by Mallie Jane Kim

By Mallie Jane Kim

Local political representatives and school superintendents rallied to Three Village Central School District Jan. 25 for a passionate press conference decrying proposed cuts to state school funding in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) proposed budget. 

Hochul touted an $825 million increase in state funding for schools overall, but some districts — including 34 in Suffolk County and 10 in Nassau — would face decreases. Of these, Three Village would lose the highest dollar amount at nearly $9 million if the governor’s plan stands, and the smaller Port Jefferson School District would be hit by the largest percentage of funding loss on Long Island — over 28%. Mount Sinai, Cold Spring Harbor, Smithtown and Kings Park school districts would also see modest cuts. This marks a break from the “hold harmless” provision in New York, which in the past has guaranteed school districts didn’t receive less state funding than the previous year, a practice that takes some guesswork out of budget planning.

Political opposition

“Governor, stop playing politics with our children — because we will fight you tooth and nail,” New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) said at the event. “We need to restore some common sense and do what’s right for the children of our community. Where are our priorities? Let’s put our children first.”

The politicians who spoke — including U.S. Rep. Nick LaLota (R-NY-1), state Assemblymembers Jodi Giglio (R-Riverhead), Jarett Gandolfo (R-Sayville), Doug Smith (R-Holbrook) and state Sen. Mario Mattera (R-St. James) — were united in considering the cuts as a targeted political attack and a conscious choice by the governor.

LaLota referred to the Jan. 5 Long Island Association’s annual State of the Region breakfast during which, as reported by Newsday, Hochul traded barbs with Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman (R), including her quip, “I walked in, I hear somebody doesn’t want New York on Long Island, I was ready to walk off the stage right then. You don’t want me to take all the money with me, though, right?”

LaLota called Hochul a “schoolyard bully” and suggested she is using children as a political pawn against Long Island.

“It is wholly unfair and unjust to take money from our kids because she’s got a political squabble with us,” he said. “Don’t come after our kids because you have a political problem with Long Island. The right thing to do is to fully fund our kids’ education — that’s something we rely upon.”

The governor’s state budget proposal represents a first draft. The state Assembly and Senate will be instrumental in crafting the finalized version, which is due April 1 — but does not often come in on time. If the budget takes until early May to pass, as it did in 2023, school districts will be in a tricky situation since their budgets must be ready and made available for public review between April 30 and May 7.

Superintendents and other groups oppose cuts

“It is important to recognize that these proposed changes will create uncertainty and hardship for our districts,” said Bayport-Blue Point Superintendent Timothy Hearney, who also serves as president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association. His district stands to lose 3.34% of its state funding under the plan.

Even though the budget is a first draft and subject to political bargaining in Albany, any final answer may come too late. School districts spend the early spring ironing out budget plans, so unless there is a change soon, districts will be faced with the option of incorporating the funding loss into the 2024-25 school year budget or risk putting up a budget that could surpass the state’s mandated cap on increases to the tax levy, an unpopular option for Long Island taxpayers, who already face high property taxes. In this instance, budget passage would require approval by a supermajority of voters (60 percent or more).

Hearney pointed out that education costs have increased even as enrollments have decreased over the past decade or so, in a nod toward one of Hochul’s stated reasons why some districts should receive less funding. “It’s crucial to underscore that condensing a decade’s worth of lost enrollment in a single year places an overwhelming burden on all of our districts,” he said.

Other concerned superintendents standing in support were Christine Criscione from Mount Sinai, Jessica Schmettan from Port Jefferson and Kevin Scanlon from Three Village. 

Scanlon spelled out what he thought the “significant challenges” losing $9 million in funds for his district would pose at a Jan. 24 school board meeting, the night before the press conference. He said he hoped for compromise in Albany, but that such sudden cuts would require drastic measures to accommodate. He said the district may have to close a school or discontinue the Three Village Academy high school program, and they may have to make cuts to the pre-K and pre-K enrichment programs, the Intellectually Gifted Program, special education aides, teaching positions, administrative positions, educational and extracurricular programs and even security. 

“Every area of this community will be impacted, so Three Village needs to come together as it has never done before,” he urged at the board meeting. “Parents, students, teachers, administrators, anyone out there — anyone on the street we can get in this community to be part of this conversation — we need for advocacy.”

Those who showed up to advocate at Thursday’s press conference included school board members, staff and teachers union members from Three Village and Mount Sinai, as well as members of parent teacher associations, also civic and community groups, including the local parent group Three Village Dads. 

David Tracy, leader of Three Village Dads, said he isn’t interested in being divisive politically, but couldn’t ignore the air of apparent retribution in the governor’s move. “Long Island was not a huge voting fan of the governor. I hate to believe this cut in the budget is somewhat of a backlash for that,” he said, adding that the disparity in funding changes from district to district is baffling to him. “It’s just tragic that it comes from our kids.”

Three Village Civic Association president Charles Tramontana agrees the issue is bipartisan. “Nobody wants to see that amount of funding cut without some sort of warning. I don’t think it’s controversial,” said Tramontana, who was scheduled to attend the press conference but was stuck home sick. 

“I don’t understand the way the state operates sometimes,” Tramontana said. “They didn’t give any notice that they were dropping that ‘hold harmless’ provision. Basic fairness would dictate that you would give some warning.” He added, “We took some hit— $9 million in one year is definitely going to cause some chaos in our budget.”

By Samantha Rutt

Three Village Civic Association held its monthly meeting at the Setauket Firehouse Monday night, Dec. 4. The meeting was well attended by members of the community and featured guest speakers, New York State Sen. Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk ) and Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson).

Civic president Charles Tramontana reminded the community of next Tuesday’s fire commissioner vote. The vote will be held at Setauket Fire Department Station 3 on Nicholls Road from 2-9 p.m. Anyone who is registered to vote is eligible to participate.

Palumbo and Flood updated the body on various developments in Albany, including the state budget, recent bail reform laws, community projects and wastewater infrastructure. They also took questions from the audience.

One of the foremost issues discussed was that of last week’s Brookhaven Town Board meeting, a redevelopment plan for Jefferson Plaza in Port Jefferson Station calling for adding homes to the shopping center, built about 1959. The project is set to include 280 apartments and a retail area, including a food court, gym and other shops.

Attendees addressed concerns about the potential development, urging for a more logical and in-line suburban development plan. Carolyn Sagliocca, vice president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, attended the meeting to voice concern over the potential development. She asked for the Three Village community’s input on the matter.

“What a nightmare is happening around us,” she said. “I wanted to let everyone know that public comments are open for 30 days following the hearing.”

Monday’s civic meeting also mentioned the omission of wastewater infrastructure on recent ballots and the growing concern for a better infrastructure plan. Suffolk County Legislator-elect Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) spoke briefly on the issue.

“Sewers are a tool, they’re not the answer,” Englebright said. “If you look at what the three large sewers on the South Shore of Nassau County have created, they’ve drained the water table,” adding, “It’s a matter of, like with many things, a matter of balance.”

The meeting also included a collection of healthy canned food items for the Stony Brook Food Farmacy food pantry.

The meeting highlighted the importance of open dialogue and community engagement in addressing critical issues facing the Three Village area. The association holds monthly meetings that are open to the public. 

For more information about the Three Village Civic Association, visit its website 3vcivic.org.

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By Bob O’Rourk

On my way home in 2001 from a photo assignment, I heard news about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center.

Within the following hours, the horrific events of 9/11 unfolded. I found myself at the Setauket Fire Department’s Nicolls Road fire station, where members assembled to respond to New York City with help. After assembling equipment and tools, Setauket led several neighboring departments into the city to support the NYFD.

On Monday night, Sept. 11, the memory of 9/11 was preserved by members of the Setauket Fire Department in a ceremony held at the Setauket 9/11 Memorial and led by Setauket Chief of Department Richard Leute. This year, the event was held inside the Nicolls Road Firehouse due to the threat of heavy rain and lightning. 

“It’s hard to believe it’s been 22 years,” Leute said. “Many of us remember that day like it was yesterday. That day changed our lives forever. 2,977 people were killed that day, and many more people have died as a result of sickness or injuries they got as a result of 9/11.” 

Several officials, including New York State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) and Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich, delivered brief statements about that day of infamy. 

Kornreich spoke to the numerous Scouts in attendance, saying, “You won’t find a better example of honor and bravery than the men and women in front of you,” referring to the fire department members. 

Lou Andrade, a retired NYFD and SFD firefighter, gave an unexpected talk about his participation in the 9/11 response efforts. The ceremony then closed with a prayer from Bobby Thompson, after which four wreaths were placed upon the Setauket 9/11 Memorial.