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Rocky Point Fire Department

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The new firehouse along King Road in Rocky Point has been in construction since May of last year, but fire district officials said they need more funds in order to fully complete the project. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Rocky Point Fire District has set the date for a virtual forum to discuss an upcoming $1 million bond referendum to help finance new firehouse construction. The forum is set to take place via Zoom Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m.

The Rocky Point Fire District is asking for the community to consider a $1 million referendum to fund the remaining construction costs of the North Shore Beach Firehouse. In. a news release, district officials said an informational mailer has been sent out to residents. 

In a previous TBR News Media article, fire district officials said construction delays and a pandemic-induced drastic increase in material costs have mandated the need for new funds. 

Residents are asked to submit any questions they have about the project to the district via email at [email protected] by Tuesday, Oct. 6. Fire District officials promised to address all items submitted during the forum after providing an overview of the project. 

To join the meeting live, people can launch Zoom and enter the meeting ID: 823 0778 6425 and password: 767240.

The upcoming bond vote will take place Tuesday, Oct. 13, from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Shoreham Firehouse, located at 49 Route 25A.

 

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Shoreham resident and ex FDNY Tom LeDeoux placed the ceremonial wreath in the standing pool. Photo by Kyle Barr

For the 19th anniversary of 9/11, the Rocky Point Fire Department’s annual ceremony in Shoreham was limited in attendance to mostly firefighters and a few residents. Despite the abbreviated ceremonies, it was still a solemn memorial to the many who have lost their lives during the World Trade Center terror attack and all those who died after.

The evening included firefighters from the Wading River, Miller Place and Ridge Fire Departments as well as the RPFD. Speeches by head of the 9/11 Memorial Committee David Singer and Fire Chief Adam DeLumen touched on how both partisan politics and the COVID-19 pandemic have led to division, but most can remember how Americans came together in solidarity after the attacks 19 years ago today. It was also a time to remember the thousands who have died as a result of adverse health effects caused from being at the scene when the towers fell.

As of June, 2020, 79,001 respondents and 26,271 survivors were enrolled in the Centers for Disease Control’s World Trade Center Health Program, of those, 58,933 have one or more certified health conditions. Now over 18,100 members have certified 9/11 related cancers. Every year the numbers rise.

“As we get further and further away from that terrible event 19 years ago, we must continue ceremonies like this all around the world to make certain that present and future generations never forget the lives lost and continue to lose because of 9/11- related illness,” Singer said.

DeLumen, in his speech, also noted that this year is likely to be his last year as chief of the department.

“I remember exactly what I was doing that day of the attack and feeling the fear of the unknown, this year has much the same feeling,” the chief said. “I remember the day after 9/11 … we all became became one nation and came together no matter what, the same way these first respondents have always done.”

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The new firehouse along King Road in Rocky Point has been in construction since May of last year, but fire district officials said they need more funds in order to fully complete the project. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Rocky Point Fire District is asking residents for an additional $1 million bond on top of existing money to help finish up the Station 2 firehouse construction project.

In 2017, 204 residents voted “yes” and 197 voted “no” for the new building to replace the original firehouse built in the 1950s, alongside the purchase of a new ladder truck. Costs for the building were estimated to be $7,250,000. On Sept. 1, Rocky Point fire commissioners voted to establish a new $1 million bond vote set for Oct. 13.

Rocky Point vice chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners, David Brewer, said it is unfortunate but they lack much other choice than asking the community to go out for more project funding. 

“We’re not happy about this, but in order to complete this project we were forced to go out to the public for another bond,” he said. “I understand people are tight right now, but we have no choice because by law we are prohibited from spending any more for that building other than what was authorized by the bond.”

Officials said this new bond would result in an annual increase of $17 to $18 for the average household in the district. 

There were issues from the start of the project, Brewer said, with them having to break ties with the first project manager they hired for construction, which set them back on their timetable. Officials have previously said the first bids for construction companies came in too high, and then after putting the project out for bid again, they received too few. Construction of the project fully started in May 2019. 

“When we originally worked with the first project manager, after reviewing some information we were given, we felt that the projected costs and completion date were somewhat unrealistic,” Brewer said. “Because of the delays and because we started so far back, there have been increases for construction.”

The commissioner cited an increase in labor costs as much as 4.5%, an increase of materials from 4.5 to 5%. Then with the arrival of the pandemic and the subsequent shutdown of all construction projects until the first phase of reopening in May, commissioners were told they were required to “tack on” another 1% toward labor costs.

Without the additional funding, Brewer said they would have to make a drastic decision, which could mean even delaying the firehouse construction until they could go to a revote. The issue with any delay is that currently the Station 2 Black Sheep Company has relocated all its trucks, equipment and other apparatus to the warehouses of what was once the Thurber Lumber Company property. That site was loaned free of charge by developer Mark Baisch of Landmark Properties, though only temporarily as Baisch has slated the site for a new set of 40 one-bedroom apartments for seniors inside 10 buildings located along Prince Road and King Road. 

Brewer said Baisch is currently building on the other side of the road, and would need the company to be out of the lumber warehouse by the end of the year if that project is to keep on schedule. 

“If that happened, I don’t know what we’d do,” Brewer added. “We just wouldn’t have anyone else who would be able to house our apparatus.”

Otherwise, without a vote, the commissioner’s vice chairman said they would need to cut away from the project, but he did not know what could possibly be removed or slimmed down, as the site was planned to be a no-frills firehouse.

“The building was proposed and designed very conservatively from the get-go,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of amenities and fluff we could cut, especially to reach the amount of money we need. We are really between a rock and a hard place here.”

The fire district is hosting the vote Oct. 13 at the Shoreham firehouse located at 49 Route 25A from 3 to 9 p.m. While district officials said they would not be offering absentee ballots, they would be ensuring people wear masks and socially distance while conducting polling. 

The Rocky Point Fire Department, including the Shoreham fire station, is soon expected to expand coverage for the Village of Shoreham. Photo by Kevin Redding

The Rocky Point Fire District will soon extend its coverage area to include the Village of Shoreham. 

Town of Brookhaven officials have already scheduled a public hearing later in the month for the resolution, which is expected to pass. In conjunction, as part of the village merging into the fire district, officials passed a resolution that authorized the tax assessor to consolidate the district’s three separate tax zones into one. 

Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) said both the Town and fire district could not get it done without the other. The change in tax zones will essentially make for a more streamlined process for the district.

“After the public hearing, if it was supported by my colleagues, [the fire district] would include the Village of Shoreham,” said Bonner. “It is essentially an easier process and less paperwork for both of them.” 

The two latest decisions come after a months-long process where Shoreham officials requested home rule applications to extend the fire district boundaries to encompass the 0.5-square-mile village. In May 2019, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a bill introduced by state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) that authorized the fire district extension. 

Rocky Point Fire District attorney, the Port Jefferson-based Bill Glass who represents the fire district, said the change wouldn’t affect the day-to-day operations of the fire departments and district.

“Operationally there will be no change at all within the district,” he said. “There will not be a significant change to the amount the village already pays for emergency services.” 

Glass said the process should be seamless as the village has contracted out to the fire district for the past decade. He said he doesn’t expect the tax rates for residents to change that much and would probably be similar to the amount that they paid when Shoreham was contracting them. 

On the subject of the consolidation of the three tax zones, the lawyer said the decision was necessary as there was no point in having three separate tax districts anymore. 

“The tax zones were put in place because at one point there were three different water companies [in the area] who had their own tax rates,” Glass said. “That stopped with the Suffolk Water Authority — this helps streamline a lot of things.”

For Shoreham, being a part of the fire district could allow the village budget to decrease as they are not using funds for fire/emergency services. 

A representative from the village could not be reached for comment.

In addition, bringing the village into the fold would allow Shoreham residents to run for positions like fire commissioner. 

The Town will hold a public hearing for the fire district extension Feb. 27. 

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File photo

Police said a woman was hit and killed Sunday night in Shoreham after she allegedly was crossing over Route 25A.

Suffolk County Police said in a statement a yet-to-be-named adult female was crossing westbound in front of the Rocky Point Fire Department at 49 Route 25A, Jan. 12, when she was struck by a 2018 Hyundai SUV at around 6:10 p.m. The woman was transported to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson where she died from her injuries.

The driver of the Hyundai, Paula Avent, 36, of Rocky Point, was alone in her vehicle and not injured.

The event is under investigation why the woman was crossing the road. The Hyundai was impounded for a safety check.

This story will be updated when the name of the woman is released.

Rob Bentivegna, center, helped build the Rocky Point EMS building. Photo by Kevin Redding

Rob Bentivegna, a former firefighter and general handyman for Rocky Point Fire District often goes unnoticed. 

Usually a cheerful and magnanimous guy, Bentivegna allows other people to sit in the limelight, but firefighters, according to fire district and department officials, would be at a huge loss if it weren’t for their go-to maintenance man. 

Rocky Point’s Rob Bentivegna was the driving force in reconstructing a historic building. Photo by Kyle Barr

“He’s got a work ethic you don’t see in a lot of people anymore — it’s something to see,” said RPFD fire commissioner Kirk Johnson. “Anything he does do, he doesn’t do the minimum. If there’s a job out there, Rob takes care of it, he’s right on top of everything.”

Bentivegna, a Shoreham resident, has gone far beyond the scope of what his job entails. When RPFD bought a section of property at the corner Hallock Landing and Rocky Point Landing roads, Bentivegna rolled up his sleeves to help reconfigure a new EMS vehicle garage out of what were two rundown buildings. Many thought the buildings were beyond repair. 

Bentivegna also set himself apart on another project: Repairing and revitalizing the old Parish Resource Center, a historical building that has been neglected for years. 

To hear the maintenance man speak of the building, one would think he designed and built it himself back when it was originally constructed in 1849. Bentivegna kept an eye on the details of everything from the molding in the building’s interior, to the hand-blown glass windows, which he stressed needed to remain intact. He built shutters, based off of old pictures, by hand. The constantly flooded basement was reconfigured into a space where volunteers could wash their equipment after a job, and the maintenance man has plans to turn it into a training space. What had once been derelict has been transformed into a useful community center. 

It was two years worth of work, and much of the effort he completed on his own time. 

Tony Gallino, chairman of the board of fire commissioners, said Rob goes far above and beyond, noting that he has saved the district and the taxpayers thousands of dollars by doing work they would otherwise have to contract out. Bentivegna is a perfectionist, he said, who will do anything for the department and its volunteer members. 

When the fire department company 2 needed to move out of their space into a neighboring yard during construction, Bentivegna was instrumental in getting the new space on Prince Road ready to receive all the department’s equipment, trucks and personnel. He even went in to collect pictures and other items at the company 2 house to make sure they were preserved, Gallino said.

Rob Bentivegna points to the windows that had been reinstalled in the old Lecture Room’s interior. Photo by Kyle Barr

“He doesn’t miss a day’s work, and he comes in on his own time, doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas day,” the board chairman said. 

Kristen D’Andrea, a Shoreham resident and spokesperson for Brookhaven town highways superintendent, said Bentivegna offers help to anybody who needs it. He had come by her house to offer landscaping support.

“We had a groundhog in our front yard we couldn’t get rid of,” she said. “He came over, set a trap and removed it. He wouldn’t take money. … He’s just a genuinely good guy.”

Bentivegna had been a contractor for more than 30 years and had joined the fire department as a volunteer around 15 years ago. Unfortunately, life had thrown him a curve ball. What coworkers and friends called an “illness” had left the Rocky Point volunteer in large amounts of pain. Johnson said the longtime firefighter was “crushed” to have to step down from active duty, but even as a paid employee he said the man cannot stop giving his time to make sure things are done well. The Shoreham 9/11 responders memorial had taken years of planning, but Bentivegna’s expertise in contracting and landscaping lent itself toward constructing both the wall of names and the fountain in the center of the grounds.

“For those few who know what he’s going through, actually being able to work and do what he gets to do every day gets him through it,” Johnson said.

Adam DeLumen, chief of Rocky Point Fire Department, has known Bentivegna for around 15 years. He said that Bentivegna has also renovated each company’s back rooms and created a training room at the Shoreham firehouse. He even helped with renovations to DeLumen’s own house several times. 

“Most people don’t know what they have with Rob,” DeLumen said. “He’s just one of those guys, he’ll do anything for anybody.” 

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The Rocky Point firehouse on King Road in Rocky Point. File photo by Kevin Redding

By Julianne Mosher

A former Rocky Point Fire Department treasurer pleaded guilty to stealing over $23,000 from the local department over the course of two years. 

The Rocky Point Fire Department Company 2 is using a warehouse on Prince Road as its main base. Photo by Kyle Barr

David Crosby, 28, of Rocky Point made his plea on Thursday to a petit larceny, an A misdemeanor, and will be required to pay the department back a full restitution equaling $23,324. 

“This is a just disposition that ensures the brave firefighters who serve the Rocky Point community will receive the full amount of money that was stolen from their department,” District Attorney Tim Sini (D) said. “The theft of public funds will not be tolerated. Our Public Integrity Bureau will continue to investigate and prosecute criminals who steal funds from our first responders and other public entities.”

The plea agreement will spare Crobsy prison time, officials said. He is expecting his sentence by Acting Suffolk County Court Judge Richard Dunne Jan. 14 to three
years probation.

From 2017 until 2019, Crosby served as the treasurer of Rocky Point Fire Department’s North Shore Beach Company 2, located at 90 King Road. During the two years, he made approximately 80 unauthorized ATM withdrawals from the department’s account totaling $19,744.09, along with $3,580 from a fundraiser the department held. 

When the department became aware of the missing funds a few months ago, they referred the issue to the District Attorney’s Office “right away,” William Glass, attorney for the Rocky Point Fire District said. Crosby surrendered to the DA Oct. 17. 

The attorney added that the money was not from taxpayer money but was solely from the fire department’s personal funds. 

“It’s a shame,” Glass said, “because the money was raised by the fire department.”

Crosby’s defense attorney, Paul Barahal, had no comment on behalf of his client. Assistant District Attorney Carey Ng, of the Public Integrity Bureau, will be prosecuting his case.

Rocky Point's Rob Bentivegna was the driving force in reconstructing a historic building. Photo by Kyle Barr

At the tip between Hallock Landing and Rocky Point Landing roads, the old schoolhouse building, known as the Lecture Room, stands with its luminous white siding and large, red door. It’s situated like a moment out of time.

Rob Bentivegna points to the windows that had been reinstalled in the old Lecture Room’s interior. Photo by Kyle Barr

For Rob Bentivegna, a member and general handyman at the Rocky Point Fire Department, it’s a beaming example of more than two years’ worth of work to restore a historic property.

“This was all stuff the fire district wanted to do, but the estimates were so high,” Bentivegna said. “I said, ‘Let me do it, it’s what I did for a living.’”

In March 2017, the Rocky Point Fire District bought the 0.92-acre property across from the fire department building on Hallock Landing. The site was to be used in the construction of a new EMS vehicle garage to bring EMTs closer to the Rocky Point/Sound Beach edge of the district line. In addition to the garage site, the property also came with the 2,000 square foot building known as the Rocky Point Lecture Room, also as the community church and Parish Resource Center. The whole property came with a price tag of $250,000.

With occasional help by fellow fireman Frank Tizzano, Bentivegna renovated and transformed what was once a termite-infested ramshackle building north of the Lecture Room. He transformed another building into a maintenance facility. 

But he didn’t stop there. It’s since become part passion project, part public service. The building is now being used for meetings and even for cheerleaders to practice.

When Bentivegna first came onto the project, vines had wormed their way under the walls and were crawling up along its inside. The windows were falling out of their frames and had been covered by plexiglass because they had been broken on the inside. The basement would flood during every storm. The roof was falling apart.

Once work began, the fire district maintenance manager said local residents came forward. They each had old photographs of the building, showing how it looked from the 1940s, and even further back to the 1920s.

“I did this with the love of making something what it used to be.”

— Rob Bentivegna

“That door is the same color door as it was in 1927,” he said.

The Lecture Room now has a completely new roof and new windows. He spent months searching for a company that would re-create the classic look of the crossbars on the windows. Inside is new carpeting, ceiling and walls. He even installed the walls and plumbing for a bathroom to the rear of the structure. 

Outside, the front door gleams with new paint, but all the doors’ glass are the original, hand blown windows. The tower above the front door and chimney to the rear are also original.

Fire Commissioner Kirk Johnson said Bentivegna worked near tirelessly on the project, often using his off time when not doing repairs at district buildings. In one case, the window shutters needed to be replaced, but nothing that could be bought matched how they looked historically. The maintenance worker instead crafted the shutters by hand.

“He really wanted it to look like it did back in the day,” Johnson said.

The handyman has plans come Christmas season as well. A tree in front of the building fell down during a storm earlier this year, landing full across the road. After removing it, Rocky Point-based Long Island Elite Landscaping Construction stepped in to supply a new pine tree, one Bentivegna plans to decorate along with the building for a bright and colorful tree lighting ceremony come December. 

Arnie Pellegrino, the owner of Elite Landscaping, has lived across from the building for more than a decade, saying he had once provided landscape designs to the previous owners, but nothing came of it. Once the fire district and Bentivegna got their hands on the property, he said, things have finally changed for the better.

“He’s a good man, he’s a good contractor,” Pellegrino said of Bentivegna. “He thinks about the neighbors.”

The Rocky Point Historical Society posted to its Facebook page thanking the fire district for keeping the historical building alive.

“We’re happy the fire department has saved the building and preserved it because it is a special historic site for the community of Rocky Point,” said historical society President Natalie Aurucci Stiefel. “We applaud their efforts to take care of the building.”

The Lecture Room’s interior was remade with new walls, ceilings and windows. Photo by Kyle Barr

The building was built in 1849 on land donated by Amos Hallock of the famed local Hallock family. It was built to serve the community as a lecture room and an extension of the Mount Sinai Congregational Church for the local area, getting together to raise $500 to erect the building. Stiefel said once the local one-room schoolhouse became too crowded, people taught school out of the building as well. Later the Long Island Council of Churches declared it as a Parish Resource Center.

Johnson applauded Bentivegna for all the work he’s done, not just with the church but with buildings around the district. He said without the energy of its handyman the district would need to constantly pay outside contractors. Instead, Bentivegna jumps in saying he can take care of it.

“He deserves a ton of credit for the way that place looks,” the commissioner said. 

But the fire district handyman said he doesn’t want to take all the credit. He thanked the district for its years of support and willingness to let him do what he needed to do with little hand holding.

There are still finishing touches Bentivegna is looking to add to both the building’s exterior and interior. The next step is to replace the rotting back deck with new wood, adding ramps to make it accessible for wheelchairs and people with disabilities. He is currently working on the basement, where the district has stored numerous items from the other firehouse located on King Road, which is currently being rebuilt. The plan is to use the basement for washing gear after a fire, which is now mandated by New York State. After replacing the basement windows, he plans to make the basement a sort of training room, with removable walls for firefighters to practice search and rescue.

It’s at least another year of work, but for the Rocky Point handyman, he’s nothing but excited to see the entire project come to completion.

“I never once looked for someone to tap me on the back,” he said. “I did this with the love of making something what it used to be.”

The night of Sept. 11, 2019 was one of solemn remembrance. Community members, Boy Scouts and firefighters gathered in ceremony in both Shoreham and Sound Beach to show that fateful day would not be forgotten.

The event was attended by members of the Wading River, Rocky Point, Miller Place and Mount Sinai fire departments, as well as Boy Scout Troops 161 and 244, as well as several county, town and state officials.

Many of those younger people who gathered at the 9/11 Community Memorial site in Shoreham with their families were not even alive on that day in 2001. Yet those from the Rocky Point Fire Department and 9/11 Memorial Committee who spoke asked all to remember those several local residents and rescue workers who died 18 years ago. They also spoke of the hundreds who have died after the 9/11 attacks from health issues gained while at the site of the towers and in the weeks afterwards working in the rubble.

In Sound Beach, local residents gathered with the Sound Beach Fire Department gathered community members together in recognition of the historic date. The ceremony was led with opening remarks by Chief of Department Michael Rosasco and Chaplain McKay, who also led with closing prayers.

Village of Shoreham Town Hall is located at 80 Woodville Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Village of Shoreham is looking to put themselves under the protective umbrella of the nearby fire department. 

While the village currently contracts with the Rocky Point Fire District, village officials have requested home rule applications to extend the fire district boundaries to encompass the tiny North Shore municipality. It might seem like a minor change but expanding the district boundaries to include the .5-square-mile village could take months of work getting the state to agree to the extension.

Rocky Point Fire District boundaries currently do not include the Village of Shoreham. Image from from Long Island Index Maps

For more than a decade, Shoreham village has contracted out to the Rocky Point Fire District for their fire and emergency service needs, according to Rocky Point Fire District manager Ed Brooks. 

Neither a representative of Shoreham village nor the village attorney, the Riverhead-based Anthony Tohill, responded to multiple requests for comment.

If the district boundaries are expanded, the cost will instead come out of village residents’ taxes paid to the district. Brooks said the cost shouldn’t be much different for village residents either monetarily or in the coverage by the district.

“We met with them, they sent us some literature and letters, we had a meeting, we advised our attorney, we have given our consent to make the application,” Brooks said.

Village officials requested that the Town of Brookhaven send a home rule request to the New York State legislature to extend the fire district’s boundaries, which was approved unanimously at Brookhaven’s May 23 meeting. A copy of the letter for the request was forwarded to State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk).

The expansion of the district boundaries requires home rule requests by both Shoreham village and the Town of Brookhaven to New York State, requesting special legislation to expand. The process could take months.

“By extending the boundaries, the state gets involved, there’s legislation — it’s a long process,” said town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point). 

The Village of Old Field started the same process at the tail end of 2016 to bring in the Setauket Fire District. By July of 2017 the town hosted a public hearing and approved the extension. The fire district taxes were on residents’ bills by December of that year.

Rocky Point Fire District attorney, the Port Jefferson-based Bill Glass, who represents the fire district, said this change would have virtually no difference to the district, adding it would also have little to no difference in the amount the village pays for emergency services.

“When these contracts were designed, they were designed that [village residents] would pay as much as if they were paying for it through their taxes,” Glass said.