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Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn

The county legislature passed a bill to crack down on reckless bicycling this week, Port Jefferson officials created a village task force that will help prevent problems and keep patrons safe. File photo from SCPD

The Suffolk County Legislature recently approved a bill to crack down on “reckless biking,” which could stop riders from endangering themselves and others on the road. 

Sponsored by county Legislator Rudy Sunderman (R-Mastic), the bill claims to crack down on trick riding — like popping wheelies and swerving into traffic — and biking while intoxicated.

While it was approved 13-4, Deputy Presiding Officer Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) abstained from the vote.

“There were pieces of his bill that I really liked,” she said, “And there were some things I didn’t agree with.”

Hahn, who is still in public hearing with her complimentary bike bill, said hers focuses more on the education for drivers when put in contact with bikers on the road. 

“Legislator Sunderman’s bike bill regulated dangerous behaviors by bicyclists, while my bill tries to clarify the laws about drivers and how they should pass bicyclists on the road,” she said. 

She added that motor vehicle law states that a driver must pass a bicyclist at a safe distance.

“My bill states drivers need to give them at least three-feet [space],” she said. 

Hahn said two legislators from the East End had some concerns regarding her bill, and she is “working to address them.”

The next general meeting is March 2 where Hahn hopes she can close the public hearing so the bill can move to the Public Safety Committee on March 11. If her bill passes, it can be voted on by the full Legislature on March 16.

Meanwhile, the Village of Port Jefferson has implemented their own policies. 

According to trustee Kathianne Snaden, a new code was introduced in the fall of 2019 to pre-vent problem bikers causing issues in the village. 

It started when Snaden and her daughter were outside and a young person was recklessly riding his bike in front of them, doing tricks.

“When the bicycle just about came over me and my daughter’s heads and landed in the street in front of a car, I said, ‘That’s it, I’m done. We need to do something about this.’” 

That’s when the village brought in the new code, which enforces code officers to confiscate a bike from a bicyclist involved in any type of reckless behavior. The bike then must be picked up and signed for by a parent. 

“Because of COVID, things were quiet in the village,” Snaden said. “But then we put together the outdoor dining and the ‘trouble’ bicyclists saw it as a beautiful stage to start performing their acts in front of the patrons.”

She said that’s when code enforcement “really put down the hammer and started implementing that code.”

Snaden said that since summer 2020, bikes have been taken and bikes have been returned to parents, with the majority of them “mortified by their children’s behavior.”

“I want to be proactive and just get them off the street, so no one gets hurt,” she said. 

Along with code enforcement, the village has recently started up a task force for business owners, the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, the commissioner of public safety, the code chief, the village attorney and a representative from the Suffolk County Police Department. 

“It’s eyes on the street,” she said.  “And now we’re working more as a team.”

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. 


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.”

A rendering of proposed bus lanes on Nicolls Road. Rendering by Greenman-Pedersen, Inc.

Suffolk County is moving forward with a rapid-transit bus system along Nicolls Road, even though the initiative is still in its early stages.

On Jan. 27, the Suffolk County Council on Environmental Quality, known as CEQ, will hold a virtual meeting to determine the need for a State Environmental Quality Review for the bus system. Residents interested in submitting their thoughts on the SEQRA review will be able to email them to CEQ (details at end). The opportunity will be the first of many for the public to comment on the system in the near future, according to Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who is also a CEQ councilmember.

The proposal to create Suffolk’s first north-south multimodal transportation corridor was introduced by County Executive Steve Bellone (D) in 2015. The proposed corridor will feature dedicated lanes for rapid transit buses traveling along Nicolls Road between Stony Brook and Patchogue, as well as high occupancy vehicle lanes in some sections, with the goal of relieving traffic congestion.

Buses would operate in HOV lanes on the inside of the road and along specialized bus lanes along the outside portions of the road. The buses will go from the Stony Brook train station all the way down Nicolls Road to Patchogue, and smaller routes would be incorporated to travel to the Ronkonkoma train station and MacArthur Airport.

“There are a lot of important improvements to a corridor that is a key north-south corridor in Suffolk County,” Hahn said.

The county legislator said it’s a tremendously large project which includes a more-than 5,000-page document for CEQ members to review. While she said it seemed as if the county had hoped the council would come to a decision about the SEQRA review in the December CEQ meeting, the members asked for more time to review the documents, saying it would take multiple sessions. They will also decide which will come first, a SEQRA review or a National Environmental Policy Act review, as the county has received federal funds for the project.

“We’re spending a significant amount of time going over each piece of it,” Hahn said.

Different topics CEQ members have and will review include groundwater effects if any, proposed pedestrian bridges, noise walls in specific spots, vegetation, air quality, bus shelters, home values, traffic estimates, coordination of bus routes, environmental analysis and more.

At the December meeting, CEQ members also made recommendations that data be added to the 5,000-plus page document.

“We are by no means ready to make a determination, and we are really early in the stages of the review,” she said, adding CEQ doesn’t expect to make a decision about the SEQRA review until February.

There are different phases of the project, and regarding the Three Village area, work won’t begin north of the expressway until 2024. Hahn said before any work begins there would be multiple outreaches to various civic groups and chambers in affected areas.

Proposed changes along Nicolls Road include intersection improvements at Hawkins, Hammond and Mark Tree roads, as well as Pond Path. Proposals include eliminating the left-hand turning lanes at the intersections and shortening the time of the red lights on Nicolls Road at those intersections for safety purposes and to help with traffic flow.

Residents who are interested in submitting statements regarding the council’s SEQRA review decision of the project can do so before the Zoom meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 27, at 9:30 a.m. The council invites residents to send in statements for the public portion by emailing them to [email protected]

Photo courtesy of Leg. Kara Hahn’s office

The Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for the village’s newest gift shop, Treasures-America’s Artisan Gallery, or TAAG for short., on Nov. 5. Located at Lighthouse Landing, 14 East Broadway, Suite #3, Port Jefferson, the store only sells products made in the USA.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn presented owners Bob and Nancy Hendrick with a proclamation and wished them much success.

“I’m delighted to support a new small business in Port Jefferson. With TAAG Gallery, we have a chance to buy local and support the arts!” said Leg. Hahn.

“We are so proud to be a part of such an amazing town and community that is Port Jefferson! ⁣Cheers to many more years,” added the Hendricks.

Pictured from left, chamber director and manager of the Steamroom Vinny Seiter; TAAG owners Bob and Nancy Hendrick; chamber president and owner of East End Shirt Company Joy Pipe; Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn; and chamber member Russell Baker, owner of Ecolin Jewelers.

TAAG’s operating hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday. For further information, please call 631-741-2344.

Absentee ballots, early voting or voting in person — voters this year have three options to cast their ballots, though two months before election day, some of these methods have come under scrutiny.

The Suffolk County Board of Elections commissioners say they have their hands full trying to make sure everyone’s ballot counts this November, but several advocacy groups on Long Island say Suffolk, New York State and the BOE should be doing more to spread the word.

Suffolk Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Suffolk BOE Republican Commissioner Nick LaLota disagreed over the locations of Suffolk’s early voting places. File photo

Experts nationwide anticipate numbers like never before will be asking for absentee ballots or doing early voting for this November election. 

The two commissioners for the Suffolk BOE, Nick LaLota, a Republican, and Anita Katz, a Democrat, were present at the Suffolk County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee meeting Sept. 3. While there were multiple problems with the June primary, including that close to 25 percent of polling workers didn’t show up due to the pandemic, the two argued that even with limited resources, they have been making headway in increasing voting access. The number of early polling sites has been increased from 10 to 12 compared to 2019, and Katz confirmed they expect 90 to 95 percent of their poll workers will be on the job come election day Nov. 3.

Suffolk County has also issued an order saying any union employees who wish to work in polling centers for the election are allowed to do so, and will be compensated for doing so.

But the commissioners have also come under fire for where, and where they haven’t, put these 12 early voting locations. For one, Shelter Island, which had an early voting location in 2019, is not currently scheduled for one this year. 

Early Voting Issues

LaLota said the decision was based on “how do we do the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people,” arguing the numbers of voters in a place like Islip who would have a 20-to-30-minute drive to get to one of these places outstrips the small population of Shelter Island.

Those arguing for a Shelter Island location said the population there who would need to do early voting would have to take a ferry just to get to the mainland. Town of Shelter Island Supervisor Gerard Siller (D) has already sent a letter to the BOE, pleading them to reinstall the early voting place on Shelter Island. Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), who once represented Shelter Island as county legislator, also sent a letter to the BOE asking for its return as well.

“Having no on-island early voting location will unfairly disenfranchise many of the voters on Shelter Island,” Romaine said in his letter. “Voting will be particularly difficult for the elderly and the infirmed. There needs to be an early voting location on Shelter Island.”

Suffolk Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Suffolk BOE Republican Commissioner Nick LaLota disagreed over the locations of Suffolk’s early voting places. Photo from Suffolk GOP website

For some officials on Long Island proper, the early voting locations still left something to be desired. Suffolk Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) was especially miffed about the decision for where the two early voting locations were placed in Brookhaven — one at Town Hall in Farmingville and the other in Mastic. She contended there was a “political reason” to put one on the South Shore in the Mastic/Shirley area, later stating in a phone interview that she was referencing U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY1), who lives in Shirley and faces a challenge by Stony Brook Democrat Nancy Goroff. 

“I feel like all of northern Brookhaven got screwed by that decision,” Hahn said during the hearing.

LaLota argued choosing the Mastic destination, along with focusing on other marginalized communities, was based on the number of low-income residents in those areas. 

“Equity is the number one issue that gets put to the top, economic hardship people face — people are working two jobs, needing health care or day care, and in the grand scheme of things early voting addresses those economic hardships,” LaLota said. “I would submit to you those economic hardships are best seen in places we chose to put our early voting locations.”

Hahn shot back saying, “There are those communities all over Brookhaven.”

In a phone interview, LaLota vehemently pushed back against the characterization of the decision to put the voting location in Mastic, instead arguing Democrats are focusing on affluent areas like North Shore Brookhaven and Shelter Island. 

“I think it’s sadly ironic that a Republican commissioner is the one advocating that we bring voting to people from lesser-off communities,” he said. “I think those legislators need to be a little more introspective and be a little more receptive to the economic needs of all Suffolk County voters.”

Numerous progressive groups from all around Suffolk County signed on to a petition sent to the Suffolk BOE and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The petition argues the location of some early polling places are “puzzling at best,” considering New York State law asks BOEs to consider population density, travel time, proximity of an early voting site to other early voting sites and whether the early voting site is near public transportation routes.

Shoshana Hershkowitz, the founder of left-leaning advocacy group Suffolk Progressives, said last year she and fellow advocacy groups lobbied Suffolk to expand its early voting options. She said at the outset last year, Suffolk’s approach was only the bare minimum with a single early voting site per town. They asked for closer to 21 early polling locations with longer hours at each. Now that Suffolk went up to 12, she said she was happy to see more available, but at the same time was disappointed at the one removed from Shelter Island.

“It’s what our budget priorities should be,” Hershkowitz said. “We should be looking to add another polling location or two — it’s a question of the political and financial will.”

In a phone interview several days after the legislative hearing, Hahn argued, considering the general geographic size of a town like Brookhaven, that it would need five early polling locations to be truly equitable, but that it could do with three. If the BOE truly needed more money for more early voting locations, Hahn argued they should have made that explicit to the Legislature before now, especially seeing the cost of one of these locations is about $50,000.

LaLota said the BOE approached Suffolk for more funding for more early voting locations last year and was rebuffed. According to budget documents, the board of elections requested $21,384,480 for 2020 but instead received $20,304,177.

Though the Republican BOE commissioner said in terms of any new early voting locations, “That ship has sailed.”

“It’s a matter of staffing,” he said. “I don’t have the employees to open up new sites. Even if somebody funded us with $100,000 tomorrow, I don’t have the employees to staff the polling place.” 

Getting the Word Out on Early Voting

With only a little over 17,000 people in 2019 taking advantage of early voting, more people are asking that officials work to get the word out.

The BOE has plans for a countywide mailing that will go to every household explaining the three ways that people will be able to vote: absentee, early or in person. That mailing should be out around mid-September, the Republican commissioner said.

Hahn was also critical over the positioning of the absentee ballot on the BOE’s website, saying one has to navigate through multiple links before coming upon the New York State’s absentee ballot form. She argued the BOE should look to put a larger, bolder text button on the BOE’s landing page that takes people directly to the absentee ballot form. 

Click on this image to see all the current early voting locations and times.

Katz, the Democratic BOE commissioner, argued they are somewhat constricted by having a page that works off Suffolk County’s template, and they’re not able to bring a set of buttons directly to the top of the page. In terms of a social media campaign, the commissioners argue they don’t have the resources to pull that off. There is currently no Facebook or Twitter page operated by the BOE itself.

The progressive groups’ petition also argues for a stepped-up communications campaign from both the BOE and other county officials. They point to Westchester County, which pledged to use the county’s communications team to publish information for people of when or how to vote.

Sue Hornik, a representative of Advocacy Group South Country Unites, one of the proponents of the petition, said she was disappointed to hear the BOE did not have any plans for instant communication with residents online. She said the whole of Suffolk government should make a concerted communications effort countywide to emphasize the availability of early voting.

“If they don’t get out the word on early voting and make people understand they have an option — and so everybody votes either absentee or on election day that would be unfortunate.”

Fellow activist Hershkowitz also advised the importance of letting people know their options.

“My hope is that people would really take advantage of it,” the Suffolk Progressives founder said. “There’s just a lot of mistrust in government, and the more transparent and accessible we can make it seem to the public, then we can perhaps regain that trust.”

Richard Anderson, a retired art teacher who now enjoys a second career as a wood sculptor, created “The Sages” from a tree stump on Old Town Road. Photo by Christine Petrone

By Kara Hahn

Kara Hahn

I was delightfully surprised as I drove along Old Town Road in Setauket last week to discover the tree sages that later graced this paper’s July 30th cover. The intricate carvings left me in awe of the artist’s talent and skill. It left me wondering who had the vision for this wooden sculpture. What were his motives? It left me wondering why anyone would ever want to grind a tree stump again? Public displays of art — whether officially sponsored or created by private citizens — enhance and refine a community’s culture, character and charm.

We are a community defined by our history, renowned for our cultural arts institutions and beloved for our strong sense of place. Creativity is central to how we identify ourselves.  Our landscape is full of beauty, both natural and purposefully fashioned; from stunning waterfront vistas to architectural masterpieces reflecting colonial heritage. Living up to our cultural legacy can be more than relying solely on what has already been made. We can continue to find new ways to augment that legacy, one creative project at a time adding to what amounts to our shared collection. We gain value through public art, not only by improving our aesthetics but by inspiring our imaginations. Public art invigorates and humanizes, it shapes a unique identity that acts as a beacon, attracting new visitors and potential new neighbors.

With growing fascination over “The Sages” could interest in public art installations continue to spread?  Will spaces we pass every day without a second glance now been seen in a new light? Can we continue to break up the bland and transform the same into the memorable? Art that reflects and reveals our collective heart?

For the past several years, community leaders have discussed potential new locations for place-making, transformational works of art. Let’s come together to find ways to enhance our existing beauty, inject our unique identity and add meaning where aging infrastructure is an eyesore. Adding to our public collection will undoubtedly have a tangible impact on how we define ourselves. Let’s revisit conversations about the train trestle over Nicolls Road, the medians along Stony Brook Road and other spaces of possibility. We are blessed with an abundance of art expertise in institutions like Gallery North, the Long Island Museum, Reboli Center and others. Let’s have an open dialogue with residents and experts on increasing the presence of public art and bolstering our local artists and the art community.    

The artistic and cultural influences present throughout our region have been central in defining who we are. On the eve of Gallery North’s annual Wet Paint Festival, we can all witness art as it is created, learn of its inspiration and marvel at the beauty left behind. Not only can we all celebrate unique installations like the “The Sages,” but we can make a conscious commitment to expand the visual intrigue of our community through public art. We will all be wealthier for it.

Kara Hahn is Suffolk County Legislator in the 5th District. She is also the deputy presiding officer of the legislature.


A small bridge in Arthur H. Kunz County Park, above, allows residents to take advantage of its many trails. Photo by Rita J. Egan

A resolution passed in the Suffolk County Legislature will place the onus on contractors when a structure encroaches onto county parkland.

The resolution, titled A Local Law to Ensure the Protection of County Parkland, passed in the Legislature June 23 and will take effect immediately after it is signed by County Executive Steve Bellone (D). The legislation requires a contractor working on private property that abuts parkland must obtain a copy of the land survey of the private parcel from the homeowner. The legislation also requires that the private property owner must submit a written affirmation that there have been no changes to the property since the survey. An affidavit must be filled out stating the work being performed is within private property and neither encroaches on or physically disturbs the adjacent parkland. It’s required that the affirmation be signed by the contractor and notarized.

“As Suffolk residents, we all bear the responsibility of being stewards of our environment.”

— Susan Berland

Fines for violation of the law are $50 for the first offense, $100 for the second and $250 for three or more.

The legislation was co-sponsored by county legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills), Samuel Gonzalez (D-Brentwood), Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and Jason Richberg (D-West Babylon) and was first introduced at the beginning of 2020. The legislation was inspired after a case in Smithtown where homeowners built a gazebo partly made of brick that was situated on a small piece of land that is part of Arthur H. Kunz County Park. The owners also had placed a putting green next to the structure.

“Suffolk County has long been a leader in protecting open space and parkland,” Berland said in an email. “As Suffolk residents, we all bear the responsibility of being stewards of our environment.”

Berland added that many residents encroached on public lands during her time as Town of Huntington councilwoman, where the town took some legal actions.

“These actions come at significant cost to taxpayers and can be avoided by ensuring that all involved in construction at these homes are certain that property boundaries are being observed,” the legislator said. “Suffolk County has a record of spearheading initiatives to safeguard the environment, earning us a regional and national reputation for innovation on this front. This resolution serves to further bolster that reputation.”

We don’t want people building and taking advantage of land that we’ve spent a lot of money to preserve for the residents of Suffolk County.

— Kara Hahn

Hahn said it makes sense for contractors to take extra precautions when building near parkland. 

“If you’re a contractor, and you’re about to put down a fence, and the property next to you is 100 acres, you have to take a look and say, ‘Oh, what land is that,’” she said, adding it’s simple to determine what’s public parkland looking at online maps.

“It’s common sense,” the legislator said. “We don’t want people building and taking advantage of land that we’ve spent a lot of money to preserve for the residents of Suffolk County. We preserve it to prevent building on it.”

Hahn said the legislation will not only prevent intentional and unintentional encroachment but will also protect both the homeowners and contractors.

She said the protection of parkland is more important than ever as more residents search for outdoor activities during the pandemic.

“I think it’s abundantly clear how important [parklands] are to the health of our communities — our mental health, our physical health, community well-being — and it’s important to protect them in every way we can,” Hahn said.

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Photo from VFW Post 3054

Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars East Setauket Post 3054 are beginning to see the results of working together with the community and elected officials.

The women’s bathroom before renovations at Post 3054. Photo from David Tracy

A year after post members began fundraising to help renovate their headquarters, which is at least 90 years old, they have been able to check a few items off their to-do list. Post Commander Jay Veronko credits not only the post’s fundraisers at Country Corner, Madiran and Prohibition Kitchen, but also contributions from community groups and the help of Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket).

“We got some money rolling in now, and we’re putting that money back into the building,” Veronko said.

With funds raised, the post members have been able to replace the hood over the range in the kitchen and make the women’s bathroom an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant restroom. They also installed a new fire system.

The post commander said several donations gave the post a head start, including $15,000 from Facebook group Three Village Dads raised at their August golf outing, a $30,000 grant from the Rommel Wilson Memorial Fund and a $10,000 state grant with the help of Englebright. Local businesses also donated supplies.

David Tracy, of Three Village Dads, said the partnership with the post began when the members wanted to raise money for a good cause. He said a few members now belong to the post. Members of the Facebook group, which recently became a nonprofit, assisted in the demolition and renovation, while 3VD members Mike Kinney did the plumbing, Chris and John Prussen of South Setauket-based JP Electric worked on the electricity and Tommy Raftery, along with his crew from Stony Brook-based Elite Home Improvement Services, undertook the majority of the rebuild.

Before the bathroom renovation, the space had two stalls and a different layout which made it hard to maneuver a wheelchair. It now has been made roomier and has a grab bar by the toilet, a wider door and an ADA-compliant sink. Veronko said Old Country Ceramic Tile in Port Jefferson Station donated all the tiles.

Hahn said it’s important to have an ADA-compliant bathroom as veterans age so they can still visit the post.

“That’s an important step that they took to make it accessible,” she said. 

Hahn coordinated a visit with local trade union representatives to the post more than a year ago. She said many local skilled laborers want to volunteer and use their skills to help veterans, which helps defray costs. The tour led the Sheet Metal Workers International Local 28 to build a custom range hood in the kitchen.

In the future, Veronko said, the post members hope to renovate the windows, floors and bar.

Renovations to the women’s bathroom in Post 3054 have made it ADA-compliant for all to use. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Englebright said the renovations to the building are important, and he was glad to help with the state grant as the members are generous with their time. He said the post is fundamental to the community, especially when it comes to continuing the tradition of the Memorial Day parade in East Setauket.

“One of the great events is the Memorial Day parade and at the end of each parade many of the marchers work their way back to this site,” he said. “It is a celebration of the day that takes place there with many of our veterans hosting anyone in the community who may want to have a hot dog and a soda.”

Veronko said the hope is that one day the post, which in addition to the Memorial Day parade hosts the Veterans Day memorial service and the fall chicken barbecue fundraiser, will be able to organize more community events like farmers markets. He added the 3VD hold their monthly meetings at the post, and the building is available for community and other veterans groups to meet.

Veronko said the renovations are needed for more than updating a historic structure. 

“The building needed updating absolutely, but we’re doing it for the next generation because we’re going to have a lot of Iraqi and Afghanistan veterans at some point,” he said. “I think there’s probably more of them than Vietnam vets that are eligible for the Veterans of Foreign Wars.”

The post will be holding another fundraiser March 14 at Country Corner in East Setauket from 4 to 8 p.m. For more information visit www.post3054.com.

Donations can also be sent to 8 Jones Street, Setauket, NY 11733.

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A student shakes hands with Valerie Cartright after receiving an award for a video created to highlight health and safety benefits of sidewalks. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

The Three Village school board welcomed Town of Brookhaven and Suffolk County officials Feb. 12 for a special presentation. 

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) presented awards to four Ward Melville High School students for their public service announcements advocating for sidewalks to ensure safety in the community. 

Sidewalks for Safety, a local grassroots organization, sponsored a video contest to encourage high school students to highlight the health and safety benefits of sidewalks in neighborhoods and around schools. Student projects were sponsored by the Ward Melville art department.

Contest winners were Benjamin Dombroff and Nicole DeLucia, who tied for first place and received $500 each. Mia Schoolman was awarded second place and Elyas Masrour placed third. 

Three Village resident Annemarie Waugh, founder of Sidewalks for Safety, addressed those gathered for last week’s meeting and presentation. The organization’s vision for the community is to have “a minimal number of strategically placed sidewalks on only a few connector roads to enable students and residents to walk safely,” she said. 

Ward Melville Principal Bill Bernhard also spoke. He recalled an appointment with Waugh six years ago, when he was principal at Paul J. Gelinas Junior High School. 

“We had a rather unorthodox meeting,” Bernhard said. “We took a walk around the neighborhood. It was a picturesque, beautiful day … and what we saw, besides the beautiful nature, was something rather disconcerting, which was the lack of available places for our students to walk — our lack of sidewalks.”

The Town installed sidewalks in front of the junior high school in 2016. The $300,000 project also included a pole with flashing LED lights that could be activated by pedestrians with the push of a button. 

Waugh indicated that there is still more to be done.

“Our roads are not comfortable for pedestrians and cyclists,” she said. “They are full of dangerous blind corners and speeding, distracted drivers.”

The student videos, which were screened during the meeting, echoed those concerns.

“Walkable communities are associated with higher home values,” Waugh said. “Imagine your kids being able to walk safely to school, to walk safely to their friends’ houses. Imagine being able to jog safely to West Meadow Beach. Imagine being able to walk for a coffee and to walk to local shops.” 

Romaine commended the students.

“Your students really know how to advocate and make a point,” he told school board members.

Also honored last week were members of the Setauket Elementary School student council, who raised more than $700 for Australian Wildlife Rescue, and varsity athletes who competed in fall sports. 

The school board also finalized the 2020-2021 school calendar. The first day of school will be Sept. 8, 2020.

Lise and Steven Hintze. Photo from Three Village Historical Society

By Donna Newman

Lise and Steve Hintze have been caring, contributing, active members of the Three Villages for more than two decades. They are both generous givers, willing to share their energy and talents for the benefit of the community. It is with gratitude that we honor them as 2019 TBR News Media People of the Year.

Residents who frequent the Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket may or may not know of the Hintzes’ efforts to keep improving and growing this valuable community venue.

Lise Hintze at a recent event at the Bates House. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Steve Hintze has been a Frank Melville Memorial Foundation trustee since 2008. He served several terms on the board as secretary. At present, he chairs the Park’s Building and Grounds Committee.

“Steve has brought a firefighter’s grit, an MBA, and a wealth of knowledge of all aspects of building and site design to the role,” said FMMF President Robert Reuter. “He also brings an admirable collection of professional-grade tools, and he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. Steve is always an absolute pleasure to work with and he knows how to complete a project to the high standard for which the park is known.”

His projects have included park lighting, the mill restoration, which is now in progress, and assisting Eagle Scout candidates with their endeavors for park enhancement.

Lise Hintze was recruited to join the park’s staff in 2011 in the dual role of office manager and director of the Bates House. Regular visitors know her as the friendly face of the Frank Melville Memorial Park. Her finger is always on its pulse, and she is ever on the lookout for potential improvements.

“The quintessential office manager, Lise efficiently handles park business,” Reuter said. “As director of the Bates House, she works with demanding brides and anxious grooms on wedding weekends — and then manages all manner of programs during the week. The full schedule of special events and gatherings keeps her on call, but her thorough planning makes it all look easy. A pioneer in social media reporting, Lise has enabled the park to keep Friends informed via a website.”

Lise Hintze has been described as a “Saint on Earth” and a “Super Hero” by folks who know her but wished to remain anonymous. They see her as “the height of humanity” always ready to help. Her credo: “What does anybody — or any animal — need that I can give them?” It is an attribute reportedly shared by her husband.

Steve Healy, president of the Three Village Historical Society, is happy to add his voice to those impressed with Lise Hintze’s abilities.

“Her work at the Frank Melville Park — between the Bates House and the Grist Mill and the growth in the park has been fabulous,” Healy said. “She synergizes the park with the community, is admired for her efforts and she does a great job taking the park to new levels.”

Lise Hintze does not let her job description limit her. If it’s happening in the park, it’s on her radar. Among her many contributions outside of official duties include the Wind Down Sunday outdoor concerts, begun with Katherine Downs and others and an ambitious schedule of three concerts. The park now offers nine. She has, when needed, instigated wildlife rescues. When drug abuse cropped up in the park a few years ago, she took a pragmatic stance and turned a potential security issue into an educational opportunity.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) lauded — and also joined in — that effort.

“Lise has a keen eye for what’s needed in the area,” Hahn said. “The opiate group she helped create in the fall of 2017 brought in speakers and provided a place for parents and students to openly and without judgment discuss the opioid crisis they were witnessing firsthand. It was a critical step for our community.”

The creation of this parent group was most likely the impetus for the Three Village school district’s hiring of a dedicated drug and alcohol abuse counselor, who began serving students and their families the following fall.

Steve Hintze, left, with Tim Smith of Old Field Landscaping preparing the site of Frank Melville Memorial Park’s new pollinator garden. Photo by Robert Reuter

These efforts alone would suffice to warrant community kudos, but there’s more.

Steve Hintze is still heavily involved with the Three Village Historical Society. A past president, he is currently the organization’s grants administrator and is busy gathering the resources to reconstruct the historic Dominick-Crawford Barn on TVHS property in Setauket.

Sandy White, office manager at TVHS had nothing but praise for her former boss.

“Steve was the president when I started working at TVHS. He hired me,” White said. “And to this day he is always there to help — willing to do anything. He’s working now with Steve Healy on the grants for the barn and comes into the office as often as he can. Willing to help anyone with everything, Steve tries to make a difference in everything he does.”

Healy and Hintze, who knew each other as firefighters in New York City before they became active in Three Village nonprofits, apparently share many of the same values. Healy has great respect for his colleague’s vast knowledge and willingness to share it.

“Steve is one of the people I have on speed dial,” Healy said. “When I call I know I’ll get a ‘Yes.’”

“If there’s ever a problem, he doesn’t just give me his input, he’ll roll up his sleeves and get involved in the solution. He’s a special breed with excellent leadership skills and creative ideas. The TVHS is blessed to get someone of his caliber and work ethic.”

Hahn completely agrees.

“Steve Hintze is a pillar of the community and a local hero,” Hahn said. “He contributes so much in real and tangible ways. His calming presence is valuable. He knows how to deal with people, how to motivate them, and how to find solutions, and he is always willing to do what’s necessary.”

There is general consensus with Reuter’s final assessment of these two exceptional individuals.

“They are remarkably modest people and would insist that what they do is nothing special,” Reuter said. “But they are, in fact – something special.”