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Suffolk County

David Calone, left, with state Assemblyman Steve Englebright. The assemblyman is one of the local leaders who encouraged Calone to run for county executive. Photos from Calone’s campaign

A former congressional primary candidate is aiming for Suffolk County’s executive seat.

Last week, Setauket’s David Calone announced his intention to run for county executive on the Democratic ticket in 2023. Due to term limits, Steve Bellone (D) will not be running.

“I would bring a lot of different perspectives and a lot of backgrounds to the regional leadership of the county executive position,” Calone said in a phone interview. 

Running for the office is something he has been thinking about for a few months. The candidate said he became more committed to his goal after conversations with many who provided strong moral support, such as John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Town of Brookhaven Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook).

Without any formal fundraisers, Calone has already raised nearly a million dollars for his campaign, he said.

Currently, Calone, a former federal and state prosecutor, is the only one who has thrown his hat in the ring, but candidates have until early next year to submit their petitions. If other candidates decide to run for county executive on the Democratic ticket, a primary would be held.

The candidate said he wanted to start campaigning early because Suffolk County is a vast area to cover.

“I’m looking forward to meeting with people across Suffolk County over this next year and hearing their ideas and issues, and then we can work to solve those challenges,” he said. 

When he ran in the Democratic primary for Congress in 2016 in the 1st Congressional District, he lost to former Town of Southampton Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst by a slim margin of slightly more than 300 votes. He said from the experience he learned how to run an extensive campaign.

“I was able to learn about all the issues affecting people across Suffolk County,” he said. “Many issues are common across the whole area, but there were also some very specific local issues,” adding while some may worry about environmental issues, in contrast others are trying to make ends meet.


Calone grew up in Mount Sinai and graduated from Port Jefferson high school. He went on to achieve his undergraduate degree from Princeton University and his law degree from Harvard. He and his wife, Presbyterian minister Kate Jones Calone, have three children and moved to Setauket 10 years ago when Jones Calone joined Setauket Presbyterian Church.

While a federal prosecutor, his focus was terrorism and international corporate fraud. As a state prosecutor, he fought health care fraud, and won a case that, at the time, was one of the biggest returns of taxpayer money — more than $70 million, according to him.

He is president and CEO of Jove Equity Partners LLC, which helps to start companies and works with owners to build their businesses.

“I’m looking forward to meeting with people across Suffolk County over this next year and hearing their ideas and issues, and then we can work to solve those challenges.”

— David Calone

County issues

Calone listed protecting the environment, improving transportation and economic development among his biggest concerns.

Working in the private sector and being involved in various businesses for more than 15 years, he said experience has provided him with a good deal of knowledge regarding economic development.

The candidate said he believes in supporting small businesses and providing workforce development to make sure “people get the skills they need for the next generation of jobs.”

“I think it is going to be critically important, too, because we live in a very high cost area,” he said. “We need to have people getting good paying jobs to be able to afford to live here.”

His company also created the Long Island Emerging Technologies Fund to help launch businesses coming out of local research labs, which in turn creates local jobs.

As board chair of Patriot Boot Camp, which was recently acquired by Disabled American Veterans, Calone has played a part in helping veterans, active military members and their spouses start their own businesses. He said while the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs holds job fairs, they don’t focus on entrepreneurship, which many military members may be well suited for due to being disciplined and hardworking

He also feels there are different ways to bring town governments together to address similar problems.

When he was chair for eight years of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, the group worked on streamlining solar panel permits throughout the county as each town had a different set of rules, which caused headaches for solar panel companies. The towns came together and agreed on one form, which made the process more streamlined, and the committee received the National Association of Counties 2012 National Achievement Award for the effort.

Calone said he would also like to improve transportation in the county, pointing out that many of the buses are empty or nearly empty and therefore a waste of fuel. He said he would like to see the pilot program that county Legislator Bridget Fleming (D-Noyac) started in Southampton expanded to the whole county. When someone needs transportation, they use a cellphone app and smaller buses are used. He said requesting a bus would be similar to using Uber or Lyft and the service overall would be more efficient.

Regarding development in the county, he said developing near major roadways and travel hubs such as Ronkonkoma train station, as other elected officials have suggested in the past, makes sense. He also said it’s important to create more affordable housing.

“We need to have more housing that works for people at different times of their lives,” he said. “One of the key things is if young people move away, because they can’t find housing here, they’re more likely to stay away and not come back. But if we can keep them here because we have the kind of housing that they need, and the good-paying jobs that they need, they’re more likely to stay here and be the buyers of those single-family homes in the future.”

The first is of a spinner shark swimming among a school of bunker. Photo from Chris Paparo

After four confirmed shark bites in the last three weeks on the south shore of Long Island, state and local authorities are actively monitoring swimming areas for these apex predators, with lifeguards, helicopters and drones on the lookout for a variety of sharks.

A sandbar shark with a satellite tag. Photo from Chris Paparo

“As New Yorkers and visitors alike head to our beautiful Long Island beaches to enjoy the summer, our top priority is their safety,” Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) said in a statement. “We are taking action to expand patrols for sharks and protect beachgoers from potentially dangerous situations.”

Earlier this month, a lifeguard was engaged in a safety exercise at Smith Point beach when a shark bit him in the chest. A paddle boarder, meanwhile, was bitten by a shark in Smith Bay on Fire Island.

Responding to the potential threat of interactions between swimmers and sharks, Hochul added several safety measures. Park Police boats will patrol waters around the island, while federal, state and county partnerships will share resources and information about shark sightings and better support to identify sharks in the area.

State park safety guidelines will suspend swimming after a shark sighting so the shoreline can be monitored with drones. Swimming may resume at least an hour after the last sighting.

Shark researchers said these predatory fish have always been around Long Island.

The southern side of Long Island likely has more species of shark than the north.

“The Atlantic Ocean, on the south shore of Long Island, has seen a notable increase in shark activity and sightings over the last two years,” a spokesman for Gov. Hochul explained in an email. The Long Island Sound, on the north shore, “has sharks but not this level of activity.”

The three most common sharks around Long Island are the sandbar shark, the dusky shark and the sand tiger shark, said Christopher Paparo, Southampton Marine Science Center manager at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University.

Shark expert Dr. Robert Hueter and his team were tagging and gathering data on great white sharks in 2021 in Nova Scotia. Photo fromOCEARCH/ Chris Ross.

Conservation success

The increase in shark populations around the island is a “conservation success story,” particularly because sharks around the world are on the decline.

“We have something special in New York,” Paparo said.

From the 1950s until the 1970s, sharks around the area were heavily fished to the point where the populations declined precipitously.

At the same time, cleaning up the waters around Long Island by reducing ocean dumping and enforcing regulations has made it possible for the sharks and the fish they hunt, such as bunker, to recover.

“The habitat has improved and it can house more sharks in the summertime” than earlier, said Dr. Robert Hueter, chief scientist at OCEARCH, a global nonprofit organization collecting unprecedented data on sharks to help return the oceans to balance and abundance.

“Finally, a good story in marine conservation and a return of our oceans to health and abundance,” Hueter added.

While shark attacks generate considerable headlines, the threat from these marine fish is considerably less than it is for other dangers, such as driving to the beach, which produces far more injuries due to car accidents.

Last year, Paparo said, fewer than 100 shark attacks occurred throughout the world.

“I understand the fear of sharks,” driven in part by movies about them, Paparo said. But “people aren’t afraid of their cars” and they aren’t as focused on drownings, even though about 4,000 people drown in a typical year in the United States.

Hueter said he typically cringes around the Fourth of July holiday because that week is often the height of the beach season, when the larger number of people in habitats where sharks live can lead to bites.

More often than not, the damage sharks around Long Island inflict on humans involves bites, rather than attacks.

“Long Island is becoming the new Florida,” Hueter said. In Florida, people are bitten on their ankles or hands, as small to mid-sized sharks are not interested in people, he added.

While sharks have increased in numbers around Long Island, so have marine mammals, such as whales. On a recent morning last week, Paparo saw three humpback whales before he came to work.

People hunted whales, just as they did sharks, through the 70s, causing their numbers to decline.

Shark expert Dr. Robert Hueter and his team were tagging and gathering data on great white sharks in 2021 in Nova Scotia. Photo fromOCEARCH/ Chris Ross.

Measures to lower risk

People concerned about sharks can take several steps to reduce the risk of coming into contact with them.

Residents and guests should try not to swim at dawn and dusk when sharks typically feed more often.

Additionally, swimmers who encounter a school of bunker, also known as Atlantic menhaden, should avoid the area, as sharks might mistake a person as a larger and slower swimming part of such a school.

Sea birds hovering over an area may be an indication of schooling bunker, a Hochul spokesman explained.

While it’s less likely here than in Cape Cod, seal colonies are a potential threat, as they can attract adult great white sharks. Long Island has become home to some juvenile great white sharks, which are about 4 feet in length.

The governor’s office also encouraged people to swim in lifeguarded areas and with a buddy.

If a shark bites, experts suggest getting out of the water. A swimmer can try to fend off a shark by hitting it in the nose. People should also avoid swimming near areas where others are fishing.

Shark bites, Hueter said, require medical attention because of the damaged skin and the bacteria from shark teeth.

“You want to get good medical help to clean the wound” if a shark bites, Hueter said.

Still rebuilding

Hueter and Paparo added that the number of sharks still hasn’t reached the same levels as they had been decades ago.

“We do have some healthy shark populations,” Hueter said. “Others are still rebuilding. We are not even close to what they used to be if you go back before the overfishing in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Latoya Bazmore and Devon Toney, co-founders of All Included ’N’ Treated (A.I.N.T.), near Ross Memorial Park in Brentwood. Photo by Raymond Janis

After serving out a 17-year state prison sentence, Devon Toney returned to society unprepared for the challenges ahead.

Toney described parole as just another pressurized situation in a string of high-pressure environments that he has experienced since childhood. Parole, he said, only aggravated his post-traumatic stress disorder, stymying any opportunities for upward growth. 

He soon entered the shelter system in Suffolk County, traveling between homeless shelters and health care facilities, his most recent stay at The Linkage Center in Huntington. Eventually, feeling suffocated in the shelters and unable to sleep among strangers, he left that system for a life on the streets. By night, he slept in train stations, bus stations, dugouts and public parks. By day, he stole, often reselling juices and water just to get by. 

Without adequate resources and a lack of attention, Toney said those experiencing homelessness “have to steal,” that life on the streets “causes clean people — healthy people — to become addicts because that’s all they’re around.”

Toney remains homeless to the present day, currently residing near Ross Memorial Park in Brentwood. His story is one of countless examples of how easily one can become homeless after giving up on shelter, falling through the cracks with few opportunities to rise above these dire circumstances.

‘It’s probably one of the most difficult and complex moral and legal issues that I deal with.’

— Jonathan Kornreich

A startling trend

Mike Giuffrida, associate director of the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless, a nonprofit that works throughout Long Island to determine better strategies and policies to address homelessness, said he has noticed a recent trend of others fleeing from shelters.

“Although emergency shelter is available to the majority of people who present as having nowhere else to go, we are seeing an increased rate of individuals who are presenting as unsheltered and are living on the street,” he said.

Motivating this shelter shock, Giuffrida sees two principal factors: “The greatest commonality of people that experience homelessness is … significant trauma, likely throughout the majority — if not all — of their lives,” he said. The second factor is the structure of the shelter system, which is constrained by strict guidelines from New York State and “can be retraumatizing for people or the shelter settings do not meet their needs.”

An aversion to communal living is commonplace among those requesting emergency shelter. In addition, occupants of these shelters are often asked to give up considerable portions of their income for shelter payments. “They pay, in some cases, almost all of their income in order to stay in that undesirable location,” Giuffrida said. 

Clusters of homeless encampments can be found in areas throughout Suffolk County. Brookhaven Town Councilmember Jonathan Kornreich (D-Stony Brook) says there are likely dozens of individuals experiencing homelessness in his council district alone, concentrated primarily in Port Jefferson Station. 

Kornreich complained about how he is limited in his capacity to help, saying he wishes that he could do more. “It’s probably one of the most difficult and complex moral and legal issues that I deal with,” he said. “The Town of Brookhaven doesn’t have any functions with respect to social services or enforcement, but because this is an area of concern to me, I try to identify people who might be in need of services and try to either talk to people myself or put them in touch with services.” 

Those services are provided through the Suffolk County Department of Social Services. In an emailed statement, a spokesperson affiliated with DSS outlined the array of options that are available through the department.

“The Suffolk County Department of Social Services offers temporary housing assistance, in shelter settings, to eligible individuals and families experiencing homelessness,” the spokesperson said. “We contract with nonprofit agencies that provide case management services to each client based on their individual needs, with a focus on housing support. Services may include referrals to community agencies, mental health programs, as well as medical services. These services, with the support and encouragement of shelter staff, work in concert to transition those experiencing homelessness to appropriate permanent housing resources.”

In an interview, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide economic challenges have only exacerbated the conditions of homelessness throughout the county. Despite external barriers, he holds that there is room for improvement.

“More could always be done, of course,” he said. “We are — as I’ve said many times before — coming out of COVID and grappling with impacts and effects that we’re going to be dealing with for years to come and that we don’t fully understand yet.” He added, “The Department of Social Services has, throughout COVID, and as we’ve started to move out of that now, worked very hard to fulfill its mission and will continue to do that.”

‘The frustrating part is that we are limited… We are limited in forcing a person to get medical treatment.’

— Sarah Anker

Accepting services: A two-way street

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) detailed the decades-long history of homelessness in Coram. She argues that it is closely tied to other pressing matters facing county government: public safety, access to health care, the opioid epidemic and inadequate compensation for social workers. 

The county legislator also blamed stringent state guidelines that handicap DSS’s outreach efforts. “The frustrating part is that we are limited,” Anker said. “We are limited in forcing a person to get medical treatment.”

Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden), the majority leader of the county Legislature, voiced similar frustrations. He said he is concerned by the growing number of people that reject services from DSS.

“Even though you offer them help, you offer them shelter, and you offer them medical [assistance], they often turn it down,” he said. “They’d rather be out in the cold, alone, in the dark — whatever it is — than seek help. And that’s concerning.”

Emily Murphy, a licensed social worker who wrote a thesis paper investigating homelessness in Port Jefferson Station, said another significant problem is the lack of assistance for undocumented immigrants, whose immigration status bars them from applying for services.

“It’s not a DSS decision, but it comes from higher up, that if you don’t have documentation you can’t receive SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] benefits or shelter,” Murphy said.

This changes during the colder months, according to Murphy, as shelters open their doors to all. Murphy also observed how a lack of political mobilization hampers the homeless community from receiving adequate government representation.

“That was the main thing,” Murphy said, referring to the homeless population. “It was a voice that was so often unheard and unlistened to.”

The gradual downward slope

Joel Blau, professor emeritus of the School of Social Welfare at Stony Brook University, has followed trends in homelessness for decades. He attributes rising homelessness in the United States since the 1970s to the stagnation of wages across that time frame coupled with the rising cost of housing.

“The notion of somebody with a high school education maintaining a decent standard of living is becoming ever more elusive,” he said. “Housing prices, particularly in cities, have escalated a lot, so unless you have two professionals in the family or one person who makes a lot of money, it’s increasingly difficult to get decent housing.” 

Today, a growing number of people are just one step away from losing their homes. “Whether it be an accident or an illness or the loss of a job, all of a sudden they’re plummeting downward and onto the street,” he said.

Evaluating long-term projections of homelessness, Blau said there have been “periods where it plateaus and periods where it gets worse.” On the whole, he said, “the general trend is downward.”

Blau believes the way to remedy the issue is to change the ways in which society is organized. “It would require social housing, decommodifying it so that housing is a right, not something sold for profit,” he said. “And that’s probably, under the present political circumstances, a bridge too far.” In other words, problems associated with homelessness in this country have grown for many years and are likely to continue.

‘We need to let them know that we love and we care about them.’ — Devon Toney

Resurrection: A reason to hope

Toney has partnered with Latoya Bazmore, also of Brentwood, to create A.I.N.T. (All Included ’N’ Treated), a grassroots organization to combat homelessness in the community. 

Toney said his primary goal is to access adequate housing. After that, he intends to galvanize his peers in the community, serving as a beacon for those who are also going through the struggle of homelessness. As someone who has experienced homelessness firsthand and who can relate to the plight, Toney believes he is uniquely situated to be an agent of change and a force of good.

“I need to be the one that interacts with these gang members, these addicts … they need somebody to articulate things to them,” he said. “We need to comfort them. We need to let them know that we love and we care about them.”

To learn more about the A.I.N.T. project, please visit the AIN’T (all included N Treated) Facebook page or visit the group on Instagram: @all.included.and.treated.

Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

By Daniel Dunaief

[email protected]

While looking after the physical and mental well-being of patients who come in for care, Suffolk County hospitals are also focused on protecting staff, patients and visitors from the kind of violence that has spread recently throughout the country.

Over the past six months, hospital security staff and administrators have added a host of procedures to enhance safety and are considering additional steps.

“New measures have been put in place to minimize risk and better secure our buildings from a variety of threats,” Frank Kirby, Catholic Health Service line manager, wrote in an email. Catholic Health includes St. Catherine of Siena in Smithtown and St. Charles in Port Jefferson, among others.

“All Catholic Health facilities have an ‘active shooter’ contingency policy, which includes training for our employees on what to do in such an event,” Kirby wrote.

Executives at several health care facilities shared specific measures they have put in place.

The safe room

“Over the last six months or so, we have created something called the safe room,” said Dr. Michel Khlat, director at St. Catherine of Siena. Inside that room, hospital staff can hide and can find emergency items, like a door stop, medical supplies, gauze and first aid equipment.

St. Catherine recommends putting all the tables down in the safe room and hiding.

Khlat added that the hospital recommends that staff not open a door where another staff member knocks, in case a criminal is squatting nearby, waiting for access to the hospital.

Kirby added that Catholic Health facilities actively conducts drills across their hospitals, medical buildings and administrative offices to “sharpen our preparedness for any potential crisis that could impact safety and security.”

Catholic Health hospitals have onsite security guards and field supervisors who have prior military or law enforcement experience, Kirby added.

Northwell Health

As for Northwell Health, which includes Huntington Hospital, Scott Strauss, vice president of Corporate Security at Northwell, said the hospitals have an armed presence that includes many former and active law enforcement officers.

Strauss himself is a retired New York Police Department officer who, as a first responder on 9/11, rescued a Port Authority officer trapped by the fall of the World Trade Center.

Northwell is researching the possibility of installing a metal detection system.

Strauss suggested that the security program could not be successful without the support of senior leadership.

He suggested that staff and visitors can play a part in keeping everyone safe by remaining vigilant, as anyone in a hospital could serve as the eyes and ears of a security force.

The security staff has relied on their 15 to 35 years of experience to deescalate any potentially violent situations, Strauss said.

Northwell hospitals also offer guidance to staff for personal relationships that might
be dangerous.

“People don’t realize they’re in a poor relationship, they might think it’s normal,” Strauss said.

Across social media and the Internet, the communications team at Northwell monitors online chatter to search for anything that might be threatening.

“We evaluate it and notify the police as needed,” said Strauss.

Aggressive behavior

Strauss urged people who see something threatening online to share it with authorities, either at the hospitals or in the police force. “You can’t take a chance and let that go,” he said.

At this point, Northwell hasn’t noticed an increase in threats or possible security concerns. It has, however, seen an increase in aggressive behavior at practices and in
the hospitals.

In those situations, the security team investigates. They offer to get help, while making it clear that “threatening in any way, shape or form is not tolerated,” Strauss said. “There could be consequences” which could include being dismissed from the practice and filing police reports, Strauss said.

Anecdotally, Strauss believes Northwell has seen an increase in police reports.

When the draft of the Supreme Court’s decision that will likely overturn Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that made it unconstitutional for states to restrict abortions, became public, Strauss was concerned about the potential backlash for health care providers.

So far, Strauss said gratefully, Northwell hasn’t seen any violence or threats related to the pending decision.

Stony Brook

Stony Brook University Hospital has an accredited and armed law enforcement agency on campus, in addition to a team of trained public safety personnel within the hospital, explained Lawrence Zacarese, vice president for Enterprise Risk Management and chief security officer at Stony Brook University.

Zacarese indicated that university officers are extensively trained in active shooter response protocols and are prepared to handle other emergency situations.

He added that the staff looks for ways to enhance security.

“Our training and security activities are continuous, and we are committed to exploring additional opportunities to maintain a safe and secure environment,” he explained in an email.

Kirby of Catholic Health Security suggested that hospitals do “more than provide care for surgical and medical inpatients. They also need to guarantee safety for all who enter our grounds.”

By Raymond Janis 

At the Shea Theatre, Suffolk County Community College Ammerman campus, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) delivered his State of the County address May 18.

The county executive started his speech with a moment of silence to honor the lives lost in the Buffalo gun tragedy. 

“We continue to grieve for those who were lost, for the Buffalo community and, most importantly, for the families that have been directly impacted by this incomprehensible act of hate,” he said. “We must speak out against hateful rhetoric that is contrary to the American creed and stand up for what we do believe. This requires that we continue to celebrate our diversity here and recognize it for what it is — a strength.”

County legislators onstage during the event, above. Photo from Bellone’s Flickr page

COVID-19 recovery

The county executive acknowledged the many challenges of leading the administration through the public health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. “In March of 2020, life as we knew it shut down,” he said. “The world came to a halt and Suffolk County was at the epicenter of the COVID-19 global pandemic in our state and in our nation.”

Bellone reported that the county has lost over 4,400 residents to the virus. As normalcy slowly returns, he said that the pandemic has taught valuable lessons.

“One of the clearest takeaways for me is the importance of public service,” he said. “During this county’s darkest hour, our employees did it all. While much of the rest of the world was on lockdown, county employees ensured critical operations did not stop.” He added, “It is fitting that this year’s State of the County is here at Suffolk County Community College’s Ammerman campus as this was the location for one of our first mass-vaccination sites.”

Human resources 

One of Bellone’s points of emphasis during the address was the need for greater human resources personnel in county government. Despite its size, Bellone said that the county government still operates without a fully functional human resources department. 

“Human resources, to the extent that it has existed in this government, has been done on an ad hoc basis,” the county executive said. “Commissioners or department heads who are not human resource professionals perform these functions when a problem occurs or a crisis arises.”

Bellone considers this no way to run an organization, especially one as large and impactful to the lives of residents as the Suffolk County government. He likened human resources to military supply units.

“Operating departments without effective human resources is like the military trying to operate without its supply units,” he said, adding, “You can have the best fighting force in the world, but if those support units are ineffective, the mission will be undermined.” 

Through the addition of the latest HR software and new organizational practices, he suggested the county can save $18 million per year in payroll operation costs alone. 

Investing in the future

The county executive called the Long Island Rail Road a critical asset. “Nearly two centuries after its tracks were laid, that initial investment is still reaping extraordinary returns for the region,” he said. 

Bellone said the county is taking two significant leaps forward with both the East Side Access and Third Track projects. 

The county executive announced a new project called the Midway Crossing, which proposes to create two new public facilities which have long been under consideration: the Long Island Convention Center and a north terminal at MacArthur Airport. 

“It is crazy that a region of our size and significance, of nearly 3 million people, with incredible innovation and natural assets, adjacent to the largest and most important city in the nation, has no convention center,” he said. “A convention center would bring thousands of people and businesses to our region every year from other parts of the country, importantly bringing new dollars into our local economy.”

In a grand plan, Bellone envisions this convention center will be connected to both a new state-of-the-art north airport terminal at MacArthur Airport and to the main line of the LIRR. 

“The convention center attendees would conveniently and easily fly in and out of MacArthur Airport, and if a flight wasn’t available they would still have the ability to take the train from either JFK or LaGuardia,” he said. “Every great region must have a great regional airport and no one can deny that Long Island is one of the great regions in the nation.”

Bellone also foresees other opportunities to integrate the regional economy along the Ronkonkoma Branch line of the LIRR. He proposes relocating the “wholly underutilized” Yaphank station to create the Brookhaven National Laboratory Station, “effectively connecting this global institution to MacArthur Airport and the larger innovation ecosystem in the region by mass transit.”

Environmental quality

County Executive Steve Bellone, above, delivers the State of the County address. Photo from Bellone’s Flickr page

The county executive highlighted some of the environmental initiatives that his administration is working on. He said this region is currently on the front lines of the battle against climate change.

“As an island, we know that we are on the front lines of climate change,” Bellone said. “By taking action, we are not only helping to protect our region in the future, but we are creating economic opportunities in the near term as well.”

He also discussed the need for more charging stations as drivers throughout the county continue to transition to electric vehicles. He announced that two-dozen public libraries in each of the 10 towns in the county have partnered with the administration in the development of a charge-sharing network.

Suffolk County has also emerged as one of the centers of the offshore wind industry in the region, according to Bellone. “This is an industry that will have a more than $12 billion economic impact on New York,” he said. “Suffolk County is well positioned to benefit from the new supply chains and the creation of approximately 7,000 new jobs.”

The county has also reached out to businesses and collaborated with local colleges to establish workforce training programs that will prepare residents for these new jobs. 

Opioid crisis

Exacerbated by the pandemic, ending the opioid epidemic remains near the top of Bellone’s list of priorities. He said opioids have wreaked havoc upon the county, causing horrific damage for users and their families.

“After years of steady progress, the pandemic created unprecedented circumstances of fear, isolation and anxiety that led to an increase in overdoses — 374 confirmed [fatal] cases last year alone,” he said. 

“If we want to be part of the solution, then we need to do what the Greatest Generation did: Put our heads down and build. Build our families first and then do our part to build stronger communities.” — Steve Bellone

The Greatest Generation

Bellone concluded his address on a positive note. With war again raging in Europe, the county executive reminded the audience of the example of the Greatest Generation.

“The attack on Ukraine is the kind of naked aggression against a sovereign nation in Europe that we have not witnessed since the end of World War II,” he said. “The images and the videos that we see coming out of Ukraine are absolutely devastating and heartbreaking.” He added, “I don’t think that it is any coincidence that after more than 75 years of peace in Europe, forged by the sacrifices of American veterans, that we’re seeing this kind of aggression happen just as this Greatest Generation slowly, but inevitably, fades into history.”

Bellone said it is important to honor the legacy of the Greatest Generation as these Americans had laid the foundation for a future of peace. “They won the war and then they came home and built a better future for all of us,” he said. “If we want to be part of the solution, then we need to do what the Greatest Generation did: Put our heads down and build. Build our families first and then do our part to build stronger communities.” 

Republican legislators at the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge, above. Photo by Raymond Janis

County legislators met on the floor of the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge May 12 to announce legislation that would solidify term limits for elected officials in Suffolk County.

If passed, the proposed legislation would limit the offices of county executive, comptroller and legislators to a total of 12 years. Proponents argue the measure will remove a loophole in the law that allows individuals to exceed the 12-year threshold. 

Term limits were first instituted in Suffolk County in 1993 by voter referendum. However, the statute was ambiguous, according to Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport). 

“In 1993 Suffolk County voters went to the polls and approved term limits that dictate an elected official in the Legislature, the comptroller or the county executive could not serve in the same office [beyond] 12 consecutive years,” Bontempi said. “However, that still leaves the possibility for a candidate to run for that office again after a break in the 12 years.”

Bontempi’s proposed legislation would close this loophole. If enacted, the law would mandate that no person could serve more than 12 cumulative years in office. 

Last year, former county Legislator Kate Browning (D-Shirley) campaigned in a special election for the 3rd Legislative District. Despite previously serving in the Legislature for 12 years, Browning received the Democratic nomination following an appellate court panel ruling. She was defeated in that race by current Legislator Jim Mazzarella (R-Moriches) by a 55-45% margin and again in November’s election by 63-37%.

Mazzarella said this legislation will prevent a similar scenario from unfolding in the future, cementing 12-year term limits in Suffolk for good.

“A year ago when I first ran for office, a former legislator who had already served 12 years tried to game the system and run again,” Mazzarella said. “I could tell by being out there with the voters that the electorate at the time felt duped. Ultimately, the voters did make their feelings known at the ballot box and I was elected as legislator.” He added, “This law needs to be put in place to guarantee that voters are properly represented.”

Legislator Stephanie Bontempi (R-Centerport) is sponsoring legislation to solidify term limits for county officeholders. Photo by Raymond Janis

Bontempi said the purpose of the legislation is to bring fresh blood into the political process and to add more opportunities for newcomers in county government. “The goal here is for the majority to provide Suffolk County voters new candidates who can bring new ideas and new perspectives to their offices,” she said, adding, “Our communities are ever changing, and leadership should reflect those changes.”

Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) said voters approved term limits in 1993 with an understanding that it would prevent elected officers from serving more than 12 years. He considers this new legislation a way to reinstate the law’s original intent. 

“In 1993 the voters overwhelmingly approved and passed term-limit laws,” McCaffrey said. “Their intent, as was our intent, was to make it a 12-year term.” The presiding officer added, “We want to make sure that we codify it. We’re going to put it up as a referendum for the voters after this resolution is passed, and we expect them to overwhelmingly support this referendum.”

While this legislation will impose definitive term limits on several offices, there are some notable exemptions. The offices of county sheriff, county clerk and district attorney are each mandated by the state constitution and thereby cannot be regulated by county law, according to McCaffrey. 

“Those are state-mandated offices and we do not have the ability to control them,” the presiding officer said. 

A vote on Bontempi’s legislation is expected in early June. If the resolution is passed by the Legislature, voters will have final say on the matter in a referendum this November.

'Kayaks at Bay' by Holly Gordon

Contestants will be eligible to receive prizes, including a free Family Event aboard the historic Oyster Sloop Priscilla. Additional prizes provided by Long Island Aquarium, Long Island Ducks & Splish Splash

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced April 29 the launch of the 2022 Reclaim Our Water Poster Contest, for fifth grade students in the County, to encourage artistic expression and increase awareness of our most treasured natural resource — water. As a part of Reclaim Our Water (ROW), the County’s over-arching water quality improvement initiative, poster contest entrants are to create original artwork depicting their favorite water-related activities in Suffolk County with family and friends, such as swimming, kayaking, fishing, gardening and more, by May 20.

Oyster Sloop Priscilla

Contestants are encouraged to use their creativity, making posters that are humorous or serious, as long as they focus on the contest theme and direct viewers to the Reclaim Our Water website, www.ReclaimOurWater.info. Prizes will be awarded for first place, as well as for up to four other finalists. The first place winner will receive a free afternoon with family aboard the historic sailboat, Oyster Sloop Priscilla, of the Long Island Maritime Museum. Additional prizes will be provided by the Long Island Aquarium, the Long Island Ducks and Splish Splash. For more information, including rules, guidelines, and entry forms , please visit www.ReclaimOurWater.info.

“It is so important to involve our students in the work that we are doing now to create a cleaner, safer environment for them and future generations,”  said County Executive Bellone. “Coupling art with environmental awareness does that, in a unique way, to not only achieve our goal of increasing water quality awareness today, but also to pique their interest in protecting water quality for decades to come.”

To stop and reverse nitrogen pollution from cesspools and septic systems, improve water quality and protect natural storm barriers, County Executive Bellone launched the Reclaim Our Water initiative in 2017, which includes connection to sewers in some areas, and the installation of Innovative Alternative Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (IAOWTS) where sewers are not a practical or cost-effective solution. A featured aspect of the program includes the provision of up to $30,000 in state and county grants to eligible homeowners for the installation of Innovative and Alternatively nitrogen removal septic systems. As of March 2022, more than 1,030 Suffolk homeowners have utilized the program to install such systems.

Last Friday, April 8, Edward Bonahue was sworn in as the seventh president of Suffolk County Community College. 

During his inaugural address, Bonahue outlined his vision of higher education in Suffolk County and the direction he intends to steer the college throughout his tenure as president.

“It is a career-defining honor to stand with you today and to accept the deep privilege and tremendous responsibility of serving as the seventh president of Suffolk County Community College,” he said. “For this Long Island boy, the child of, and also brother to, lifelong Suffolk County educators, the opportunity to join with all of you in service to Suffolk County is a dream come true and a prayer answered.”

We honor and commend the work performed by generations of caring college employees, faculty and staff who could choose to do anything, who could choose to work anywhere, but who have chosen this work.”

— Edward Bonahue

A place in history

Bonahue detailed the history of SCCC since the time when it was founded in 1959 as just a small college of about 500 students. Back then, classrooms had to be borrowed from Sachem and Riverhead high schools. The president likened the population growth of Suffolk County with the development and advancement of the community college.

“Those first students came from a growing county with about 600,000 residents,” he said. “Today, Suffolk County is home to over 1.6 million residents, representing a far-more diverse population, and our annual college enrollment exceeds 20,000 students.” He continued by saying, “We honor and commend the work performed by generations of caring college employees, faculty and staff who could choose to do anything, who could choose to work anywhere, but who have chosen this work, to work here and to embrace this mission of fostering student development, promoting a culture of lifelong learning, and ultimately serving the community we live in.”

Reflecting upon the resiliency of the campus community during the COVID-19 pandemic, Bonahue said that the college found new and innovative ways to continue the educational process through virtual learning. In a time of profound uncertainty and despair, he said SCCC did not shrink away from its academic mission.

“Especially in the early days of the pandemic, many of us worked around the clock just to manage a virtual continuity of operations,” he said. “We all learned that our community college students were often those most likely to have been impacted by the pandemic.” Discussing ways students and staff responded, Bonahue added, “We worked with a sense of urgency, but also pragmatic flexibility, knowing that our students’ progress, sometimes even their well-being, rested on our ability to adapt to constantly shifting conditions.”

Meeting the community’s needs

We own that the work of education is complicated, but the college embraces this as a critical duty.”

— Edward Bonahue

During the address, Bonahue articulated the important role that SCCC plays within the Suffolk community. He said the institution’s mission is to provide quality, affordable higher education and to promote health and prosperity throughout the county.

“We know that we are a critical part of the formula for supporting our community and changing students’ lives,” Bonahue said. “Specifically, the essential mission of our college, the necessity of providing an affordable, inclusive education, of providing a pathway of opportunity, has never been more critical.” He added, “For all of Suffolk County, I have this simple message: Suffolk County Community College is Long Island’s own pathway to educational and economic success.”

Bonahue considers an educated populace necessary for community wellness. “We own that the work of education is complicated, but the college embraces this as a critical duty because we know that an educated population is an essential good for our society and our nation.”

The president suggests that democracy also requires an engaged citizenry. He said one of the priorities of the college is to keep its students informed and involved in the democratic process.

“One of our commitments to students is to foster a sense of citizenship and civic engagement,” he said. “We acknowledge that teaching about the rights of democracy, its many individual freedoms, the privilege of self-determination, must also be accompanied by teaching about the responsibilities of citizenship, including service to the community and the country, the rule of law, appreciation for the power of diversity, and the willingness to speak and act in defense of our freedoms.” He stressed, “This kind of general education for all students is critical because through it, students come to understand not only the rights and responsibilities of being an American, but also a sense of the world they live in.”

The students’ experience is the reality of the college.”— Edward Bonahue

Serving all students

Bonahue delivered his general vision for the college. He affirmed the college “will continue its commitment to serve all students, regardless of background or previous experience in higher education.” 

He said the college must continue to promote inclusion of all students, regardless of their circumstances: “We know that the future of the college means embracing the part-time student, the working student, the parenting student, as well as those who come to us straight out of high school.” 

Additionally, Bonahue embraced the nonconventional programs of study which complement the curriculum offered by the college. “We affirm that as a comprehensive community college, career training, workforce development and economic development are integral and fundamental parts of our mission,” he said, adding, “We are proud of our thousands of students who move annually through our arts and sciences programs, graduate from our honors programs and often transfer to highly selective universities. We are equally proud of our nurses, our welders, our bakers, programmers, our paramedics, our machinists and our accountants.”

During the speech, Bonahue advanced that student experience is the impetus behind his work: “The students’ experience is the reality of the college, and we will keep that truth at the center of how we carry out our mission of student success from day-to-day, from semester-to-semester and from year-to-year.”

The president touched upon the many financial challenges that students may face while pursuing a higher education. He acknowledged that there are still too many people left out of the education system due to the burden of cost. 

“Because the cost of education still too often puts it out of reach for deserving students, we affirm our commitment that a Suffolk education must remain an affordable education,” Bonahue said. “The work of our college foundation as a vehicle for supporting student scholarships and basic needs allows any of us and all of us to invest in our students.”

To access the full speech, click here.

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A sketch from Suffolk County depicts the Route 25A and Nicolls Road intersection and surrounding area.

Early in 2020, Suffolk County was ready to ease residents’ concerns about the northwestern section of Nicolls Road.

Then, the pandemic hit. Roadwork that county officials had been planning for several years and projected would be completed by the end of 2020 was put on hold due to COVID-19. A recurrent issue for travelers on Nicolls Road has been drivers weaving quickly to the left lane when coming from eastbound Route 25A to make a left onto Lower Sheep Pasture Road while others are making a left onto Nicolls from Route 25A driving south.

Now the work is beginning.

At a February 2020 Three Village Civic Association meeting, William Hillman, Suffolk County Department of Public Works chief engineer, said it would be “a relatively simple project.” The road work will include removing the slip ramp on Route 25A approaching Nicolls and bringing a right-turn lane up to the signal. The only time drivers in the right-turn lane will stop is when those making a left from the westbound side of Route 25A have the green arrow.

According to a recent letter to residents from the county Department of Public Works, the project will also consist of installation of drainage, curb, sidewalk, guide rail, milling, asphalt resurfacing, traffic signal work, pavement striping and grass seeding. 

County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said, in a recent phone interview, it was good to hear that the work will begin as it will make the roadway safer for drivers and pedestrians.

“It’s always hard to live through infrastructure improvements, but ultimately it’ll make it safer there,” she said.

Hahn said the county doesn’t anticipate any problems with the new light at the turning lane as those approaching from the west and turning right will have the green most of the time.

“Every other moment in that lane you should be able to turn right without a problem,” she said.

Hahn said the sidewalk to be added on the west side of the road, combined with pedestrians no longer having to cross the wide slip ramp, will diminish dangerous conditions. The sidewalk on the west side of Nicolls will run from the North entrance of Stony Brook University to Route 25A. Hahn added currently it is safer to cross at Lower Sheep Pasture than at the northwest corner of the intersection.

According to county officials, crews have begun preliminary work, and the project should be completed by the end of the summer. Hahn added the estimated project cost is $1.2 million.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, second from right, joined Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, back row, to announce a cap on the county’s gas tax starting June 1. Screen capture from County Executive Steve Bellone’s Facebook page

Elected officials from Suffolk and Nassau counties joined forces to alleviate the sales tax burden on residents when they’re at the gas pump.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) met with Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman (R), Suffolk Legislature Presiding Officer Kevin McCaffrey (R-Lindenhurst) and other local county officials at a press conference in Hauppauge on Tuesday after both the Suffolk and Nassau legislatures unanimously adopted emergency laws.

The resolutions in both counties allow for a partial suspension of the sales tax on gasoline, cutting the tax on any amount over $3 per gallon. The law will take effect June 1 and end on Dec. 31. Nassau legislators adopted the bill Monday night, and Suffolk legislators followed suit Tuesday morning.

McCaffrey said it was done at “lightning speed” as Suffolk officials worked closely with Blakeman. “This is a regional problem,” McCaffrey said. “It doesn’t change when you cross over the county line.”

Bellone said that residents have been feeling the effects of rising prices, especially at the gas pump. He said regular gas was under $3 a year ago and now is more than $4.

He thanked the NYS Legislature and Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) for acting at the state level. The recent state budget includes a reduction of roughly half of the state’s gas tax from June 1 to Dec. 31.

“This is not going to solve everyone’s problem, but it will put a little money back in people’s pockets,” Bellone said. “It will give people a sense — and this is important as well — that the government is taking action.”

In a statement, Suffolk Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said she was familiar with many families’ struggles due to rising gas prices.

“While another round of high gas prices just further underlines the need to get off fossil fuels and continue our transition to electric vehicles, a sales tax is an incredibly regressive tax,” Hahn said. “It affects the poor far more than those who are not poor. I know what it’s like to struggle, to rely on waitressing tips to feed my young daughter, to have a $20-a-week increase in gas prices blow a hole in my family’s budget. I’ve been there when I was a single mom. This temporary tax rollback is meant to help those families who are struggling today.”