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Town Board

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President announces candidacy against Valerie Cartright

Above, far right, Ed Garboski testifies before the town board. He has announced he is running for the seat held by Councilwoman Valerie Cartright. File photo

Ed Garboski will be taking a leave from his role as civic president as he works to unseat Councilwoman Valerie Cartright in the fall.

Garboski, of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, announced his run against one-term incumbent Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) for Brookhaven Town Board’s 1st District at the civic’s meeting on Wednesday night — opening up much debate.

The association’s bylaws do not contain a provision for taking a leave of absence, which originally created a tricky situation for the membership during the discussion. The room was divided — and at times argumentative — over whether Garboski should resign his position as he runs for political office on the Republican and Conservative tickets.

Faith Cardone said she felt it would be a conflict of interest for him to remain the president while running a political campaign for the Town Board.

Garboski said he had wanted to take a leave of absence, largely because he foresees having less time to fulfill his presidential duties, but was limited because of the bylaws’ shortcoming. He pushed back, however, when some called for his resignation, including fellow civic executive board member Joan Nickeson.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright. File photo
Councilwoman Valerie Cartright. File photo

“I don’t think that I need to resign as of right now,” he said. “Where’s the conflict [of interest]?”

Other members also spoke up against Garboski remaining in his civic position.

“I don’t want to insult your integrity, Ed,” Gerard Maxim said, but having Garboski serve as president while also running for Town Board “makes it awkward for us.”

There were, however, voices of support in the audience.

Kevin Spence, a Comsewogue library board member, said there is no ethical problem before Election Day.

“I don’t see where this is a conflict until he gets elected.”

After some back and forth, Garboski relented somewhat, saying, “if this is such a big problem … if it’s that important to this membership here that I step down, I’ll step down.”

But instead, another library board member, Rich Meyer, made a motion for civic members to vote on granting Garboski a leave of absence starting in August and ending after the election, overriding the bylaws.

The members unanimously approved the motion for his leave.

Once Garboski departs in August, Vice President Diane Lenihan-Guidice will step into his shoes, including running the civic meetings for the months he is away.

Cartright, who is running for a second term on the Democratic, Working Families and Independence lines, said in a statement she and Garboski “will continue to work together to address community concerns. As a sitting elected representative, I firmly believe government always comes before politics.”

She said if re-elected she would “address the needs and ideas of the community and advocate for an informative and transparent local government.”

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Democratic Committee unanimously nominates Vetter for Town Board seat alongisde receiver of taxes position

Suffolk County Executive stands with Larry Vetter in support of his bid for Town Board. Photo from Ed Maher

The all-Republican Smithtown Town Board has a member of the opposing party stepping up early to challenge for a spot at the table.

The Smithtown Democratic Committee unanimously nominated Smithtown businessman Larry Vetter for Town Board at its nominating convention earlier this month.

Vetter, a 36-year resident of Smithtown and father of four, is the owner of Vetter Environmental Services Inc. (VE Science), which provides residential and commercial environmental solutions.

Following his nomination, Vetter addressed the enthusiastic crowd of Democratic supporters in attendance at the IBEW Local 25 hall in Hauppauge.

“I’m proud to represent the New Democratic Party of Smithtown,” he said. “I look forward to carrying our message of government accountability, financial responsibility and enhanced quality of life to the voters of Smithtown this fall.”

Smithtown Democratic Committee Chairman Ed Maher was equally optimistic at the nominating event.

“When you consider Larry’s lifetime of accomplishments running a successful business preserving our environment, the choice is clear. Larry Vetter is the right man for the job,” he said. “Like most Smithtown residents, Larry Vetter earns his living in the private sector. The members of the Town Board should reflect the demographics of the town. He will provide new leadership with a fresh perspective.”

The Democrats completed their slate by nominating longtime Smithtown resident Margot Rosenthal, a registered nurse midwife and mother of four, to run for receiver of taxes.

“The current receiver of taxes has run unopposed since 2003,” Rosenthal said. “This is not the way democracy is supposed to work in America. The people of Smithtown deserve a choice.”

Residents turn out for and against a plan to build a 69-unit assisted living facility in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Plans to build a 69-unit assisted living facility in a residential, wooded Huntington neighborhood were largely met with heavy censure by neighboring residents at a town board public hearing on Tuesday night.

The room was filled to the max with individuals holding up signs for and against the proposal, and jeering and applause often punctuated speakers’ statements. Out of the nearly 35 individuals who spoke, most residents opposed Massachusetts-based Benchmark Senior Living’s plans to build the facility at the corner of East Main Street and Washington Drive, calling the proposal too dense for the area and criticizing the traffic, noise and sewage treatment aspects of the project. The residents called on the town board to reject the company’s proposal to rezone the six-acre land, which has both C-3 Special Business and R-10 Residential zoning, to R-HS Residential Health Services District, a designation that would make way for the facility.

The project has gone through several versions. The proposed number of units has been brought down from 87 to 69 units, and the proposed on-site sewage treatment plant has been moved to the northwest corner of the lot, adjacent to commercial property. A 40-foot-wide natural buffer along Old Northport Road will be built, and the gross floor area would be slightly reduced from 70,567 square feet to 66,995.

Representatives for the developer said at the meeting that the project would meet the needs of a growing senior population in Suffolk County and especially in Huntington Town. But many residents expressed frustration over the zone change request, urging the board to keep the zoning of the current land intact.

Some support Benchmark Senior Living’s request to rezone property to make way for a 69-unit assisted living facility in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Some support Benchmark Senior Living’s request to rezone property to make way for a 69-unit assisted living facility in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Shoehorning a large-scale facility into this spot that would house 100 to 150 people including the staff is so far from the original zoning plan that it renders zoning laws absurd,” Jane Carter, a Cobb Court resident said. “Why do we have zoning laws in the first place? They’re there to protect us.”

Meanwhile, the plan got some support by fewer than a handful of residents, including the construction industry. The developer’s team of representatives argued the proposal is a good use for the site and for the town. John Dragat, senior vice president of development at Benchmark, said the plan destroys fewer trees than previous plans for the site, which included eight homes and an office building. Benchmark’s proposal covers less of the lot and, square-footage wise, isn’t much greater than the plan for the homes, Dragat added.

“In fact, we believe it’s a very responsible proposal,” he said. “It’s respectful of the surrounding community.”

Still, residents were not sold. Astrid Ludwicki, an Old Northport Road resident, said the project was too dense and called it a “monstrosity.”

“This building is too large,” she said. “It’s for Benchmark’s profits, clear and simple.”

Petitions opposing the project have been submitted to the town. Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia (R) said if they’re valid, it could mean the board would need a supermajority vote — four out of five — to approve the zone change, versus a simple majority of three.

After the meeting, Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said in an interview that the town’s planning staff would review the proposal. Asked for his sense of how the community feels about the project, he said “they’re against it.” The supervisor also said he agreed with the applicant’s claim that this type of facility is needed.

“I think there is a need,” he said. “I think everybody will say there’s a need. Now depending on if it’s in the right spot, we have to analyze that.”

A Centerport veteran and high school teacher who was hoping to run on the Democratic ticket for one of two open seats on the Huntington Town Board has dropped out of the race.

Darryl St. George file photo by Rohma Abbas
Darryl St. George file photo by Rohma Abbas

Darryl St. George, 33, an Afghanistan combat veteran, announced in a statement on Wednesday night that he’s withdrawing his name from consideration for the board, citing a “desire to do what is best for the Democratic Party and to strive for party unity in the upcoming election.”

Earlier this year, St. George vowed to wage a primary if the party didn’t back him for one of the seats, held by Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) and Councilman Gene Cook (I), who are both running for re-election. Wednesday’s statement, from the Friends of Darryl St. George, acknowledged the change of heart, saying, “A number of leaders within the party urged him to respect the decision of the committee and avoid forcing a primary.”

“When there were clear indications that he was not likely to gain the committee’s nomination, St. George ultimately chose to step down and offer his support to the chosen candidates,” according to the statement.

Huntington Town Democratic Committee Chairwoman Mary Collins didn’t immediately return calls for comment on Thursday.

Keith Barrett, a Melville resident and the town’s deputy director of its general services department; Jim Kelly, a Huntington Station resident and retired EMS supervisor from the Nassau County Police Department; and Berland also want to run for Town Board on the Democratic ticket.

The Republicans also have a few possible candidates for the board seats on their hands, incumbent Cook being one of them.

Cleanup project is next step in building transformation

The New York State Armory is slated to become the James D. Conte Community Center. File photo

Huntington’s town board took the next step needed to transform the New York State Armory in Huntington Station into the James D. Conte Community Center, approving a measure at a town board meeting last week to spend $437,000 to clean up large amounts of hazardous materials inside the building.

The board also voted on a resolution approving the conditions it must meet for a $1.5 million state grant that will be used to continue the building’s transformation into the center, named after the late state Assemblyman James Conte. The site is slated to become a multipurpose venue offering programs and services for both youth and adults.

When the town took over the building located on East 5th Street in Huntington Station, officials found asbestos and other unsafe material inside, town spokesperson A.J. Carter said in a phone interview this week.

“Before anything further can be done, the hazardous material has to be removed,”  he said.

Town board members approved a resolution authorizing Unitech Service Group, a Bay Shore business, for the remediation of hazardous material and other work needed done in order to move on to the next step of the transformation. The town’s director of purchasing received sealed bids and Unitech was chosen as the lowest responsible bidder for the project.

The work will include asbestos removal, waste disposal, temporary lighting, removal and recycling of mercury wall thermostats, installation of temporary waterproofing and more.

The center will serve as a collaborative venue for not-for-profits and other agencies to interact with town initiatives and agencies, such as the Huntington Business Incubator, Huntington Opportunity Resource Center, among others, to uplift the area and improve the lives of residents, according to a previous press release from the town.

A date for the project has not been set, as the town has not drawn up any contractual agreements, according to Carter. However, it is expected to begin later this year.

Eight people are interested in running for two seats

File photo by Rohma Abbas

The weather isn’t the only thing warming up.

With eight people interested in two seats on the Democratic-controlled Huntington Town Board, local party leaders will soon have to roll up their sleeves to choose their picks for the slots.

On the Democratic side, incumbent Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) will seek a fifth term in office. Afghanistan war veteran and Northport-East Northport school district teacher Darryl St. George, of Centerport tossed his hat into the ring earlier this year. Huntington Business Improvement District President Keith Barrett, of Melville, is taking a second stab at nomination after screening for Town Board in 2013. And political science adjunct professor Jim Kelly, of Huntington, who is a retired Nassau County Police Department EMS supervisor, also plans on screening.

The Democrats are screening candidates next week, according to Huntington Town Democratic Committee Chairwoman Mary Collins.

Republicans have already screened Jim Leonick, an East Northport attorney, Janet Heller-Smitelli, a Huntington attorney and Jennifer Thompson, a Northport resident and member of the Northport-East Northport school board. They’ll also screen Independence Party member and incumbent Councilman Gene Cook (I), who said he’s seeking his final term.

The party plans to host another round of screenings tomorrow evening, Toni Tepe, Huntington Town Republican Committee chairwoman said, where she expects two more individuals to screen.

Election Day is Nov. 3.

Susan Berland
Berland, of Dix Hills, has been in office since 2001. During her time in office, she’s sponsored legislation regulating bamboo and blight in Huntington Town, and she spearheaded the effort to televise all official town meetings, according to her bio on the town’s website.

The councilwoman is a member of the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, Kiwanis Club of Huntington and the Board of Directors of the International Dyslexia Association of Long Island.

This election is still important, despite the fact that the Democrats control four out of five seats on the board, Berland said.

“I think every election year is crucial. It takes the town in a specific direction. I want to keep it in a positive direction both, economically and realistically.”

Gene Cook
An Independence Party-member, Cook, 53, of Greenlawn, is seeking the nod for a second four-year term on the board. If elected, Cook said it would be his last term in office. He said he believes in term limits, and that board members shouldn’t serve more than two terms.

Asked why he’s running, Cook said he has taken issue with the way the Democratic majority has spent money. He said he’s proud of projects he’s been able to do at no cost to the taxpayer, like getting a group of businesses together to pave the parking lot of the VFW Post 1469 Nathan Hale in Huntington Station.

“I don’t want the children of the future to be paying for our mistakes and I believe that’s the way it’s going,” he said.

Darryl St. George
St. George, 32, a Democrat from Centerport, declared that he is running for the board earlier this year, and is open to waging a primary election if the party does not choose him. A local teacher and veteran, St. George, 32, served as a Navy corpsman with the U.S. Marines and is interested in tackling the “the scourge of addiction” on a townwide level, he said in an interview earlier this year. The cause is personal, as he lost his 21-year-old brother, Corey, to a drug overdose. The tragedy expedited his release from the Navy in 2012. St. George also teaches social studies at Northport High School.

“I think there’s a few reasons why I want to run,” he said in the earlier interview. “Service is a big part of it: My time in the Navy, my time as a teacher has taught me to value my service to the community.”

Jim Leonick
Leonick, 53 and a Republican, said he wants to run because he has an interest in the future of the town for his children and his neighbor’s children. Leonick is concerned about overdevelopment, transparency at town hall and is interested in exploring term limits for council people — “because I don’t think that it’s right for a number of reasons for anyone to be in a position for as long as some of the town council people have been in their offices.”

Leonick is an attorney with a practice Leonick Law, PLLC, located in East Northport. He’s been involved in a number of local organizations, including serving as a Boy Scout leader, a past president of the Rotary Club of East Northport and a past board member of the East Northport Chamber of Commerce, among others.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of different community things and now I think its time to run for office.”

Keith Barrett
This would be Barrett’s second stab at the nomination, after losing out to Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) in 2013. Barrett, 49, of Melville currently works at town hall as the deputy director of general services. He also owns Barrett Automotive in Huntington Station and is the leader of the Huntington Station Business Improvement District — a group he’s belonged to for 11 years — where he said he’s worked to unify the community and beautify the neighborhood.

At town hall, he said he’s learned a lot about budgets and has already made changes in the General Services Department that have saved taxpayers money. For example, he streamlined state inspections of town vehicles through investing in an inspection machine and getting employees certified in motor vehicle inspections. “I’m a business guy,” he said. “Running town hall is a business. I’d like to make it easier for the residents and businesses to be able to facilitate government.”

Janet L. Heller-Smitelli
Heller-Smitelli is a civil litigator who has lived in Huntington for more than 20 years. She screened with Republicans to run for either Suffolk County Legislature — the 17th Legislative District seat held by Lou D’Amaro (D-North Babylon) — or for Town Board. In a statement, she said she’s been active with the Boy Scouts and has served as an assistant scoutmaster.

Heller-Smitelli said she’s been a member of the Republican committee for 10 years. She said she’s running because she believes there needs to be a “fresh vision and renewed spirit” when it comes to the issue of development.

“I am interested in running for office in order to advance my belief that the Town of Huntington needs to be more selective in the development and use of vacant and available parcels of land. Too often we have seen the result of inappropriate and short-sighted projects that result in a drain of our resources and adversely affect our infrastructure.”

Jim Kelly
Kelly, 64, a Democrat, is a Huntington Station resident. He is a retired EMS supervisor with the Nassau County Police Department and is currently an adjunct professor of political science at St. Joseph’s College.

Kelly said he has experience in emergency management — at Nassau County’s Office of Emergency Management, he served as bioterrorism coordinator, where he learned the ins and outs of being prepared for acts of terrorism and natural disasters.

Kelly’s passionate about preserving open space, because he feels it is disappearing.

If elected, Kelly would like to focus on the issue of crime and gangs in Huntington Station and said the way to battle the problem is to provide educational alternatives for youth. He also said he’d partner with state and county officials to offer greater drug rehabilitation and mental health counseling programs.

“Because of the issues in Huntington Station, the entire town is getting a bad rap in the media. It’s not justified and it’s not right.”

Jennifer Thompson
A Northport resident, Thompson screened with the Huntington Town Republican Committee on March 31.

Thompson sits on the Northport-East Northport school board. She first got on the board in 2010, after being appointed to complete former Vice President Arlene Munson’s term. She was re-elected to another three-year term on the school board last year.

In an interview last year, Thompson said she wanted to serve on the board again because she wanted to see some projects through, namely getting the district through a tax assessment challenge on the Northport power plant from the Long Island Power Authority. If it is resolved in favor of LIPA, Northport-East Northport school district residents could see a drastic increase in property taxes, as LIPA would contribute a smaller chunk to the tax pool.

Thompson didn’t return calls seeking comment.

This version corrects a quote by Keith Barrett.

Town Board members played along with Smithtown’s 350th anniversary celebration Tuesday night, dressing up in outfits similar to those when the town was first founded. Photo by Chris Mellides

By Chris Mellides

Take members of the Smithtown Town Board, dress them up in 17th century garb and the rest is history.

Officials commemorated the town of Smithtown’s 350th anniversary sponsored by the Smithtown 350 Foundation Tuesday with the opening of a time capsule and were joined by residents who braved the snow to attend the event at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts.

Town historian Bradley Harris hosted the night’s proceedings and was joined onstage by Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) and his colleagues who wore elaborate 17th century period clothing and read passages from the Richard Nicolls Patent of 1665 — which outlined instructions for governance under English rule of what are now the states of New York and New Jersey.

Throughout the presentation Harris and those town officials that participated onstage engaged in playful

Town Board members played along with Smithtown’s 350th anniversary celebration Tuesday night, dressing up in outfits similar to those when the town was first founded. Photo by Chris Mellides
Town Board members played along with Smithtown’s 350th anniversary celebration Tuesday night, dressing up in outfits similar to those when the town was first founded. Photo by Chris Mellides

banter and delivered light-hearted jokes that often got a rise out of the Long Islanders who watched from their seats.

As the night progressed, Harris often pulled from the pages of history and delivered facts about the founding of Smithtown that those in attendance might not have otherwise known.

Despite the witty quips and wisecracks exchanged in the theater room of what used to be a local cinema, the 71-year-old historian and Saint James resident was quite serious and resolute about the importance of preserving history and the passion he holds for his community.

“This town is very interesting because it started with one man’s dream to carve out a niche for himself where he would be his own master and I think that’s [Smithtown founder] Richard Smith in a lot of ways,” Harris said. “He’s left us so many things to venerate.”

During the course of the event, eyes were drawn to a 50-year-old milk can worn with age, which sat to the far right of the stage. The dirtied metal time capsule was originally buried in 1965, and thanks in large part to the town Engineering Department, which had a precise map of its location, its contents were ready to be shared for the first time with audience members.

Town officials and residents were on their feet and the excitement filling the room was palpable. With a hard crack of a hammer, the time capsule was forced open and placed on the long table, where Vecchio and his colleagues were seated.

Among the contents contained within the milk can were: two dusty hats, a phonebook, a local newspaper, a flyer advertising tercentenary pageant tickets and an assortment of aged coins.

James Potts a resident of Smithtown, who has lived in the area for 63 years, was among those in attendance. Potts’ father was the town surveyor, and, due to this, Potts claims to have a very strong knowledge of the town’s history.

Asked about the night’s presentation, Potts said he was very happy with how things shaped up.

“As you can see from how the theater filled up, it shows you the extent of the connection in this town with the residents and basically the pride in the town that they live in,” said Potts.

While he enjoyed the event, Potts expressed some disappointment with the contents of the time capsule and felt as though there could have been more items included that could have better illustrated what life was like on Long Island in the early 1960s.

Town Board members played along with Smithtown’s 350th anniversary celebration Tuesday night, dressing up in outfits similar to those when the town was first founded. Photo by Chris Mellides
Town Board members played along with Smithtown’s 350th anniversary celebration Tuesday night, dressing up in outfits similar to those when the town was first founded. Photo by Chris Mellides

Also expressing his dismay with the time capsule finds was Harris, who as a historian expected a lot more.

“It was the era of Kennedy’s assassination, and I would’ve thought there would have been some commentary on that, but there was nothing and that’s a little disappointing,” said Harris. “The guys who made up the time capsule certainly were trying to stir interest in the past and they did that, but what we learned tonight was very limited.”

Board approves zone change for Heatherwood housing community

Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association President Ed Garboski speaks against the housing proposal on Tuesday, as Shawn Nuzzo, Three Village’s civic leader, looks on. Photo by Erika Karp

Despite numerous objections from residents, local civic associations and the community’s own councilwoman, the Town of Brookhaven has paved the way for a 200-unit retirement community at the Heatherwood Golf Club in Terryville.

Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville) sponsored the resolution for a zone change from A Residence 5 to Planned Retirement Community for the property, which is located at Arrowhead Lane and Route 347 and falls in both the Comsewogue and Three Village school districts. The town board approved it in a 4-3 vote, with Councilwomen Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Connie Kepert (D-Middle Island) and Supervisor Ed Romaine dissenting.

The planning board still must approve the project’s site plan before the project can move forward.

According to the site plan application, about 25 acres of the property would be developed into the 55-and-over community, while about 45 acres would remain open, leaving a nine-hole golf course.

Since the property would be developed at an increased density, owner Doug Partrick in exchange would donate a 40-acre lot he owns in the Manorville Farm Protection Area — in Panico’s district — for open space.

While the zone change public hearing was held on Tuesday, the project had been discussed for months at Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meetings, and that group, along with the neighboring Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, came out strongly against it.

However, the Town of Brookhaven Planning Department supported the project — Planning Commissioner Tullio Bertoli said the proposal is compatible with existing development in the area and fits in with the town’s smart growth efforts, as it is located along a commercial corridor.

Residents and civic leaders who attended the public hearing expressed concerns about traffic and losing open space in their community. In addition, many were displeased to see the development proposed for the golf course, as the community is preparing to redevelop and revitalize the Route 112 corridor, on another side of town.

“[It’s] dismaying to see a town planning commissioner come before you and say this is a location that meets all criteria,” Bob de Zafra, of the Setaukets and Stony Brook civic, said at the public hearing. “It does not.”

He also criticized Panico for bringing forth the resolution.

De Zafra asked Panico and new Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point) to recuse themselves from the vote, as the officials received campaign contributions from a company under the umbrella of Partrick’s Heatherwood Communities, the retirement community developer.

According to campaign financial disclosure records, Friends of Dan Panico received a $500 contribution from Heatherwood House at Coram LLC in September 2013, while Friends of Neil Foley received a $1,000 contribution in October 2014.

“There’s nothing illegal in that,” de Zafra said. “There’s nothing dishonest in that and I certainly don’t mean to imply that, nor am I due a lecture about it.”

Panico, who said he brought forth the zone change resolution because it was in the best interest of the whole town, interjected during de Zafra’s comments and said, “Why would you bring it up?”

Frank Gibbons, a board member of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, said he was concerned about the development’s impact on traffic.

“There are good arguments on both sides of this question, but I think that when we look at the best thing for the entire township, Mr. Panico, … how about taking care of Terryville, Port Jefferson Station and South Setauket,” Gibbons said.

The town board placed conditions on its zone change approval, including that Partrick must make the land donation, remove a billboard at the golf course, construct a sidewalk on the east side of Arrowhead Lane and complete a new traffic study for the Terryville site.

Heatherwood’s attorney, David Sloane, of Certilman Balin Adler & Hyman LLP, spoke about the positives of the project, including a decrease in the use of pesticides and more property taxes to the school districts without an influx of students.

“This proposal is the least intensive use that could be developed on this site,” he said.