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Town of Huntington

In the photo: Rebecca Tripoli (center front) and Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci (center back) with Rebecca’s mother (Sara), father (Frank), grandparents, aunt, uncle and two cousins. Photo from Town of Huntington

Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci honored Rebecca Tripoli, a 4th grader from Melville, on Monday, December 21, for raising $140 in donations to purchase supplies for families in local shelters.

 “Rebecca represents the best of the greater Huntington community. Not only did she selflessly think of others during the holiday season, which can be a tough time for many, especially those in need, but she did something about it and made an impact at our shelters and in the hearts of many across our community,” said Sup. Lupinacci as he presented a proclamation from the Huntington Town Board to Rebecca outside her home on Monday evening.

9-year-old Rebecca Tripoli, a 4th grader from Melville, took up a collection to buy supplies for local shelters, raising $140. She researched local shelters’ websites, saw what they needed, made a list and went shopping.

“I felt grateful that my life was great, and I thought of the homeless people that had nothing. So I bought groceries to give them something,” said Rebecca, who purchased “fruit cups, ramen noodles, black beans, candy canes, pasta, canned vegetables, chicken soup, water and juice boxes, diapers, baby lotion, razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, and shaving cream,” all of which was donated to Family Service League.

Rebecca’s mother Sara added that Rebecca knew candy canes weren’t on the list but she wanted to do something to make the children smile around Christmas, “Rebecca’s father and I really are proud that she came up with the idea to help people less fortunate than her. We talk about this together a lot, that there are people right here in our community and in her school that don’t have enough food to eat, or even a place to live. She has a big heart and also a lot of ambition, and decided to do something about it. We were really surprised and honored that Mr. Lupinacci came to our home and recognized her for her work. It was an exciting day for us all!”

From left, Town Clerk Andrew P. Raia; Councilman Ed Smyth; Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci; Lona Graepel; Receiver of Taxes Jillian Guthman; and Councilman Eugene Cook. Photo from Town of Huntington

Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci and Town officials Councilman Eugene Cook, Councilman Ed Smyth, Town Clerk Andrew P. Raia and Receiver of Taxes Jillian Guthman joined Lona Graepel from Long Island Farmers Markets for a ribbon cutting at the opening of the Huntington Winter Farmers Market in the Town’s John J. Flanagan Center in Huntington on Dec. 5.

“Who doesn’t love a farmer’s market?! Thanks to Lona Graepel from Long Island Farmers Markets for keeping the ‘shop local’ tradition going through the cold weather months!” said Sup. Lupinacci. 

“It was my pleasure to join my colleagues at the Winter Farmer’s Market on Saturday.  I would recommend to everyone to find some time on Saturdays to explore the Winter Farmer’s Market with their family, as there are many wonderful vendors there, with something for everyone,” said Councilman Cook.  “Please remember to mask up and social distance while enjoying the market.” 

“The Farmers Market is a year-round reminder to shop as locally as possible,” said Councilman Smyth. 

“It’s exciting to be a part of the Grand Opening for the Winter Farmers Market here in Huntington. A major part of our local economy is shopping for fresh, local goods and Lona Graepel, Market Manager at Long Island Farmers Market, is doing this by keeping our residents thriving for fresh foods,” said Raia. “This year, I have the pleasure of displaying a “Farming in Huntington” Exhibit in the Town of Huntington Jo-Ann Raia Archives, which features farmers present and past. Farming has always played a strong role in the development of Huntington, and it is important to continue eating fresh foods while supporting our local farmers.” 

“What a treat to purchase a uniquely made item from a member of our community.  You can find everything from micro-greens to designer cutting boards and doggie treats and more all while supporting our local economy,” said Guthman. 

The Huntington Winter Farmers Market runs every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  through March 27, 2021 at the John J. Flanagan Center, 423 Park Avenue, Huntington (behind the Cinema Arts Centre). Shop for local gourmet foods and beverages, sweet and healthy treats, organic bath and body products, in an “all under one roof” Farmer’s Market setup while enjoying live music. Masks are mandatory. Call 631-944-2661 for more information.

Huntington Town Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci presented Town Clerk Andrew P. Raia with a proclamation commemorating American Archives Month in front of the Town Clerk’s new Farming in Huntington exhibit on Oct. 20.

“Farming has a long and fascinating history in the Town of Huntington, and I would like to thank those farms which are participating in my office’s Farming in Huntington exhibit as part of Archives Month 2020,” said Raia.

“Our rural roots are on display in the Town Clerk’s “Farming in Huntington” exhibit, which also punctuates the need to preserve this type of open space to maintain the character of our Town,” said Sup. Lupinacci. “The Town Clerk’s Archives Month exhibit highlights the significance of preserving historical records and help us understand how our past has influenced our present.”

Farms featured in the exhibit include Albert H. Schmitt Family Farms, Albert Schmitt & Sons Farms, Carlson’s Elwood Farms, Crossroads Farm, DeLea Sod Farms, Dobler Farms, ELIJA Farm, Elwood Pumpkin and Christmas Tree Farm, F & W Schmitt’s Family Farm, Kerber’s Farm, Lewis Oliver Dairy, Makinajian Poultry Farm, Manor Farm, Mediavilla Orchards, Prianti Farms Inc., Richters Orchard, Schneider’s Farm, Tilden Lane Farm and White Post Farms of Melville.

“The images, artifacts and antique items loaned to the exhibit from owners of the participating farms provide an in-depth look into the evolution of farming in Huntington and serve as an educational experience for individuals of all ages,” said Raia.

A virtual Farming in Huntington exhibit with an interactive tour map is also in production, and will be announced when it is available for viewing. A dedication and renaming of the Huntington Town Clerk’s Records Center & Archives Division in honor of Jo-Ann Raia, Huntington’s Town Clerk for 38 years, originally scheduled for 2020 will take place in 2021, with details to come.

The exhibit will be on display on all three floors of Huntington Town Hall for one year and will be open to the public free of charge by appointment. Please call the Town Clerk’s office at 631-351-3206 or the Town Archivist at 631-351-3035 to schedule a tour.

Photo by Lina Weingarten

Last week, the Town of Huntington announced the Long Island Power Authority agreed to provide an additional $3 million
to the town if a settlement were to go through. The money is in addition to the proposed settlement for the Northport Power Station tax certiorari case, according to a town press release.

After an Aug. 10 town public forum held at Heckscher Park, LIPA agreed to extend the deadline for the town to accept the latest settlement proposal on the Northport Power Station tax certiorari litigation to Thursday, Sept. 3, when the town will hold a public hearing via Zoom on the issue.

After the hearing, the board will vote on the settlement. According to town and LIPA officials, the additional $3 million is to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on Huntington residents.

“We recognize the challenge of the pandemic on the town’s finances and have accommodated their request for additional assistance in the first three years of the settlement,” LIPA officials said in an email statement. “The Northport-East Northport school board voted overwhelmingly to settle this long-standing litigation, and we believe we have made a fair offer for the town to move forward.”

Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said in the release that the $3 million in additional payments will be made by LIPA to the town of $1 million per year in 2021 through 2023.

“While we were fortunate to be in a strong financial position when COVID-19 hit, the long-term impacts of this unprecedented economic crisis on our local economy and future government operations are not fully known,” the supervisor said.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said he would continue to analyze the settlement “but any money that will go to the taxpayers is certainly a welcome development.”

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) said the money will soften any financial impacts of COVID-19 “and is certainly worthy of consideration in helping to protect and preserve vital town services and programs that our residents depend on and deserve, especially during these, and continuing difficult times.”

The proposed deal would reduce LIPA’s annual tax bill on the Northport power plant from $86 million to $46 million by 2027.

The public hearing will start at 6 p.m. on Sept. 3. Public comment may be submitted ahead of the forum at huntingtonny.gov/lipa-forum. The forum will livestream on Optimum 18, FIOS 38 and at huntingtonny.gov/featured-programs, where residents may sign up to speak during the forum.

The Town Board’s vote on the LIPA proposal will take place immediately after the public forum ends, and in addition to being livestreamed on Optimum and FIOS, it can be viewed at huntingtonny.gov/meetings.

Northport power plant. File photo

After an Aug. 10 Town of Huntington public forum held at Heckscher Park, Long Island Power Authority agreed to extend the deadline for the town to accept the latest settlement proposal on the Northport Power Station tax certiorari litigation to Sept. 3.

“After receiving assurances from LIPA that the Aug. 11 deadline to accept the latest settlement proposal on the Northport power plant tax certiorari litigation would be extended to Sept. 3, the Town Board rescheduled both the second public forum on the LIPA proposal and the special Town Board meeting where they will vote on the offer for Thursday, Sept. 3,” a statement from the town read.

The second public forum on the proposal was originally scheduled for Sept. 16, and the Town Board meeting to vote was Sept. 29. Back in July, town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said he had hoped scheduling the two public forums and vote, despite being after the original deadline, would show LIPA “that they know all parties involved are serious and we are vetting this agreement out.” In turn, the goal was for LIPA to extend the settlement proposal deadline. While LIPA officials said in a statement they believe their offer is fair, they agreed it made sense to work with the town.

“LIPA’s settlement is a fair compromise, and it is the only option that will continue low taxes for the Northport community, protect Huntington residents from over $800 million of potential tax refunds, and begin the transition to a sustainable tax base and clean energy future for all Long Island residents,” a statement from LIPA read. “We believe the Huntington Town Board made a good faith effort with their decision to provide a second public forum, along with a vote on the Northport Power Station settlement agreement on Sept. 3. Because of this, LIPA has agreed to extend the terms of our settlement offer through the board’s Sept. 3 meeting.”

The proposed deal, which was approved by the Northport-East Northport school board last month, would reduce LIPA’s annual tax bill on the Northport power plant from $86 million to $46 million by 2027. The tax impact on residents would be lessened compared to the implications of a court verdict in LIPA’s favor, though several local state officials and candidates have decried what they see as LIPA’s attempts to reduce their own tax burden at the expense of homeowners.

Lupinacci said in an email statement Aug. 20 that a ruling against the town would not only devastate the school district but the whole town.

“Our residents and businesses cannot afford that type of financial loss, especially with how we have been hit by the COVID-19 crisis,” he said. “We requested litigation be paused during the pandemic and LIPA rejected that request; now time is running out for us to make a decision. I came into office in 2018 and promised to fight for a better deal than was on the table; we achieved that and then some, including terms no other municipality has ever received from LIPA in a tax certiorari litigation, thanks to the vigorous advocacy of our legal team on behalf of our residents. This deal protects us against tax challenges during the entire seven-year term of the deal, which could be extended to protect us for 12 years, and LIPA has agreed to pay $14.5 million directly to the Northport-East Northport School District, which is an unprecedented offer of funding that could be used to help preserve educational programs while the district plans for its future and offset potential tax increases to residents.”

The Sept. 3 public forum will begin at 6 p.m. and will occur entirely online using a Zoom video conferencing platform. Public comments can be submitted ahead of the forum at huntingtonny.gov/lipa-forum. The Aug. 11 forum video can be viewed on the town’s website, huntingtonny.gov.

 

 

Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci joined Huntington historian Robert Hughes and volunteers from Jephtha Masonic Lodge #494 in Huntington on Saturday, July 18 for a cleanup of The Old Burying Ground, Huntington’s oldest cemetery.

The event was one of several projects the local Masons were involved in during the recent pandemic shutdown. Although the lodge is comprised of mostly Huntington residents, members from other lodges from as far as Port Jefferson volunteered in this important preservation project. Armed with work gloves, pruning shears, weed trimmers, a cooler of cold bottled water and a bit of determination, the team went right to work after a brief historical lecture by the Town Historian.

The crew trimmed shrubs, pulled overgrown weeds, raked leaves, and removed debris from the cemetery which is just a short walking distance from the Jephtha Lodge building on New York Avenue.

“Our historic cemeteries tell the story of not only of the establishment of our Town but of the critical role Huntington played in the founding of our nation,” said Supervisor Chad A, Lupinacci. “As we recognize and preserve other aspects of Huntington’s history, we must continue to protect these sacred grounds to honor the souls of generations of Huntingtonians buried here.”

“These volunteer efforts are critical to preserving the Town’s historic cemeteries. Eternal vigilance is the price of preservation,” said Town Historian Robert Hughes.

“I have been a Freemason and member of Jephtha lodge #494 for around 8 years now and have been fortunate to recently take on a leadership role. I’m proud to have been able to coordinate with town historian Robert Hughes and the brothers and family members of Jephtha lodge, in effort to clean up the old cemetery,” said Anthony Colonna, Grand Master, Jephtha Masonic Lodge #494.

“The rich history of this burial site must be carefully preserved. I propose to make this an annual event, perhaps starting this fall. Jephtha’s benevolence committee has gotten off to a terrific start and we seek to do more for the community this year and the ensuing years to come. Helping make a positive impact on the community is just one part of what freemasons are all about,” he added.

“The Brothers of Jephtha Lodge have anticipated this event for some time,” said Ronald Seifried, Trustee Chairman and Lodge Historian. “The lodge is grateful to the Town for being receptive to the lodge’s ongoing effort to give back to the local community by utilizing Jephtha’s benevolence committee for this important preservation of this designated historic landmark. The members look forward to future projects with the town to preserve our local history. Jephtha Lodge is proud to call Huntington home since 1860.”

The Old Burying Ground has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1981. The earliest surviving marker is over 300 years old, but many of the early wooden and fieldstone markers were lost over the years and never replaced. Located on a hill that once had a clear view of Huntington Harbor, the site was originally chosen because of the difficulty to farm on the hilly terrain.

There are 1,246 marked graves on the 4-acre site, but it is estimated that there may have been up to 8,000 interments since the founding of the Town of Huntington in the mid-17th century. The first legible marker is dated 1712 and the final burial was Russell F. Sammis in May 1957. Mr. Hughes explained to the group the variety of markers that can be seen in the cemetery, including local fieldstones, slate, sandstone, marble, iron, zinc and granite.

In 1782, the last year of the American Revolution, occupying British troops destroyed the nearby Presbyterian Church and constructed Fort Golgotha on the highest point of the hill with timbers removed from the church. The British desecration of the church and cemetery is the first recorded act of vandalism in Huntington. Up to 100 tombstones were destroyed and some were used as bake ovens where, according to local legend, the baked bread had reverse inscriptions of the tombstones readable on the lower crust.

With the opening of Huntington Rural Cemetery on New York Avenue as the Town’s main cemetery in the mid-19th century, the Old Burying Ground was used only occasionally. Regular maintenance of the cemetery is conducted by the Town’s Department of General Services. In 2004, the Town received grant funding from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for the restoration, conservation and preservation of the grounds.

This project between the Town Historian and Jephtha Lodge, which has called Huntington home since 1860, is the latest of several coordinated efforts. Other projects include the installation of an historical marker in front of the lodge building on New York Avenue; participation in the Huntington Historical Society’s historic village walking tour and pub crawl; sharing of archives between the lodge and the Huntington Historical Society; and invaluable assistance in the newly published book “Long Island Freemason,” by Ron Seifried.

Photos from Town of Huntington

Supervisor Chad A. Lupinacci and Councilman Ed Smyth joined Andrew Steinmueller, President of ARS Landscape & Design, the first business to “adopt” and beautify two pieces of public property under the Adopt-a-Corner community beautification program, for a special unveiling of the installations at the southwest entrance to Heckscher Park in Huntington on June 24.

ARS Landscape & Design planted their first Adopt-a-Corner installation at the Prime Avenue entrance to the park in September of 2019 and added a second installation at the Main Street and Prime Avenue corner entrance to the park, maintaining both installations throughout the year. 

A box of complimentary wildflower seed packets was installed by the landscape company at the second installation, from which visitors to the park can take a complimentary seed packet. A second box of seed packets will be installed next to the first installation on the western Prime Avenue entrance to the park within the week.

Businesses, organizations and residents can adopt, beautify and maintain a select piece of public property approved by the Town of Huntington for one year, with the option to renew for a second year. 

Supervisor Lupinacci sponsored the Town Board resolution creating the Adopt-a-Corner program in October 2018 after Andre Sorrentino, the Town’s Director of General Services, approached him with the idea to involve the greater Huntington community in beautification projects across the town.

“Adopt-a-Corner is quality of life initiative, that offers a creative outlet for residents, business owners and organizations to display their pride in the Huntington community, while helping beautify our town at no cost to our taxpayers,” explained Supervisor Lupinacci. “Thank you to ARS Landscape & Design for these inaugural Adopt-a-Corner installations and for the seed packets they are giving away.”

“I am the prime beneficiary of this Adopt-a-Corner installation because my office is located across the street,” stated Councilman Smyth. “I see this beautiful corner every day. I encourage everyone to make the town look its best by adopting a corner. The resident or business which adopts a corner may put place a small plaque with their name or dedicate the corner in honor of someone.” 

“Over these past few months, we have been faced with a pandemic that forced us all inside and gave us all a feeling of uncertainty. Audrey Hepburn once said ‘To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow,’ I hope that by planting these gardens, I can spread a little joy and hope for what tomorrow may bring,” added Steinmueller.

Pictured in photo, from left, Councilman Smyth; Andre Sorrentino; Supervisor Lupinacci; Andrew Steinmueller (holding Addison Steinmueller); Bonnie Steinmueller (holding Ashton Steinmueller); Liz Steinmueller; and Joseph Digicomo. To apply to adopt a corner, visit www.huntingtonny.gov.

Photos courtesy of the Town of Huntington

From left, Steve Henaghan is still active marching for LGBT rights; Leah Gustavson is a regular participant in Long Island’s historical martial arts scene; David Kilmnick is the president of the LGBT Network on LI.

For several weeks in a row people of all races have crowded the streets of Huntington, sidewalk to sidewalk, calling for an end to prejudice.

A 1991 front page of Newsday along with the one of the original tank tops for the first LGBT pride parade in Huntington. Photo by Kyle Barr

Those same streets in Huntington village have held other marches, but one started just under 30 years ago still holds unique significance today. Go back to June 9, 1991, the sky was open blue while the sun blazed down on people who also marched through Huntington against prejudice. It was a time of oversized glasses, poofy hair and tees tucked into jeans. Many marched with rainbow flags in their hands and pride on their faces, but some also reportedly marched with bags over their heads. It wasn’t a fashion statement, it was a way to hide their identities during a time when many people in the LGBT community would be retaliated against at the workplace or even at home. 

About 800 people stood between close to 3,000, according to what journalists wrote at the time. Most cheered for the marchers, but others screamed at them, warning of eternal damnation and holding signs reading, among other expletives, “Kill Yourself.” SWAT teams lined the surrounding roofs because there had been threats of violence toward the marchers.

It was June 10, 1991, when the first Long Island LGBT-led parade strode through Huntington. Marchers shouted “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.” That parade would be a landmark day for the LGBTQ community on Long Island, but for the people who marched, it meant much more than that.

“It was the proudest day of my entire life,” said Leah Gustavson, a Rocky Point resident and one of the original members of the committee who established the parade. “I felt like we started something, stuck to it and got to an end goal.”

That parade took place 24 years before the U.S. Supreme Court gave gay people the right to marry. It was 29 years before the court confirmed it was unconstitutional for businesses to discriminate against people on the basis of sex, a huge boon to the LGBTQ community, which has long experienced discrimination when applying for jobs and in the workplace.

But getting it together would take months of backbreaking effort destroying barriers, including taking a Long Island town to federal court to win their right to assemble.

Today, as protests and marches have broken out at every corner of the U.S., the memories of the struggle to have voices heard three decades ago adds a new perspective for those advocating for an end to prejudice. It’s a glimpse of how far Long Island has come and how far it might still have to go.

Beginnings of the March

The Lesbian/Gay Pride and Freedom Committee was established after June, nominally known as pride month, in 1990. It was after the group had attended other major pride celebrations that year, including the New York City pride parade as well as one earlier in March on St. Patrick’s Day, where members of an Irish gay and lesbian protest group led a parade before the main parade could start.

A few members of the local gay and lesbian community were having meetings at a gathering place near Stony Brook University. The school had an active LGBT scene with a school club found in the basement of the old Union building on campus. It was in a space that was once a closet, something that became an oft-used joke in the small burgeoning community. 

No one who was there remembers who exactly brought up the idea, but everyone who was in that room one spring day remembers the conversation about pride parades and the simple question, why wasn’t there one on Long Island? Why didn’t they try to start one, because, after all, how hard could it be?

In that small group of likeminded people, what would become the 10-member Long Island Pride and Freedom Committee was born. Gustavson related that gung ho attitidue to a sense of ”ignorant optimism,” something that can be a powerful force, especially for people who know things need to change, and that now is the time to do it.

She, and other original members of the committee, said coming together to plan this march was a way for many of these people who have long felt marginalized on Long Island to finally show they have a voice. Even still, numerous people on the committee would only publicly go by their first name, knowing they could be retaliated against in the workplace.

“We knew we were not necessarily welcome by people, but the point wasn’t to be welcomed, we were demanding that we would have equality.”

— Steve Henaghan

Those who were there look back on it as a time that was not nearly as fraught and violent as previous decades, but there still was massive underlying prejudice toward the gay community. Steve Henaghan, of Mastic, was another of the original committee members trying to get the parade started. In the 1980s, he and other gay/lesbian rights activists helped create a political action committee called Citizens for Equal Rights PAC to raise money for candidates that would support issues of equality. 

“At that time very few would come forward and say they were supporting our issues,” Henaghan said. “In 1988 and ’91 we were making inroads politically especially within the Democratic Party.”

The committee approached several places throughout the Island to hold their march. In March of ’91 they received rejections from multiple towns and villages on the Island, including both the Village of Port Jefferson and Village of Northport. 

The Record, one of a few Port Jefferson area newspapers at that time, wrote about the village board rejecting the application, saying trustees felt the committee was not “locally based,” citing that it was based in Upton, though committee members argued that was simply their mailing address. 

The Port Jeff mayor at the time, Harold Sheprow, was cited as referencing the controversy of that year’s gay rights group in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Trustees argued a Sunday march would hurt businesses, create congestion and open up the village to having to host other marches. Trustee William Glass Jr. was quoted at the time as saying, “This is political with a ‘P.’”

Henaghan could not help but laugh at hearing that quote read to him again.

“It didn’t surprise us we were rejected, it angered us,” Henaghan said. “We knew we were not necessarily welcome by people, but the point wasn’t to be welcomed, we were demanding that we would have equality.”

Northport rejected the parade for similar reasons, especially citing it was policy to only permit “community based organizations” to schedule parades. 

David Kilmnick was one of the original members of the LGPF Committee who now is president of the nonprofit LGBT Network, an association of nonprofits that looks to support the LGBT community on Long Island. He said if the committee didn’t end up securing a march route and permit, they were willing to do one anyway somewhere on Long Island, even if it potentially meant being arrested.

“We were told we would be arrested, we didn’t care,” he said. “It was our right to be able to do this. We were being flat out discriminated against because of our sexual orientation.”

With a number of rejections under their belts. LGPFC members knew they had to settle on one place, and that place was going to be Huntington.

Taking a Town to Court

The committee worked with police on creating a route through the town. Their original path was longer, about 1½ miles, but in speaking with Inspector Alden Berry of the Suffolk County Police Department, the group determined on a newer, shorter route that reduced the overtime cost for officers, closed only one lane of traffic and offered more protection to those demonstrating. By April 12, 1991, that route was approved by police and sent to Huntington.The group had already sent a request to the Huntington Highway Department. While they had confirmation the request was received, they didn’t hear back until after they sent out the notice of the parade route. 

Huntington Highway Superintendent William Naughton, a Democrat, responded to the marchers with a letter the same day they sent in the revised route. The language used in the letter would become the basis for further legal action, one that would bring in the support of the American Civil Liberties Union.

From left, Steve Henaghan is still active marching for LGBT rights; Leah Gustavson is a regular participant in Long Island’s historical martial arts scene; David Kilmnick is the president of the LGBT Network on LI.

Along with citing overtime costs for the highway department and police, it said those looking to hold parades in the town should instead ask to be included in separate parades. It also read that, “Requests from several groups have been made in the past to hold additional parades, but my policy has always been to approve the traditional parades only.”

“We saw that as blatant discrimination, and we had the right just like every other group to have a march or parade,” said Kilmnick.

March planners got in contact with the New York Civil Liberties Union, which in turn picked out several attorneys to work on the issue. Two local attorneys were picked to lead the effort.

Mitchell Gittin, who is now an East Setauket resident and attorney with the Hauppauge-based Fitzgerald Law Firm, was then a volunteer on the legal committee of the NYCLU Suffolk Branch. He was tapped to lead the litigation effort alongside fellow attorney Joel Kupferman, who described himself as having been just recently out of law school back in early ’91.

“We tried to negotiate with them and asked them why they were so concerned and their reasons for denying the permit,” Kupferman said. At the time he was also a resident in Huntington. “[Huntington attorneys] said people get drunk and destroy property in these parades. I I told them we’ll concede that as soon as you stop having St. Patty’s Day parades — they were ridiculous concerns.”

The attorneys quickly noticed the language of the highway superintendent’s letter was not concurrent with basic tenets of the U.S. Constitution. Outright denying a march in line with the First Amendment because it was not one of those “traditional parades” did not stand up to scrutiny.

“That’s what was so gratifying with the case, because frankly the law was on our side,” Gittin said. “The other side didn’t have any kind of legal counterargument, you can put restrictions on gatherings … there was no reason from a logistical perspective the pride parade would have been more burdensome than any other parade — it really did come down really to discrimination.” 

The attorneys sent a letter to the town May 9, but did not receive a response. Both the committee and Town of Huntington would end up in court. 

The deadline of June 9 for the parade was fast approaching. In early June, both sides appeared in front of U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Wexler. Instead of a protracted back and forth, after just a few hours in court, the town agreed to grant the group a permit for the march.

Though the group did experience pushback from local elected officials there were a few that showed support, even if in small ways. New York State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) was a Suffolk County legislator back in 1991. He said the LGPFC approached his office after being rejected by the Huntington highway superintendent. He told the assembled people that he was giving them approval to use his office’s parking lot as the end point for their parade.

“Back then there were a lot of officials who were afraid to take a stand,” he said. 

Gitten said that recalling the case gives him a unique sense of pride. 

“I look back on it, and not that it was a heroic thing, it was a lawyer job, I was in the right place at the right time,” he said. “It feels nice as a lawyer to look and having been part of a movement and part of a wave that’s still going on.” 

The Day Of

The parade itself would be just three quarters of a mile, a short jaunt made by many pedestrians today in what is normally glowing nights on the town in historic Huntington village, or at least it was prepandemic. For the people at the march, it would be an experience none of them would ever forget.

The committee members took up positions at the head of the column. Moving up along Gerard Street, they marched down New York Avenue then turned east onto Main Street. Above them, marchers could see the hints of helmets and glint of rifles in the sunlight. SWAT snipers had been positioned on rooftops to watch over them, as there had been several threats of violence.

That was when the marchers saw the true extent of the crowds. Newsday reported at the time 3,000 people came out to see those in the parade. It was more than they expected, and surprisingly many were shouting support. Of course, there were many community members shouting at them, saying they would “go to hell” for what they were doing. Before it became well known thanks to the show “Game of Thrones,” those marching found use in shouting “shame, shame” at those heckling their procession.

“Our adrenaline was flowing so hard and strong and then we turned the corner, that’s where the protesters were,” Henaghan said. “It was like electricity was running through our bodies, we were so charged. You realize at that moment, you are not standing down, you are going to stand up. It was one of the greatest days of our lives,”

“In 30 years I will never forget that day, that day was a victory for all of Long Island.”

— David Kilmnick

There was a general sense of both exhilaration and apprehension. This was uncharted territory for them, despite participating in other pride parades. This one was theirs, and they had to own it.

“People would call it a parade, but it was a march,” Kilmnick said. “We didn’t have the pageantry, we marched down New York Avenue and had a rally in the back of Huntington Town Hall … In 30 years I will never forget that day, that day was a victory for all of Long Island.”

When they finally reached the end, the emotions of the day were overflowing. 

“The relief was palpable,” Gustavson said. “People were hugging each other and cheering … A lot of people came to celebrate with us. Some of them were not gay, but a lot of them were. It was a party in the best sense of the word, it was celebratory.”

Douglas Futuyma, Stony Brook professor emeritus of evolutionary biology,  was convinced to speak at the 1991 march in back of the town hall building. The professor has long been known on campus as an openly gay man, unafraid to talk about it in front of students when it came up. When it came time to speak at the rally, he wanted to talk about things beyond the biology of it, that gays and lesbians did not simply choose to be so, they were born that way. He spoke of Huntington’s native son Walt Whitman, and how that poet spoke to the quick of “humankind’s exploratory and vibrant spirit.” It was the fundamental question of human rights.

“It was certainly exhilarating, despite the heckling or harassment,” he said. “It was as it should have been, a celebration.”

Today and the Future

This month, the annual pride event was canceled due to the pandemic. Instead the LGBT Network held an online pride event June 14 featuring multiple celebrities and other local elected and civic leaders as speakers. 

It’s been a roller coaster ride for the past 30 years with the annual pride parade. Gustavson left the committee after the third year. Henaghan stood on for several years before leaving as well. He came back on in the early 2000s, but again left the committee to its own devices. 

The pride parade came under the auspices of the LGBT Network in its later years, and because of lagging participation a celebration was held instead of a parade in Huntington’s Heckscher Park. In 2017, the parade moved to Long Beach, and Kilmnick said the parade picked up steam once again. The LGBT Network president said last year an estimated 30,000 people participated. The biggest change from just a few decades ago, he said, is the number of young, school-age people coming out to march and support the annual parade. 

SBU evolutionary biology professor Douglas Futuyma spoke at the first LI pride parade in ‘91. Photo from SBU

“In ’93, so many kids were being bullied in school, afraid to come to the parade,” he said. “We didn’t have any student groups that marched in that parade. Now they make up more than 50 percent of that parade.”

This year, the parade was set to move to Jones Beach after a dispute with Long Beach over a $70,000 fee the LGBT Network said other organizations did not have to pay for similar events. Leaders of the parade are hoping for a renewed involvement come 2021, which will be the 31st pride parade and its true 30-year anniversary.

But the fight for equality is not one lane for just one group of people. Those who spoke about their experience with the first pride parade all identified with those marching against police brutality and racism today. 

Gustavson said things changed for the better in the past three decades, such as general awareness along with much more acceptance at the grade school level, but some things have not progressed nearly enough. For white gay people, she said things are “a lot better.” For gay people of color, trans people and especially trans people of color, there are way too many problems with prejudice both on the governmental and societal levels.

“It was as it should have been, a celebration.”

— Douglas Futuyma

“I don’t want to see violence, I never want to see violence,” she said. “But there are times when that’s what gets people talking and thinking and there are always people who will never understand why riots happen and why they destroy their own sh**. They will never understand that, and it’s passionate. When you’re passionate and you’re screaming because you’re afraid for your life, that it doesn’t really matter so much what gets ruined as far as ‘things’ go. Things are things. We’re fighting for our lives here, we’re fighting for our sanity, we’re fighting for our ability to walk in society without fear of being beaten to death because you’re a ‘fag,’ or because you’re Black.”

Henaghan, despite saying he has occasional bouts with pessimism, does believe the world is heading in the right direction. His partner for 23 years became his husband eight years ago, just a year after the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision. For the people marching in the streets today, he said many of those who spoke out against that march in ’91 are the same people or the ideological descendants of those who verbally harassed them 30 years ago.

“Many people will not let go of that hate they have, whether it’s for people of color, gays or lesbians, trans people, there are many people in our society they will not let go of that hate,” Henagan said. “They will fight you to the end. We still won’t stand for it.”

National Night Out attendees in Brookhaven enjoy the Centreach Pool Complex. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) recent announcement that the state would allow public pools to reopen at the discretion of local municipalities was received as good news for residents in Suffolk County who rely on such facilities for recreational use and to cool off the summer heat. For local town governments, they will have to consider not only the safety of patrons but also whether they still have the resources in place to operate their pools. 

The Dix Hill pool could potentially reopen depending on a debate within the Town of Huntington. Photo from TOH

Two weeks ago, in a joint press release, town supervisors from Babylon, Brookhaven, Islip, Smithtown and Huntington said they would close their pools to avoid further potential coronavirus spread. 

Since then, at least two municipalities on the North Shore may be reconsidering their initial decision. 

Huntington spokesperson Lauren Lembo said in a statement that it is something the town “has been discussing after the successful reopening of the beaches.” At this time, the town hasn’t officially announced anything on pools reopening yet, but Lembo added that a safety plan and staffing resources are currently being assessed.

Huntington town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) also weighed in. 

“Based on the successful phased reopening of our beaches with new safety measures in place, we are more confident now that we can provide an equally safe and fun experience at the Dix Hills Pool this summer, which will be open for our summer camps,” he said in a statement. “We are considering plans to open the pool to residents only in the coming weeks.”

Brookhaven’s public pools will remain closed, according to town spokesperson Kevin Molloy. Though the town’s spray parks will reopen later this month. 

In Smithtown, spokesperson Nicole Garguilo said officials want to see the number of COVID-19 cases in the town continue to decrease before they make any potential decisions. 

“We want that metric to continue to go down —there is a lot involved in reopening our pools,” she said. “If it is safe enough, we would consider it.”

There are a number of issues they would have to address. Smithtown’s three public pools are all located at Smithtown Landing Country Club. 

Garguilo said in addition to implementing the proper safety precautions they would need to assess if they still have the available resources to operate all three pools. 

“For us, it’s making sure the recreation director has those resources, he has to go out and get 

lifeguards and pool operators to staff these pools,” she said. “We might have enough staff for only two pools.”

Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, said municipalities will have to go about their reopenings differently. 

“Not all pools have the same footprint, some have more space than others,” she said. “To keep people safe, towns might go to reduced occupancy.”

Nachman said there is no evidence that COVID-19 can spread to people through the water used in pools. Proper operation and disinfection should kill the virus that causes COVID-19. 

Despite that, the infectious disease expert reiterated that patrons still need to proceed with caution. 

“If you’re with your family, stay together, spread yourself out from others and stay six feet apart. Do not crowd around the pool,” she said. “If you’re sick or feel sick do not come to a public pool.”

Nachman also mentioned that if you plan on bringing food to be careful, as it is another source of infection. 

“Everyone has to do their part, we are all part of community protection,” she said. 

Suffolk County legislature's online meeting May 19.

“Hello?” “Can you hear me?” “Would that person please mute their mic?” “We can hear your dog barking/child yelling/lawn mower going …” and on and on.

These are comments well known to anybody who’s been paying attention to government meetings, of municipalities large and small, in this time of pandemic. When Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed an executive order which temporarily nixed the requirements for local governments to hold in-person meetings, many organizations quickly had to come up with some sort of workaround to still hold their legally required meetings, though staying as socially distanced as possible while still remaining open for public view.

The Town of Brookhaven during its most recent online meeting.

Zoom meetings, YouTube Live video, these are the new tools for conducting government business, but not all are equal in just how “open” these meetings are.

New York Coalition for Open Government, a small nonprofit organization, known until recently as Buffalo Niagara Coalition for Open Government, came out with a report May 12 grading different levels of government on their transparency, with all meetings being held online. The New York State Committee on Open Government, which is run from Albany under the Department of State, has opined that governments would still have to host visible livestreamed meetings to conform to both the governor’s executive order and the current Open Meetings Law. Some governing bodies have interpreted the governor’s order to mean a body could meet without allowing public access. The coalition organization instead points to opinions by the committee and people from the governor’s office that says agencies and all local governments should allow access to livestreamed meetings.

Kristin O’Neill, assistant director for the state Committee on Open Government, said in a phone interview that local governing bodies “must afford remote access to the meeting while the meeting is going on.” This does not have to be a video livestream, but it must allow the public the ability to listen to that meeting. She said it is not enough to post a transcript or video after for the public to listen to or read.

The nonprofit’s report found only four of 21 governments surveyed from all of New York state had met all their criteria, including having all meetings livestreamed, having videos/audio posted online after the meeting and having all meeting documents posted online prior to the meeting.

The coalition included another metric though it’s not required by the Open Meetings Law, specifically asking whether a government was soliciting public comments that are heard and/or seen during the meeting.

The open government coalition president, Paul Wolf, an attorney in upstate New York, said he feels it’s important for local governments to be judged on their willingness to listen to the public, despite it not being required by law.

“All right, there’s a pandemic going on, but you” can still hear from the public and hear their concerns,” he said. “[We had] some pushback and controversy on grades, but you have to somehow rank people and and have some calculation who’s doing good.”

Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven were given “B” rankings by the committee, noting both were not addressing public comments in their meetings. As of their last meetings in May and early June, both town and the county board meetings still were not enabling public comment.

“It’s good to push for this stuff, and that seems to be one of few ways to get elected officials’ attention that seems to prompt some change,” Wolf said.

That’s not to say it hasn’t been difficult for local government to make the adjustment to online meetings. Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue) said the governing body had to figure things out on the fly. The last time all legislators were together for in-person meetings was March 17. He added it took time to get proper guidance from the state regarding hosting meetings. So far during the pandemic, the legislature has only allowed comment during public hearings.

Town of Smithtown’s online meeting May 21.

Calarco said some legislators have made comments that current meetings have not been sufficiently open.

“I get that, and it is important for us to be transparent, but we have been trying to do it as effectively as we can,” he said. “For local government [having public comment] is an integral part of how our meetings operate — for residents to have ability to speak to us in public fashion.”

The next general meeting, June 9, will be the first time in two months the legislature will have a timeslot for public comment. People can visit the legislature’s website at scnylegislature.us and scroll down to the link for submitting public comment.

Brookhaven, on the other hand, is looking more toward a time when they can host in person meetings again, according to town spokesperson Kevin Molloy. He said Brookhaven has had to work through technical difficulties, but is complying with the law and the parameters of the governor’s executive order, adding there were no current plans to createa a public portion during online meetings.

The town allows for comment on public hearings, which can be submitted either in writing or with the person joining the town’s online meeting in video form. Molloy said the town has tried to push back non-time sensitive public hearings until later dates.

We’re certainly trying to improve it, that means improvements in technology and the board is always trying to improve access to public,” Molloy said.

Despite this, different levels of government, including school districts, have found varying levels of success keeping their meetings open and responsive to the public.

TBR News Media has run through all school districts, villages and towns in our coverage area to check if its meeting four simple criteria. The point is not to degrade some and promote others, but to offer a means of comparison and give examples for how they can improve their openness to the public. Because of this, we have eschewed a letter grading system for our local governing bodies.

Port Jefferson Village is allowing for public comment via chat on YouTube but, as it has done in the past, has only hosted public portions every other week. Though this may have worked until now, the circumstances of the pandemic mean it may be time to change that policy.

School districts were perhaps the most consistent among municipalities for providing documentation and at least some communication of meetings and inquiries from residents. The Comsewogue school district has hosted a bevy of online options for students and district residents, including a website dedicated to offering stress relief for students, multiple Zoom meetings directly with students and a video of the budget hearing. However, the district has not posted any of its online board meetings after the fact to its website.

Grading Criteria (according to New York Coalition for Open Government)

  • Are meetings being live streamed?
  • Are meeting videos/audio posted online after the meeting?
  • Are all meeting documents being posted online prior to the meeting?
  • While not required by the Open Meetings Law, are local governments soliciting public comments that are heard/seen during the meeting?

Suffolk County 3/4 (As of June 9, this changed to allow a public comment period)

Meetings are being livestreamed through county website

Meetings video/audio/documents available after meeting

Meeting documents available before meeting

Public are allowed public comment only during public hearings

Town of Brookhaven 3/4

Meetings are being livestreamed and can be accessed by cable Channel 18

Meetings video/audio/documents available after meeting

Meeting documents available before meeting

Public are allowed public comment only during public hearings

Town of Smithtown 3/4

Meetings are being livestreamed

Meeting video/audio/documents available after meeting

Meeting agenda available before meeting

People are allowed public comment only during public hearings

Town of Huntington 3/4

Meetings are being livestreamed

Video and documents are available after meeting

Meeting agenda available before meeting

Public are allowed public comment only during public hearings

Village of Shoreham 2/4

Meetings are held by Zoom with notifications sent to residents

Video/audio of meetings not available after meeting

Some documents are available before meetings, but agendas are not

Public can make comments during meetings

Village of Belle Terre 3/4

Meetings are held via Zoom with notifications sent to residents

Meetings video/audio is not readily available post meeting

Meeting documents are posted before meetings are held

Public is available to make comments during regular meetings

Village of Port Jefferson 4/4

Meetings are being livestreamed

Meetings videos/audio/agendas posted online

Meeting documents posted before meeting

Comments being posted through YouTube then addressed by board, but only every other meeting

Village of Old Field 3/4

Meetings are being livestreamed with links sent to residents via Zoom

Meetings audio/video not posted online though minutes are

Meeting documents not posted before meetings

Trustee meetings regularly allow two public comment periods

Village of Poquott 3/4

Meetings can be accessed via dial-in code

Meeting video/audio of latest meetings not available

Documents are posted prior to meetings

Public is able to make comments during meetings

Village of Head of the Harbor 3/4

Residents can access meetings via links through notices

Meeting video/audio not available online

Documents are posted prior to meetings

Public is allowed comment during meeting

Village of Lake Grove 2/4

Meetings are being livestreamed via Zoom

Meetings audio/video not posted online

Documents are posted prior to meetings

Could not determine if public can comment during meetings

Village of Nissequogue 3/4

Meetings are being livestreamed

Meeting video is available after meeting

Documents are not posted before meeting

People are allowed public comment during meeting

Village of the Branch 3/4

Meetings are being livestreamed via Zoom

Meetings video/audio is not posted to the website after the meeting

Documents are posted to the website prior to meetings

People are allowed to comment during public portions of the meeting

Village of Asharoken 4/4

Meetings are being livestreamed via Zoom

Meeting minutes/agendas available after meeting

Meeting agendas are available after meeting but not video

Agenda available before meeting

Residents can ask questions prior to or during meeting

Village of Lloyd Harbor 4/4

Residents can listen in to meetings

Notices are present prior to meeting

Meeting agendas are available after meeting

Residents have been told they can comment during meeting

Village of Northport 4/4

Meetings are being held over teleconference call

Meeting audio not posted online after meeting

Agendas posted to website prior to meeting

Website says residents can ask questions of board via the web page

Shoreham-Wading River School District 4/4

Meetings are held publicly online via Zoom

Video of meeting posted after date held

Agendas are posted before meeting

Residents can comment during meetings

Rocky Point School District 2/4

Up until budget hearing, has not been having public board meetings online

Audio of meetings available on website

Board agendas posted prior to meeting

Public not able to comment on meetings up until budget hearing

Miller Place School District 3/4

Meetings held via Zoom

Video/audio of meetings not posted after meeting

Agendas posted prior to meetings

People may comment during meetings via chat

Mount Sinai School District 4/4

Meetings livestreamed via Zoom and on Facebook

Video of meeting posted afterward

Agendas posted prior to meetings

Questions from audience addressed during meeting

Port Jefferson School District 3/4

Meetings are being livestreamed

Meetings audio/visual/documentation available post meeting

Meeting agenda available before meeting

Public is not able to make comments during meetings

Comsewogue School District 2/4

Public has access to meetings via livestream

Meeting audio/video not available post meeting

Documents are available prior to meeting via BoardDocs

Questions are not being addressed at meetings

Middle Country School District 3/4

Meetings livestreamed from Google Meet

Meeting video is available post meeting

Documents are available prior to meeting via BoardDocs

The district has dispensed with public input

Three Village School District 3/4

Meetings are not being livestreamed

Meeting video available after meeting

Documents are available prior to meeting

Questions are not being addressed at meeting

Smithtown School District 4/4

All meetings are streamed live via Facebook

Videos available after meeting

Documents available before meeting via BoardDocs

Public can submit comments prior to meetings

Hauppauge School District 4/4

Videos streamed via Facebook Live

Videos available after meetings

Documents available on website

Residents can ask questions via Google Docs attached linked to the agenda

Commack School District 4/4

Meetings are publicly streamed through the district website

Meeting videos are available after meeting
Meetings documents are available prior to meeting via BoardDocs

Members of the district can ask questions via email,

Kings Park School District 4/4

Meetings are publicly available via Zoom

Meeting videos are available after meeting

Documents are available via BoardDocs

District allows for comments on call during prearranged comment period

Elwood School District 4/4

Meeting videos streamed live to YouTube

Meeting agendas available via BoardDocs

Videos are available after meetings

Questions are answered during latter section of meeting

Huntington School District 4/4

Meeting videos streamed live via Zoom call

Meeting video is available on the district website

Meeting agendas are available via BoardDocs

Residents can ask questions during Zoom meetings

Harborfields School District 4/4

The district livestreamed meetings via Vimeo

Agenda is available prior to meeting on district website

Video is available after the meeting dates

Residents can ask questions via email, and questions are answered at a determined time in the meeting

Northport-East Northport School District 4/4

Meetings are being livestreamed via IPCamLive

Videos are available after meetings

Agendas are available beforehand via BoardDocs

Questions can be sent via email and addressed during meeting

Cold Spring Harbor School District 4/4

Meetings are being livestreamed via Zoom

Videos of the boards hearings are available at the district’s YouTube page

Board agendas and documents are available at its meeting portal page

The board advises sending questions via email, which are addressed during the meeting

This article has been amended June 16 to update information about the Suffolk County legislature.