07/01/14 2:00pm
07/01/2014 2:00 PM

The Second Street firehouse finally appears to have a willing buyer — and a willing seller.

After a previous attempt by Supervisor Sean Walter to sell the house failed earlier this year, the Riverhead Town Board voted 4-1 Tuesday to authorize the sale of the building to Suffolk Theater owner Bob Castaldi for $500,000. (more…)

06/27/14 5:00pm
06/27/2014 5:00 PM
Congressman Tim Bishop and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand pitch the new high-tech startup bill at a press conference Friday morning. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Congressman Tim Bishop and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand pitch the new high-tech startup bill at a press conference Friday morning. (Credit: Paul Squire)

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said New York research facilities and nonprofits receive about $6 billion in federal investment — the second-most in the nation.

Yet fledgling businesses out of those research labs get about 7 percent of the nation’s venture capital, something Ms. Gillibrand said needs to change.  (more…)

06/26/14 2:25pm
06/26/2014 2:25 PM
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs legislation on Monday at the University of Binghampton related to tightening controls on heroin. (Credit: Office of Gov.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs legislation on Monday at the University of Binghampton related to tightening controls on heroin. (Credit: Office of Gov.

“They say in drug abuse treatment, the first step is to admit the reality, right?” Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked last week. “We should not deny the problem we currently have with heroin.”

Legislation to combat the growing epidemic of heroin and opioid use — a problem that has reached the East End in recent years — was considered the “top priority” in Albany last week as the state legislative session came to a close, and Mr. Cuomo touted a package of 11 separate bills designed to address “the problem” from all angles.

Calling the epidemic a “public health crisis,” the governor unveiled legislation June 18 that was designed with four particular goals in mind: assisting enforcement against illegal trafficking of such drugs, helping with emergency response in overdose situations, improving treatment options for individuals suffering from heroin and opioid addiction through insurance reforms and creating public awareness campaigns with reach to school-age children, adults and even prescribers, who are the legal gatekeepers to opioid drugs.

“I believe that this is a comprehensive approach. It has a public safety component, has a public health component and also has a public awareness campaign,” he said during a press conference about the bills, flanked by leaders of both legislative houses, as well as the state’s health commissioner.

The 11 bills were passed unanimously June 19 and were signed into law Monday during a press conference at Binghamton University. The governor said funding for all of the measures and other treatment services would be addressed in the next budget cycle.

At the same time, Mr. Cuomo announced plans to hire 100 additional experienced investigators for the State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota has already asked that some of these new hires be placed with the East End Drug Task Force, a multi-jurisdictional unit that investigates drug activity in the area.

In a letter to Mr. Cuomo requesting additional police resources, Mr. Spota called Suffolk County “ground zero in this crisis.”

According to data released in February by Dr. Michael Lehrer, chief toxicologist with the Suffolk County medical examiner’s office, heroin-related deaths have increased countywide by almost 300 percent in the past four years — from 28 in 2010 to 64 in 2011 and 83 in 2012, with at least 82 deaths reported in 2013. 

06/25/14 4:00pm
06/25/2014 4:00 PM
Police at the scene of the fatal hit and run on Route 58 near Woodcrest Avenue in  July 2013. (Credit: Paul Squire, file)

Police at the scene of the fatal hit and run on Route 58 near Woodcrest Avenue in July 2013. (Credit: Paul Squire, file)

Harsher punishments for those who flee the scenes of serious car accidents will have to wait another year, lawmakers say, after a pair of bills — one passed by the state Senate, another by the Assembly — failed to get enough support in the opposite house.

The legislative session in Albany ended last week with no agreement on the bills.

In May, the Senate had approved legislation — co-sponsored by state Senator Ken Lavalle — that would have increased penalties across the board for those who flee from accidents, minor or serious. That bill died in the Assembly transportation committee.

Meanwhile, the Assembly passed their own bill last Thursday night, with just hours left in the legislative session.

That legislation was co-sponsored by local Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo, and would have created a new charge for those who flee serious or fatal accidents while driving with a suspended license or a prior conviction for drunk driving or leaving the scene of an accident.

In an interview this week, Mr. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said there wasn’t enough time left to compromise on the differences between the two bills. The Assembly’s bill also lacked support in the Senate. 

06/25/14 8:00am
Joe Kummer, a resident of Thurm's Estate's and president of the Mobile Manufactured Homeowners Association of Suffolk at his home in Calverton.

Joe Kummer, president of the Mobile Manufactured Homeowners Association of Suffolk, at his Calverton home in 2010. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

On his last day as president of the Mobile/Manufactured Homeowner’s Association of Suffolk County Saturday, Joe Kummer didn’t get word that a bill he’s been fighting for on “unreasonable” rent hikes for mobile homes was approved by the state legislature.

But he did get a cake.

(more…)

06/24/14 9:37pm
State Senator Lee Zeldin, left, and primary opponent George Demos.

State Senator Lee Zeldin, left, and primary opponent George Demos.

It will be a rematch between Tim Bishop and Lee Zeldin this fall.

State Senator Lee Zeldin defeated George Demos in Tuesday’s primary to secure the GOP line in the race for New York’s 1st Congressional District seat.

Mr. Zeldin, 34, defeated Mr. Demos with 62 percent of the vote, grabbing 9,654 votes compared to 5,880 for Mr. Demos.

Name Votes
Lee Zeldin  9654
George Demos  5880

Mr. Zeldin (R-Shirley) will now prepare to redeem himself on Nov. 4 after his first run for political office six years ago against Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton), in which he earned 41 percent of the vote compared to the incumbent’s 58 percent.

Despite the previous results, he said he believes his odds are much better this time around in a midterm election, which national pundits widely agree can often bring fewer Democrats to the polls.

“In 2008, there were certainly factors that were out of our control that are not the same dynamics now,” Mr. Zeldin said Wednesday morning. “Barack Obama was much more popular than he is today. People were suffering from [former President George] Bush fatigue and the war in Iraq. And the economy at the end of September really started to get a lot worse.”

Personally, he pointed to experience he’s since gained at the legislative level — he was elected to the New York State Senate in 2010 — which has brought him more name recognition, a pool of campaign volunteers and better campaign financing.

Despite all that, Mr. Demos outspent Mr. Zeldin throughout the primary campaign at a rate of more than three-to-one, spending over $1.9 million compared to Mr. Zeldin’s $580,000.

Mr. Demos — who ran in two previous primaries, in 2010 and 2012 — said he was unsure what the future would hold for him.

“I want to continue to be involved in public service and fight for conservative principles,” he said. When asked if he might run again for public office, he said he hadn’t decided yet.

A spokesman for Mr. Bishop, Keith Davies, released the following statement after Tuesday’s race.

“Lee Zeldin now has a voting record which shows he has far-right positions which are out of the mainstream in Suffolk County. Not only did he oppose the bipartisan SAFE Act which expanded New York’s ban on assault weapons, he led a Tea Party rally to denounce it.”

Mr. Bishop will be running for his seventh consecutive term after defeating challenger Randy Altschuler in his last two campaigns.

06/24/14 9:06am

east end helicopter noise long islandA mandate for helicopters to stay off Long Island’s north shore that was set to expire in August has been renewed by the federal government — though a loophole will still permit aircraft heading to the Hamptons to fly over the North Fork, and local representatives are still working to close it and force pilots to detour around Orient Point.

The goal of the renewed route, implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2012, has been to reduce noise in residential areas that helicopters fly over on their ways to other locales on Long Island — namely, the Hamptons. The only way pilots can deviate from the route is for safety reasons, weather conditions, or if transitioning to or from a destination or point of landing.

But Southold Supervisor Scott Russell has said the last excuse to deviate from the plan hasn’t brought the expected results to Southold he was hoping for. And after U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Tim Bishop issued a joint statement last week announcing that the current route was extended — and not expanded to require flights to head around Orient Point — Mr. Russell called the oversight of Southold residents “deplorable.”

“Quite candidly, our federally-elected representatives just sold us out for the interests of western Long Island,” he said. “This is a disaster for Southold.”

Mr. Schumer and Mr. Bishop said last week that the current route — which towns to the west of Southold have embraced — has been extended for another two years, and the two are working to make it permanent. The announcement came weeks after the two stated that they were attempting to get an extension on the current route requirements, while also pushing for an expansion to require flights to go around Orient Point.

The route requires every helicopter operating along Long Island between Visual Point Lloyd Harbor (VPLYD), located 20 miles north of LaGuardia Airport, and Orient Point to fly one mile off the north shore.

If pilots do not follow the route, they may face fines or have their pilots’ license revoked.

“Luckily for Long Island residents, the beginning of August will not also mean the return of onerous helicopter noise that once interrupted dinners, disrupted people enjoying their backyards and had an effect on quality of life and on property values,” Mr. Schumer said in a release.

Mr. Russell said on Tuesday that last week’s announcement was indeed good news for those on the western part of Long Island, and shrugged off any suggestion that it might have anything to do with the political make-up of Southold’s Town Board — which has no elected Democrats on it.

“This isn’t a partisan issue. This is an East versus West issue,” he said. “The lesser populated East End simply has less clout at the voting booth.”

While expressing satisfaction for the current route’s extension, both Mr. Schumer and Mr. Bishop stated that they hope to see further results and relief for Southold residents.

“It is my sincere hope that FAA will continue to review ways to minimize the reach of noise pollution,” he stated.

Mr. Russell said he would be reaching out to Mr. Bishop’s office this week to try to remedy the issue for Southold residents.