Community Rallies For The Eagles

Members of the Centerport Harbor Civic Association rally on Route 25A in Centerport Saturday to urge town officials to protect the habitat of bald eagles living near Mill Pond.   Photo/Centerport Harbor Civic Association

Members of the Centerport Harbor Civic Association rally on Route 25A in Centerport Saturday to urge town officials to protect the habitat of bald eagles living near Mill Pond. Photo/Centerport Harbor Civic Association

By Connor Beach

cbeach@longislandergroup.com

Huntington officials said Monday they are taking steps to protect Mill Pond in Centerport after residents raised concerns about the environmental impacts from run off at a construction site in the area.

The construction site is near where a pair of bald eagles are nesting.

Huntington spokeswoman Lauren Lembo said Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and staff from the Maritime Services and Building Departments met with “concerned residents” to discuss how construction at the site of the old Thatched Cottage may be affecting water quality in Mill Pond and possible negative effects on the bald eagles living near the pond.

Town officials said on Jan. 24 residents first reported seeing an oil slick in storm water runoff near the site where the Port Jefferson-based Crest Group are constructing a new catering venue called Water’s Edge.

Lembo said town Maritime Services, Suffolk Department of Health and state DEC officials all inspected the site, and test results showed “zero evidence of contamination.”

“In a meeting with several concerned Centerport residents on Friday, the town was able to assure all in attendance that while all testing has returned zero evidence of contamination, we will be taking an extra, proactive step to ensure our water stays its cleanest and our winged friends can safely enjoy the beautiful habitat in which they have taken up residence,” Lupinacci said in a statement Monday.

Though no evidence was found of hazardous material entering Mill Pond, town officials installed a boom near the seawall at the construction site as a preventive measure to protect the habitat. The boom was described as “a sponge-like material designed soak up any residue in the water, including the sediment, oil and other substances brought in from the harbor with the tide, storm water runoff from Route 25A, and runoff from the land surrounding the pond.”

Dom Spada, deputy director of Maritime Services, told residents the boom should be in place by Friday.

Tom Knight, co-president of the Centerport Harbor Civic Association, attended Monday’s meeting with town officials, and said in an interview Wednesday residents were still awaiting the instillation of the boom and written reports of the town’s inspections.

The presence of nesting eagles on Centerport’s Mill Pond are one reason residents complained to town officials over conditions caused by construction at the former Thatched Cottage .  Photo/Rainey Sepulveda

The presence of nesting eagles on Centerport’s Mill Pond are one reason residents complained to town officials over conditions caused by construction at the former Thatched Cottage . Photo/Rainey Sepulveda

 “We all love the eagles, and we’d hate to see anything happen to them especially because of any run off from a construction site,” Knight said.

Around 50 members of the CHCA rallied Saturday on Route 25A in Centerport. Knight said the group hoped to raise awareness of “our concerns that the Water’s Edge construction site needed to be monitored closely by Town of Huntington officials” and “the overdevelopment in Centerport along the 25A corridor.”

Knight said the group’s members were also concerned about the proposed construction of a 7-Eleven on Little Neck Road and increasing traffic in the area.

Christina Whitehurst, Director of Sales, Catering and Marketing for Water’s Edge, said the new venue benefits “if the environment and the community thrive along with our business.”

“We are working to rebuild a beautiful waterfront events facility so we have no intention of polluting the lovely water or environment that surrounds it,” Whitehurst said. “The DEC report speaks for itself in regards to the unfounded claims of abuse to the environment.”

New Stewards Watch Over Grist Mill

The Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill and the Mill Cove Waterfowl Sanctuary will be repaired and preserved under new ownership and stewardship.   Photo courtesy Richard Hamburger

The Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill and the Mill Cove Waterfowl Sanctuary will be repaired and preserved under new ownership and stewardship. Photo courtesy Richard Hamburger

By Sophia Ricco

sricco@longislandergroup.com

The Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill and the Mill Cove Waterfowl Sanctuary will live to see many more days.

Previously gifted to The Nature Conservancy by local residents, the organization felt their efforts are best spent protecting other Long Island lands and waters. They transferred the 17-acre parcel to a newly formed non-profit whose mission is to support responsible public access and enjoyment of the mill.

“We are a group of neighbors who enjoyed seeing the mill and felt it was important to protect the mill and preserve the site,” Van Wyck-Lefferts Tide Mill Sanctuary president Richard Hamburger said.

The historic gristmill was built in approximately 1794 in what is now the Village of Lloyd Harbor. At the time the area was predominately agricultural. The mill processed grains harvested on Long Island into flour. A hundred years later, technology advances brought steam-driven rolling mills.

“Inside the building you’ll find its original wooden gears and buffalo leather belts,” Hamburger said. “This is an interesting anomaly because that technology was replaced by steam rollers and steel chains in the mid-19th century. The owner at the time chose not to invest in this new technology so as a result he used obsolete technology for another 50 years.”
As time has gone on, it has become known as the best-maintained 18th-century tidal gristmill in the country.

“This one is very important to the history of American gristmills because it’s still in its original location and incredibly well-preserved,” Hamburger said.

The organization plans to repair and restore the site, through projects, funded by State grants and community contribution. The first project they will tackle in the spring is fixing the pond’s dam to prevent overtoppings. The repair will harden the dam’s structure and hold soil in through planting appropriate marsh grasses.

“Climate change has caused the overtoppings to become more frequent,” Hamburger said. “Starting with Superstorm Sandy, there has been significant erosion to the North end of the damn. Our first project of physical reconstruction is to stabilize the dam.”

The organization has partnered with the Huntington Historical Society to expand tours and other public education activities. However, the society can only run 10-15 tours a season since access is by water and boats can only be docked during high tide.

“They have the expertise to conduct the tours, their volunteers learn the history,” Hamburger said.

Hamburger believes the site would be interesting to historians, academics and environmentalists who could study the cove and mill.

“It has stood there with great dignity for 225 years, it’s seen the changes of Lloyd Harbor,” Hamburger said. “Historic structures help us understand where we came from and that the world does change.”

Kean Seeks ‘Middle Ground’ Amid Apartment Showdown

Residents pack into the town board meeting room last Thursday for a ZBA hearing on plans to construct an 84-unit luxury apartment building in Huntington village.  Long Islander News photo/Connor Beach

Residents pack into the town board meeting room last Thursday for a ZBA hearing on plans to construct an 84-unit luxury apartment building in Huntington village.
Long Islander News photo/Connor Beach

By Connor Beach
cbeach@longislandergroup.com

The Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals was forced to adjourn a public hearing last week on developers’ plans to construct a four-story, 84-unit luxury apartment building in Huntington village because there were too many people.

In an interview Wednesday evening, the project’s developer John Kean said he and his team would meet to “reassess the situation” following the outpouring of opposition by Huntington residents. He said they would determine if any alterations would be make to the proposal.

Kean said efforts would be made to reach out to people who opposed the project to see if they could “find some middle ground.” However, he added that groups opposed to the development have so far not been very receptive to his team’s efforts to discuss the project.

Hundreds of residents converged on town hall on Jan. 24 for the hearing on a proposed 271,000-square-foot building that would require the demolition and re-construction of five lots fronting Main Street, Gerard Street and Stewart Avenue.

A capacity crowd packed into the town board meeting room, and ZBA chairman John Posillico estimated some 300 more overflowed into the hallways.

A side elevation of the development as seen from Gerard Street.

A side elevation of the development as seen from Gerard Street.

Huntington-based attorney Jim Margolin, who is representing Kean and property owner Alan Fromkin, began the hearing with an in-depth presentation on the proposed development. After about 45 minutes Posillico told the audience the hearing would have to be postponed because the lone speaker for those listening in the hallway had stopped working.

Posillico said the people in the hallways outside of the town board room would not be able to participate in the public hearing if they could not hear what was being said. He added that if the meeting continued its legality could be questioned, and a court could order a “do over.”

“I know you’re all here; I know the presenter is hear ready to present,” Posillico said. “But if it is irregular in the way that it is now we can’t have full participation because people can’t hear what’s going on.”

Many in the audience had signed up to speak against the proposed development, which would require seven variances from the ZBA, including for building height and parking relief.

At their Jan. 23 meeting, Huntington Planning Board members voted to “strongly recommend that the ZBA denies all requested variences,” according to town documents. In their recommendation, the planning board members determined the “stories and number of apartments will result in an undesirable change in the character of the village.”

In an interview last week, Kean said the proposed mix-used building would include retail and restaurant space in addition to the apartments. Plans also call for a 127-space, below-grade parking garage on the Gerard Street side of the development, an aspect of the development Kean said would improve parking in Huntington village.

Members of Save Huntington Village, a group of residents opposed to what they say is the overdevelopment of Huntington village, sent out a mailing earlier this month encouraging people to attend the ZBA hearing and oppose the development.

Several members of Save Huntington Village spoke during the public portion of Tuesday’s town board meeting to express some of the concerns they were unable to bring up at last week’s adjourned ZBA hearing.

“How is this proposal even getting oxygen when it requires so many departures from explicitly written town code and New York State ZBA guidelines,” Save Huntington Village member Barbra Suter said.

The group urged Supervisor Chad Lupinacci and the rest of the town board to amend the C-6 zoning in Huntington village “to limit apartment building based on impacts to quality of life, traffic, parking, and environmental considerations for Huntington's residents.”

The building’s height and a parking deficiency of 135 spaces are chief among the issues cited by opponents of the project.

Kean said the proposed building would not exceed the 45-foot height limit mandated under town code. The project is considered four stories because town code counts a parking garage as a floor, even though parking garage will function like a walkout basement along Gerard Street, according to Kean.

“On Main Street you’re not going to see much of a change at all,” Kean said. “You are going to see a change on Stewart and Gerard, but we’re going to do it in a motif that’s in keeping with what Huntington looks like.”

Kean said, if constructed, the building would “enhance” Huntington village by increasing the number of people within walking distance of shops and restaurants in the downtown area without increasing traffic.

“I don’t want to do anything that’s going to ruin our town, but retail is dying and main streets are hurting,” Kean said.

The ZBA voted unanimously to adjourn last week’s hearing. Posillico said the meeting would be rescheduled at “an appropriate venue” as soon as possible.

State Lawmakers Approve Gun Control Measures

Linda Beigel Schulman of Dix Hills, holding a photo of her son Scott, meets with Governor Andrew Cuomo in Albany Tuesday prior to votes in the state legislature on a series of gun control bills. Scott Beigel was killed protecting his students during last year’s Parkland shooting in Florida.

Linda Beigel Schulman of Dix Hills, holding a photo of her son Scott, meets with Governor Andrew Cuomo in Albany Tuesday prior to votes in the state legislature on a series of gun control bills. Scott Beigel was killed protecting his students during last year’s Parkland shooting in Florida.

By Connor Beach
cbeach@longislandergroup.com

New York State lawmakers passed Tuesday a series of bills to strengthen the state’s gun control regulations.

The legislative package easily passed the Assembly, long a Democratic stronghold, and also garnered a sizable majority in the Senate, where Democrats regained control earlier this month.

The gun control legislation was the first to pass both houses of the legislature since 2013, when the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act was approved weeks after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

“Last year young people across the country mobilized in a transformative movement to march for their lives,” Senator Jim Gaughran (D- Northport) said. “It shouldn't take a tragedy to spur action.”

Gaughran, who supported the legislation, was joined on the Senate floor by Dix Hills residents Michael Schulman and Linda Beigel Schulman whose son Scott Beigel was killed while protecting his students during last year’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

One piece of legislation establishes extreme risk protection orders, known commonly as “red flags.” This allows a judge to prohibit a person from purchasing, possessing or attempting to purchase or possess a firearm, rifle or shotgun if law enforcement officials, family members or certain school officials believe the person is “likely to engage in conduct that would result in serious harm to themselves or others.”

Beigel Schulman said advocating for the “red flag” bill has been “my mission.”

“I know that no matter how senseless and no matter how incomprehensible the Parkland massacre was, Scott's murder was, when we pass the Red Flag law… Scott's murder will now save lives,” she said.

A second bill prevents school districts from allowing teachers to carry guns in schools. The bill prevents K-12 schools from authorizing anyone other than a security officer, school resource officer or law enforcement officer to carry a firearm on school grounds.

Other legislation approved Tuesday would ban the sale and manufacture of a device that accelerates the rate of fire of a firearm, such as bump stocks.

Dix Hills residents Linda Beigel Schulman, right, and Michael Schulman, left, join Senator Jim Gaughran on the floor of the State Senate for passing of gun control legislation.

Dix Hills residents Linda Beigel Schulman, right, and Michael Schulman, left, join Senator Jim Gaughran on the floor of the State Senate for passing of gun control legislation.

Lawmakers also approved the creation of regulated gun buyback programs and established an extension of up to thirty-days when required for national in-state background checks.

Senate minority leader John Flanagan (R- East Northport), who voted against four of the gun control bills, said in a statement Tuesday that “many of the bills being rushed through the Legislature today do nothing to address the serious, underlying causes of school violence or keep our students safe.” Flanagan urged Democrats to vote for an amendment put forward by Republicans that would have given schools the “authority and resources to hire an armed school resource officer.”

Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign the gun control legislation into law in the coming days.

Four Teens Earn Eagle Scout Rank

Joshua Kimmelstein, Thomas Kowalski, Tristan Delaney and Dylan Campbell take the pledge as they are inducted into the elite ranks of Eagle Scouts by Boy Scouts of America Suffolk County Council VP David Hunt.

Joshua Kimmelstein, Thomas Kowalski, Tristan Delaney and Dylan Campbell take the pledge as they are inducted into the elite ranks of Eagle Scouts by Boy Scouts of America Suffolk County Council VP David Hunt.

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

Four scouts from Troop 106 of Huntington were recognized for earning their Eagle award, the highest rank in Boy Scouts.

A ceremony and reception held on Jan. 22 honored Dylan Campbell, Thomas Kowalski, Tristan Delaney and Joshua Kimelstein, who became numbers 94, 95, 96 and 97 to achieve Eagle in their troop’s 60-year-history.

Scouts in Troop 106 opened the ceremony with a candle lighting, called “The Trail to Eagle.” Following speeches by public officials, scout leaders and the inductees themselves on the road to becoming an Eagle, each of the boys presented “mentor pins” to those who helped them along the way:their fathers, and scoutmaster Mike Terrone.

In order to become an Eagle Scout, the scouts must rise through each rank: scout, tenderfoot, second class, first class, star, life and finally eagle. They are required to earn a minimum of 21 merit badges, 13 of which are specified, and must show leadership in their troop by holding various positions like a patrol leader, event organizer or instructor to younger scouts.

“The beauty of the boy scouts is they have a safe environment to really try and experiment in different leadership roles,” Kowalski said.

Eagle scout Dylan Campbell with his nephew, Tiger Cub Scout RJ Lahey from Pack 406 in Melville.

Eagle scout Dylan Campbell with his nephew, Tiger Cub Scout RJ Lahey from Pack 406 in Melville.

The final challenge is to complete an Eagle Service Project, where they lead others through helping an organization. Campbell built a new awards podium for his high school wrestling team, while Delaney constructed a mobile kiosk for Sweetbriar Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

Once their proposal is approved by the Boys Scout’s Suffolk County Council, it is up to the scouts to fundraise for their project and enlist volunteers to make it happen. Kimelstein and Kowalski raised money through car washes, while the other scouts held pasta fundraisers. Each was able to take on the role of project manager as they led their teams to complete their plan.

“These particular boys have the drive, and that’s what the rank of eagle scout signifies,” Kowalski said. “The boys who want it, can earn it, they just have to have the desire to see the project through.”

The newest Eagle Scouts joined Troop 106 around the same time and were able to motivate each other as they saw one another rise in rank. Scout leaders, Terrone and Kowalski have been able to utilize their experience as Boy Scouts themselves to aid their scouts’ journeys.

“Our troop, in particular, is very focused on getting the boys there,” Kowalski said. “If the boys want to do it, myself, Mike Terrone and other scout leaders are there for them, to give them advice and guidance with executing the project.”

Smyth Asks Residents To ‘Pick Six’

SmythPick6.jpg

Councilman Ed Smyth is spearheading a town wide effort to reduce litter by picking up six pieces of trash each day.

A town board member is leading the charge in an effort to keep Huntington clean.

Huntington Councilman Ed Smyth hosted a press conference Jan. 24 unveiling his anti-litter initiative, “Pick Six.”

Smyth is asking Huntington residents and visitors alike to “pick six” and help to clean up litter strewn around town. The idea is for every person in Huntington to pick up six pieces of litter each day.

“Protecting the environment is critically important.  We cannot lose sight of big picture concerns like global warming and clean drinking water,” Smyth said. “These issues require global attention, but everyone can act on a local level on a daily basis.  It starts with cleaning up the litter right in front of you.”

Smyth said by solving the “small picture,” like the litter found on sidewalks and in parks, residents can make Huntington a cleaner and more environmentally friendly place to live, work and visit. In small ways an individual can help address a global concern.

“Do it every day. Make it habitual,” Smyth said. “We can all make a difference.”

ZBA Adjourns Packed Hearing On Apartments

Hundreds packed into the town board meeting room Thursday night for a ZBA hearing on plans to construct a four-story, 84-unit luxury apartment building in Huntington village. So many people attended the meeting that the ZBA members voted to adjourn the hearing and move it to a bigger location.  Long Islander News photo/Connor Beach

Hundreds packed into the town board meeting room Thursday night for a ZBA hearing on plans to construct a four-story, 84-unit luxury apartment building in Huntington village. So many people attended the meeting that the ZBA members voted to adjourn the hearing and move it to a bigger location. Long Islander News photo/Connor Beach

By Connor Beach
cbeach@longislandergroup.com

 The Huntington Zoning Board of Appeals was forced to adjourn a public hearing Thursday night on developers’ plans to construct a four-story, 84-unit luxury apartment building in Huntington village because there were too many people.

Hundreds of Huntington residents converged on town hall for the hearing on a proposed 271,000-square-foot building that would require the demolition and re-construction of five lots fronting Main Street, Gerard Street and Stewart Avenue.

A capacity crowd packed into the town board meeting room, and ZBA chairman John Posillico estimated some 300 more overflowed into the hallways.

Huntington-based attorney Jim Margolin, who is representing the project’s developer John Kean and property owner Alan Fromkin, began the hearing with an in-depth presentation on the proposed development. After about 45 minutes Posillico told the audience the hearing would have to be postponed because the lone speaker for those listening in the hallway had stopped working.

Posillico said the people in the hallways outside of the town board room would not be able to participate in the public hearing if they could not hear what was being said. He added that if the meeting continued its legality could be questioned, and a court could order a “do over.”

“I know you’re all here; I know the presenter is hear ready to present,” Posillico said. “But if it is irregular in the way that it is now we can’t have full participation because people can’t hear what’s going on.”

Many in the audience had signed up to speak against the proposed development, which would require seven variances from the ZBA, including for building height and parking relief.

The Main Street view of the Classic Galleries property as it is today.  Long Islander News photo/Connor Fante

The Main Street view of the Classic Galleries property as it is today. Long Islander News photo/Connor Fante

In an interview Monday, Kean said the proposed mix-used building would include retail and restaurant space in addition to the apartments. Plans also call for a 127-space, below-grade parking garage on the Gerard Street side of the development.

Members of Save Huntington Village, a group of residents opposed to what they say is the overdevelopment of Huntington village, sent out a mailing earlier this month encouraging people to attend the ZBA hearing and oppose the development.

Bob Suter, a member of the group, said members of Save Huntington Village also handed out around 170 signs at an event on Jan. 19.

“A lot of people where quite angry,” Suter said. “This latest development turns the whole concept of small town on its head.”

The building’s height and a parking deficiency of 135 spaces are chief among the issues cited by opponents of the project.

Kean said the properties currently carry a 392-space parking variance from the ZBA, and the decreased retail and restaurant space in the proposed building would actually improve the parking situation.

A rendering of the Main Street facade as proposed replicates the look and feel of its original use as a firehouse.

A rendering of the Main Street facade as proposed replicates the look and feel of its original use as a firehouse.

In addition, Kean said the proposed building would not exceed the 45-foot height limit mandated under town code. The project is considered four stories because town code counts a parking garage as a floor, even though parking garage will function like a walkout basement along Gerard Street, according to Kean.

“On Main Street you’re not going to see much of a change at all,” Kean said. “You are going to see a change on Stewart and Gerard, but we’re going to do it in a motif that’s in keeping with what Huntington looks like.”

Kean said, if constructed, the building would “enhance” Huntington village by increasing the number of people within walking distance of shops and restaurants in the downtown area without increasing traffic.

“I don’t want to do anything that’s going to ruin our town, but retail is dying and main streets are hurting,” Kean said.

The ZBA voted unanimously to adjourn the meeting. Posillico said the meeting would be rescheduled at “an appropriate venue” as soon as possible.

Food Banks Step Up to Aid Federal Workers

An Island Harvest mobile pantry distributes food to those in need. The non-profit has stepped up its outreach to help workers who are missing paychecks as a result of the government shutdown.  Photo/Island Harvest

An Island Harvest mobile pantry distributes food to those in need. The non-profit has stepped up its outreach to help workers who are missing paychecks as a result of the government shutdown. Photo/Island Harvest

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

Island Harvest came together with corporate partners to outline steps being taken to ease the burdens of federal employees.

As the 21st shutdown to hit the U.S. government began, workers may not have expected it to break a record as the longest in history. As of Thursday – one month and two days in – over 800,000 federal employees have not received salaries. The sudden loss of pay has disrupted employees’ financial situations, leaving many unable to meet the bills and buy food. Local food banks, like Island Harvest, have stepped up, providing food and additional resources.

“Long Island’s high cost of living presents numerous challenges to hardworking families struggling to make ends meet,” president and CEO of Island Harvest Food Bank, Randi Shubin Dresner said. “Trying to keep up with mortgages, loan payments, paying for medicine, and putting food on the table creates an additional burden for federal employees who are working without a paycheck. Collaborating with our corporate and local government partners, we’re helping to ease those burdens.”

The mission of Island Harvest is to help Long Islanders struggling with food insecurity and poverty, while responding to disasters and emergencies. The organization has classified the shutdown as an emergency, encouraging employees to reach out if they need assistance with food or bills. Dresner finds it “unfortunate” that workers must face hardships, while the government battles over the budget. Many have expressed they love their job and are eager to go back.

“What we recognize is that, most of these federal employees, have never asked for help before,” Dresner said. “They are people who are living somewhat comfortably and we’re finding that these people were volunteers and contributors to organizations like ours. They’re accustomed to being on the other side.”

Island Harvest President and CEO, Randi Shubin Dresner speaks during a press conference at the food bank to discuss ways the organization can help federal workers who may need assistance during the partial government shutdown.

Island Harvest President and CEO, Randi Shubin Dresner speaks during a press conference at the food bank to discuss ways the organization can help federal workers who may need assistance during the partial government shutdown.

Island Harvest has food banks in Bethpage, Uniondale, and Hauppauge, along with mobile food pantry units that go where there is need. Dresner recommends those with food insecurity call 516-294-8528 to be directed to the nearest site.

Additionally, Island Harvest makes signing up for SNAP simple; federal workers can apply over the phone. SNAP would give workers an allowance for groceries to help them get through the shutdown.

“It’s important for those impacted by the shutdown to know that there’s no shame in asking for help… We want our neighbors who are struggling, to know that Island Harvest treats people with dignity and respect,” Dresner said. “We recognize that this is a very difficult time for them and we want to help and do what we can to get them the resources they need, even if it’s for a short period of time.”

Corporate partner PSEG is allowing a 60-day grace period, with no late fees, for federal employees. Call 800-490-0025. Teachers Federal Credit Union is offering loan payment extensions and other assistance to affected members. And impacted families can apply for free or reduced-price school meals for their children. Resources can be found at islandharvest.org.

“This disaster is horrible, it causes people to become very stressed,” Dresner said. “They need to respond for themselves quickly to find resources. When you’re dealing with a stressful situation, like a loss of salary, all of sudden you’re dealing with a lot of things at the same time. The resources we have can help people struggling in this way.”

In addition to Island Harvest, Long Island Cares’ Harry Chapin Food Bank at 220 Broadway, Huntington Station, is offering help. The pantry is open Monday and Wednesday, 9 a.m. - 3 p.m., and Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.. Call 631-824-6384.

Lawmakers Push To Pass Ryan’s Law

Kellie Weiss, speaking, advocates for a statewide propeller guard law during a press conference Jan. 18 flanked by, Senator Jim Gaughran, left, and her husband Kevin Weiss, right. The Weiss’s son Ryan was killed in a prop accident off Centerport in July 2017.  Photo/Office of Sen. Jim Gaughran

Kellie Weiss, speaking, advocates for a statewide propeller guard law during a press conference Jan. 18 flanked by, Senator Jim Gaughran, left, and her husband Kevin Weiss, right. The Weiss’s son Ryan was killed in a prop accident off Centerport in July 2017. Photo/Office of Sen. Jim Gaughran

By Connor Beach

cbeach@longislandernew.com

Members of Huntington’s delegation to the state legislature are looking to pass legislation they hope will prevent boating accidents on state waterways.

The legislation, known as Ryan’s Law, is named for 12-year-old Ryan John Weiss who was tragically killed in July 2017 during an instructional boating lesson in the waters off Centerport Yacht Club.

The legislation mirrors a Suffolk County law passed last year requiring all motorboats used to instruct children under the age of 18 have a propeller guard installed around the vessel propeller.

Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R- East Northport) sponsored the bill last year in the State Assembly, but it failed to gain the traction needed to pass the State Senate. Last week, freshman senator Jim Gaughran (D- Northport) introduced Ryan’s Law in the State Senate.

“This bill is going to save lives,” Gaughran said. “It’s tragic that we lost Ryan, and this common sense boating safety bill will prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again.”

Raia, who is reintroducing the legislation in the Assembly, called on state lawmakers to pass Ryan’s Law in time for the next boating season.

“Boating is a wonderful activity that many residents in our district take part in, but in light of recent tragedies, I believe that this law will provide an additional level of safety for our children while respecting the freedom of boaters at large,” Raia said.

Assemblyman Steve Stern (D- Huntington Station) said he would join Gaughran and Raia in support of Ryan’s Law.

Legislator William Spencer (D- Centerport), the lead sponsor of Suffolk’s version of Ryan’s Law, praised the state for broadening the bill to include all of New York.

“The devastating loss of Ryan and the strength and resiliency of the Weiss family continues to motivate us,” Spencer said.

During a press conference on Jan. 18, Ryan’s mother Kellie Weiss said she and her family have chosen to honor Ryan’s legacy by advocating for boating safety.

“Nothing will change the outcome for us, but hopefully no other family will have to go through this,” Weiss said.

Gaughran said he is hopeful Ryan’s Law will move quickly to the Senate floor for a vote.

New Law Requires Reporting

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signed Legislator Susan Berland’s legislation requiring amusement parks and water park operators immediately report criminal conduct on their property.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone signed Legislator Susan Berland’s legislation requiring amusement parks and water park operators immediately report criminal conduct on their property.

By Connor Beach
cbeach@longislandergroup.com

The Suffolk County Legislature passed last month a law requiring amusement parks and water parks to immediately report any criminal conduct, including sex offenses, on their property to the appropriate law enforcement agency.

The bill, sponsored by Legislator Susan Berland (D- Dix Hills), is the result of an incident at Splish Splash Water Park in Calverton last summer where young girls were allegedly groped by a group of men in the wave pool. Park staff failed to immediately notify local law enforcement agencies of the incident or obtain identifying information from the alleged perpetrators, according to county documents.

“I was troubled by the water park incident and introduced this legislation to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again,” Berland said. “The operators of water and amusement parks now need to notify the appropriate authorities when they are told of an alleged criminal act.”

The bill was passed unanimously by the Suffolk County Legislature on Dec. 4, and signed into law by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Jan. 14.

Bellone said the law ensures the procedures for reporting crimes at amusement and water parks “are crystal clear.”

Mike Bengtson, general manager of Splish Splash, said the company is “absolutely supportive of any new legislation which may improve guest safety and security at theme parks."

If the owner, operator, employee or agent of an amusement park or water park fails to report a criminal act, the park will be hit with a fine of up to $5,000 for the first violation and a $10,000 penalty for subsequent violations, according to the new law.

The law goes into effect 90 days after it is filed with New York State.