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A Sign of Our Times

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Grand Jury Report critical of Smithtown town
gover
nments supervision
of commercial
property demolition…

The Grand Jury Report is public record and available at the link below. It is 40 pages, but double spaced, and well worth the few minutes it takes to read it.

Please feel free to share your comments with us.

Click on link for Full Report

 

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Sign of our Times

By Eric Sailor

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Friday
Mar222019

DEC Adds 50 - Acres To Catskill Park

 

Parcel Includes Site of Former Rip Van Winkle House

State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today that New York State has acquired 50 acres of property in the town of Catskill, Greene County. The lands will become part of New York’s Forest Preserve. DEC acquired the property for $1 from Edward Maby. The property had been in the Maby/Mabie family since 1896.

“Forests are crucial to the future of our planet and one of our greatest natural treasures that we must preserve and protect,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “We are committed to enhancing the historical sites and recreational opportunities across the state for children and families. This addition to the Catskill Forest Preserve will continue to increase the tourism industry and strengthen the economy of the area.”

“The acquisition of this Catskill property will improve public recreational access in the area and includes remnants of the historic Rip Van Winkle House,” Commissioner Seggos said. “DEC expresses our sincere gratitude to Mr. Maby and his family for this generous contribution to the Forest Preserve that New Yorkers and visitors will be able to enjoy for generations to come.”

The parcel is now part of the Windham Blackhead Range Wilderness Area in the Catskill Forest Preserve. The parcel contains a northern hardwood forest with maple, beech, and birch trees dominating the landscape, along with pockets of hemlock trees. Animal species that can be found on the site include white-tailed deer, black bear, bobcat, porcupine, and fisher.

Recreational opportunities on the parcel include hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. The site contains about 1,400 feet of frontage on the Old Catskill Mountain Turnpike, which DEC maintains as a hiking trail that leads to the former Catskill Mountain House site at North-South Lake campground. Foundations of the historic Rip Van Winkle House site can be found along the trail.

The Rip Van Winkle House was built in 1867, and served as a resting place for people traveling to the Catskill Mountain House near North Lake. When the Catskill Mountain House opened in 1826, visitors made the arduous 12-mile journey from Catskill by horse-drawn coach. The last three miles wound steeply up the east side of South Mountain along Mountain House Road, a privately-owned turnpike that followed an old trail. The Rip Van Winkle House was built on the turnpike to serve as a respite for visitors making the long trek to the Catskill Mountain House. In 1892, the Otis Company built an inclined railway up the mountainside to the Catskill Mountain House, which made the journey less onerous, and thus began the steady decline of the Rip Van Winkle House, which was abandoned in about 1902, and burned down around 1918.

Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the State has pursued an aggressive land protection agenda. The Governor has sustained the State’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) at $300 million per year for the past four years. Several EPF programs provide tens of millions of dollars for the conservation of open space. During the Governor’s tenure, DEC has acquired more than 130,000 acres, creating and adding to State Forests, Wildlife Management Areas, Unique Areas, and other lands that provide wildlife habitat, sequester carbon, help ameliorate flooding, protect water supplies, and provide abundant public recreational opportunities.

“Catskill Mountainkeeper applauds the Department of Environmental Conservation and Governor Cuomo for their dedication to expanding the Catskill Forest Preserve,” said Ramsay Adams, Catskill Mountainkeeper’s executive director. “New York’s commitment to growing this natural treasure is admirable, and speaks to the state’s commitment to preserving special places. The Preserve is also one of the biggest economic drivers for this region—every effort to enhance access and expand the Preserve is also an effort to grow our economy.”

Jeff Senterman, Executive Director, Catskill Center, said, “This acquisition represents an exciting combination of natural, recreational and historical elements that make for an excellent addition to the Catskill Park’s Forest Preserve. Mr. Maby’s generosity ensures the protection of this important land for future generations of New Yorkers.”

http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/77537.html

Wednesday
Mar202019

State Troopers Release Info On Arrests On Southern State Parkway

On Monday, March 11, 2019, at approximately 1:25 p.m., troopers attempted to conduct a vehicle and traffic stop on a 2014 Mercedes Benz, ML350, on the eastbound side of the Southern State Parkway, west of State Route 111 (Exit 43), in the Town of Islip, Suffolk County, NY, for traveling at 105 mph. The operator of the Stanley Joiner, age 21vehicle, Stanley Joiner, age 21, of Wyndanch, NY, attempted to flee.  Following a short pursuit off of the parkway, Mr. Joiner lost control of the vehicle and crashed at the intersection of Spur Drive South and Broadway, causing the rupture of an underground natural gas line. The vehicle became immobilized on a telephone pole guy-wire when Mr. Joiner and his passenger, Starrief Green, age 20, of Wyndanch, NY, leapt from the vehicle and fled on foot.  Mr. Joiner was quickly taken into custody by the pursuing Trooper in a nearby backyard and Green was apprehended by a Suffolk County Police K9 Officer, in a backyard, following a neighborhood search.  Investigation of the incident revealed that Mr. Joiner and Mr. Green were in possession of Heroin, Fentanyl and Cocaine.  National Grid was notified and quickly responded to the scene, making necessary repairs to the ruptured gas line. 

Starrief Green, age 20Mr. Joiner and Mr. Green were charged with four counts each of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 3rd (B Felony), two counts each of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance 7th (A Misdemeanor), Criminally Using Drug Paraphernalia 2nd (A Misdemeanor) and Obstructing Governmental Administration (A Misdemeanor).  Mr. Joiner was additionally charged with Criminal Mischief 2nd (D Felony), Reckless Endangerment 2nd (A Misdemeanor), Fleeing an Officer in a Motor Vehicle 3rd (A Misdemeanor), Resisting Arrest (A Misdemeanor) and Reckless Endangerment of Property (B Misdemeanor) as well as numerous Vehicle and Traffic Law violations.  Mr. Joiner and Mr. Green were arraigned on March 12, 2019 and were held on $250,000 bond or $100,000 bail.

Tuesday
Mar192019

Televisions, Paintball Guns, Tools And More At SCPD Property Auction

SCPD To Hold Property Auction

Event will feature televisions, paintball guns, and tools

The Suffolk County Police Department Property Section will hold a property auction on March 27 at 9:30 a.m. at the Property Section building, located next to Police Headquarters, 30 Yaphank Ave. in Yaphank.

Among the items being auctioned include Rosetta Stone in multiple languages, assorted tools, televisions, fishing and sporting equipment, bicycles, clothing and paintball guns. Motor vehicles and motorcycles will not be sold at this auction.

A preview of select items will be held on March 26 between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. at the Property Section building.

The event will be held rain or shine and all items will be sold in “as is” condition. All purchases are subject to New York State sales tax and payments must be made in cash. In the event of severe weather, check the department’s website, www.suffolkpd.org or call 631-852-6685 for schedule changes.

 

Sunday
Mar172019

New Messages Of Hate Found At Nissequogue River State Park

Governor Andrew Cuomo has directed the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to expand its investigation of swastikas and messages of hate at the Nissequogue River State Park in Kings Park. There is currently an investigation of hate messages discovered in February.

Governor Cuomo issued the following statement:

“I am appalled by the new Swastikas and expression of hate found at Nissequogue River State Park on Long Island, where State Police are currently investigating hateful messages discovered last month.

“Our State parks are supposed to enhance our communities and bring people together. I am directing the State Police Hate Crimes Task Force to expand their ongoing investigation to include this disgusting graffiti, and the perpetrators will be held responsible to the fullest extent of the law.

“In New York, we have zero tolerance for anti-Semitism in all its forms. We stand with all communities, including the Jewish community, against hate and division, and we know that the most powerful four-letter word is not hate - it’s love.”

Saturday
Mar162019

DEC Takes Action Tor Protect Water Quality

 



New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced that Sand Land, a mine in Bridgehampton, is required to cease mine operations within a maximum of eight years and implement several new actions to protect water quality as part of a legal settlement addressing this facility’s operating permit. The comprehensive settlement immediately stops the acceptance of vegetated waste to protect water quality; requires implementation of an extensive groundwater monitoring program; prevents any horizontal expansion of the mine; substantially increases the amount of financial security posted by the mine; and directs the mine to cease operations within eight years and complete reclamation in less than 10 years to ensure the site’s return to productive use. 

In addition to DEC’s continued inspections and rigorous oversight, to ensure compliance with these requirements, a new independent third-party monitor will oversee mining operations. 

“DEC listened to the concerns of the community and is requiring Sand Land to shut down operations in eight years and fully reclaim the mine within 10 years, as well as implement the most comprehensive monitoring and oversight program of its kind to protect the region’s water quality,” DEC Commissioner Seggos said.  “New York State will continue our aggressive on-the-ground oversight to ensure Sand Land complies with all rules and regulations and to ensure that its operations do not threaten the environment, especially our precious groundwater resource.”

Today’s announcement is just the latest in DEC’s comprehensive actions to protect Long Island’s sole source aquifer, as recently demonstrated by DEC’s historic enforcement action against BlueGreen Farms for its illegal mining operation. The BlueGreen Farms Order on Consent included a $1.3 million penalty that is one of the largest penalties levied for illegal mining in state history. The company must contribute $600,000 of the penalty towards an Environmental Benefit Fund project supporting the United States Geological Survey-New York Water Science Center’s Long Island Groundwater Study.

The Sand Land settlement also builds upon other DEC measures taken by the company in response to an Order on Consent with DEC from November 2016 which required Sand Land to reclaim certain slopes and assessed a $100,000 penalty ($65,000 of which was payable).  The settlement resolves three ongoing mining permit issues: a permit modification proposed by Sand Land to expand the mine horizontally and vertically; a renewal of Sand Land’s existing DEC permit; and a permit modification initiated by DEC to cease mining and begin reclamation. Negotiations resulted in a final agreement that requires:

  • Dependent on issuance of a five-year mining permit, the ceasing of mining operations within eight years and complete reclamation of the mine in no less than 10 years;
  • A $290,000 increase in the required financial security that could be used to close and reclaim the mine if the owner does not properly reclaim the mine. A total financial security of $380,000 has already been posted;
  • New protections for groundwater, including the already-completed surrender of Sand Land’s state solid waste registration, an immediate ban on the acceptance of any vegetative material, and the implementation of an extensive groundwater monitoring program; 
  • Enhanced oversight by a new, on-site, independent monitor, in addition to DEC’s ongoing stringent regulatory oversight; and
  • A new prohibition on horizontal mine expansions and a permitted vertical expansion of no more than 40 additional feet, and no greater than 120 feet above sea level.

Sand Land has submitted a revised mining permit application documenting all of the terms of the settlement. DEC is making the application available for public review and comment March 20, 2019.  After reviewing all applicable public comments, DEC will make a determination whether to issue the permit.

DEC is also implementing a robust groundwater study to monitor groundwater in the mine vicinity and detect any changes in groundwater quality that could be attributed to the mine or other sources.  DEC will aggressively enforce any violations observed and hold responsible parties accountable for any groundwater contamination in the area. 

 
Friday
Mar152019

Who Is Going To Pay? Comptroller Kennedy Says Homeowners

Who is going to be taxed for the nitrogen-reducing septic systems installed under Suffolk County’s grant program? County Comptroller John Kennedy believes homeowners are liable. The comptroller issued tax forms to homeowners who participated in the county’s grant program and installed nitrogen-reducing septic systems. If the comptroller’s position is correct the homeowners could face a tax liability in the thousands of dollars.  The Bellone administration is asking the comptroller to rescind the tax notices immediately. Kennedy, in a Newsday article said he is seeking an opinion from the IRS.

The County Septic Improvement Program is the first of its kind in New York State.  Suffolk County grants are provided to homeowners who choose to replace their cesspool or septic system with new nitrogen reducing septic systems. The program, established in 2017, was approved by voters in a 2014 referendum.

The county’s program, supported by Governor Cuomo, was awarded nearly 70 percent of the $15 million awarded statewide under the first year of the State’s Septic System Replacement Fund. Bellone’s statement claims that the “Comptroller’s Action Would Jeopardize Cuomo Administration’s $10 Million Award to Fund County Drinking Water Program”.

Yesterday, Water Quality Czar Peter A. Scully requested the tax forms sent to homeowners be rescinded saying, “Suffolk County taxpayers are already facing a difficult income tax season as a result of Washington’s federal tax code changes that limit deductions of local property taxes. The last thing they need is for the County Comptroller’s actions to expose them to additional tax liability.”

The statement issued by Mr. Scully states, “In early 2018, the County Comptroller’s office sent the 1099 forms for individual system installations to both homeowners, designers and installers, for the same installations. In early 2019, the Comptroller’s office sent 1099s for installations completed in 2018 to homeowners only, and sent “corrected” forms for 2017 to companies which had received disbursements of funds from the County, stating that they hadn’t received any. In an article in today’s Newsday, the Comptroller indicated for the first time that he plans to seek a letter ruling from the IRS on the issue.”

A full copy of the letter can be found below:

Dear Comptroller Kennedy,

As Suffolk’s Water Quality Czar, I write now with a sense of urgency in an effort to limit any further impacts to Suffolk County taxpayers resulting from the unilateral decision of your office to issue 1099 forms which could make grants under the Septic Improvement Program taxable for homeowners.

As you are aware, the program was carefully designed to make the grant process easy and affordable for homeowners. One important aspect of that effort was structuring the program to ensure that homeowners never receive disbursements of funds. Instead, grant funds are disbursed to companies which install nitrogen reducing septic systems, so that IRS reporting requirements should be met through the issuance of 1099-MISC forms to those companies, and not to homeowners. That aspect of the program was made clear at its inception, and all involved companies submitted required W-9 forms expecting to receive the 1099-MISC forms as planned.

In January 2018, however, without prior discussion, and without explanation, your office demanded that the Department of Health Services obtain a W-9 form from a homeowner who had participated in the program. Staff in the Department of Health Services subsequently learned that your office had issued 1099s for the 2017 tax year to both installers and homeowners for the same system installs. The reason why this double reporting occurred has not been explained.

In the wake of that action by your office, the County sought and obtained a legal opinion on the tax reporting issue from its tax counsel, which concluded and advised that 1099 G forms should not be issued to homeowners, and that 1099-MISC forms should be issued to companies receiving funds under the program, consistent with established program guidelines.

Over the past several weeks, the Department of Health Services has been made aware that your office had directed staff to issue 1099 G forms to individual homeowners who completed installations during the 2018 tax year, exposing those homeowners to potential tax liabilities. More recently, you have been quoted in the media as having indicated that you plan to request a letter ruling from the IRS on the matter.

Assuming that this report is accurate, it makes no sense to threaten homeowners with tax liability unless and until the IRS has indicated that issuing 1099s to homeowners is appropriate. For that reason, the purpose of this letter is to formally request that your office rescind the 1099s issued to homeowners pending receipt of the letter ruling you have indicated that you will seek from the IRS.

Given that the April 15, 2019 deadline for filing of 2018 income taxes is looming for Suffolk County taxpayers, who are already reeling from the impacts that changes to the federal tax code limiting deductions of property taxes are having on their personal finances, I would ask that your office take immediate steps to rescind the 1099s issued to homeowners, and to advise homeowners that such action is being taken.

Please confirm that such action will be taken on a priority basis. A careful and deliberate approach to the issue is important given the potential implications for the statewide $75 million New York State Septic System Replacement Program established by the State under the leadership of Governor Cuomo.

I look forward to working with you to ensure that Suffolk County taxpayers are protected against additional tax liability.

Respectfully,

PETER A. SCULLY

Deputy County Executive


Wednesday
Mar132019

Former CEO Of Credit Union Pleads Guilty To Embezzlement

Former Chief Operating Officer of Long Island Federal Credit Union Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

Earlier today, at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, Suzanne Silva, the former Chief Operating Officer of Winthrop University Hospital Employees Federal Credit Union (Winthrop University HEFCU), pleaded guilty to embezzling $465,172 during her employment at the credit union.  Today’s plea took place before United States District Judge Denis R. Hurley.  When sentenced, Silva faces up to 30 years in prison, as well as restitution of $465,172 and a fine of up to $1 million.

Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney, Jr., Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the guilty plea.

“Silva has admitted that she abused her authority as Chief Operating Officer by stealing funds from the Credit Union for personal travel and shopping sprees,” stated United States Attorney Donoghue.  “Today’s guilty plea sends the message that those who engage in such criminal conduct will be caught and prosecuted.”

Between March 2011 and June 2018, Silva used her authority at Winthrop University HEFCU to transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars from operating accounts of the credit union to accounts in her name and the names of family members.  She used the funds to take Caribbean cruises, travel to Cancun and pay thousands of dollars a month for purchases from the Amazon and Etsy websites.  Silva’s employment was terminated by Winthrop University HEFCU in June 2018. 

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division.  Assistant United States Attorneys Charles P. Kelly and Madeline O’Connor are in charge of the prosecution.

The Defendant:

Suzanne Silva
Age:  35
Carle Place, New York

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 18-CR-507 (DRH)

Tuesday
Mar122019

FYI - FBI Accuses Wealthy Parents Of Bribing Colleges To Get Kids Accepted

March 12 at 12:56 PM

The Justice Department on Tuesday charged 50 people — including two television stars — with being part of a long-running bribery scheme to get privileged children with lackluster grades into big-name colleges and universities.

The alleged crimes included cheating on entrance exams, as well as bribing college officials to say certain students were coming to compete on athletic teams when those students were not in fact athletes, officials said. Numerous schools were targeted, including Georgetown University, Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California and UCLA, among others. Read more 

Monday
Mar112019

DEC - Hunter Safety Courses Offered For Children 12 to 16 Years Old

 

DEC ANNOUNCES DATES FOR YOUTH CONSERVATION PROGRAM


Hunter Safety Courses to be Offered in April for Children 12 to 16 Years Old 
 

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Regional Director Carrie Meek Gallagher today announced that a two-day, hands-on program on youth hunting safety will be offered in April by DEC’s Hunter Education unit. The program is part of the state’s Youth Conservation Program designed to introduce girls and boys between the ages of 12 and 16 to the basic principles of conservation, hunter education, and general outdoorsmanship.

“Hunting and fishing are an important part of Long Island’s heritage, and we are fortunate that our region offers a multitude of diverse and rewarding recreational opportunities,” Director Gallagher said. “The 2019 Youth Conservation Program is the perfect way to introduce children to hunting ethics and to teach them how to besafe and responsible hunters. DEC applauds our local sportsmen and women, the Conservation Officers Association, and the Peconic River Sportsman’s Club for their tireless work towards the protection of our environment and natural resources.”

The course will take place on April 13 and 14, at the Peconic River Sportsman’s Club in Manorville, and is open to young people that have not yet taken their Hunter Education course. Applications must be returned by March 29, and can be found on DEC’s website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/92267.html.

Each class is limited to 30 participants. Participants who successfully complete the program will receive their Hunter Education Training Certificate. This certificate is required to purchase a hunting license. 

The Youth Conservation Program is part of the New York Open for Hunting and Fishing initiative and since 1994, this regional hunter safety event has been sponsored by the DEC’s Hunter Education unit, the New York State Conservation Officers Association, and the Peconic River Sportsman’s Club. The Open for Hunting and Fishing Initiative is an effort to improve recreational activities for in-state and out-of-state sportsmen and sportswomen and to boost tourism opportunities throughout the state.  It includes the streamlining of hunting and fishing licensing and reducing license fees, improved access for fishing at various sites across the state, and increasing hunting opportunities in various regions. 

For more information or to register for the Youth Conservation Program, contact the DEC Hunter Education Office at (631) 444-0255.

Tuesday
Mar052019

Governor Cuomo In Newsday Op-Ed Calls For Permanent Property Tax Cap

 

Newsday published an op-ed by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo calling for a permanent property tax cap. Last week, Governor Cuomo launched a Tax Fairness for the Middle Class Campaign to make the property tax cap permanent and cut middle class taxes. To illustrate the benefits of a permanent property tax cap, Governor Cuomo unveiled a digital tax calculator to showcase estimates of how much taxpayers have saved under the property tax cap and will continue to save over the next 10 years with a permanent property tax cap. Text of the op-ed is available below and can be viewed online here.

The middle class is the backbone of our nation — built on the premise that in return for hard work, prosperity and financial security are achievable. But the middle class is increasingly falling behind under the pressure of rising costs and stagnant wages. It is hard out there and we know it.

Now, our middle class faces a new and unexpected threat: the federal government. The Trump administration has tried to take away health care by dismantling the Affordable Care Act; it has undermined the organized labor movement that helped build the middle class; and it has put New York’s communities and environment at risk with regressive policies like potential offshore drilling around Long Island.

The most significant economic threat to New York is the cap on state and local tax deductions. While President Donald Trump promised a tax cut for the middle class, the capping of SALT deductions goes in the opposite direction — hurting about 530,000 taxpayers on Long Island, or more than a third of its taxpayers. It is an egregious act of partisanship that targets Democratic states to pay for tax cuts in Republican states, and it is particularly shameful that Republican representatives from Long Island failed to stand up for their constituents.

The administration’s policies make the state’s 2 percent cap on local property taxes even more critical for New York, where the property tax burden is more than two-and-a-half times the typical state income tax burden.

In 2011, after years of trying to rein in out-of-control property taxes — Govs. George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer and David A. Paterson all tried — we passed the first local property tax cap. The 2 percent property tax cap changed long-term trends, and saved New Yorkers nearly $25 billion. On Long Island, it has saved taxpayers $8.7 billion, with the typical Nassau taxpayer saving $7,611 and the typical Suffolk taxpayer saving $6,284.

By every measure the tax cap has been a success, but that success is not guaranteed if it does not remain in place.

That’s why in this year’s budget I call on the State Legislature to make the 2 percent property tax cap permanent. I will not sign a budget that does not include a permanent tax cap.

Our middle class simply cannot sustain a return to the days of skyrocketing property taxes, especially in the face of the challenges and uncertainty emanating from Washington. So let’s cap it for today. And keep it for tomorrow.

And let’s not stop there.

Let’s cut the income tax rate once again for middle-class New Yorkers. And let’s fight SALT until the federal government rolls back this devastating assault on our state and its taxpayers.

In New York, we have not forgotten the middle class and we stand with middle-class families more than ever in the face of the federal assault. Since I took office, we have prioritized groundbreaking initiatives and investments to lift up hard-working families and reduce obstacles to prosperity.

We have made too much progress to turn back now. It’s time that the State Legislature enshrines the 2 percent local property tax cap — a fundamental principle of fiscal responsibility — so that we can send a message loud and clear to the middle class that says New York is on their side.