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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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Tuesday
Oct162018

Indefatigable Amy Fortunato Asks Respectfully For Your Vote

By Pat Biancaniello

Amy Fortunato is on a mission to become Smithtown’s newest council person by winning the November 6th special election and she is indefatigable in her effort. Answer your door and you might find her standing there. Attend any event in any part of the town and you will see Ms. Fortunato shaking hands, listening to people and talking with them about her ideas. According to Fortunato her motivation comes from a strong belief that taxpayers need an “independent voice for transparency”  which she feels is missing on the current Town Board which is currently one hundred percent Republican. Willing to set aside partisan labels, Amy feels compelled to be an advocate for Smithtown taxpayers, pledging to hold government accountable; irrespective of party.   

This is the second attempt to win a seat on the town board for both Fortunato and her opponent, Republican Thomas Lohmann.  In November 2017 she received 10,196 votes to win 17.60 per cent of the total vote count finishing third behind Lynne C. Nowick 14,132 votes and Thomas J McCarthy 12,969 votes.  Thomas Lohmann finished in sixth place receiving 5,394 votes or 9.31 percent of the vote in the 2017 election. Thomas Lohmann was appointed by the Republican town board to fill Ed Wehrheim’s vacant seat.

Amy Fortunato at 2018 Regatta on the RiverA political novice Fortunato is a pastor with a Master of Divinity from New York Theological Seminary, and a former Citibank manager with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. “While attending seminary, I learned what it means to truly listen.  I believe we need public servants who are stewards of the public trust.  We need honesty, transparency, and accountability.  We also need someone who will advocate for all interests, and not just those who are the most vocal or financially invested.”  She added, “It’s too easy for us to bring our own preconceptions and partisan opinions into a conversation, preventing us from effectively hearing another person’s concerns.  I plan to approach this position with an unbiased ear, endeavoring to listen to all points of view.”

Fortunato hopes to focus on taxpayer/residents quality of life issues which she says encompasses the need for discussion and action on taxes, water quality, traffic safety and congestion as well as crime and substance abuse. She hopes to work with other board members to create an independent citizen’s advisory board to guide development in the town. “ The mirage that exists adjacent to Whisper the Bull, is a travesty.  We must take action as a community to ensure that our children and residents can enjoy Smithtown’s natural environs, like the Nissequogue River without the visual affront of an adult entertainment venue.  It’s past time that we addressed this blight that our politicians have been unwilling to address.”   

 

Tuesday
Oct162018

Huntington Station Resident Pleads Guilty To Elder Fraud Scheme

Huntington Station Resident Pleads Guilty to Multimillion Dollar Elder Fraud Scheme and to Defrauding the Federal Trade Commission

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Earlier today, in federal court in Central Islip, Tully Lovisa pleaded guilty before United States Magistrate Judge Gary R. Brown to conspiracy to commit mail fraud by sending prize-promotion mailings that led recipients, many of whom were elderly and vulnerable, to believe that they could claim large cash prizes in exchange for a modest fee.  Lovisa also pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with a related scheme to defraud the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).   

Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Joseph H. Hunt, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division, and Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service, New York Division (USPIS), announced the guilty pleas.

As he admitted at his guilty plea, Lovisa’s prize promotion mailings were fraudulent.  None of the victims who submitted fees, which in total exceeded $30 million, received a substantial cash prize.  Lovisa’s involvement in the scheme was also in violation of prior court orders that resulted from a lawsuit against him by the FTC.  As part of his resolution the FTC lawsuit, Lovisa was ordered by a federal court to sell a home he owned in Las Vegas, Nevada, and turn over the proceeds to the FTC.  Lovisa arranged for a sham sale of the house in September 2012 for $155,500, and then sold the house in April 2015 for $540,000 and kept the proceeds.

When sentenced, Lovisa faces up to 20 years in prison on each count, as well as forfeiture of at least $1 million and a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain or gross loss from each offense.

The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division.  Assistant United States Attorney Charles P. Kelly, with Trial Attorneys Daniel Zytnick and Timothy Finley of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, are in charge of the prosecution.  Assistant United States Attorney Tanisha R. Payne is in charge of the forfeiture.

Thursday
Oct112018

Gillibrand: We Need To Stop Shortchanging Our Seniors

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a member of the Senate Aging Committee, today released the following statement regarding the Social Security Administration’s announcement of a 2.8 percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2019 Social Security benefits:

“Today’s announcement from the Trump Administration of just a 2.8% cost of living adjustment for seniors on their Social Security is inadequate. At a time when Congress is rewarding their corporate donors with tax breaks for investments overseas, they continue to shortchange our seniors. This cost of living adjustment is not enough in the face of rising costs for seniors who contributed their earnings into Social Security their whole working lives. 

“As an original cosponsor of the Social Security Expansion Act, which would change COLA increases to reflect what seniors actually spend their money on, including skyrocketing health care costs and prescription drugs, I am calling on Congress to consider this legislation immediately. By using a Consumer Price Index for elderly consumers, every year seniors would be able to receive increased benefits. The Social Security Expansion Act would also ensure that all Americans pay their fair share, and it would increase minimum benefits and extend the Social Security trust fund for more than six decades.

“Our Seniors should not be living one large expense away from poverty. Congress should listen to the American people and strengthen and expand Social Security, and one step we should immediately take is to make sure that benefits cover the expenses seniors face every day.”

Wednesday
Oct032018

DEC Advises Homeowners to Check Fuel Oil Tanks 

 

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today advised homeowners that heating fuel oil storage tanks should be inspected to ensure they will not leak or spill before receiving the first shipment of fuel oil for the upcoming heating season.

More than two million homes in New York are heated by fuel oil. Each year, hundreds of fuel oil spills from home heating oil tanks are reported to the DEC Spills Hotline. These spills have resulted in contamination of basements, damage to basement contents, contamination of groundwater, wells and soils, and expensive cleanups that are often not covered by homeowner’s insurance.

Some of the most common causes of home fuel oil spills are: failing storage tanks; faulty fuel lines and connections; collapsing tank legs and supports; and overflows during delivery. Homeowners should consider using a company that offers a service contract to maintain tanks and heating systems. DEC also encourages homeowners to schedule an inspection. An annual inspection of fuel oil storage tanks can prevent impacts to human health and the environment from leaks and spills.

Above Ground Heating Fuel Oils Storage Tank Checklist

  • Bent, rusty, or wobbly tank legs or tank located on an unstable foundation.
  • Signs of rust, weeps, wet spots, or excessive dents on the tank’s surface.
  • Drips or any signs of leaks around the oil filter or valves.
  • Fuel oil lines not covered in a protective casing - even if under concrete.
  • Overhanging leaves where snow and ice could fall onto the tank.
  • Stains on ground or strong oil odor around the tank location.
  • Browning, dying or loss of vegetation around the tank location.
  • Silent overfill whistle while tank is being filled - ask fuel delivery person.
  • Clogged or restricted tank vent due to snow, ice or insect nests.
  • Signs of spills around fill pipe or vent pipe.
  • Improperly sized vent pipes - ask fuel delivery person.
  • Cracked, stuck or frozen fuel level gauge or signs of fuel around it.

Underground Heating Fuel Oils Storage Tank Checklist

  • Water in the tank - ask fuel delivery person to check.
  • Oil or oil sheen in your basement sump or French drain.
  • Silent overfill whistle while tank is being filled - ask fuel delivery person.
  • Clogged or restricted tank vent due to snow, ice or insect nests.
  • Signs of spills around fill pipe or vent pipe.
  • Well water has strange tastes or smells.
  • Complaints from neighbors of fuel oil smells.
  • Using more than normal amount of fuel.

If one or more of these items are observed contact your fuel oil service provider. Report any actual spill or leak of fuel oil to the DEC Spills Hotline: 1-800-457-7362.

For more information on home heating oil tank stewardship, visit the Underground Heating Oil Tanks: A Homeowner’s Guide webpage on DEC’s website.

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

Thursday
Sep272018

Suffolk County To Auction County-Owned Properties

SUFFOLK COUNTY EXECUTIVE BELLONE ANNOUNCES LIVE REGISTRATION FOR 2018 REAL ESTATE AUCTION

Approximately 150 County-Owned Properties for Sale

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced the live registration dates for the Annual Suffolk County Auction Sale of County-Owned Surplus Real Estate. Mandatory pre-auction registration will take place on Tuesday, October 2nd from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and Thursday October 4, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the 1st Floor Plaza in the H. Lee Dennison Building in Hauppauge. Registration of Purchasers for this auction is mandatory in order to be eligible to bid at the October 23, 2018 and October 24, 2018 auction and subsequently purchase property from Suffolk County.

Approximately 148 Parcels, including more than 50 Improved Parcels, are available this year.  In 2017, Suffolk County sold 117 parcels for $12,053,850.

Suffolk County Executive Bellone said, “Every year, Suffolk County disposes of real property via auction in order to remove the tax burden from the shoulders of County taxpayers. In addition, the Suffolk County Property Auction provides an unparalleled opportunity for County residents to become property owners at a reasonable cost. As cost of living continues to rise, Long Island’s notoriously high property values have, in many areas, made homeownership inaccessible to many residents – particularly the working class. The Suffolk County Auction brings that goal back within their reach, making the American dream a reality for those who help to form the backbone of our community.”

For more information, please see the full 2018 Auction Brochure here.

Friday
Sep212018

Trotta Calls Out Dems For Extending Contract For Red Light Technology

 

By Stacey Altherr

The waiver committee of the Suffolk County Legislature extended for one year a contract for the company that provides the red light camera technology.

The waiver allows the county to bypass the Request For Proposal (RFP) process that requires any contract over $25,000 to be put out to bid.  The agenda item originally called for a two- to three-year extension.

The waiver committee, two chosen by the county executive and the other by the presiding officer, decides if the RFP process can be waived in cases of emergency or time constraints.

But Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Smithtown) protested the committee’s decision, saying before the meeting, that the contract with the company Conduent Inc. is not expired until the end of the year, and the county often “makes it an emergency” by waiting too long to ask for bids. All seven Republican legislators, under its Minority Leader Legislator Tom Cilmi, sent a letter saying the red light program should come to an end.

“It’s a shame that Tom Cilmi and the minority caucus are once again playing politics with public safety,” said Jason Elan, spokesperson for Suffolk County.

The red light technology has had its critics since its inception in 2003.  Installed as a way to catch drivers running red lights, or not stopping lawfully while making a “right on red” turn, Trotta contends that the program has increased accidents in many spots where they are located, in some cases more than 700 percent, and is only a way for the county to make money.

Trotta also notes that the contract is currently under a state investigation as to whether a licensed engineer inspected and signed off on all the traffic control devices, as required by law.

In February, a bill passed by the legislature would have added another legislator on the board from the opposing party, and require a super majority vote to override the RFP requirement. The bill was vetoed by County Executive Steve Bellone and failed to get the required two-thirds vote to override the veto.

Stacey Altherr is a former Newsday reporter now living in Sarsasota, Florida. Her beats included Smithtown, where she covered governmental affairs.  She now runs a café in Longboat Key near her home and writes freelance. Altherr has won many awards, including a 2010 Society of Silurian Award for community service journalism for a multi-part series, “Heroin Hits Main Street,” and a third-place National Headliner Award for public service for a multi-part year-long investigation on spending at fire districts on Long Island.