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Thursday
Apr192018

Amy's Perspective - Smithtown Residents Have Been Heard

By Amy Fortunato

The good news is that the Smithtown residents have been heard.  It’s a relief to finally hear that our Town Council discussed Smithtown United Civic Association’s appeal for an authentic business analysis of the properties that could be consolidated and turned into Transit Oriented Development near the Smithtown LIRR station.  At the close of the Town Council’s working session on 4/10, the request was mentioned but really only revisited to complete an appraisal of the outlier Town owned buildings to the Town Attorney. This request for appraisals of the 18 outlier buildings that belong to the town has been made before.  Smithtown has 28 various departments and 18 buildings – with lots of walking imposed between the numerous buildings/departments! 

It’s not a new request. The New York Ave. neighbors presented the same request during numerous Town Council meetings more than a year ago when the Town Council was approached to possibly consolidate into the Joseph Barton Administration Building and retain the athletic fields for a town green and recreation near the heart of the downtown business district.  At that point in time, the appraisals were predicated on the current zoning and not the potentially changed zoning for that property.    There’s no way to address a possible consolidation without all the appraisal figures – although the Smithtown taxpaying residents asked for these appraisal results last year.  Clearly, the citizens were patient but ignored – when they asked for the appraisals of the Town Dept’s buildings.  Transparency was avoided during those Town Council meetings.  

During the last Smithtown School Board regular meeting held on 4/10, our Superintendent, Dr. James Grossane and School Board President, Mr. Jeremy Thode assured those in attendance that the NY Ave. properties are NOT for sale and that the Town has NOT been in contact with the School Board.   Both Dr. Grossane and Mr. Thode publicly described their intentions to engage with the local community in the future regarding any possible sale or development BEFORE any real estate issues are presented.  In another recent meeting 4/6 with the School Board Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent, Mr. Andrew Tobin – the same assurance of commitment to our community and transparency was emphasized by the School Administration on behalf of the School Board. The rumors were dispelled, participation and engagement with Smithtown’s taxpaying residents was reassured.  

It’s good to know that we’ve been heard.  This level of commitment and communication is honorable, ethical and necessary for Smithtown to prosper – developing for the future while preserving our historic past.   

Amy Fortunato is a Smithtown resident who ran for Town Council on the Democratic line in 2017.     

Tuesday
Apr102018

Smithtown Lights The Town Blue For Autism Awareness

Light the Town Blue Ceremony

April 9th, 2018 Smithtown NY:The Town of Smithtown hosted a special Light the Town Blue ceremony Monday evening, in front of Town Hall. Long Island Autism Speaks advocate Kathleen Lanese, alongside her husband Rick Lanese and sons, Kevin and Brendan lead the ceremonial lighting of the tree, with members of the Town Council, Parks & Highway departments. Brendan Lanese gave the inaugural speech prior to the commemorative lighting. After the ceremony all in attendance were given blue light bulbs to place in home porch lights to kick off of Autism Awareness month.

“I am so humbled to hear a young and talented young man like Brendan speak in front an audience like he has this evening. Imagine being non-verbal as a little boy… Now he does public speaking better than I do! Whether we work harder to hire bright young men like Brendan and one day Kevin… Or make a commitment today, to better understand spectrum disorders, to show compassion and most of all, acceptance to those young and old, learning how to communicate with us every day.” - Supervisor Ed Wehrheim

“Autism affects individuals in different ways. I’m going to college and working part time but my brother is much more affected and requires constant supervision. Sometimes people with Autism can behave differently because they are frustrated, afraid or unable to communicate and this can difficult to deal with in public. This is why public awareness is so important. People with Autism are just like everyone else, and should be welcome despite behaving and looking differently.“ - Brendan Lanese

Brendan Lanese was non verbal at age two. His parents helped him to receive special education services at that time. When Brendan was four he was diagnosed with autism.
He will be turning 21 this Summer. In 2016, Brendan graduated from Kings Park High School with a Regents Diploma and a member of the National Honor Society. He continues his education at Suffolk Community College and works at Spectrum Designs Foundation. And I believe he has great accomplishments ahead… maybe even being the Town Supervisor one day. 

“As Brendan mentioned it means the world to families like ours when we see blue lights in porch lights and landmarks like this and all around town, it makes us feel less alone in the world. But we still have a ways to go in informing and teaching the rest of the world to be accepting. What you all here are doing just by being here, by spreading the word, by lighting your homes blue, you are all making difference and helping to make people like my boys to be accepted wherever they go.” - Kathleen Lanese, Autism Speaks Long Island Advocate

For the duration of April, giant puzzle pieces, Light bulb shapes and blue lights embellish major landmarks throughout Smithtown, including Whisper the Bull, Town Hall, the Smithtown Parks and Highway Department Grounds. Councilman Tom Lohmann and Parks Director, Joe Arico helped to revive the tradition which began for the first time in April 2015. Councilman Tom Lohmann will be distributing blue light bulbs to residents on a first come first serve basis, out of his office for the month of April. 

Thursday
Apr052018

Amy's Perspective - Minimal Requirements Not Pathway For Improved Smithtown

Communication Concerns – Social Media, Town Meetings, Agendas

There’s got to be a better way!

A commitment to communication together with active listening are essential qualities necessary to improving our community, including residents, businesses and government relationships.  It takes effort and ingenuity to keep Smithtown informed and involved in the administration of our town’s activities and development.  Developing an overall consensus (through a town-wide survey) and then forming a town plan is vital to ensure that Smithtown thrives in the future while appreciating our past and addressing the concerns of our residents.

The funding promised by the State of New York will come to fruition if and when our town provides the Comprehensive Master Town Plan that details our clearly developed intentions.  Realizing the money offered by Gov. Cuomo requires that our town present a plan that reflects Smithtown’s interests and requirements to prosper. These funds need a plan that is formulated and supported by the input of our town’s citizenry.       

Real communication goes beyond providing the minimal, legal requirements.  The effort to inform and interact with Smithtown’s taxpaying residents would enhance our town’s quality of life.  It would be a positive change towards inclusion and meaningful communication.  Our new administration has the potential to improve community relations through social media and enhanced interactive website. This level of commitment to communication, outreach and transparency takes ingenuity and creativity.  

This concern for communication and participation has been voiced on various occasion.  The interest to create a citizen’s advisory board and an open and straightforward process to participate in planning with ‘Smart Growth,’ principles applied for future town development has been stated repeatedly. 

Admittedly, there are regular meetings and legal postings.  The meetings are less than friendly and even occasionally overcrowded whenever too many presentations are scheduled.  The underpopulated meetings are scheduled in the middle of the day (2:00 PM) which makes it almost impossible for anyone who works to attend.  The agenda is published within one day of the board meeting, so it’s hard to review and prepare.  

Some of the agenda’s contents are necessary and detailed, while other issues are not fully explained or represented.  (As an example, legal payments and settlements mention the dollar amounts paid, but there is no description of the lawsuit and the actions taken to correct the problem that incurred the payout.) Regrettably, I discover the actual contents and town issues from print media in THE DAYS AFTER the Town Board meeting.  Clarity, transparency and explanations would be a huge benefit to our town as Smithtown moves forward.   

Commitment to real communication and the dedication to actively listening is possible through the efforts to reach out through various methods.  A user-friendly web site design and social media offer the opportunity to share information, interaction and engagement.  Town meetings could offer a more positive encounter by creating an approachable atmosphere while conducting Smithtown’s local administration.    

Amy Fortunato is a Smithtown resident who ran for Town Council on the Democratic line in 2017.

Wednesday
Mar282018

Amy's Perspective - $300,000.00 budgeted for “Revision of Town Code”

By Amy Fortunato

$300,000.00 budgeted for “Revision of Town Code”

Smithtown has a special charm and unique character on Long Island.  It is clearly an attractive destination.  There are numerous benefits to living and working in this appealing town.  Smithtown is family friendly - a safe community for children adults and seniors to thrive!   Our notable highlights include the exceptional school districts, beautiful beaches and parks situated within our vital historic heritage.  Retail shops and businesses also prosper.  Smithtown’s attractive neighborhoods draw new homeowners and pleases current residents who stay within our charming community. 

Smithtown asserts a pre-Revolutionary foundation.  Our history books describe the impact of the LIRR that brought urban families to our country setting in 1870.  Newly constructed homes and commercial buildings began to populate the countryside within Smithtown’s borders.  It became obvious to the town officials that organization and safety standards were necessary to manage this residential and business growth.   The Building Zone Ordinance of the Town of Smithtown, Chapter 54, (General Code Publishers Corp., Spencerport, NY 14559, 1970) states its purpose:

“A. To guide and regulate the orderly growth, development and redevelopment of the Town of Smithtown outside of the limits of any incorporated village, in accordance with a comprehensive plan and with long-term objectives, principles and standards deemed beneficial to the interests and welfare of the people.  

B. To protect the established character and the social and economic well-being of both private and public property.  

C. To promote, in the public interest, the utilization of land for the purposes for which it is most appropriate.  

D. To secure safety from fire, panic and other dangers, and to provide adequate light, air and convenience of access. 

E. To prevent overcrowding of land or buildings, and to avoid undue concentration of population.  

F.  To lessen and, where possible, to prevent traffic congestion on public streets and highways.  

G.  To conserve the value of buildings and to enhance the value of land throughout the town outside the limits of any incorporated village.”  

Obviously, Smithtown has added many more citizens and businesses to our community since 1970.  Our current context has expanded, BUT these principles retain their value to guide our elected town officials as they move to approve reviewing town code towards changes that allow for further development without drafting, adopting and completing a Comprehensive Master Plan based on a town-wide survey and other various issues that impact Smithtown.  The capital budget includes $300,000.00 for “Revision of Town Code” (2018 Proposed Capital Funding Plan.)  It’s time to revisit our past to inform our future in Smithtown.  

 Amy Fortunato is a Smithtown resident who ran for Town Council on the Democratic line in 2017.

Tuesday
Mar272018

Historic Ebo Hill Destroyed By Fire

The historic Ebo Hill mansion located at 227 Edgewood Ave in Smithtown was destroyed by fire Monday evening. The home dates back to the 1800’s and was home to several families related to the founding Smith (Smythe) family.