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Tuesday
Jun252019

Smithtown Acquires New Minivan To Serve Residents With Disabilities

Smithtown, NY:  The Town of Smithtown Senior Citizens Department has acquired a new minivan to use as a transportation service for those with disabilities who have no other means of transportation. This new minivan, plus the existing bus, is available to serve residents in the township with disabilities who are over the age of 18.

“Think about the average Long Island resident, living in a suburban home… We rely on our automobiles to take us everywhere. Thanks to this service, all adults living with disabilities will have the same means. This service will immediately enhance the quality of life for Smithtown people living with disabilities.” - Supervisor Ed Wehrheim 

The Senior Citizens Department currently provides low-cost transportation to seniors over the age of 60 for essential services like doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, and bank visits. The addition of a disabilities minivan will help individuals over the age of 18 to live more independently. The vehicle is intended to make travel to essential services more flexible in transporting residents within the township.  

“Transportation can be one of the biggest obstacles for individuals living with disabilities. We do not want any of our residents to feel like they are cut off from the community. This indispensable service provides accessibility and mobility to all our citizens living with disabilities.” - Councilwoman Lynne Nowick

Residents who wish to utilize this resource are encouraged to contact Michelle Musso at the Office for People with Disabilities at 631-360-7642 at least one week in advance of the requested transportation date. The service operates Mondays through Fridays, excluding town holidays. Regular operating hours are 9AM-3:30PM, while summer operating hours are 9AM - 2:30PM. 

Tuesday
Jun112019

Smithtown Recreation Offering Small Group Swimming Lessons

Celebrating our 60th season!!! The recreation department is proud to be offering summer swim lessons at The Smithtown Landing Country Club. Based upon the highly successful model of small group instruction and the Red Cross’ time-tested curriculum, the Recreation Department’s Swim Program has classes for children from 4- years old through the early teenage years. While safety is of primary concern, the different class levels are designed to meet each child’s abilities and to challenge them to progress. The lessons are made enjoyable by incorporating fun activities to reinforce the water skills and to produce confidence.

The Town program offers two 3-week sessions through July and early August and there are 3 different 50- minute classes each weekday morning. (See the Recreation Department’s Summer booklet/Swimming Lessons for details). While many classes have a “limited enrollment”, there are still openings at the different times and levels. You can register youngsters on-line at: www.smithtownny.gov (then follow the links) or
at 
https://apm.activecommunities.com/smithtown

Monday
Jun102019

Memories Of Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio

Memories of Patrick Vecchio

By Jerry Cimisi

Patrick VecchioPatrick Vecchio was the supervisor of Smithtown for forty years; no supervisor in the history of New York State has ever served any municipality in that position that long. He was defeated in a Republican primary in September 2017 by the councilman who would become his successor, Ed Wherheim. Vecchio passed away at the age of 88, this past April.

Vecchio’s prior police and security work apparently inclined the Democratic party of Smithtown, where he had been living for ten years, to approach him about running for supervisor in 1977. In an interview with Gary Jacobs on the Public Access show Long Island Back Story in early 2017, Vecchio said after working with people in the political arena when he was in the New York City Police Department, he thought he’d take a shot at it, “Not knowing what a supervisor is or what a supervisor does…not knowing what this job entails.”

Vecchio won that 1977 election by only 67 votes, defeating incumbent, Republican Charles Cacciabaudo. It was the first time a Democrat had been elected to the town board in 16 years. Forty years later Vecchio would be on the wrong side of a close election; first returns showed he lost his party’s primary by 40 votes. A recount doubled that figure (83 votes, precisely), but certainly still a close contest.

Vecchio related he had sought “to lead by example. If I ask my secretary to bring me a pen, she brings me one pen.” The “example” apparently being that one uses just enough for a task, and no more. “I have strived to keep taxes on the town’s side stable. The majority of resident’s taxes come from the schools; in Smithtown you’re paying only $732 for town services. Our taxes have actually gone down in 2017 and we have a Triple A bond rating.

Smithtown Town Board named Town Hall Patrick R Vecchio Building 2016When asked where he sees Smithtown going in the future, he replied, “Slow and steady growth, and not overburdened with taxes.”

At this point Vecchio was certainly planning to run again for supervisor. Queried as to “What drives you to keep running?” the supervisor replied, “Belief in public service. As long as I’m able I’ll continue.”

After decades as a successful office holder, he was asked if he considered himself a politician. Vecchio responded with “I would say yes, in the sense that someone once defined it as politics is the art of government.”

But he added his perspective on governing: “The less politics is in government, the better.”

The township of Smithtown, which also comprises Commack and St. James, had a population of 116,668 in the 1980 census, two years after Vecchio took office. Thirty years later, the 2010 census showed only slightest increase, to 117,801. It is a predominantly white community, with the three biggest ethnic groups being Italian (35%), Irish (26 %) and German (18.7%). While there has been building and development growth, like many other areas on Long Island, there indeed has been a “slow and steady” aspect to Smithtown under Patrick Vecchio.

Journalist Karl Grossman, who founded the Press Club of Long Island and was its first president, remarked that Vecchio’s focus on not having the town shoulder any debt left downtown to languish, though he in general he saw Vecchio as “a good guy.”

Patrick Vecchio providing security for President and Mrs KennedyIn the 1950s, Vecchio worked for the NYPD’s Bureau of Special Services, and performed security detail for international leaders, such as Charles De Gaulle and Pope Paul VI, as well as Richard Nixon, John F. Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower. Vecchio would remember being introduced to Eisenhower in a Waldorf Astoria elevator. It was a thrill for the young detective to shake the president’s hand. And there’s a photo of thirty year old Vecchio walking along a car from which Senator John Kennedy and wife Jackie wave to the crowd during the presidential campaign of 1960.

Grossman added that Vecchio had worked closely with the security attachment for New York Mayor John Lindsay. “You could see the admiration Vecchio had for Lindsay. I would say he lionized Lindsay; so I think of lot of Lindsay rubbed off on him, which was good, as I saw it.”

Grossman said, “At one point when Vecchio was supervisor, there were four out of five Democrats on the board. Eventually, in ‘89, Vecchio wanted to run for Suffolk County supervisor, but Dominic Baranello, the Chairman of the Suffolk County Democratic Party, wanted Pat Halpin to run; that’s what caused Vecchio to switch to the Republicans.”

(Halpin was county executive from 1988-’91 and is currently the Chairman of the Suffolk County Water Authority.)

Vecchio made a run for county executive in 1991, but lost his new party’s primary. He never made another run for any other office save Smithtown supervisor.

Brad Harris was a social studies teacher at Commack High School who was appointed by Vecchio to be Smithtown Town Historian in1978, following Vecchio’s first election victory. He soon served as the campaign manager for Democrat Tom Boyle, who was defeated in a bid for town council. The following year Harris ran for town council on the Democratic ticket, and won a close election by sixty votes.

“The election was so close that with the recounts, the decision was not determined until February,” Harris said. Harris would serve from 1980-1992 on the town council.

“I worked on the town board with Vecchio for twelve years,” said Harris. “He was feisty, a true fighter. At the same time, he had the ability of making enemies into friends.” Harris cited Vecchio’s combative relationship with Councilman Eugene Cannatore. “After four years there was a thawing out and they became friends.”

A lot of history in the room. Supervisor Vecchio, lifelong resident of St. James 103 year old Marie Sturm and Town Historian Brad Harris. Photo by Kathy AlbrechtWhen describing how he viewed Patrick Vecchio’s legacy in Smithtown, Harris said, “He made town government more open and responsive to people than previous supervisors. When positions in the town became available, if there was not a civil service requirement, it’s up to the supervisor to fill the position. Vecchio believed the position should be filled based on merit, not whom the party recommended.”

Harris added, “Pat Vecchio was always tight with a buck; so tight it was said he squeaked. That was how he thought he had to manage the people’s money. When any department presented him with a request to raise its budget, they’d better have a good reason.”

Asked if Democrats were surprised at Vecchio’s switch from their party to become a Republican, Harris said, “No, they were surprised he’d been a Democrat in the first place.”

Harris added, however, in his perspective, party affiliation seemed “just a matter of labels. At one time there were three Democrats on the board out of five seats, then four out of five, but it didn’t seem to make any difference to me in day to day politics.”

On a very personal level, Harris recounted how “Vecchio accommodated me. He changed hours of the town board meetings in the afternoon so I could teach a full schedule at the high school, then I’d race from Commack to Smithtown and be just in time for the two o’clock meeting.”

Harris saw Vecchio’s departure from his long-held supervisor’s position as “a lot to do with age. At the end he could barely make it to the podium sometimes. So there was the sense in some people’s eyes that he’d become too old for the job. Younger men come up through the system. Ed Wehrheim [Smithtown’s current supervisor] had been head of the Parks Department, and had worked hand in glove with Vecchio; they’d been the best of friends. But when Ed threw his hat in the ring to challenge Vecchio in his own party, that ended that.”

photo submitted by Tony Giordano -Citi Field dugout, according to Tony,” Patrick Vecchio was not happy to have to go to the dugout in the rain” Rich Schaffer, Ed Maher , Tony Giordano and Arizona D’Back player Bronson Arroyo Pat Biancaniello, editor of Smithtownmatters.com, who served on the town council from 2006-2009 as a Democrat, remarked, “My relationship with Pat Vecchio was complicated.”

A former President of the League of Women Voters of Smithtown, and a regular observer of town board meetings, said she met Vecchio in the late ‘90s. “We didn’t agree on a lot of things, but I admired and respected him. And cared about him; we were friends.”

Then in 2009 Biancaniello challenged Vecchio for the supervisor’s position. “I could’ve stayed on the board—where I was the only Democrat and only woman—but I felt that those running the town were not interested in what I considered important.”

At the time Biancaniello related to Newsday the town had a $49 million surplus that some portion of which should be applied to infrastructure maintenance and repair. 

She went on, “When I first ran for town council, I said we needed an update on Smithtown’s Master Plan.” Apparently that plan was still not formed by the time Biancaniello ran, unsuccessfully, for supervisor.

“It took a long time. It was completed around 2011-’12, presented to the public, then put on the back burner. Now Ed Wehrheim is handing it over to an outside firm to come up with a new one. Not having a Master Plan enabled Vecchio to maintain the status quo.”

“I have to say Pat Vecchio was incredible, in that he knew your name the second time you met him, asked about your family. He seemed to retain everything. Again, I have to say I liked him.”

She added a further insight into Vecchio’s personality. “On the town’s 350th anniversary, Brad Harris asked me to write a speech that Vecchio would give.” But apparently the supervisor had to make the words more his own. “He told me later, ‘I made some grammatical changes to it.’”

Echoing Town Historian Harris, Biancaniello said, “Pat Vecchio ruled with a tight fist. He was on top of everything.”

Patrick R Vecchio learns Ed Wehrheim won the primaryIn describing Vecchio’s last election, his defeat in the 2017 Republican primary, Biancaniello said, “I was with Pat when he got the news he lost. Politics was no surprise to him; he knew it more than anyone. Pat was responsible for Ed Wehrheim’s rise in the town board; Pat held that council seat for Ed until he retired from the Parks Department. Then there was a big rift between them. You know, Pat Vecchio’s narrative was always it’s his way or no way.”

And Biancaniello put Vecchio’s loss down to, simply, politics. “Pat was a very independent guy. Bill Ellis, the Smithtown Republican Chairman, never got along with Pat, though Pat Vecchio always had the support of those who got out the votes. John Zollo was set to challenge Pat; Zollo dropped out and Wehrheim replaced him. The thing is, Ellis had all the proxies—in other words, people gave him their vote to vote how he wanted. So that’s how Wehrheim beat Vecchio.”

Perhaps the ultimate question is: Did Supervisor Patrick Vecchio leave Smithtown a better place. Biancaniello said, “Smithtown was well served by Pat Vecchio. Yes, I think he made it better. The way you look at is the desirability of the town? Would you like to live here? It’s safe, we have parks, beaches, and good fiscal management.”

 

Monday
May202019

St. James Celebrates Designation As Cultural Arts District

Community Gathers to Mark the Celebration of an Official Cultural Arts District Along Lake Avenue in St. James

“There has always been something about St. James that has fostered community pride. It was and is a place where people have come together in the past and still do… it is a place where, no matter who we are or what we think, we always share one commonality – we love our hometown.” - Natalie Weinstein

Ribbon cutting celebrating Cultural Arts District in St. James (photo by Nancy Vallarella)On Sunday May 19th, Celebrate St James hosted State, County and Town Officials as well as local residents at the Lake Avenue Gazebo to commemorateits designation as an official Cultural Arts District.  The ceremony included a custom artwork unveiling by local artist Arline Goldstein and a ceremonial toast and ribbon cutting. The ceremony was led by Natalie Weinstein of Celebrate St. James.

“An artist looks at life around him or her and sees something that most of us can not… They see colors on a blank canvas, they see the finished product looking at a blueprint. They hear a song in their heads reading sheet music… They see potential. They see an extraordinary future. As we cut this ribbon today, I ask that you take a moment, find your inner artist… And Imagine the Potential.” - Supervisor Ed Wehrheim

Celebrating the arts was NYS Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (seated) The Town Board voted unanimously on April 25th to declare an overlay cultural arts district along Lake Avenue in St James. The district encompasses Lake Avenue from Route 25A (at the St. James Firehouse) on the north end down to Woodlawn Avenue on the south end. The next steps will involve the appointing of a Cultural Arts committee, to work within the community to foster and attract local artists, musicians, cultural and entertainment businesses.

The Cultural Arts District is intended to highlight the arts, cultureDance Magic Ballroom Dancers (655 Middle Country Rd, St James) Lexi Andrea, Marianne López, Yelena Mirsakova, Tricia Toback, Gregg Toback, Saket Kashettiwar, Steve Bennett, James Tase, Carolyn Brooks and entertainment for residents and visitors alike, creating much needed attractions, tourism and foot traffic along the St James small business district.  

Monday
May062019

Town Kayak/Canoe And Ramp Permits Now Online

An Easy and Convenient Way to Purchase Permits

(SMITHTOWN, NY:)  The Town of Smithtown Town Clerk’s office is pleased to offer residents the option of purchasing Ramp, Canoe or Kayak permits online via www.smithtownny.gov. Residents have the opportunity to securely pay for the permits online using a credit card (Mastercard, Visa, Discover) a Debit Card or Electronic Check.

“I am so pleased to announce this convenient service for our residents in time for the Summer season. It is part of a greater effort to reduce the time residents have to spend waiting on lines for permits, and allows them the ease of access of filing for permits from the comfort of home.” - Vincent Puleo, Town Clerk

The online process includes filling out a simple required information field and uploading any necessary documents, (i.e. proof of residency, current boat registration in the name and address of the Smithtown resident.) There is a $1.75 convenience fee added to allow for online processing. Once the order is complete, the Town Clerk’s office processes the request and the permit is mailed directly to the resident.

A Boat Ramp Permit costs $45.00 and allows the holder to use any of the three boat ramps located in Smithtown (two ramps at Long Beach, and one ramp at the Kings Park Bluff). To obtain a permit, one must show a current boat registration in the name and address of the Smithtown resident. Permits are issued for the registered vessel.  

A Kayak/Canoe Permit costs $7.00. Permits are required for small crafts such as canoes, kayak, dinghies, paddle boards and rubber rafts, that are walked down to the water. Proof of residency is required.

Residents are still able to come to the Town Clerk’s office and purchase permits in person. To Apply Online; visit the Town Clerk’s Town of Smithtown Recreation Portal at SmithtownNY.gov or by typing “Recreational Permits & Licenses” in the search bar on the town home page. For questions or assistance about online permits contact the Town Clerk’s office at: (631) 360-7620