12/19/14 12:00pm
Maddie Joinnides, a sophomore at McGann-Mercy, lays out the main design for their Christmas card. (Credit: McGann-Mercy courtesy photo).

Maddie Joinnides, a sophomore at McGann-Mercy High School, works on the Christmas card’s main design.
(Credit: McGann-Mercy High School)

When Bishop McGann-Mercy High School sophomore Maddie Joinnides and her classmates decided to sell Christmas cards to raise money for charity, they had no idea how far the cards would spread across the country.

(more…)

12/18/14 8:00am
(Credit: Paul Squire)

The Greenport Zoning Board of Appeals and Greenport Village attorney Joe Prokop, far right, listen to Mary Bess Phillip’s statement during the board’s meeting Wednesday. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Is North Fork Smoked Fish House in Greenport a retail store or is it a manufacturing plant?

The Greenport Village Zoning Board of Appeals has decided to take another month to figure it out.

(more…)

12/17/14 3:20pm
John and Margaret Skabry demand Tuesday night that the Southold Town Board not allow a shrimp farm to be built near their Peconic home.(Credit: Paul Squire)

John and Margaret Skabry demand Tuesday night that the Southold Town Board not allow a shrimp farm to be built near their Peconic home. (Credit: Paul Squire)

For Margaret Skabry of Peconic, the Town Board’s decision on whether to allow a shrimp farm on the property next to hers should have already been made. The answer, she said, should have been “no.”

“Protect us,” she demanded. “Not someone else’s income.”

In a nearly hour-long discussion with the board Tuesday night that veered from passionate pleas to accusations of collusion, Ms. Skabry and her husband, John Skabry Sr., called for the board to keep shrimp farming away from residential areas.

Another neighbor spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting, briefly asking the board to keep the shrimp farm away from their neighborhood.

The topic came up at a recent board meeting after a Laurel couple pitched an aquaculture plant for Southold Town; a code committee meeting later discussed where the code could be changed to allow such a business.

“It could go in anybody’s backyard,” Ms. Skabry said during one lengthy exchange Tuesday night. “And I tell you, if I see it going up in my backyard, it better be going up in yours.”

But Tess Gordon, owner of the Celestial Shrimp, said the company had just presented before the board and said it was too early in the process to say what properties they might consider to build their facility.

“Right now we’re still working on getting everything going with the town,” Ms. Gordon told The Suffolk Times Wednesday. “Nothing’s really happened yet. I’m really just waiting for the next town code meeting.”

Board members also said the process of determining where to allow a shrimp farm had just begun, and that no decision had been reached yet.

“The process might be clumsy, but it works,” said Supervisor Scott Russell at Tuesday night’s meeting.

In response, Ms. Skabry cited decisions made by previous boards to allow tasting rooms at vineyards as proof that the current board was more concerned with businesses than residents.

“You know you’re going to sneak it in somehow,” she accused. “We’re going to be the prototype for the rest of the town.”

Mr. Skabry used his time before the board to show examples of other shrimp farms across the country. None, he said, were allowed in residential zoning.

He accused the town of “spot zoning” the land next to his property to allow the shrimp farm.

“It’s seems like this code change is tailor made for this property,” Mr. Skabry said, adding that the change gives the facility’s owners “just enough room to squeeze it in.” He said he would continue to do research to “keep this out of my backyard.”

Mr. Russell assured the couple that the board was “listening” to their concerns.

“You’re looking at a board that took 14 months to pass a dog leash law,” he said.

But Mr. Russell did say the town can’t simply forbid the shrimp farming; state law requires the town to allow farming enterprises — including shrimp farming — somewhere in town. The board is now in the process of finding the best place, he said.

“The state is looking for [the town] to accommodate these businesses,” Mr. Russell said. The board seemed open to the idea raised by Mr. Skabry to allow the shrimp farming in industrially zoned areas in town, with some members saying they’d consider it.

Councilman Jim Dinizio said he wasn’t pleased that the shrimp facility owners went to the town board before filing any paperwork with the building department, saying the move circumvented “the process.” But that process, he continued, will go on.

“All we’re doing now is asking questions,” Mr. Dinizio said. “I don’t like the way they presented it any more than you do.”

Mr. Russell said there was a positive to take out of the dispute: the decision by the shrimp farmers to speak to the board got the Skabrys involved and raised valid points that the board will have to address.

psquire@timesreview.com

12/16/14 3:06pm
Reg Tuthill, speaking on behalf of his family, addressed the town Planning Board at its meeting Monday night. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Reg Tuthill addressed the town Planning Board on Monday night. (Credit: Paul Squire)

A never-before-used section of Southold Town code may finally be applied as a tool to address concerns about a local family’s proposal to subdivide land near Orient Village, it was revealed Monday in Town Hall.

The town Planning Board held a public hearing on the Tuthill family’s plan to build a conjoined conservation subdivision using four parcels. (more…)

A teacher holds a stack of letters from military volunteers after Lt. Col. Shawn Fitzgerald's presentation in a Cutchogue classroom Friday afternoon. (Credit: Paul Squire)

A teacher holds a stack of letters from military volunteers after Lt. Col. Shawn Fitzgerald’s presentation in a Cutchogue classroom Friday afternoon. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Earlier this year, kindergarteners and second-graders from classes at Cutchogue East Elementary School decorated and packed small bags with candy to send to Air Force Lt. Col. Shawn Fitzgerald and the rest of the 103rd Rescue Squadron stationed in eastern Africa.

On Friday, they got a very special kind of thank you from Lt. Col. Fitzgerald — whose two sons, Colin and Trevor, are in the classes — and the service members he deployed with.  (more…)

12/12/14 12:00pm
Detective Sgt. John Sinning from the Southold Police Department speaks during Thursday's gang forum in Peconic. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Detective Sgt. John Sinning from the Southold Police Department speaks during Thursday’s gang forum in Peconic. (Credit: Paul Squire)

About 100 people attended Southold Town’s information session about gang activity on the North Fork Thursday night. But even if you couldn’t make it, you can still listen in.

Click below for a full recording of the forum, including statements by Police Chief Martin Flatley, Supervisor Scott Russell and Greenport Mayor David Nyce. The question-and-answer portion of the meeting was also recorded.

Southold Gang Forum:

12/11/14 10:34pm
Police Chief Martin Flatley speaks at Thursday's information meeting on gangs. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Police Chief Martin Flatley speaks at Thursday’s information meeting on gangs. (Credit: Paul Squire)

More cops, more outreach, more communication and more school programs to target at-risk youth.

Those were the main steps to combat the influence of street gangs that Southold Town police, elected leaders and school administrators touted at an informational meeting held Thursday night — about two months after a gang shooting left three injured in Southold.

Police Chief Martin Flatley moderated the roughly 90-minute meeting and detailed some initiatives the police department had taken in response to the Oct. 14 shooting on South Harbor Road.

Chief Flatley said eight newly-hired police officers will patrol the town and an additional officer will be assigned to Greenport Village. One of those officers is from Ecuador and speaks Spanish fluently. Chief Flatley said he believes that officer can help build stronger ties with minorities in town.

“We definitely plan on using him as a liaison to the Spanish-speaking community down in Greenport,” Chief Flatley said.

He added he has continued to meet with East End police chiefs to discuss how to tackle gang activity. Those discussions have led to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office adding another investigator to the East End Drugs Task Force, Chief Flatley said. That new member will gather more intelligence on possible gang drug dealing operations in the area, he said.

Chief Flatley also said his department plans to meet with local community groups.

Greenport Mayor David Nyce said he believes the police department’s response to the shooting was quick and appropriate. He also praised the police and schools for thinking of ways to prevent future gangs.

“These problems didn’t happen overnight,” he said. “They’re not going to be solved overnight.”

The schools will also play a role in the anti-gang efforts, said David Gamberg, who serves as superintendent for both Greenport and Southold school districts.

Mr. Gamberg said he has reached out to Riverhead School District administrators to learn about their Council for Unity program, which encourages students to make good decisions in and out of school.

The Greenport School District is also creating a pilot program in grades 7-8 called Gang Resistance Education and Training, or GREAT, a Department of Justice initiative to prevent students from joining gangs early, Mr. Gamberg said.

Those steps are the beginning of a larger effort to establish relations between the police department and the Hispanic community, many of whom come from a culture in which police are corrupt and aren’t trusted, police officials said Thursday.

About 100 people attended the meeting at the Peconic Community Center, including school board members and Greenport Village trustees. The informational forum featured a presentation on street gangs and how to recognize them by Sgt. Steven Lundquist, an investigator with the Gang Intelligence Unit of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office.

Sgt. Lundquist said the main gangs on the North Fork are the Bloods, MS-13 and the 18th Street gang. Though fewer gang members claim to live on the North Fork compared to areas in western Suffolk County or Nassau County, Sgt. Lundquist said gang members are “transient,” and may come to the North Fork to tour the area, set up criminal enterprises or lay low and avoid police.

The meeting itself was civil, with some residents focusing on the issue of graffiti, gang related or otherwise. Police said all graffiti should be reported to police.

Others asked what more could be done to stop gangs from spreading throughout the town. In response to a comment from the audience that Greenport schools should hire employees who speak Spanish, Mr. Gamberg said the district has several and plans to take select students to a leadership conference so “they can be part of the solution.”

Not all audience members were satisfied with the responses from police and school officials.

One resident, Dorothy Catapano, said she lives down the street from where the shooting occurred. She asked what kind of suspicious activity she should be looking for on her farm’s property.

Police Chief Flatley said residents should report anything suspicious to police, but Ms. Catapano later said she was still unsure of what “suspicious” meant.

“‘See something, say something,’” she said to reporters after the meeting. “But what am I looking for?”

During a question-and-answer session in the meeting, Chief Flatley was asked where the Guardian Angels, a private community watch group, fit into the official plans for action. 

“They’re not under my control,” Chief Flatley said, adding he believes the hiring of eight new police officers adequately addresses patrolling needs.

But he did say he hoped the group would share any information it receives about gang activity with police.

The organization’s founder and CEO, Curtis Sliwa, said the organization will make weekly patrols around the area.

Benjamin Garcia, a Guardian Angels patrol director, told reporters “everyone has their own opinion,” and said his group will continue to patrol the area.

He then spoke with Ms. Catapano and offered her a flier, suggesting the Guardian Angels could patrol near her property or that she could start a Southold chapter.

psquire@timesreview.com