02/28/13 5:06pm
02/28/2013 5:06 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Governor Andrew Cuomo shares his "State of the State" address at Stony Brook University Thursday afternoon.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Governor Andrew Cuomo shares his “State of the State” address at Stony Brook University Thursday afternoon.

New Yorkers will learn from the destruction and disasters in the wake of Hurricane Sandy — and we’ll come back stronger because of it.

So vowed Governor Andrew Cuomo at a “State of the State” address Thursday he delivered at Stony Brook University.

“There was a silver lining to this storm,” Mr. Cuomo said. “You saw New Yorkers coming together to help each other in an unprecedented way … There is such power in that unity, there is such strength in that unity.”

He delivered the speech hours after he presented his plan for the coming year to an audience in Brooklyn.

Mr. Cuomo also described his plans for increased investment in start-up businesses, women’s equality legislation, and more and better education for New York children.

Here are some of the highlights of Mr. Cuomo’s proposals:

• Mr. Cuomo proposed adding more schooling for the state’s children, including pre-kindergarten for all New Yorkers.

Although he supports increasing time in the classroom so students can learn more, he said it would be up to each district to determine whether they would make school days longer, make the school year longer, a combination of both, or to leave their year the same length. Mr. Cuomo added the state would pay for “100 percent” of the initial costs for extended education in the state’s districts.

• He will work to raise the minimum wage to $8.75 per hour, saying the current minimum wage of $7.25 is not enough to sustain a working family and was less than surrounding states.

“It’s the right thing to do, it’s the fair thing to do, it’s long overdue in my opinion,” Mr. Cuomo said.

• He will not seek to raise taxes this year, to change the stereotype of New York being a “tax capital.” At the same time, he said he would close the $1 billion budget deficit by finding “efficiencies in the state government.”

• The key to economic success for New York state is to build regional economies, Mr. Cuomo said. Long Island, he added, is a much different economy than those in Buffalo or Rochester. He said he would continue work on the state’s Regional Development Council program and propose business incubators to entice students and entrepreneurs to start businesses in the state.

• Mr. Cuomo praised the state’s decisions to legalize gay marriage and enforce stricter gun controls, saying the state had a responsibility as a “progressive” state to lead the way on social issues. He proposed a “women’s equality act” which would close the gap between men’s and women’s salaries, introduce zero-tolerance rules against sexual harassment, fight workplace discrimination due to gender and protect abortion rights.

The audience gave the governor a standing ovation after he announced the plan.

• The state will dump in more than 3 million cubic yards of sand to restore the Long Island’s beaches damaged in superstorm Sandy. Mr. Cuomo said the beaches will be reopened by Memorial Day.

• Mr. Cuomo proposed “hardening” state utility systems to prevent future incidents like the gas shortages after Sandy and widespread power outages.

• Mr. Cuomo said the state will fund buyouts for homeowners who wish to leave flood-threatened areas. Homes will be purchased back at pre-storm prices, he said.

• The state will work to provide grants to local municipalities that need funds to make storm repairs and improvements, Mr. Cuomo said.

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02/28/13 3:39pm

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Friends of Ashley Murray gathered near Southold High School Thursday to organize a search party for their friend, who has been missing since Monday.

Plans to search under bridges and along the waterfront for missing Peconic teen Ashley Murray have been altered, as Southold Police have asked the group organizing the search party to instead focus their efforts on handing out fliers.

More than 40 local residents met across the street from Southold High School at 3 p.m. Thursday with plans to participate in the search.

Brianne Catapano, 18, a friend who organized the search and created the Facebook page “Ashley Come Home,” said police feared a search party could contaminate evidence and believed they would be more helpful if they handed out fliers.

Ms. Catapano said she made 500 fliers and an additional 2,000 fliers were donated to her.

The searchers then broke up into small groups, which will head to different hamlets nearby to hand out fliers this afternoon.

After Ms. Catapano made sure everyone received copies of the missing person report, she headed to Greenport to ask business owners to post the flier in their windows.

“I didn’t think this many people would show up,” Ms. Catapano said. “I’m very happy about the turnout. It’s been very hard. I haven’t gotten much sleep. I hope she’s found.”

Ashley, 16, has been missing since 8 a.m. Monday, police said.

Her mother, Charlotte Murray, learned of her daughter’s disappearance after receiving a call from school officials who told her social workers got word from students who had received texts from Ashley that said she would kill herself. Her mom later found a note from her daughter, which she called a “suicide note.”

Southold Police initially employed a marine patrol, its canine unit and a Suffolk County Police helicopter to perform a physical search Monday morning, but later focused their investigation on the possibility that she may have left the area. They then ended the active local search Monday afternoon and began to concentrate on examining phone and computer records, and interviewing close friends and family, police said.

Police did not release an official missing person report until Wednesday morning, more than 50 hours after Ashley’s disappearance. Law enforcement officials said Ashley’s case does not fit criteria for an “Amber Alert,” since she is not believed to have been abducted.

Many of her friends and classmates have said they were out searching locally this week for their friend, who they said was often bullied in school.

Ashley is 5-foot 4-inches and 140 pounds with reddish-brown hair and blue eyes, her mother said. She was last seen wearing red sweatpants “four sizes too big,” black boots and a zip-up sweatshirt with a hood, Charlotte Murray said. Police added that she has a scar on her right wrist and wears hearing aids in both ears.

Anyone with information should contact Southold Police at (631) 765-2600. Information will remain confidential.

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02/28/13 3:00pm

GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | Mega Millions winner Kim Chilton (center) with Showcase Wine and Liquor owner Corinne Ferdenzi and store employee Will Burkard.

Kim Chilton was feeling bummed when she couldn’t accompany friends on a trip to Mohegan Sun earlier this month.

Instead, she planned a quiet night at home with her husband and a bottle of wine. While visiting Showcase Wine and Liquor on North Road in Southold that evening, she purchased a Mega Millions ticket, figuring she’d try her luck another way.

She did better at the liquor store than she probably would have at the casino.

Ms. Chilton, a mother of three from Southold, was one of two people to purchase a second place-winning ticket for the Feb. 1 Mega Millions drawing, earning her a $250,000 prize.

“I started shaking,” she said of the experience of learning she was a winner. “I was in disbelief.”

And it almost didn’t happen at all.

The store was busy at the time Ms. Chilton asked to play a $5 quick pick. Distracted, store clerk Will Burkard initially handed her a ticket for just $1. He then corrected his error and handed her a second ticket with four more sets of numbers. The winning numbers 1-30-32-40-41 (she could have won $13 million if she’d also had 17 for her mega ball number) were on the top line of the second ticket, which she pinned to a bulletin board in her house.

Even after she heard through a friend that one of the winning tickets was purchased locally — the other was sold in Michigan — Ms. Chilton waited a week before verifying her numbers. She said she was later reminded when she saw an article on suffolktimes.com.

“I saw the story and I saw that it was purchased [at Showcase],” she said. “I thought, ‘Hmm, I better check that out.’”

A substitute aide in the Southold School District and an adviser for the high school’s robotics team, Ms. Chilton was so wrapped up in preparing for the club’s competition in April that she waited another whole day after reading The Suffolk Times article before logging on to the lottery website to check the winning numbers.

She immediately walked the winning ticket to her husband, Ed, and asked him if he’d heard there was a local winner.

“I was still shaking when I showed him,” she said.

Ms. Chilton said her children told her they were happy something so nice could happen to parents who have dedicated much of their lives to helping their kids.

She said she still plans to use the money — she received $165,000 after taxes — to pay off her children’s educations. Her daughter, Kerry, and oldest son, Charles, are already enrolled in college and Kerry plans to attend law school later. Her youngest son, Tim, is also headed for college once he graduates from Southold.

Ms. Chilton has tried to keep a low profile since she won, but said word spreads quickly in such a small town.

That’s a big reason why she was nervous when a blizzard struck the day after she discovered she’d won. Her accountant advised her not to tell a soul that she was in possession of the winning ticket until after the snow cleared and she could safely exchange it at the lottery’s regional office in Garden City.

Even that exchange provided an interesting experience. Ms. Chilton said the lotto staff greets you quietly as you enter the building and doesn’t verbally congratulate you in the lobby. Instead, a woman there gave her a thumbs up and handed her paperwork.

“You sit there and quietly fill it all out,” she said. “It’s like filling out a job application.”

They then ask you to pose for photographs with the ceremonial check before cutting you the real one.

“I headed straight for the bank after that,” she said.

It was a whirlwind many Showcase Wine and Liquor customers hoped they’d get the chance to experience after word spread that the store sold the winning ticket.

But one man, who store owner Corinne Ferdenzi said purchased his ticket minutes after Ms. Chilton purchased hers, later said he hoped he hadn’t bought the winner. That’s because the man told Ms. Ferdenzi he couldn’t find it.

“I told him, ‘Don’t worry about it, we already know who the winner is,’” she said. “He was relieved.”

A casual lottery player, Ms. Chilton said she felt there was no way she’d picked a winner the day her friend told her it was bought in town.

“We even joked about it and then I forgot all about it,” she said. “I was busy with robotics.”

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02/28/13 1:00pm
COURTESY PHOTO  |  The greenhouse at Trimble's of Corchaug Nursery was one of a handful to fall on the North Fork during the blizzard.

COURTESY PHOTO | The greenhouse at Trimble’s of Corchaug Nursery was one of a handful to fall on the North Fork during the blizzard.

As the flakes flew during the February 8 blizzard, many North Forkers stared out their windows to watch more than a foot of snow fill their driveways.

Anne Trimble and Nancy Leskody had a different perspective from the second floor of their home next to the nursery they own on Main Road in Cutchogue. All they could see was a blanket of snow growing thicker atop their 40-year-old greenhouse.

“It just kept snowing and snowing and snowing,” Ms. Leskody said. “It got very heavy. Then it buckled and came crashing down.”

COURTESY PHOTO | Trimble’s owners Anne Trimble (left) and Nancy Leskody with employee Gerry Leskody inside the collapsed greenhouse.

The greenhouse at Trimble’s of Corchaug Nursery was one of a handful to fall on the North Fork during the blizzard — and among more than 250 in the Northeast to collapse, according to reports.

The weight of the snow was just too much for the older, gutter-connected aluminum-framed greenhouse to handle.

“Because of the way it collapsed, it was still partially standing,” Ms. Trimble said.

While no plants were damaged, Trimble’s did lose benches, pots and shelving. The storm also destroyed their PA system.

Ms. Leskody said the toughest part of the ordeal was losing a space that she viewed as both an office and a sanctuary.

“That was my work space,” she said. “I was definitely emotionally connected to it. It was bittersweet.”

Bitter because the structure was the only one remaining from when Ms. Trimble and Ms. Leskody bought the business in 1991. Sweet because it will be replaced with a new, more energy-efficient greenhouse.

That structure will be 3,000 square feet, less than half the size of the original, but will feature a stronger steel frame with a clear front panel enabling passersby to see the inventory from the roadway.

The new greenhouse will serve more as a retail showroom than as a growing space. Most of the stock will continue to be grown in smaller “cold houses” at the nursery.

Ms. Trimble said she expects the entire process of taking down the old greenhouse and building the new one to take between six and eight weeks. It’s expected to be ready soon after Trimble’s reopens for the season March 25.

That’s good news for customers who feared the nursery might close when they saw the old structure collapse.

“When people are calling, saying, ‘Please stay in business,’ that really affects you,” Ms. Leskody said. “We don’t plan on closing for a long time.”

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02/28/13 12:00pm

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Superstorm Sandy caused significant damage to the parking area at Veterans Memorial Park in Mattituck.

The parking lot at Veterans Memorial Park beach in Mattituck took the pounding surf head-on all day and night when superstorm Sandy struck in October and the damage is still readily apparent to anyone who stops by the usually peaceful park on Peconic Bay.

A chain-link fence sprinkled with No Trespassing signs cuts across the parking lot. Beyond it, the asphalt is so heaved up and cracked it looks as if an earthquake hit instead of the remnants of a hurricane.

Down the beach, an entire section of bulkhead has washed out, leaving just the pilings, and metal tie rods that held them in place, exposed on the beach.

Mattituck Park District commissioner Nick Deegan said this week that he doubts the park will be ready to open in time for Memorial Day Weekend, since the district is currently awaiting engineering diagrams of how to repair the beach.

He said the park district expects FEMA will reimburse some of the cost of repairing the damage, which he estimated at upwards of $100,000.

FEMA has already paid $1,400 for the fence across the parking lot.

“The parking lot is under review as to whether we should resurface it as is or rebuild the end of it,” Mr. Deegan said. “We already had been in talks with an engineering firm on drainage in the parking lot. Now, of course, with the storm damage, it becomes even more urgent.”

Mr. Deegan said the bulkhead on the west side of the beach had been deteriorating for years, but during the hurricane it completely washed through.

“The storm got to it before we got to it,” he said.”

The park district had already paid a contractor to do an initial site cleanup, but Mr. Deegan said the landscaping and a small fence in front of the park building were torn out during the cleanup and must now be replaced.

A large cylindrical cement mooring found during the initial cleanup is also still sitting in the parking lot.

Mr. Deegan said he’s been in touch with Group for the East End about holding a beach grass replanting session later this spring.

“It was a nice growth, years of growth,” he said of the beach grass that had grown there. “It’s bare now.”

Mr. Deegan said the park district’s other beaches — Breakwater Beach and Bailie Beach on Long Island Sound — were not badly damaged by Sandy, though some debris did wash up. He expects they’ll both be open in time for the summer.

But for Veterans Memorial Park, “Memorial Day is going to be a stretch,” he said, adding that the best he can hope for is completion of repairs some time in June.

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02/28/13 8:00am

A screenshot of the Facebook page called Ashley Come Home.

Marshall McLuhan coined the term “global village” in 1962 to describe how our world was being transformed by electronic technology and its ability to carry information anywhere in an instant. Could he have envisioned back then how accurate his assessment would prove to be five decades later?

Did he imagine the rise of the Internet and the more recent phenomenon of social networking? The evolution of the specific systems is less noteworthy than his accurate description of the direction we were headed.

For proof, look no further than this week’s search for a 16-year-old Peconic girl who went missing after she left home Monday morning but never made it to school. The case is following two non-parallel tracks: the police investigation and the sharing of information and comments on social media. With the exception of issuing a missing persons report, investigators are conducting their search in relative quiet. That’s standard police procedure — and it works. But in the age of Facebook, there’s a not entirely separate approach that deputizes virtually anyone with a computer, tablet or smart phone.

Will that help the investigation? It’s too early to tell. Will it hinder the search? We certainly hope not, but this is uncharted territory, on the North Fork at least, and there are no real local precedents to refer to.

Given all the fear and anxiety surrounding the disappearance, it comes as no surprise that many online commenters are taking what appear to be unjustified pot shots at the police. But this is not “CSI” or a similar television show where each case is wrapped up in less than an hour. Police work is often quite time-consuming and rarely provides immediate results. On Tuesday, Southold Town police took the unusual step of issuing a missing persons report with the type of poster — bearing the girl’s name and photo — usually associated with more suburban and urban settings. And that’s where social media can provide valuable assistance.

Did anyone see her, hear from her, receive a text from her? That’s the type of information needed to help find Ashley Murray and, we hope, return her safely home.

Keep Ashley in your thoughts and prayers with the hope that police and their digital deputies can bring the case to a happy conclusion.

02/28/13 6:00am
KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO  |  The town may soon have a say on dogs on the beach, such as this one taking a dip at Goose Creek in Southold.

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO | Some readers have taken exception to the idea of dogs being required to have a leash at all times on beaches.

To the editor:

I just got back from a walk with my dog. It’s a sunny day. This winter is going to end! We were alone on the beach where we usually go.

She ran and ran and ran. She ran in circles. She ran on ahead, leapt over objects in her path, swept on in a wide circle and zoomed back to me, grinning. Then off again. She really needed some exercise.

What will I do if I cannot let her off leash at appropriate times and in appropriate places? There is just no way I can give her enough exercise without somewhere to run free.

What would I have done when I first adopted her?

She came from New Orleans after Katrina. She was so frightened, and she was going to be euthanized. The North Fork Animal Welfare League rescued her and we adopted her. We were warned that all the Katrina dogs wanted to escape, to run, run, run.

I found this beach. It’s almost surrounded by water, then wetlands, then a very quiet road. I let her off the leash. She ran, and it was that running that brought her back to life. That plus clean air, good food and a safe new home.

In New York City, dog owners and non-dog owners have found a mutually agreeable solution. Dogs may be off leash in the parks before 9 a.m. and after 9 p.m.

Surely we can work something out in Southold.

Venetia Hands, Orient

To the editor:

I applaud Dawn Bennett’s Feb. 21 letter, “A ridiculous law.” Most dogs, like most people, are social animals and adapt well to social situations. Sometimes, however, people unknowingly provoke dogs to behaviors that people deem inappropriate, and sometimes otherwise considerate dog owners fail to pick up their dogs’ droppings.

But this does not mean that we need laws treating all dogs as though they were mad. Rather, we need avenues for informing the public about canine behavior and about responsible dog ownership. The knowledge thus promulgated could make life easier and healthier for both human and canine citizens.

Dogs make many valuable contributions to human life. In addition to the widespread joy in having them as pets, dogs provide a safety net in homes. They assist the police and the military, they assist the blind and they often give greater solace to the elderly and the ill than do other humans.

It’s only reasonable that the Town Board acknowledge the needs of dogs and create means for the fulfillment of those needs.

Maureen Sanders, Orient

To the Editor:

Dogs leashed at all times on the beach? Install cameras to shame the offenders? Huh?

Things have changed a great deal around here over the years. There are more humans from elsewhere, retirees with a cause, with ideas for improving things in their narrow scope of vision. But dogs are part of the fabric of the human experience, as are cantankerous, griping complainers. I have experienced far more negative behavior from humans than from dogs on the beach or elsewhere.

Back off and let dogs and their owners be, and let the Town Board weigh matters of real consequence.

Woof!

Jack Gismondi, Peconic