National Recognition for Coltrane Home’s Needs

In the photo (l-r): Ravi Coltrane, Steve Fulgoni, Councilman Mark Mayoka, Town Historian Robert Hughes, Councilwoman Susan Berland, and Wendy Nicholas and Brent Leggs from the National Trust for Historic Preservation

The Town of Huntington issued this release:

The home where jazz legend John Coltrane lived and wrote his most important work, which the Town of Huntington saved from the wrecker’s ball six years ago, has been included on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2011 list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, a move that the Town hopes will encourage private contributions to help restore the building and transform it into a museum and learning center.

“This recognition by the National Trust for Historic Preservation reaffirms on a national stage what this home represents: a symbol of the extraordinary contributions of one of America’s foremost musicians, composers and contributors to music here and throughout the world,” said Councilwoman Susan Berland, who sponsored the resolution that led to the 2005 purchase of the structure. “But this endangered symbol needs support now to keep its potential alive. I call on those from around the world who urged the Town to prevent the home’s demolition to come forward with the financial support that will make the home a living monument and preserve John Coltrane’s legacy.”

Berland and Councilman Mark Mayoka participated in the National Trust’s announcement about the home. They were joined by Steve Fulgoni, head of Friends of the Coltrane Home, the group charged with managing the home, restoring it and establishing programming, as well as by Wendy Nicholas of the National Trust. After a brief program, Coltrane’s son Ravi, who spent his first seven years living in the home, led a tour of the building, which was built in 1952, purchased by John and Alice Coltrane in 1964 and still retains its original architectural features.

John Coltrane, who died in 1967, wrote his most important work, A Love Supreme, in a second-floor guest room.

In 2003, when Fulgoni, a Dix Hills resident and Coltrane fan, learned a developer was seeking permission to demolish the house to make way for three new houses, he contacted the Town and initiated a worldwide grass roots effort to save the house that included support from persons such as Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock and Bill Cosby. Working closely with the community, and in recognition of this historic symbol of one of the World’s greatest musical influences, the Huntington Town Board agreed to first designate the Home as a local historic landmark in 2005, and then purchased the Home. The Town Board placed the home with the Friends of the Coltrane Home, and has helped the Friends by committing to help maintain the property while the Coltane Home members and Coltrane family assembled the necessary plans for the Home’s future.

“The Town Board and all Huntington residents take great pride in the fact that John and Alice Coltrane lived here, that we played some small part in their very influential lives, and remain committed to protecting the legacy that this Home represents,” Councilman Mayoka said. Although they could not attend the announcement, Supervisor Frank P. Petrone and Council Members Mark Cuthbertson and Glenda Jackson sent word of their support.

The Coltrane Home project is more than just the restoration of the house of one of the world’s great cultural icons. It is an effort to fulfill the Coltranes’ vision of goodwill, interconnection and creativity through the common language of music. It will create a museum, archives and learning center, celebrating the Coltrane’s music and influences, provide an outreach center for music education, appreciation, creativity and participation for students and adults through and schools and community.

Friends of the Coltrane Home is working with the NYS Historic Preservation Office and others to complete a study and Master Plan for the Home to create a museum and archives. Friends of the Coltrane Home has been awarded a $38,810 grant from the New York State Historic Preservation Office and a $5,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for preparation of a historic structure report (total cost of the report will be $75,000). The group is also planning to establish programs in schools and communities to encourage music appreciation, participation and creativity, beginning with the Kids for Coltrane pilot project, National Black History Month, and performance workshops for students and educators.

Persons seeking more information about the Coltrane Home should contact Friends of the Coltrane home at www.thecoltranehome.org, or call Fulgoni at 631-860-9200.

Group Plans Town Board Suit

Flag over Main Street

In a fitting tribute to Flag Day, the national celebration that commemorates the adoption of the stars and stripes as the official banner of the Revolution, more than fifty Huntington residents gathered in the VFW Hall last night to hear plans about a lawsuit soon to be filed by The Greater Huntington Civic Group against the Huntington Town Board.

Citing their rights under Article 78 of the New York Civil Practice Law, Civic Group spokesman and president Steven Spucces said that the Town Board has “over-stepped its authority” by approving the recently passed zoning change for the proposed Avalon Bay development on East 5th Street in Huntington Station.  Spucces also said that the Avalon Bay proposal is too dense and is the “wrong project, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons.”

Unwilling to reveal the details of the suit, Spucces also declined to identify the Group’s legal counsel but told the gathering that the Town Board is banking on the fact that the association has limited financial resources. That brought a passionate reaction from the audience who spent considerable time recommending fund raising campaigns and volunteering to enlist friends and neighbors for the grass-roots effort.

Offering further support for the emerging backlash against last week’s Town Board decision, conference participant Jennifer LaVertu , an outspoken critic of the Town’s current administration, cited recent information from New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announcing the launch of the Suffolk County branch of his Public Integrity Bureau.  The new office, which opened its doors in Hauppauge on June 13, is charged with the responsibility of investigating complains about public officials and employees. After LaVitru’s announcement, Spucces was quick to add that there is no inference of public corruption in LaVirtu’s statement.

When asked to summarize The Greater Huntington Civic Group’s primary objective, Spucces said that they are energetic to “restore checks and balances to local government.”  Spucces also observed that there are many small civic associations in the Town and that The Greater Huntington Civic Group is reaching out to them in an effort to coalesce many small factions into a single cohesive, consortium.  “The problem is in Huntington Station today” but it might be in Greenlawn or East Northport next year, he continued.  “We have to work together.”

Spucces is planning monthly meetings and is vigorously seeking additional members.

Historical Footnote:  Flag Day was created by resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777. The United States Army also celebrates the Army Birthday on this date.  Congress created the American Continental Army after reaching a consensus position in the Committee of the Whole on June 14, 1775

Suits Seek to Force LIPA to Drop Assessment Challenge

News Conference to Announce Challenge to LIPA Assessment Suit

The Town of Huntington released the following:

The Town of Huntington and the Northport-East Northport School District announced today that each has filed a suit against the Long Island Power Authority and National Grid, charging that the utility companies violated a 1997 agreement when they started litigation last October challenging the assessment on the Northport Power Plant.

In papers filed in State Supreme Court in Riverhead, the Town and the School District note that in June 1997, when LIPA took over the sale and delivery of electricity from the Northport plant from the Long Island Lighting Co., it agreed not to challenge the assessment on the plant unless the assessment was increased out of proportion to any capital improvements there. In particular, the suits cited an August 6, 1997 letter from Richard Kessel, then LIPA’s chairman, to Huntington Supervisor Frank P. Petrone in which Kessel stated, “In the future, there will be no appeal or litigation of any assessment on the Northport facility unless Huntington Town singles out LIPA, LILCO or Brooklyn Union Gas property for reassessment, thus increasing the assessment separate and apart from other properties located within the Town.”

Since the Town has not increased the plant’s assessment since 1997, the suits LIPA and National Grid filed in October 2010 seeking to reduce the plant’s assessment by 90 percent directly violate that 1997 agreement, the Town and School District alleged. The Town and the School District asked the court to declare that the utility companies are  in violation of that agreement; to issue an injunction prohibiting any further action on LIPA and National Grid’s suits; and to award the Town and School District damages for the expenses incurred in fighting those suits, including the costs of hiring outside counsel and experts.

“Aware of the terms of the agreement between LIPA and LILCO, the Town upheld its end in not raising the assessment on the plant,” Supervisor Petrone said. “It is unfortunate that the Town is forced to seek a court order requiring LIPA and National Grid to do the same. However, the Town has no choice.”

“The Northport Power Plant has long made the Northport-East Northport community its home.  Faced with this devastating decrease to its tax base, the Northport-East Northport School District has no choice but to commence action against LIPA, National Grid and all of the entities that have operated under the terms of the various agreements concerning the Northport Power Plant.  These entities made promises and representations to the School District, which were made for the benefit of the School District and its residents,” said Board of Education President, Stephen W. Waldenburg, Jr. on behalf of the Board of Education of the Northport-East Northport Union Free School District.

The filing of the suits is the latest in a series of actions the Town and School Board have taken since LIPA filed the suit that, if successful, would result in tens of millions of dollars in property tax hikes for Huntington Town residents generally, with the heaviest impact on property owners in the Northport-East Northport School District.

Among the actions already taken was the formation of a website, www.stoplipataxhike.com, to raise awareness and educate residents about the devastating effects a successful LIPA property tax challenge would have and the distribution of “Stop The LIPA Tax Hike” lawn signs. The Town Board also created an Assessment Advisory Committee, composed of representatives from Town government, taxing jurisdictions in the Northport area and area business groups, including the Village of Northport, the Northport/East Northport School District, the Northport/East Northport Library District and the Northport and East Northport Chambers of Commerce.

“We are using all of the options at our disposal to fight this improper attempt to dig into the pockets of Huntington taxpayers,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson said. “We’ve gone to the public, we’ve gone to the courts, and we plan to go to Gov. Cuomo and ask him to rein in this move by a public agency that is not in the public’s best interest.”

LIPA’s suit contends that the Northport plant is worth less than eleven percent of the value reflected by its current assessment, on which LIPA plays a total of roughly $70-million in property taxes.  In addition to serious increases in Countywide and Police District portions of tax bills, Town of Huntington residents broadly would experience tax increases of up to 10 percent.   The Northport-East Northport school and library districts are looking at a whopping 50 percent tax increase.

Under an agreement between LIPA and National Grid, tax savings from an assessment reduction would be passed on to National Grid and its shareholders.

“The Town has always acted responsibly and fully honored its part of the 1997 agreement, said Councilwoman Susan A. Berland. “The Town and the School District expect LIPA to do the same and we are confident that the court will require LIPA to live up to its obligations.”

“We, along with the Northport-East Northport School district, are committed to vigorously pursuing this lawsuit against LIPA and National Grid. The 1997 agreement between LIPA and LILCO clearly prohibits any type of tax grievance to be filed over the Northport plant. I join my colleagues and the Northport-East Northport School district in full support of this lawsuit,” said Councilwoman Glenda Jackson.

“This is one of the many steps that need to be taken to protect the taxpayers of Huntington. In this time of economic crisis, our residents can ill afford the tax increase LIPA and National Grid seek to impose. It is enough that residents have had to spend more on their utilities. They do not deserve this double whammy,” Councilman Mark Mayoka said.

The Huntington State Legislative Delegation — Senator Carl L. Marcellino, Senator John J. Flanagan, Assemblyman James D. Conte and Assemblyman Andrew P. Raia  — said in a joint statement:  “If ultimately successful, LIPA’s move to challenge their property tax assessment would have a crippling, long term effect on the Town’s taxpayers.  If LIPA is having a hard time making ends meets, how do they think the residents of Huntington feel?  We continue to call on LIPA to drop the challenge and put the needs of their customers ahead of their bottom line.  The Town should be commended for leaving no stone unturned in fighting this ill conceived LIPA tax dispute.”

Councilman Mayoka Reflects on the Death of Bin Laden

Councilman Mark Mayoka

As we approach the tenth anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks of September 11th, the day of worldwide epic commemoration occurred on May 1, 2011, when Osma Bin Laden was declared dead.

As a survivor of the September 11th World Trade Center disaster, a decade has passed… but the world was never the same and we, the survivors have never been able to find inner relief. The horrific memories of the attack on our homeland never disappeared. Families were never the same and still mourn their missing loved ones. Terrorists from the other side of the world made us, as Americans, question our resolve and security.

The death of Osma Bin Laden demonstrates the strength and perseverance of a country, in a world with extreme terrorists, who swore to never give up after being so vehemently attacked in our homeland.  This cathartic moment for the United States of America symbolizes our unity and strength.

It is now been ten years later, the towers are gone, the monuments are being built and the children of the victims are grown up. The fear of the unknown, the uncatchable has been eliminated and justice is finally served.  I know personally, I can go to sleep tonight with a sense of relief to know that my children are in a world that is finally a safer place to live.

I would like to thank President Obama and President Bush for having the determination and for never giving up, so that we may live with a little more peace in our hearts.

I would also like to thank our firefighters and police officers that serve us and our armed forces. Their sacrifice  has protected our lives and liberties. Those are the heroes that we need to be grateful for and thank today. God Bless the United States of America!

Conte Awards Gold in Huntington

(from Left to Right) Senator Carl Marcellino, Gold CoastLeadership Award recipient Patricia Grant from Gundermann & Gundermann, Inc and Assemblyman Jim Conte.

Assemblyman Conte issued this release:

Assemblyman Jim Conte (R,I,C,WF-Huntington Station) recently attended the first annual Gold Coast Awards presented by Melville Chamber of Commerce and Gold Coast Bank.  The event  honored 36 business leaders and entrepreneurs who have had a tremendous impact on the local economy and have helped strengthen the community.

(From Left to Right) Senator Carl Marcellino, Michael DeLuise; President, Melville Chamber of Commerce, and Assemblyman Jim Conte.

During the event, Assemblyman Conte and Senator Marcellino presented the award recipients with official  legislative citations.