Tag Archive | "Governor Andrew Cuomo"

Sag Harbor Board of Education Critical of Governor’s Proposed Reforms for Teachers

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By Tessa Raebeck

In response to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed education initiatives, one of which would require that half of the measurement of whether a teacher is good at his or her job be based on students’ test scores alone, the Sag Harbor Board of Education expressed its concerns over the state’s reliance on state tests.

In January, Governor Cuomo gave New York’s legislators an ultimatum: pass his package of education reforms and see the state’s schools receive an additional $1.1 billion, or 4.8 percent, in funding, or fail to pass his reforms, and see that increase drop to 1.7 percent.

At the center of his reforms is teacher evaluation.

“Everyone will tell you, nationwide, the key to education reform is a teacher evaluation system,” the governor said in his State of the State address in January.

As the school board’s legislative liaison, board member Tommy John Schiavoni visited Albany on March 15 and 16 for the New York State School Boards Association Capital Conference. The conference was organized to enable school board members to lobby state legislators and “effectively advocate for [their] school district and students in Albany and at home,” according to NYSSBA.

At the Thursday, March 12, board meeting Mr. Schiavoni said he would “of course focus on funding” at the conference, urging legislators to reduce mandates, especially those that are unfunded; fully fund public education; and repeal the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), a formula criticized by legislators and schools boards alike that was created to close a state budget gap five years ago, yet continues to take state aid away from some school districts.

“And if they do make us use outside observers,” Mr. Schiavoni said, referring to the specialists who would be sent into “failing” schools, “please give us money to do that.”

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., an Independent, and State Senator Kenneth LaValle, a Republican, introduced legislation to repeal the GEA in February.

School board member Diana Kolhoff, an education consultant and former math teacher, said she was particularly concerned with testing accounting for 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation.

“As an educator, I know evaluative testing has value,” she admitted, adding that she believes “50 percent is going to drive instruction toward test prep—and I think it’s a bad idea.”

Weighing a teacher’s merits as an educator “so heavily on one event” is unfair, Ms. Kolhoff added.

“It is ridiculous,” agreed Chris Tice, the board’s vice president. “It just puts more pressure on that single test being the only measure of effectiveness…. It’s very unhealthy. This increased anxiety-ridden testing environment that the governor’s creating and ratcheting up—I don’t think it’s healthy for students.”

“We’re reading articles about less and less people wanting to become teachers in New York State,” she continued, attributing that to a political climate in Albany that seems to be “hostile” towards both teachers and children.

Enrollment in teacher education courses has declined drastically over the last five years. In New York State, there were nearly 80,000 students registered for teaching programs during the 2009-10 school year, yet only about 62,000 in 2011-12, representing a 22 percent decline in two years. The drop has continued over the past years in New York and other large states like California and Texas, but is not uniform in all states across the country, according to data collected by the U.S. Department of Education.

The next meeting of the Sag Harbor Board of Education is Monday, March 23, at 7:30 p.m. in the library at Pierson Middle/High School.

Thiele Proposes Legislation to Eliminate GEA, Give State Aid Back to Schools

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By Tessa Raebeck 

In order to fill a shortfall in its budget, five years ago New York State began deducting aid money from its school districts through the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA), a formula loudly criticized by educators, school boards and districts across the state.

Now, state Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. of Sag Harbor has introduced legislation to repeal the GEA. His bill is co-sponsored by State Senator Kenneth LaValle and supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Originally enacted to close a $10 billion state budget deficit in the worst years of the recession, the GEA has reduced education aid to New York’s schools by nearly $9 billion in the five school years since its inception in 2010. Schools in New York receive less state aid now than they did during the 2009-10 school year.

Although East End schools do not typically receive large amounts of state aid, the GEA has cost Sag Harbor more than $400,000 over the past two years.

The GEA was introduced by former Governor David Paterson when state legislators developing the budget realized New York’s anticipated revenue did not cover expenses, resulting in a “gap” between the money the state was taking in and the money it needed to operate. The GEA was created to fill that gap by essentially passing the financial burden onto the state’s school districts.

Assemblyman Thiele, who serves on the Assembly’s Education Committee and did not vote in favor of the reduced education aid when it was originally proposed five years ago, said on Tuesday that the financial issues used to promote the GEA are no longer facing the state, and thus its elimination this year is both incumbent and timely.

“I voted against it then because I didn’t think we should be taking money away from education, but now we’ve gone from a deficit to over a $5 billion surplus, so there really is no excuse for continuing the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which is a continuing cut in state aid for the local school districts,” he said.

“Continued state aid loss due to GEA reductions will continue to erode the quality of education school districts can provide. The state cannot continue to pass along its revenue shortfalls to local school districts,” the New York State School Boards Association said in a statement against the GEA, adding that the losses have resulted in “detrimental cuts to personnel, the educational program, services and extracurricular activities” as well as the depletion of reserve funding in districts across the state.

School district officials in both Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor regularly lament that the reduction in state aid has come at the same time as rising costs and the tax levy cap, a law enacted under Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2011 that limits school districts and other municipalities from raising property taxes by district-specific formulas that take into account variables like the Consumer Price Index.

“At a time when New York State has the dual goals of freezing property taxes and improving the quality of education, it is imperative that we provide a level of state funding that is equal to the task,” Assemblyman Thiele said in a press release on the bill.

In a statement taking a strong stance against the aid reduction, the Board of Cooperative Educational Services said, “Several years into the educational funding crisis, many school districts are finding that they have few options left to preserve programs and services that students and families count on.”

The amount taken from each school district is determined annually by a calculation that leans harder on wealthy districts, so suburban schools on Long Island and in the Hudson Valley are, in general, adversely affected by the reduction more than those in New York City.

Last year, Long Island enrolled 17 percent of New York’s students, but received only 12 percent of state aid for education.

“It’s more important to us than it is to the city school districts,” said Assemblyman Thiele. For suburban legislators from Long Island and the Hudson Valley, he said “the number-one priority for education for us is getting rid of the Gap Elimination Adjustment.”

In the 2013-14 school year, the Sag Harbor School District had some $241,000 in state aid taken away through the GEA, according School Business Administrator Jen Buscemi. This year, the district lost $171,395 in aid it otherwise would have received.

“The bottom line,” Assemblyman Thiele said, “is that this issue is going to get resolved one way or another as part of the school aid package that we do with the budget, that hopefully will be done  before April 1.”

In January, Governor Cuomo announced he would not release his school aid figures unless the legislature adopts his package of educational reforms. He agreed to grant an additional $1.1 billion, or 4.8 percent, in funding to New York’s schools if and only if the legislature passes his reforms, but threatened to limit that increase to 1.7 percent if they are not met.

State Aid for Sag Harbor Uncertain as Governor Cuomo Holds Education Budget Hostage

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By Tessa Raebeck

With Governor Andrew Cuomo holding school aid in limbo in hopes of forcing the New York State Legislature to adopt his educational reforms, next year’s school budgets—and educational mandates—remain a mystery to school boards and administrative teams trying to prepare for the 2015-16 school year.

“What the governor is doing is he wants to push his reform package,” Tommy John Schiavoni, legislative liaison to the Sag Harbor Board of Education, said at Tuesday’s meeting.

In January’s State of the State address, Governor Cuomo agreed to grant an additional $1.1 billion, or 4.8 percent, in state funding to New York’s schools if and only if the legislature passes his reforms. If the legislature—which, divided between a Democratic-controlled Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate, is often at a standstill—fails to do so, the governor threatened to limit that increase to 1.7 percent. In the meantime, those crafting school budgets must play a guessing game without direct information on how much state aid they’ll receive.

“He has publicly said that if he doesn’t get it, they’re going to hold back money from education,” Mr. Schiavoni said of the governor.

The reform package proposed by the governor includes teacher evaluations with 50 percent based on standardized tests, a proposal rebuked by the state’s teachers unions.

“I think that is certainly something that will affect us [and the annual Professional Performance Review] we’ve developed in Sag Harbor,” said Mr. Schiavoni.

Governor Cuomo is also requesting a five-year tenure plan to “make it easier to discipline teachers,” Mr. Schiavoni said. If enacted, the governor’s plan would make it easier for teachers to be fired and harder for them to be granted tenure.

Other reforms the governor is compelling the legislature to adopt include: raising the number of charter schools in the state by 100 and requiring those schools to accept less advantaged and lower-scoring students; starting a pilot pre-K program for 3-year-olds; sending specialists into schools that have been designated as “failing” for three years; and creating an education tax credit for private, public and charter school donations.

The governor’s office will not release the final financial numbers until the budget has passed, which could be as late as April 1. School districts, in turn, must tell the state comptroller’s office whether they plan to pierce the state tax cap, enacted in 2011, by March 1, at which point they could be missing information vital to understanding next year’s finances.

In other school board news, Superintendent Katy Graves said the district has accepted the i-Tri program, a self-empowerment group in which middle school girls focus on building confidence, mental health and physical stamina over six months, culminating with the girls racing in a triathlon in July.

The program was expected to be voted on by the board on Tuesday, but did not end up requiring a vote because there are no longer any transportation costs associated with it.

Theresa Roden, director and founder of i-tri, “has such a wealth of volunteers that are willing to come from the community into the school building that it’s become a facilities use agreement,” Ms. Graves said.

There are no costs for the district, but the program will use Pierson’s facilities and the administrative team, who will help i-tri with the selection process, which favors girls who are not involved in interscholastic sports.

Pierson Middle School Vice Principal Brittany Miaritis said the school is dispensing a survey for i-tri this week to “figure out girl selection for the program.”

The board’s next meeting is Monday, February 23, in the Pierson library. A budget workshop will be held at 6 p.m. followed by the regular meeting at 7:30 p.m.

New York Ballots Will Include Proposal to Bond $2 Billion for Technology in Schools

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By Tessa Raebeck

At the polls November 4, New Yorkers will vote on whether or not to authorize the state to issue and sell $2 billion in bonds to support statewide technological improvements.

The proposal, the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014, was brought up at the Sag Harbor School District’s Board of Education meeting on Monday, October 20, by board member Tommy John Schiavoni, the school board’s legislative liaison.

If approved, the money raised would be used for various projects related to purchasing educational technology equipment and facilities, such as laptop computers, tablets and high-speed internet; constructing and modernizing facilities to accommodate pre-kindergarten programs and replacing classroom trailers with permanent instructional space; and installing high-tech security features in school buildings.

The measure was proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and backed by members of both parties in the State Legislature, including local representatives Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Senator Kenneth P. LaValle.

Supporters of the proposition argue students belong in classrooms rather than trailers and children are better prepared for modern careers when they learn in a setting that is technologically up-to-date. Opponents, however, say the measure would add to New York’s already substantial debt and that it is impractical for the state to borrow money to fund technology that will soon become obsolete in a rapidly changing industry.

Sag Harbor voters will have the opportunity to answer yes or no to the $2 billion bond in Proposal 3 on the November 4 ballot.

 

Videotaping Pilot

Also at Monday’s meeting, the school board discussed the progress of the six-month pilot program to videotape its meetings for online access.

“I understand that the videotape of the board meeting from September 29 is unavailable,” Noyac resident Elena Loreto said to the board.

Board of Education President Theresa Samot said the video was unable to be posted “due to technical issues.”

“It was all garbled,” explained Superintendent Katy Graves.

“There was a problem with the display and the video itself,” added Chris Tice, vice president of the school board.

School board member Sandi Kruel noted there have been fewer people in the audience at meetings since taping began, which was a concern of the board when the initiative was first considered. She added the district does not have control over LTV, the East Hampton television studio that airs the recordings, and cannot direct when those recordings are posted.

“It’s just kind of out there like we’re trying to hide something and it’s very offensive,” Ms. Kruel said of the missing September 29 video.

“This is a new process for all of us and that’s why we set this up as a pilot and we were very clear about that when we set forth,” added Director of Technology Scott Fisher, who is in charge of the program. “So, we’re trying to work out some of the technical issues associated with it.”

Mr. Fisher said he currently delivers the memory card of the recordings to LTV in person, which can result in delays in how quickly they are available online.

“They do a lot with a really small crew of people,” added Mr. Fisher of the LTV staff.

“The meeting that didn’t go up was a result of the video camera just not focusing,” he said, adding that at the last workshop they filmed the meeting from a different angle.

“It was still a problem but not as obvious, that’s why tonight I’m not using that video camera anymore and we switched to an iPad to see if we’ll have better results…we’re working all this out so I appreciate your patience,” Mr. Fisher continued.

“We proactively ask for your continued positive support even if there are some technical errors…our staff is doing the best we can having these new added responsibilities on their plate,” added Ms. Tice.

Members of the Pierson High School Student Council attended Monday’s meeting to thank the board for its service before School Board Recognition Week, which is October 27 to 31. Council President Colleen Samot, board President Theresa Samot’s daughter, Vice President Zoe Diskin, who is the daughter of board member David Diskin, and Secretary Claire Oppenheimer thanked the board for its “unending commitment, dedication and countless hours [spent] supporting the students of Sag Harbor School District.”

Governor Cuomo Deafeats Teachout in Democratic Primary

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By Mara Certic

Although New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo decisively won the democratic gubernatorial primary on Tuesday, September 9, his opponent, Zephyr Teachout, led many of the polls on the East End.

Governor Cuomo won the primary with 62.1 percent of the vote, Ms. Teachout, a law professor in New York, received 34.2 percent.

According to unofficial results from the Suffolk County Board of Elections, in East Hampton Town,  Ms. Teachout received 307 votes, while only 207 East Hamptonites voted for Governor Cuomo. Last week, Betty Mazur, the vice chairwoman of the East Hampton Democratic Committee, sent out an e-mail blast endorsing Ms. Teachout and criticizing Governor Cuomo for his unfulfilled promises and particularly for his lack of response to local problems with PSEG Long Island.

According to the board of elections, Governor Cuomo took Suffolk County with just under 55 percent of the vote, while Ms. Teachout received almost 43 percent. According to the BOE, 16,030 out of 296,315 eligible voters, or 5.4 percent, turned out to vote.

In the Town of Southampton, Governor Cuomo beat out his opponent by just five votes, receiving 450 to Ms. Teachout’s 445. Ms. Teachout also proved popular on Shelter Island, where she received nine more votes than the incumbent governor.

Ms. Teachout, a constitutional and property law professor at Fordham University, announced she was running “to lay out a bold vision and provide a real choice for voters,” according to her website. Her running mate, Tim Wu, is a law professor at Columbia University.

“We are not Albany insiders, but we believe Governor Cuomo and Kathy Hochul can be beat, and must be challenged. We will force Governor Cuomo to defend his record of deep education cuts, his tax cuts for banks and billionaires, his refusal to ban fracking and his failure to lead on the Dream Act,” their website reads.

The 2014 New York gubernatorial election, pitting Governor Cuomo against Republican Rob Astorino, will take place on Tuesday, November 4. For questions about voter registration or polling places in Suffolk County visit suffolkvotes.com or call (631) 852-4500.

Nessel Brothers To Be Honored at Montauk Dinner

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By Stephen J. Kotz

Richie and Jacob Nessel will be the honorees at the annual Montauk Harbor Old Timer’s Dinner, hosted by the Montauk Chamber of Commerce, on Thursday June 5, at the Clam and Chowder House at Salivar’s from 5 to 8 p.m. The two brothers have made their living fishing in Montauk for over 50 years. They own their own boats and have also worked on various charter and party boats in the hamlet.

Richie Nessel, who captains the “Nasty Ness,” recently received the Chester Wolf IGFA Sportsman Award at the first annual Shark’s Eye Tournament, which is a tag-and-release event to promote conservation of sharks. He was also instrumental in easing this year’s New York State fishing regulations and catch limits, specifically addressing the summer flounder restrictions in the state compared to neighboring states.

To do, he reached out to Governor Andrew Cuomo and invited him for a day of fishing on his boat. That resulted in the governor learning of the unfair regulations and a change in the daily bag limits by the Department of Environmental Conservation, which will have a positive impact on charter and party boat business in Montauk Harbor this summer.

Jacob Nessel began fishing in Montauk with his dad in 1951. By 1955, as a 15-year-old, he was already working as a deckhand on Montauk party boats on weekends and summer vacations. Captain Jake spent the next 15 years running the Marlin 3, 4 and 5.  His own charter boat, “Sportfisher,” fished in 1994 and 1995. Since 1996 he has captained the Marlin5/Ebb Tide.

Tickets for the event are $40., which includes dinner with wine or beer.  The evening begins at 5 p.m. with a roast of both brothers. Tickets are available at the Montauk Chamber of Commerce office, or by calling (631) 668-2428. Tickets can also be purchased online by going to www.montaukchamber.com, scrolling to the “Events” tab and using PayPal or a credit card to purchase a ticket.

New York State Regents Delay Full Implementation of the Common Core Until 2022

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State Education Commissioner Dr. John King, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and Regent Roger Tilles at a forum on the Common Core in December.

State Education Commissioner Dr. John J. King, Jr., Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch and Regent Roger Tilles at a forum on the Common Core in December. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

Following criticism from Governor Andrew Cuomo, on Tuesday the New York Board of Regents delayed the requirement that schools fully implement Common Core learning standards until 2022.

The regents also reversed their stance on a measure that would have allowed teachers to defend themselves should they face termination due to students’ low test scores.

On Monday, the state regents proposed 19 measures to address issues with the Common Core, a set of educational learning standards mandated by the state. Governor Cuomo issued a statement on Tuesday saying the action was “yet another in a long series of roadblocks” in the implementation of new statewide educational standards. On Wednesday, the board tabled its recommendation to delay teacher evaluations until April, although the other 18 measures were passed.

As it stands, teachers who receive a rating (calculated by a formula largely dependent on students’ test scores) of “ineffective” or worse for two consecutive years can face termination, even if they have tenure. The measure would have allowed teachers to defend their jobs on the basis of the poor implementation of the Common Core.

Education Commissioner John J. King, Jr. and the regents have faced harsh criticism for the Common Core rollout, which opponents said was haphazardly implemented without proper training, instructional materials and correlations between what is tested and what students actually know.

“We have listened to the concerns of parents and teachers,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch in a statement released Monday. “We’ve heard the concerns expressed at the hearings and forums, and we regret that the urgency of our work, and the unevenness of implementation, have caused frustration and anxiety for some of our educators, students and their families.”

The board delayed the requirement for high school students to pass Common Core-aligned English and math exams at the “college and career-ready” level in order to graduate. The full implementation will now be effective for the class of 2022, rather than the class of 2017 as originally planned.

The measures will also reduce local testing in a few ways, the board said, including the elimination of  local standardized tests in kindergarten through second grade.

The board also delayed the launch of data collection by inBloom, a third party data warehousing company hired by the state to house students’ scores and private information—an especially criticized aspect of the implementation.

“The implementation of the higher standards has been uneven,” admitted Commissioner King, “and these changes will help strengthen the important work happening in schools throughout the state.”

The board also asked the legislature to fund a three-year, $545 million Core Instructional Development Fund aimed at “providing increased professional development for Common Core implementation, and to provide increased funding to reduce field testing, allow for the release of more test items, and support the development of native language arts assessments for English Language Learners.”

Congressman Tim Bishop, State Senator John J. Flanagan, State Senator Kenneth LaValle, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Assemblyman Anthony H. Palumbo at the 10th annual Regional Legislative Breakfast Saturday, February 8.

Congressman Tim Bishop, State Senator John J. Flanagan, State Senator Kenneth LaValle, Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Assemblyman Anthony H. Palumbo at the 10th annual Regional Legislative Breakfast Saturday, February 8. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

Prior to the regents’ announcement, local legislators and school officials gathered at the 10th annual Regional Legislative Breakfast to discuss the state of education. Hosted by the Longwood Central School District and Eastern Suffolk BOCES, the discussion largely centered around the detrimental effects of the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) on schools and how to eliminate it.

The GEA was created in 2010 to partially reduce a $10 billion deficit in the state budget. Pushing the burden from the state to public schools, a formula was devised to calculate an amount to be taken away from each district’s state aid.

During the 2011-2012 school year, the GEA was used to allocate an unprecedented $2.56 billion statewide cut in aid. Under the GEA, New York public schools have lost a total of $7.7 billion, or about $2,895 per student.

Centereach High School student president Sim Singh asked the officials what the legislature’s plan is to abolish the GEA and “to meet the state’s financial commitment to fund public education.”

“The battle with this will be with the governor and it will be in the assembly,” replied Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr.

Regardless of party, all legislators in attendance expressed their commitment to lobbying for the complete elimination of the GEA.

Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent for the Sag Harbor School District, watches a presentation at the Regional Legislative Breakfast February 8.

Dr. Carl Bonuso, interim superintendent for the Sag Harbor School District, watches a presentation at the Regional Legislative Breakfast February 8. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

According to the legislators, Long Island is disproportionately affected by the GEA. Long Island enrolls 17 percent of the state’s students, but receives 12 percent of aid.

“I think,” said Senator Kenneth LaValle, “we’ve got to not only protect what we have, but we’ve got to push back on other regions of the state who may want a disproportionate share.”

Since the start of the GEA, Suffolk County alone has lost $185 million in state aid, or $734 per pupil. Sag Harbor has lost $934,584 and Bridgehampton has lost $308,874.

On Long Island, a total of 3,908 school positions have been eliminated during the three years of the GEA. Long Island schools are receiving less state aid this school year than they received in 2008-2009 ($2.54 billion vs. $2.62 billion).

UPDATE: Town Declares State of Emergency; Nine Inches of Snowfall on the East End

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A backyard pool in East Hampton Friday morning.

A backyard pool in East Hampton Friday morning. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

UPDATE Friday 11 a.m. 

Nine inches of snow fell in Bridgehampton overnight, according to Joey Picca of the National Weather Service. Light snow is ongoing and over the next hour, locations on the East End could see another half inch of snow.

“For the most part,” said Picca, “intensity is winding down and we expect that trend to continue for the next hour or so.”

Winds coming from the north and northwest remain strong and gusty, and the already fallen powder will continue to be blown around throughout the day. The wind chill is expected to remain at anywhere from 0 to -5 degrees throughout the afternoon.

The Town of Southampton has issued a blizzard warning, effective until 1 p.m. Friday.

The South Shore of Suffolk County is under coastal flood advisory Friday from 7 p.m. to midnight. The northwest region of Suffolk County has been issued a coastal flood warning, from 9 p.m. Friday until 2 a.m. Saturday.

All town offices in Southampton and East Hampton are closed Friday due to inclement weather. Many businesses in Sag Harbor and throughout the towns remain closed.

East Hampton Town is still urging residents to stay off the roads and has prohibited parking along public roadways. Any parked vehicles may be towed. Emergencies should be reported via 911 and storm-related non-emergency calls may be directed to 907-9743 or 907-9796.

A man walks down Main Street in Sag Harbor Thursday afternoon.

A man walks down Main Street in Sag Harbor Thursday afternoon. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

 

UPDATE Thursday 6 p.m.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell has declared a State of Emergency, effective 4 p.m. Thursday.

The town is urging residents to refrain from driving during the storm and has prohibited all parking along public roadways. Parked vehicles may be towed.

The LIE (Long Island Expressway) and other major roads will also be closing at midnight due to hazardous conditions, Governor Cuomo announced Thursday.

Southampton Town has declared a limited state of snow emergency, effective at 3 p.m. Thursday. All town facilities and government offices will be closed starting at 6 p.m. and remain closed on Friday, January 3.

The Sag Harbor School District has closed all buildings and cancelled all sports and other activities for Friday, January 3 due to the weather.

All East Hampton Town Senior Citizen programs at the Fireplace Road Facility and the Montauk Playhouse scheduled for Friday have been cancelled.

For non-emergency police calls related to the storm in East Hampton Town, contact 907-9743 or 907-9796.

 

Original Story

A blizzard warning has been issued for Suffolk County starting at 6 p.m. this evening and ending at 1 p.m. Friday. The East End can expect to see up to 10 inches of snowfall, according to Tim Morrin of the National Weather Service’s Upton, New York forecast office.

Most of the snowfall will occur tonight after 7 p.m., Morrin said. A steady, heavy snowfall is expected to start this evening and continue overnight and into tomorrow morning, with a total of eight to 10 inches of snow accumulating.

By Friday at noon, the snow “should be nothing more than a flurry,” Morrin said.

Following the blizzard, the National Weather Service expects the weather Friday to be extremely windy and “dangerously cold,” with the wind chill temperature dropping below zero.

Sustained winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts of up to 45 mph are forecast.

On the roads, East End residents can expect “rapidly deteriorating conditions tonight and into tomorrow morning,” according to Morrin.

Road conditions will remain hazardous tomorrow afternoon, as the windy conditions will likely blow additional snow into the road and add density to the already fallen snow.

Although Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to shut down the Long Island Expressway or any other major highways, his New York City Press Office said the governor is projecting road closures.

“Blowing, drifting snow can make travel difficult and dangerous,” Governor Cuomo said in a press release issued Wednesday, “so I encourage citizens to exercise caution if they have to leave their homes.”

“We recommend,” he added, “that everyone in potentially affected areas utilize mass transit and take steps to safeguard against frigid temperatures. Keep a close eye on the weather, follow any instructions issued by local emergency officials, and check on your neighbors and family members.”

The Suffolk County Department of Public Works has been salting all county roads since early this morning and will continue to monitor and respond to conditions.

The Emergency Operations Centers for both New York State and Suffolk County are open.

All storm-related non-emergency police calls in Suffolk County can be directed to 852-2677.

The New York State Department of Transportation provides a travel advisory system with frequently updated reports. To access it, dial 511 by phone or visit 511ny.org.

Southampton Rally Remembers Sandy Hook Victims, Protests Lack of Federal Legislation a Year After Tragedy

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Gun control advocates in front of Congressman Tim Bishop's Southampton office at Sandy Hook Remembrance Rally Saturday.

Gun control advocates in front of Congressman Tim Bishop’s Southampton office at Sandy Hook Remembrance Rally Saturday. (Tessa Raebeck photo).

By Tessa Raebeck

A year after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut took the lives of 20 first graders and six school employees, New York State has some of the toughest laws on gun control in the country.

But with no legislative action yet taken on the federal level, groups advocating for gun control are continuing their fight for safety laws.

Chanting “We will not forget!” members of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, States United Against Gun Violence and Organizing for Action, an advocacy group supporting President Obama’s legislative agenda, held a Sandy Hook Remembrance Rally outside Congressman Tim Bishop’s Southampton office Saturday afternoon.

Decked in hats, gloves and posters, a group of 17 advocates for gun control braved the snow to honor the victims, survivors and families of the Sandy Hook tragedy, commemorate the actions of Governor Andrew Cuomo and Congressman Bishop in the past year and call on legislators — particularly at the federal level — to do more.

Sue Hornik from States United Against Gun Violence and Sag Harbor’s Jackie Hilly, of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, spoke at the rally. They called for closing background check “loopholes,” banning military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, making schools safer and increasing access to mental health services.

“While sadness can be unbearable,” Hilly told the crowd, “it should also serve to embolden us to speak out against gun violence.”

The event marked the one-year anniversary of the school shooting at Sandy Hook. After Hilly and Hornik spoke, those in attendance read the names of the 26 victims, along with personal anecdotes, and rang a bell after each reading.

Ann Howard from Cutchogue read the name of Dylan Hockley, a six-year-old killed in his classroom who had “beautiful eyes and a mischievous grin” and “a love of bouncing on trampolines.”

Hilly thanked Governor Cuomo for making New York the first state to take decisive action after Newtown. The AR-15, the assault weapon used at Sandy Hook, can no longer legally be purchased in New York. Banning such weapons was one of the provisions of the New York SAFE Act, which was proposed by Governor Cuomo and adopted by the state legislature in January, less than a month after the tragedy.

“Now with the new regulations that were adopted in New York State,” explained Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., “if we don’t have the most stringent gun control measures, we’re in the top two.”

State Senator Kenneth LaValle agreed New York has some of the strongest gun control laws in the nation.

“Right after Sandy Hook I think there was a sense of purpose, because young people were killed — senseless murder — in an elementary school by an individual who had mental health issues,” said LaValle, “ and indeed in every one of these mass shootings, the shooter has a mental health issue.”RaebeckSandyHookRally2

The SAFE Act established provisions to help identify individuals with mental illnesses and correlate reporting of such illnesses with reporting of firearm ownership. Under the new law, a gun owner living with someone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness has a responsibility to make sure his or her guns are not available to that person.

“That’s kind of a good balancing, we believe, between rights and responsibilities,” said Hilly, “because you know, the other side is always talking about rights and rarely are they mentioning responsibilities.”

Additionally, mental health professionals are now required by law to alert police if they believe one of their patients is likely to hurt themselves or others — and that patient has a gun permit.

The SAFE Act also standardized the time period for renewal of permits across the state. Previously, Long Island and Westchester required gun owners to renew their permits every five years and New York City had a three-year requirement. Now, all of New York — including areas upstate that required renewal less frequently — has a maximum five-year permit renewal requirement (New York City can keep their three-year restriction). This sanction requires permit holders to reaffirm the facts of their permit, for example that they have not been convicted of a felony or diagnosed with a mental illness.

The SAFE Act enhanced the breadth and prevalence of background checks, limited the capacity of magazines from 10 rounds to seven and expanded the definition of assault weapons, such as the AR-15.

The law also aims to end the anonymous purchasing of large stocks of ammunition on the Internet. Rather than going online and having weapons delivered to your home with no regulation, ammunition must now be delivered to a gun dealer, who will then ask for identification (a permit is not required for ammunition).

Although the SAFE Act is a huge victory for gun control advocates, proponents say the state measures are limited by the lack of similar federal legislation. Although criminals are faced with these restrictions in New York, they can easily travel across state lines to purchase weapons and ammunition.

Since Sandy Hook, according to Congressman Bishop, on the federal level, “the short answer is nothing has happened.”

Of a number of bills introduced in the House of Representatives to help provide for gun safety, “none of them have moved at all,” said Bishop, who sponsored most of them.

In the Senate, an effort to bring up a bipartisan bill to expand background checks for people who wish to purchase firearms failed to garner the 60 votes necessary for it to be considered.

“You can still go on the Internet and buy firearms,” Bishop said Monday, “you can still go on the Internet and buy mass quantities of ammunition, you can still purchase a gun at a gun show without undergoing a background check, so basic things that ought to be put in place are not being put in place.”

“It pretty much breaks down on party lines,” added the Democratic congressman, “Democrats want to pass gun safety legislation, Republicans refuse to.”

Bishop said much of the proposed legislation has bipartisan support, “but the leadership of the House of Representatives refuses to move any of them.”

“I don’t want to say that there’s no hope,” he said, “but I do think that the track record of the house thus far does not give cause for optimism.”

New York State First to Adopt Sweeping Gun Control Regulations After Sandy Hook Tragedy

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By Amanda Wyatt

One month after the fatal shooting of 26 students and teachers at a Connecticut elementary school, New York State legislators — including Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle — moved swiftly this week to pass what are being called the toughest gun control laws in the country.

The New York State Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, also known as the NY SAFE Act, was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday following passage by the State Assembly, 104-43. The legislation had been passed by the State Senate, 43-18, on Monday evening, just hours after being introduced by the governor.

The NY SAFE Act represents the first state legislation addressing gun control following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. And according to Assemblyman Thiele, who voted in favor of the act, it is “a step in the right direction.”

While he knew it would be “difficult and controversial,” Thiele said on Wednesday that he believed the act “struck the right balance between the needs that we have to protect our children and families from gun violence, while still respecting the constitutional mandates of the second amendment.”

“I just see it as common sense, sane regulation of guns,” he added.

In a written statement, Senator LaValle explained several important provisions in the act.

“The New York Safe Act of 2013 closed several loopholes in New York State’s gun laws that have been on the books since 1994 that included a ban on assault weapons,” he said.

“The legislation, now law, maintains citizens’ rights to bear arms and gave the legislature an important opportunity to stiffen penalties for gun crimes — something the city-centric Assembly has resisted — addresses mental health issues, protects first responders and shields the identities of legal handgun owners from broad public disclosure,” LaValle pointed out.

“No one’s gun is being confiscated,” he added.

Specifically, the act tightens the ban on assault weapons, and reduces the minimum magazine capacity of guns from 10 to seven bullets. There will be universal background checks on all gun purchases, as well as instant background checks at ammunition purchases. And safe storage of guns will be required in any homes where a convicted felon or individual who has been involuntarily committed resides.

The NY SAFE Act also mandates the recertification of all handguns, and existing assault weapons must be grandfathered into a new statewide gun database. There will be increased penalties for having a firearm on school grounds and for crimes committed with illegal guns, as well.

“This legislation has some provisions in it to help local school districts improve school security, including an increase in building aid for modifications that school districts make to their district as far as security, and also allowing retired police officers to be hired without any loss of pension rights,” said Thiele.

The act has a strong focus on mental health, requiring healthcare providers to report potentially dangerous patients to the authorities so they can crosscheck whether these individuals are registered gun owners. It also expands Kendra’s Law, which forces certain individuals to receive psychiatric care.

But how this legislation will affect the East End — and Sag Harbor, in particular — remains to be seen. As Sag Harbor Police Chief Tom Fabiano noted, “it’s very, very rare” that the Sag Harbor Village Police Department encounters individuals with weapons.

Still, he said, “just because it’s a nice, quiet village doesn’t mean things couldn’t happen here. [Newtown is] a nice little area similar to Sag Harbor, they say.”

In fact, shortly after the Newtown shooting, the police received a couple of different phone calls regarding “suspicious people” around Sag Harbor schools — all of whom turned out to be parents and employees.

And while Fabiano did not think the NY SAFE Act was a “cure-all” for the malady of gun violence, he suggested that it was a good start.

“What they passed, is that going to work and make it all better? I think it’s going to take a very, very long time for things to start working, because there are so many weapons out there…And we’re just talking about New York State. If the whole country did something like this, maybe we’d have a better chance,” he said.

While the NY SAFE Act has its share of supporters, it has also ignited a firestorm of controversy from gun rights groups, like the National Rifle Association (NRA). In a press release, the NRA said that they were “outraged at the draconian gun control bill.”

Cuomo and New York state legislators “orchestrated a secretive end-run around the legislative and democratic process and passed sweeping anti-gun measures with no committee hearings and no public input,” they declared.

“These gun control schemes have failed in the past and will have no impact on public safety and crime,” continues the NRA’s statement. “Sadly, the New York Legislature gave no consideration to that reality. While lawmakers could have taken a step toward strengthening mental health reporting and focusing on criminals, they opted for trampling the rights of law-abiding gun owners in New York, and they did it under a veil of secrecy in the dark of night.”

And while Assemblyman Thiele’s office had received a flood of correspondence asking for more gun regulation immediately after the Newtown shooting, he said most of his mail in the past week to 10 days had been from pro-gun groups.

“You’re always balancing public welfare versus individual rights…It is a balancing test, and I think we’re kind of restating where that balance is,” he said.