Tag Archive | "veterans"

Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor School Districts Approve Tax Exemptions for Veterans

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Some 30 veterans came out to the Pierson library to show their support for the Veterans Tax Exemption at a special meeting of the Sag Harbor Board of Education February 27.

Some 30 veterans came out to the Pierson library to show their support for the Veterans Tax Exemption at a special meeting of the Sag Harbor Board of Education February 27.

By Tessa Raebeck

School districts in Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor this week approved tax exemptions that grant school tax relief to veterans in their districts who served during a time of war. Veterans who want to receive the exemption must apply with their town assessor by March 1 for the savings to affect this tax year.

Municipalities have been allowed to grant property tax relief to veterans since the 1980s, but state property tax law was expanded to include school districts in December. Qualified veterans in the Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor school districts will now receive a property tax exemption that could be as high as 15 percent of their primary residence’s total assessed value. If they served in a combat zone, they can receive an additional 10 percent exemption, and if they are disabled due to their service, they qualify for additional exemptions.

The law caps the exemption at $8,000 for the basic level for those veterans who served during wartime, $12,000 for veterans who also served in a combat zone and $40,000 for veterans who sustained a service-connected disability. Those caps are not dollar amounts taken directly out of taxes; rather, they are deducted from the assessed value used in calculating property tax.

On February 26, the Bridgehampton Board of Education adopted the basic maximum exemptions, as well as the Gold Star Parent provision, which extends the relief to parents who endured the loss of a son or daughter who died while in military service.

At a special meeting attended by some 30 local veterans, the Sag Harbor School Board unanimously adopted the basic maximum exemptions and the Gold Star Parent exemption February 27. The expected cost to Sag Harbor taxpayers on the East Hampton side of the village is estimated to be about $22 for a $1 million home. For Sag Harbor’s Southampton taxpayers, that number is about $17. There are 152 veterans at the basic level, 106 combat zone veterans and 9 who are disabled in Sag Harbor.

JoAnn Lyles, the mother of the late Marine Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter, attended the meeting to express her support for the exemption, as well as the Gold Star Parent provision. Roger King, Commander of Sag Harbor’s VFW Post, also voiced his support for the provision. American Legion Commander Marty Knabb thanked the board for its vote and the veterans for their service.

Sag Harbor board member Daniel Hartnett said while he was happy to vote yes, he was offended by what he saw as a “gimmick” on the part of the state. “Instead of adequately funding vets programs, they come to school districts and ask them to act in this fashion,” he told the veterans. “From the bottom of my heart I thank you, but I am deeply offended by the state’s action in this regard.”

Mr. Hartnett’s remarks elicited a round of applause from the veterans in attendance.

The Great Prom Debate Heats Up in Sag Harbor; School Board Considers Veterans Tax Exemptions

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Pierson Middle/High School

Pierson Middle/High School

By Tessa Raebeck

The Prom

The debate continues at Pierson High School, as students and administrators dispute the balance between autonomy and security at the prom.

At the Board of Education meeting February 10, Pierson Middle-High School Principal Jeff Nichols stood by a recommendation made by the school’s Shared Decision Making Committee to require students who want to attend the prom—predominantly 17 and 18-year-old seniors—to take school-sponsored coach buses to the event and be subjected to a search conducted by an outside security firm before being allowed on the bus, as a means of curbing drug and alcohol use at the event.

The details of the plan and the specific parameters of the search, which Mr. Nichols called “more thorough” than those conducted by himself and other school officials in the past, have not yet been determined.

Various groups from the school community form the shared decision committee: parents, staff members, administrators, community members and students. According to Mr. Nichols, the adult SDM members supported the recommendation, but the two student representatives “were not enamored with that process.”

Mr. Nichols said he discussed four options at an assembly with the entire senior class.

The first option is to leave everything it has been; students would be free to take limos, drive themselves or even get a ride from a parent and be subject to the administrators’ security protocol. The second is the proposed plan to put students on coaches after being searched by an outside firm. The third option would allow students to rent “party buses” (a chauffeured vehicle furnished like a limousine but larger in size, although not as large as a school bus) but require each of those party buses to have school-sponsored security on board.  Under the fourth and final option, students would be free to choose their own transportation to the prom, but prior to entering the actual dance (the school-sponsored portion of the event) they would be subjected to a search process administered by an outside firm.

A final decision has not been made, but Mr. Nichols, board vice president Chris Tice and Dr. Carl Bonuso, the district’s interim superintendent, expressed their agreement with the SDM recommendation.

“You can set a lot of trap doors, buses and that, but at the end of the day, my biggest concern is sometimes when you deny too much, the kids want to get over that fence even more,” David Diskin, a board member, said at the meeting.

The six members of the senior class in attendance asked whether they could get a party bus after the prom. Mr. Nichols replied, “Once you leave you can do anything you want.”

 

Veterans Tax Exemption

In December, Governor Cuomo signed a law authorizing school districts to provide veterans with as much as $40,000 in property tax exemptions.

The law leaves school boards with the decision of whether or not to offer the exemptions, which would increase the school taxes of non-veteran residents, who would need to absorb the loss in revenue.

For a house valued at $500,000 in Southampton the annual cost to non-veterans  would be $8.62; for a house valued at the same amount in East Hampton, the cost would be $10.84 annually, according to John O’Keefe, the school’s business administrator.

The exemptions include reductions in assessed value of 15 percent for veterans who served during wartime (an $8,000 cap), 10 percent for those who were in combat zones (a $12,000 cap) and an additional, variable reduction for those with disabilities connected to their service (a $40,000 cap).

School districts must decide whether to offer the exemptions by March 1. The district must first hold a public hearing on the base exemption, and then adopt the resolution by a simple majority vote. If the district wishes to change the caps, another public hearing and vote is required. If the district wishes to enact extensions, such as the “Gold Star Parents” provision to also include parents of a soldier who died in service, it must adopt a separate resolution, although a public hearing is not required.

At the February 10 meeting, the school board appeared unclear on the procedure, as it adopted a  resolution to approve the veterans tax exemption prior to holding a public hearing.

Four days later, the district announced it would hold the required public hearings on the base exemption and cap changes, as well as a hearing on the “Gold Star Parents” provision, on Thursday, February 27, starting at 7 p.m. in the Pierson library.

Sag Harbor Heroes Honored During Veterans Day Celebrations

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Heller_2013 Veterans Day Parade 11-11-13_1839_LR

By Tessa Raebeck; photography by Michael Heller

In annual Veterans Day celebrations this week, Sag Harbor residents recognized that honoring village veterans is a year round duty, not a daylong event. Whether by visiting a monument, putting up a plaque or rubbing a gravestone, veterans and community members work to celebrate our heroes throughout the year, and those efforts were officially recognized with commemorative events Monday.

From Cub Scouts to World War II veterans, troops in uniform kicked off the holiday at the annual Veterans Day Parade through Sag Harbor Village Monday morning. After the parade, government officials and honored servicemen gathered outside the American Legion Chelberg and Battle Post 388 on Bay Street. Following speeches, about 40 residents headed over to the Ferry Road Cemetery in North Haven to hear village historian Joe Zaykowski present a lecture on the cemetery restoration and the lives of veterans resting there.

VFW Commander Roger King addresses the crowd at the American Legion

VFW Commander Roger King addresses the crowd at the American Legion.

At the American Legion Hall, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9082 Commander Roger King, who served two terms in Iraq, spoke of veterans’ “sacrifice for the common good,” and the symbolic significance of this year’s restoration of the federal holiday to November 11.

Veterans Day is always observed on November 11; however, in 2012, for example, the official federal holiday fell on November 12 because it was a Monday. King recognized the significance of the holiday returning to November 11 as it coincides with Armistice Day, which marks the settlement signed at the end of World War I on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

Post Commander Marty Knab said the day’s events were intended not only to thank those who fought in battle, but also to thank and honor all who have served honorably in the military in any capacity, be it wartime or peacetime. While recognizing the ultimate sacrifice of those killed in battle, Knab hoped to also underscore the fact that all who served have made huge sacrifices for their country.

“Not all veterans have seen war,” Knab told the crowd. “But a common bond that they share is an oath in which they express their willingness to die defending this nation. Perhaps most significant in preserving our way of life are the battles that America does not have to fight, because those who wish us harm slink away in fear of the Coast Guard cutter, the Navy aircraft carrier, the Air Force Fighter Squadron, or the Army soldier on patrol.”

“Our country finds these men and women in the many small communities around our country, like our own Village of Sag Harbor,” he continued.

World War II Veteran Robert Riskin speaks in front of the American Legion

World War II Veteran Robert Riskin speaks in front of the American Legion.

Local writer and World War II veteran Robert Riskin, whose officer encouraged him to pursue a writing career, spoke of his visit in September to the World War II monument in Washington, D.C. Riskin’s trip was facilitated by the Honor Flight Network, an organization that honors veterans by transporting them to visit their memorials.

“I was not very excited about going,” admitted Riskin. “And then I thought, ‘Well, it’s free…so what the hell? I’ll try it.’”

Accompanied by Knab, Riskin enjoyed a motorcycle escort, bagpipe serenade and a welcoming reception from Naval Academy plebes on the daylong trip to Washington.

“I almost broke down, it was just such an incredible feeling of love,” he said, adding, “the memorial itself is just about one of the most fantastic things you’ll ever see … the emotions that it brings up are very, very strong.”

After the veterans’ speeches, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. presented a proclamation, “the state’s highest honor,” he noted, to Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride and dockmaster David Thommen commemorating Sag Harbor’s heroic moment in the War of 1812. Two hundred years ago in July 1813, British troops stationed off the Long Island coast attempted to invade and pillage the small seaside village of Sag Harbor, as they had done to countless towns across the island. Greeted by a group of residents and militiamen on shore, the British quickly retreated, recognizing that whatever goods they could plunder were not worth a battle against the spirited community.

New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, Justice Julia Schiavoni, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride and Sag Harbor Village Board Trustee Ed Deyermond honored David Thommen (second from right) for his work restoring the monument honoring the site of a Revolutionary War fort in Sag Harbor

Local officials honor Village Dockmaster David Thommen (second from right).

“We repelled the British. They never returned again until the British invasion of 1964,” Thiele joked, referring to The Beatles.

The assemblyman spoke of his own childhood playing around the old fort on High Street, but he never knew the story behind it.

“We all know it today and it’s because of the single-handed volunteer efforts of David Thommen,” said Thiele of the village dockmaster, who revitalized the fort – and the community’s knowledge of its own heroism — by dedicating a plaque and raising a flag there last July.

“This is about the veterans from the first militias in 1620 to the returning soldiers today,” said Thommen, accepting the proclamation.

Following the ceremony, North Haven Village Historian Joe Zaykowski gave a presentation to a crowd at the Ferry Road Cemetery on Route 114. Zaykowski successfully restored the gravestones there and, in doing so, unearthed the stories of some of North Haven’s earliest residents.

North Haven Village Historian Joe Zaykowski

North Haven Village Historian Joe Zaykowski at the grave of Revolutionary War Veteran John Payne, Sr.

Zaykowski spoke of the life and lineage of John Payne, Sr., a veteran of both the colonial French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, who died 200 years ago in November 1813 and was laid to rest on Ferry Road. Payne’s gravestone was ineligible, cracked and scattered until Zaykowski’s restoration.

Zaykowski spoke extensively on the history of North Haven, with specific knowledge of lineages, burial techniques and even houses — several of which remain in the village today. His brother-in-law, Philip Reynolds, played period music from the Revolutionary War era on his saxophone.

In 1781, Payne received nine pounds, 19 shillings and one penny for his service in the Revolutionary War, according to Zaykowski.

“I cannot tell you that John Payne was a so-called war hero,” Zaykowski, himself a veteran of the Vietnam War, told the crowd. “That’s not important; He served his country, served it well I’m sure.”

In attendance to hear Zaykowski’s talk was Alexandra Binder, who lives on Shelter Island with her fiancé Beau Payne, a direct descendant of John Payne. Eager to learn more of her new family’s extensive local history, Binder was ecstatic to have the aid of Zaykowski, who has traced the Payne’s lineage all the way back to England prior to the colonization of America.

Some Vets Not Benefit Savvy

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Heller_Marty Knab-American Legion_9417

By Annette Hinkle


It used to be that when soldiers came home from the war, they knew what programs were out there for them. That was particularly true in the decades after W.W.II, when money for college, disability benefits and medical care through Veterans Administration (VA) facilities were widely available.

While those programs still exist, the truth is, there are many more benefits available today than veterans may realize. And things change quickly — from revised eligibility guidelines to innovative services, staying abreast of what’s current can be time consuming and overwhelming.

That’s why Marty Knab, Commander of the Chelberg and Battle Post 388, American Legion in Sag Harbor, has arranged a forum at the legion for next Wednesday. From healthcare to pension plans and programs for seniors, representatives from various organizations will be on hand to offer information at the federal, state, county and town level that could make a difference in the life of a veteran.

Knab, who served for 20 years in the Coast Guard, understands the need. He once had his own preconceived notion of what veterans benefits meant.

“They’ve had VA healthcare for a long time, but when I was in active duty, I thought for most eligibility you had to have been shot in the war, or lost a leg or arm — which was not the case.”

Knab hopes that all veterans and their families will stop by the legion next Wednesday to see what’s there for them.

“This is not just for legion veterans,” he says. “This is for regular guys who were in the service. Now they’re out and working, with no time to be part of the organization. They don’t realize what the government offers. You have to be in the know.”

Among those coming to Sag Harbor next Wednesday will be JoAnne Anderson, RN, MSN, FNP, the East End Health Coordinator for the Northport VA Medical Center which operates three community based outpatient clinics across Suffolk County, including one at the Westhampton Air Base. Anderson will bring information on veterans healthcare options to the legion, and she notes that on May 2, the Westhampton clinic will relocate to the County Center in Riverhead where it will offer expanded hours and a location easily accessible by public transportation.

“We have enjoyed the liaison on the military base, it’s been a wonderful experience, but we were only able to provide care there three days a week,” she explains, noting that the Riverhead clinic will eventually be open five or six days a week with some evening hours.

Also attending Wednesday’s forum will be Jonathan Spier from the Long Island State Veterans Home who will share information about his facility, which cares for veterans nearing the end of their lives.

“We’re different than the VA which is a federal hospital system,” explains Spier. “ We are a nursing home owned and operated by the state in partnership with the state.”

Spier notes his facility is unique among veterans nursing homes in that it is associated with Stony Brook University medical system.

“We’re a teaching nursing home. We have healthcare students and future health care leaders in our building. We really are full service. Our residents are getting the latest in advancements and cutting edge technology,” says Spier who notes that the vast majority of the facility’s 350 beds are occupied by the World War II generation.

“These guys left service at 19 or 20 and didn’t think about nursing homes or benefits down the road. Our facility is a special place for a special population,” adds Spier who hopes to reach those making the healthcare decisions in the family — often the adult sons and daughters of veterans.

“There are a lot of programs out there veterans don’t know about,” agrees Bob Hopkins, Suffolk County Veterans Service officer who will bring information on a federal and state programs to the legion including death or burial benefits and low income pensions for surviving spouses.

Hopkins notes that among recent changes in programs for younger vets is the education benefit, which has been expanded. He explains that veterans now have 15 years to use the program after leaving the service, instead of four years.

“It covers on the job training, pilot training, books and housing. It’s a great program,” says Hopkins. “It’s nice to see Marty having this. It’s good to get the word out.”

The workshop for veterans, surviving spouses and grown children of aging veterans will be held on Wednesday, April 20 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Chelberg and Battle Post 388, American Legion on Bay Street in Sag Harbor. For more information call 725-9759.

Vets Learn About Health Benefits in Hard Times

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Veterans young and old packed the Sag Harbor American Legion meeting room on Monday night and waited for representatives from the Northport Veterans Hospital to arrive. A few elderly veterans of World War II straightened their American Legion caps atop their heads as they chatted with fellow retired servicemen.
Tony Lambert, vice-chair of the Bridgehampton Citizen’s Advisory Committee and an Iraq war veteran, stood in the back of the room, outfitted in a baseball cap and sweatshirt, swapping stories with a former Marine. Lambert heard of the meeting on WLNG. He stopped by hoping to get his veterans health care network card renewed.
Christopher Stone, of Sag Harbor, came to see if his Veterans Administration benefits would cover some of his dependents’ prescription needs. Mark Wilson, a local gardener and former Navy officer, is currently uninsured and came to inquire about his eligibility for VA benefits.
Marge O’Malley, a community outreach coordinator for the Northport hospital, met individually with every veteran at the meeting. Overall, she said many attendees came to learn if they were eligible for any benefits at all. According to O’Malley, many veterans fail to realize they are eligible for benefits or have received misinformation on eligibility requirements. Other veterans believe they earn too much to qualify for benefits, since there is an income cap of $49,000 a year. With many former veterans losing their jobs or experiencing pay cuts, O’Malley said more veterans are eligible for benefits than before.
This is the case for Wilson. He was previously insured through his wife, but recently went through a divorce. Wilson’s gardening work has been scaled back lately. With less income coming in, he cannot afford even the cheapest health insurance plans, which cost between $300 to $500 a month.
Although O’Mally informed Wilson he is most likely eligible for benefits, a certain part of him believes it is wrong to accept this aid.
“It is a conflict for me … I feel like the benefits should be reserved for the guys who fought in World War II and Korea and Iraq, to the people who were seriously afflicted by wars. I sort of feel like this is something I should channel on my own,” said Wilson, who served in the Navy from 1976 to 1980 when the country wasn’t engaged in active conflicts.
Lambert is already enrolled in the VA health benefits program, but told O’Malley it is difficult for him to travel to Northport for general check-ups, eye exams and prescription pick ups. He is currently employed full time with the Bridgehampton Post Office, but reported it is still a struggle to cover his family’s monthly expenses. He added it is inconvenient to take a day off work to visit Northport’s satellite clinic in Westhampton.
O’Malley informed Lambert that the Northport VA Hospital will establish a full service health care and mental health clinic in Riverhead within the coming year. The clinic will be funded in part by the county and will serve the veterans of Suffolk County. The services provided at the clinic will include psychiatry support, optometry appointments, outpatient services and a pharmacy.
O’Malley reported many Long Island veterans use the VA health benefits to supplement their current health insurance plans, especially for senior veterans who are enrolled in Medicare. At the hospital’s pharmacy, veterans receive significantly discounted rates on their monthly prescriptions. However, these prescriptions must be written by VA doctors, instead of their primary practitioners.
Martin Knab, the first vice commander of the Sag Harbor American Legion, uses his VA health benefits for second opinions from other doctors. Knab already has an insurance plan, which covers himself and his family, but this plan doesn’t pay for second opinions on a diagnosis.
Knab feels fortunate to have another form of health insurance, especially when he sees many local veterans becoming uninsured as they are laid off.
“There are other people in our community who could use these benefits a lot more than me. A lot of veterans have their own businesses and are self-employed or they are hired by big contractors and were laid off. [Most of the time] they don’t have insurance. So when something happens and they end up in the hospital they are facing huge debts,” said Knab.
Helping out struggling local veterans was one reason Knab asked O’Malley to visit the Sag Harbor American Legion.
These are the types of veterans O’Malley hopes to specifically reach out to and help. According to O’Malley, only eleven percent of veterans on Long Island enroll in the VA health benefits program. She will soon send out a letter to more than 2,000 veterans on Long Island informing them, if their income has decreased in the last year, they could be eligible for VA benefits.
Although Northport hospital representatives continue to visit veteran organizations throughout Long Island, Knab believes the hospital does a good job in helping veterans, but the East End veteran community is still underserved because there isn’t a clinic nearby.
“They do a superb job, for they job they do; but there still isn’t a facility available for vets on the East End,” said Knab. Though Knab hopes this problem will be solved when the Riverhead clinic is established.

To learn more about VA benefits or the VA hospital in Northport visit http://www.northport.va.gov/

Above: Vets learn about their eligibility for VA benefits during one-on-one sessions with representatives of the Northport Veterans Hospital.

Dedication of the L/Cpl Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge

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Remembrance

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This is an important week for Sag Harbor – one where we not only have honored all the men and women who have valiantly served in our country’s military, but a week where we are also poised to bid a final farewell to the first young son lost from this village to combat in quite some time.

On Saturday, rain or shine, residents of the village and beyond will gather together to pay tribute to Marine Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter, who was killed by a suicide bomber in Iraq last April at the tragically young age of 19. The Sag Harbor-North Haven Bridge will be renamed on Saturday in Jordan’s honor and a memorial for him unveiled at the foot of the bridge.

Jordan’s death and subsequent homecoming weighed heavily on the hearts of virtually everyone in Sag Harbor, if not on the whole of the East End or even the whole of Long Island. But the moments we have spent mourning Jordan in the months since his tragic homecoming have also been touched with a sense of importance and pride.

Standing at Marine Park this Tuesday, after the village’s Veteran’s Day parade, we were reminded why, in part, the loss of Jordan’s life has affected us so deeply – because like the many men and women from Sag Harbor, North Haven and Noyac before him, Jordan’s death was a sacrifice in the name of something greater than himself — the lives of his fellow soldiers. Whatever our personal reflections on war in general or this one in particular, Jordan’s selfless act in the name of loyalty and duty should never be forgotten.

At Marine Park on Veteran’s Day, George Boziwick reminded that few are left who lived in Sag Harbor, or were of age to serve, during World War II. World War II, for many of us, was too long ago to be a conflict that touched us just by its very enormity. It remains an abstract concept for many of us as we wave at the ever-decreasing number of aging veterans who parade down Main Street every November 11.

But consider this — 446 local men and women served in World War II — 18 of them never came back to Sag Harbor, like Jordan. For a community of this size, those numbers stagger us and provide further proof that it has been some time indeed since our community has dealt with this kind of loss, or conversely, has been given a moment to honor that kind of sacrifice.

To us, it is poignant that this week is book ended by tributes to those who served on behalf of us, our country – beginning with Veteran’s Day and the rededication of the World War II monument and ending by honoring Jordan with his own monument, a tribute to the first son of Sag Harbor that we have lost, and have had the opportunity to honor in most of our lifetimes. May the sacrifices of all our country’s veterans never be forgotten.