Hispanic Heritage Month, Sloth Encounters, and censoring

Town of Islip holds September board meeting

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On Tuesday, Sept. 13, the Town of Islip held their monthly board meeting at Town Hall.

Hispanic Heritage Month

The meeting was opened with a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which began on Thursday, Sept. 15. Each member of the town board chose an individual of Hispanic heritage to honor. Councilman John C. Cochrane Jr. honored Giraldo Vega, a member of the Brentwood Fire Department who oversees the training of volunteers. In 2009, Vega lost his 11-year-old child, and he and his family chose to donate his son’s organs to pass the gift of life on to children in need. In the years following his son’s death, Vega has remained committed to advocacy of the gift of life. Councilwoman Mary Kate Mullen honored Alexander Lopez, a first-generation graduate of high school, college and graduate school, as well as a veteran of the United States Army. After receiving a law degree, Lopez shifted gears and became a professor of occupational therapy, focusing on underrepresented communities. In 2007, in collaboration with Youth Enrichment Services, Lopez created the PAR FORE Golf program, which provides life skills to children. Lopez dedicates 20 to 30 hours a week to volunteerism and betterment of the community. Mullen noted that her daughter participated in one of Lopez’s summer programs mentoring children at Bayport High School, and said it was an amazing experience for her daughter. Councilman Jim O’Connor nominated Belinda Alvarez Groneman, former Suffolk County police detective and current congressional aide and law enforcement coordinator to congressman Lee Zeldin. O’Connor noted that Alvarez Groneman is an “administrator, executive and civic-minded community leader.” She has served on the board of PRONTO of Long Island for over 25 years as well as on the Town of Islip Youth Board. Alvarez Groneman is the president of the board of directors for the eastern region for the American Cancer Society, a trustee for Suffolk County Community College and the college’s foundation, a board member for Adelante of Suffolk County, as well as an active member of Islip Food for Hope. In addition, Alvarez Groneman served as president of the Suffolk County Police Department Hispanic Society as well as vice president of the Suffolk County Women’s Police Association. Supervisor Angie Carpenter honored 19-year-old Alberto Melgar. Melgar was born in Bay Shore in 2003 and then sent to live with his father in El Salvador four years later. At the age of 10, he returned to the United States, where he attended the Brentwood School District. Melgar worked hard in school and took honors classes and AP classes and graduated last year as sixth in his class at Brentwood High School. He received a full ride to New York University, where he is studying physics and mechanical engineering. Melgar is passionate about helping his community, both local and globally. His senior year of high school, he organized a supply drive to assist those impacted by the invasion of Ukraine. In addition, he fundraised over $3,000 for the Brentwood Science Olympiads to ensure the program was not defunded due to budget cuts brought on by the pandemic; donated over 1,500 blankets with positive messages attached to the Suffolk County Department of Social Services to be distributed to local shelter; and secured over 1,100 signatures from community members in support of building Roberto Clemente Skate Park. Councilman Jorge Guadrón was unable to attend the town board meeting along with his nominee, Joshua Chan.

Official business

Town clerk Olga H. Murray announced that a tentative budget for 2023 has been filed in the office of the town clerk as provided by New York State town law. The only public hearing in the meeting was to consider amending the 2022 contract with Community Ambulance Company, Inc. for emergency ambulance service. The board voted to adopt the amendment.

Public portion

During the public portion of the meeting, two community members addressed the board regarding the censoring of town board meetings online. The Suffolk County News previously ran an article about the public portion of the meeting not being cut out of the town board’s YouTube videos of the meeting. After resident Greg Pepe spoke, supervisor Carpenter asked town attorney John R. DiCioccio about the meeting recordings. Town board meetings are not required to be televised, but DiCioccio said that “it is his understanding that these meetings are live-streamed in their entirety.” However, as of print time, the Town of Islip YouTube page did not have the public portion of the most recent meeting in the meeting video. DiCioccio also noted that the meetings are FOIL-able in their entirety.

Quite a few residents spoke about the Town of Islip trap, neuter, and release (TNR) program that helps keep down the feral cat population. The residents asked for a private meeting with members of the board about the future of the TNR program and how the town can help on the issue.

A number of residents, including John Di Leonardo, president and executive director of Humane Long Island, spoke against Sloth Encounters, located in Hauppauge. The site was under scrutiny for having sloths for people to come and visit and take pictures with. Protestors and members of Humane Long Island claimed that Encounters was unsafe and inhumane. On Sept. 15, the Honorable Supreme Court Judge Joseph A. Santorelli granted the Town of Islip a temporary restraining order to shut down Sloth Encounters, pending an Oct. 6 hearing at 9:30 a.m. and further order of the court. 

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