The following is a list of top stories, compiled by the editor, which occurred throughout 2008. The stories are in the order of which they appeared in the paper. Full stories can be obtained by logging onto www.antonnews.com and clicking on the Levittown Tribune archives. Due to space constraints, not all stories from 2008 appear in this Year in Review.
During a special component of the Town of Hempstead induction ceremony, Supervisor Murray honored the family of a Levittown soldier who was killed in Iraq in April. Daniel Fuentes' parents Nancy and Armando Fuentes led the Pledge of Allegiance and were presented with the Town of Hempstead Veteran's Medal on behalf of their son. This was the first time the medal has ever been presented to a non-veteran.
First Deputy Fire Chief George W. Anderson was sworn in by Fire Commissioner John Rottkamp as the 33rd chief of department, replacing Chief Mark Janovsky on Dec. 18. Janovsky completed an eight-year term as chief.
The Mosaic School for students with autism celebrated its opening at St. Frances de Chantal Parish in Wantagh with an Open House. Friends, supporters, and community leaders were on hand to welcome the school to its new location. The school offers a program for higher functioning adolescents on the autism spectrum who need intensive training in social skills, pre-vocational and vocational skills, and functional life skills.
On Jan. 28, the Levittown Community Council hosted the county executive at Levittown Memorial Education Center to offer residents an opportunity to learn more about program GreenLevittown, a public-private partnership to make Levittown, America's first suburb, America's first green suburb.
An audit of the time and leave records of the Human Rights Commission by Nassau County Comptroller Howard S. Weitzman found that the commission "failed to correct time keeping abuses noted in a 2004 audit, and continued to exhibit a general disregard of county time and leave procedures for most of its employees."
The Division Avenue High School girls' volleyball team at Levittown Division were recently crowned Conference champions. The girls cruised through the league schedule with only one defeat.
Emily Rose Melvin, a MacArthur High School senior has been named an Intel semifinalist. Emily's submission, "The Rich Get Richer: An Analysis of Equity In High School Graduation Rates," examines the relationship between New York State students' socioeconomic status and their achievement of Regents diplomas.
The Levittown School District executed their Emergency Management Plan on Wednesday, Feb. 13 after a threatening message was found in MacArthur High School. The handwritten note that read "I Will Kill Every 1 on 2/15/08" was found on a bathroom stall.
In a brief ceremony held Tuesday morning, Feb. 26 the Island Trees School District accepted a Blue Star Banner from members of the American Legion Post 1711. The banner, which was designed during World War I, is usually hung in a window and symbolizes that a loved one is serving in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
Surrounded by students, school administrators and board members as well as parents, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and Councilman Gary Hudes kicked off their Levittown Green Schools initiative. The glass, plastic, metal and paper recycling campaign was announced at Summit Lane Elementary School in Levittown. While Hempstead Town boasts among the highest curbside recycling participation rates in the nation for homeowners, the green school effort represents a significant expansion of the town's commitment to the environment.
Assemblyman David G. McDonough (R,C-Merrick) announced that the Levittown Public Library has been awarded $137,226 in public library construction funds. The funds will enable the Levittown Public Library to reconstruct the lower level of the library to create additional meeting rooms, an ADA compliant bathroom, renovation of existing bathroom, and construction of a new computer lab and computer office. The grant funds are from a special allocation of $14 million in capital funds for public library construction provided by the New York State Legislature in the 2007-08 budget.
The MacArthur Wrestling Team, keeping with tradition set forth by Coach Howie Greenblatt, won the Nassau County Dual Meet and Tournament Championships this month.
Nassau County Health officials confirmed that a 58-year-old Levittown man died from meningococcal meningitis on Saturday, March 15. After several days of feeling ill, the individual left work early Friday to rest and was found unconscious at home and transported by ambulance to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow where he died Saturday.
More than 150 parents, students and teachers attended the March 18 budget planning session meeting in hopes of receiving answers regarding recent teacher layoff rumors. The influx of attendees, which included several media outlets, forced the Levittown Board of Education to move the meeting into the LMEC auditorium. Regarding the reports of teacher cuts, Dr. Sirois said this year's staffing changes were "no different than any other year." While he did not list the exact number of teacher needs, Dr. Sirois mentioned districtwide teacher cuts of 25 to 35, before settling on the number 15. He did not mention which schools would be affected the most.
The Yours Ours Mine (YOM) Community Center in Levittown has offered programs and services to youths and adults for over 40 years, but is now anxious to being a fresh era. Board trustees searched for just the right person to lead them into the future, and found what they were looking for in Queens native Jim Melendez. Melendez, 47, was recently named the new CEO of the center after James Edmondson retired at the end of last year.
According to the Levittown School District, the board of education extended its budget planning calendar by one week to arrive at a decrease in the proposed expenditures and the tax impact of the initial 2008/09 school budget recommended by the Superintendent of Schools Dr. Herman Sirois. According to Interim Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Mark Schissler, the board adopted a budget of $178,288,762 on April 2. This represents a 2.02 percent increase over the 2007/08 budget, which was $174,762,201. The resulting plan reduces the proposed expenditures by $1,500,000, and reduces the tax impact from 6.25 percent to 3.58 percent, a reduction of over 40 percent. The district is also receiving $46,074,593 in state aid this year, a $2,033,974 increase from the 2007/08 school year.
A recent bomb threat at Salk Middle School in Levittown prompted administration to evacuate the building on Friday, April 11. According to Assistant Superintendent of Administration and Personnel Darlene Rhatigan, two students informed Salk Principal John Zampaglione around noon about a message in the boys' bathroom. The message read in blue ink, "I'm setting off a bomb at 2:50 p.m." The student was arrested and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Standing in front of a solar-powered home in Levittown, Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray invited residents to attend the first in a new series of Go Green seminars aimed at helping residents to lower their energy costs and reduce our carbon footprint on the planet. Joined by Councilman Gary Hudes and LIPA representatives, the officials previewed the free seminars which will provide information on how neighbors can switch to solar power and make their homes and businesses more energy efficient. The first "how to" seminar, being cooperatively presented by the Town, LIPA and Renewable Energy Long Island (RELI), took place on Tuesday, April 15 at Levittown Hall. Six more are in the process of being scheduled for May and June and will take place throughout the township.
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli recently announced his office has completed an audit of the Island Trees Union Free School District. The audit, which looked at Internal Controls Over Selected Financial Operations, covered July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2007. According to the comptroller's office, the audit's results and recommendations are resources for district officials to use in effectively managing operations and in meeting the expectations of their constituents. "The auditors looked at many areas including purchasing, payroll, cash management, asset management, etc.," Superintendent James Parla told the Tribune. "There were no significant findings.
On Tuesday May 20, residents across Long Island will decide whether or not to adopt their school districts' budget proposals. Residents of Island Trees will vote on their district's proposed budget at the Michael F. Stokes School from noon until 9 p.m. This year, Island Trees residents are being asked to approve a 2008/09 school budget of $54,705,585, which increases the tax levy by 2.60 percent, with the average homeowner seeing an average increase of 2.32 percent.
The Levittown and Island Trees school budget votes and trustee elections were held on May 20 at various local schools. The Levittown Public Schools budget for the 2008/09 school year of $178,288,762 passed in a 2,036 to 1,942 vote. The tax levy increase is 3.58 percent. Residents elected Michael Pappas, James Ward and Peter Porrazzo. Their three-year terms will begin in July. Residents passed the Island Trees Public Schools budget of $54,705,585 for the 2008-09 school year in a 699 to 315 vote. The 2008/09 tax levy represents a 2.60 percent increase. Residents also elected incumbents Patricia Mahon, Kenneth Rochon and Robert Condela to the board. Rochon and Condela ran unopposed.
According to detectives, homeowners on Blacksmith Rd., while in their backyard, observed smoke coming from the kitchen of their residence. The home was fully engulfed with flames and suffered extensive damage. The homeowner, 69, who attempted to extinguish the fire with a garden hose, suffered from smoke inhalation and was transported to New Island Hospital where he was treated and released. Additionally, three firemen who also suffered from smoke inhalation were taken to Nassau University Medical Center for treatment and were released. One fire captain was admitted for further treatment.
According to the New York State Assembly website, bill A10323-B "directs the Levittown Union Free School District to transfer up to $20 million from its reserve funds to the general fund for the purposes of reducing real property taxes in support of such school district." The proposed bill states that up to $15,800,000 may be transferred from the employee benefit accrued liability reserve fund, and up to $4,200,000 may be transferred from the retirement reserve fund. The $20,000,000 comes from an employee benefit reserve fund established years ago by the Levittown School District for accrued contract liabilities.
Police officers reported that Nina Bradica, 45, a tenant in the Saddle Lane home, was infected with bird mites she reportedly contracted from birds building a nest inside a bathroom vent at the location.
An 81-year-old Levittown man rescued from a house fire by Wantagh firefighters early Monday morning died the following day from injuries sustained in the fire. The June 9 fire on Gardiners Ave. was reported at 6:10 a.m. and brought over 75 firefighters to the scene. According to police, Raymond Sambolin, a resident, suffered smoke inhalation and burns was rushed to the Burn Unit of Nassau University Medical Center. He succumbed to his injuries early Tuesday morning.
Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and Councilman Gary Hudes, both Levittown residents, joined the Levittown School District and PTA in protesting a question on the New York State Grade 8 Social Studies test, which lumped Levittown in with tenements and ghettos.
Traces of lead were recently discovered in an Island Trees High School art classroom, the result of a glazing compound used for a number of years by the district. The district is presently taking steps to remove the lead and restore the classroom to a safe condition. A company that specializes in lead remediation isolated the classroom on Sunday, June 16 to began this process, which includes disposing of all the contents of the room.
The Levittown District Track & Field Team had a hard fought two days at the Nassau County Championships. The girls' team took home a bunch of personal records and one county championship. Sophomore Lucia Montefusco won the two-mile with a time of 10:41.6. The Boys team had a bit more fortune; not only did they have personal records broken but they had two boys crowned county champion. Senior Michael Cheshire won the shot put with a throw of 50'0.75" and Junior Christian Altamura won the two-mile steeple chase with a time of 9:49.4.
Municipalities everywhere are "green with envy" over Hempstead Town's top recycling ranking in Nassau by an environmental advocacy group. In a report released by the Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) that graded 14 municipalities on Long Island, Hempstead Town came in first place in Nassau County.
The football fields of the Levittown School District's two high schools are being replaced. Construction has already begun on the fields, which will feature FieldTurf Tarkett artificial playing surfaces. Recently, concerns have been raised about the safety of artificial surfaces. However, both Schissler and Snyder strongly believe that the new surfaces pose no danger to the athletes.
Hempstead Turnpike Israel Community Center recently closed its doors after 60 years of service to the Levittown community and is merging with the Farmingdale Wantagh Jewish Center due to the financial difficulties of supporting a temple that has a diminishing amount of members. About 15 to 20 years ago, the Israel Community Center had 400 families attending services on a daily basis and now their membership has dwindled to only 15 members.
Amanda Castaños, who graduated from both Division Avenue High School and The Long Island High School for the Arts in June, first auditioned for the groundbreaking musical Spring Awakening back in April. The request for a callback audition came the very day before her prom. She now gets to act in the play eight times a week, commuting to the city each day for the performances.
The Robbery Squad detectives report the details of a bank robbery that occurred on Tuesday, Aug. 12 at 2 p.m. in East Meadow. According to detectives, the defendant, Ryan McCarthy, 28, of Levittown, entered the Capital One Bank located at 369 Merrick Ave. and presented a note demanding money from a teller. McCarthy is allegedly additionally connected to 14 other bank robberies committed this year in Nassau County and two in the City of Long Beach.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) started testing Island Trees High School for lead back in May, which was two years after the district completed a lead remediation project. That project, which was completed in the summer of 2006, involved removing lead fragments and dust from a sand tunnel beneath the school that was deposited there from the school's former rifle range that was closed during the 1980s. The project was completed with favorable results from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and the Nassau County Department of Health (NCDOH).
In 2007, Levittowner Donnie Klang was chosen among 10,000 male singers and dancers from around the county to compete on MTV's reality series Making the Band 4. Klang was not chosen to be part of the band. He was shocked moments later to find out he was selected by Diddy to go solo. Now, Bad Boy Records announced the upcoming release of Just A Rolling Stone.
Longtime Levittown resident and volunteer firefighter Thomas J. Cuff, Jr. was recently elected president of the Firemen's Association of the State of New York (FASNY). Cuff's election by a unanimous vote came on the final day of the association's 136th annual convention.
In response to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (NYSDEC) involvement in the lead remediation matter at the high school, in 2004, the district hired an environmental attorney, Fred Eisenbud, Esq. and subsequently a consulting engineer, James DeMartinis of J.R. Holzmacher, to act as liaisons to NYSDEC, New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) and Nassau County Department of Health (NCDOH) to implement a remediation project to ensure full compliance with their requirements. All these state and local agencies have recognized the district's cooperation and more importantly have assured the district both verbally and in writing that the school is safe.
A Division Avenue High School student was diagnosed with viral meningitis, the Levittown School District announced on its website Friday, Sept. 19. According to district officials, the student's parent notified the school nurse. The student has since returned to school and "is doing very well," according to Assistant Superintendent of Administration Darlene Rhatigan. Rhatigan added that the "custodial staff cleaned the building with a disinfectant called Quat-Statt."
Levittown resident and volunteer firefighter Edward A. Junginger, 82, died in the line of duty on Friday, Sept. 26. As a member of Levittown's Fire Police Squad, Honorary Chief Junginger was re-routing traffic on Hempstead Turnpike when he attempted to move a vehicle on the scene and suffered a heart attack. Junginger was rushed to Nassau University Medical Center, where he was placed on life support for days. He was pronounced dead on Friday.
Local veterans organizations, businesses and the Town of Hempstead joined together recently to break ground for a new monument honoring the 33 Levittown residents who lost their lives in the Vietnam, Korean and Iraq wars. The monument is being installed at Veterans Memorial Park in Levittown, which is Town of Hempstead property. The monument is being donated by Beth Dalton-Costello, owner of Dalton Funeral Homes, with a dedication stone being added by Wellwood Memorials.
According to Albany Police, Richard Bailey, 22, of Wantagh was fatally shot in the head late Monday night on Oct. 20. Public Information Officer Jim Miller said officers found Bailey, a University at Albany student, unresponsive on the sidewalk, bleeding from his head.
On Oct. 4, the Island Trees High School boys soccer program held its first annual Men's Alumni Day and game. Alumni as far back as 1986 made their way to the soccer complex at Michael F. Stokes Elementary School.
The Island Trees School District has held a series of special board of education meetings, issued several press releases and responded to individual residents concerns related to the lead remediation matter at Island Trees High School.
Levittowners, along with several other Nassau County residents, are seeing large increases in their school tax bills this year. School and county officials explain that much of the increase is due to continued rise in taxable values of homes as a result of a lag in assessments along with reductions in the State's STAR tax credits and much of the rise is beyond the control of the schools themselves.
America's First Suburb, Levittown, is getting a facelift in its business district. At a press conference on Gardiners Avenue, Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray and Councilman Gary Hudes thanked Senator Kemp Hannon for a $425,000 state grant that will fund attractive streetscape upgrades along two main business thoroughfares in downtown Levittown.
In a service held each year by local veterans' organizations, the Levittown community took a few moments to remember the sacrifices made by veterans and current soldiers in the past and today. Murray then announced the unveiling of a veteran's monument, honoring the 33 Levittown residents who lost their lives in the Vietnam, Korean and Iraq Wars.
The lead remediation issue in the basement of Island Trees High School has been an ongoing issue in the district for several years. Clean-ups were completed as recently as early October and the district has continuously updated residents on its status. Still, few residents and board members are pressing the issue to declare the high school unsafe for occupancy. A Sept. 11 letter from Miles to Superintendent Parla reiterates, "The lead problem should not prevent the staff and students from using the public areas of the building."
While home on Thanksgiving break from college, 21-year-old Jason Shein of Levittown went out to dinner with friends late Saturday night. Early Sunday morning he was killed after his 1998 Chrysler convertible was hit head on.
After losing the conference title game on the final day of the season last year, and finishing in second place, the 2008 Division Avenue Lady Dragons made it their goal to win the conference championship this season. The girls made good on their vow and clinched the Conference 4 Title on the last day of the regular season with a 1-1 tie to a very strong second place Jericho team.
Frank Lazzaro came across a magazine article in which former First Lady Betty Ford was seeking advice for her own tree decorating. He jokingly replied to it with a picture of the barrack's tree and a short letter. Some time passed and eventually Lazzaro received his honorable discharge and returned home to Queens. What happened next was completely unexpected, Lazzaro recalled. After the interview and a background check, he officially became the White House Christmas decorator. He was brought back for 12 years by three different administrations from 1974 until 1986. His said his proudest moment came when he was given permission to decorate the Oval Office.
At a special meeting of the Island Trees Board of Education held on Dec. 10, the board voted 4-to-3 to rescind its previous resolution to establish a fact-finding committee regarding the lead contamination issue at Island Trees High School.
In the most recent issue of Newsweek's report on America's Top Public High Schools, Division Avenue High School and MacArthur High School placed in the top 4 percent. Division Avenue High School ranked 1,127th of over 28,000 public high schools in America, while MacArthur High School ranked at number 507.