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Abrams Usage Debated By BOE

School board dealing with ramifications from last year's vote to close the school.

Someone once said to receive gifts is to lose freedom.

In the case of the , the decision to close Jack Abrams School, passed down by a previous administration, is a gift that continues to prove the quote somewhat true to form.

Lost with the controversial action of more than a year ago to shut down the school is the use of for regular classes this year and the freedom of the current school board to do anything other than make the best of it until a vote to reverse the decision comes to fruition.

In the meantime, the aftereffects of the ruling are causing trustees to push the boundaries of the 4-3 decision, creating a grey area of debate between otherwise agreeable BOE members.

At a meeting Monday at the school, a simple facilities use request by the Helping Hand Rescue Mission for a Dec. 17 Christmas party touched off a round of debate among a majority of current members who mostly concur that the school should never have been closed in the first place.

It began when newly-elected board Trustee Adam Spector asked that the Helping Hands item be separated for discussion before a vote and tabled to allow alternative party locations to be considered which are consistent with the board's policy on where children should and should not be.

"I believe that those children, who are children in our school district, have every right to be in this building," said Spector. "But as a board member who is having his first opportunity to vote on the usage of this building ... I know that we have other eligible locations that I know would be extremely supportive."

, and auditoriums were named by as possible alternates for the Helping Hands event.

Spector said he could not vote in favor of allowing hundreds of disadvantaged families to come into an "environment that I have been told as an incoming board member is not acceptable for our children." He said the Helping Hands Mission has always had, and will continue to get his support — but approving the use of Jack Abrams would send the wrong message.

"It's not safe for all the children in our community to come here, but it is safe for that disadvantaged portion of our community to come here?" asked Spector, concerned about the welfare of what he estimated to be 400-500 expected guests at this year's Helping Hands holiday party.

When Abrams was closed last year, the school board recommended the building be used solely for administrative purposes, tutoring and adult education and possibly an alternative high school for the Huntington School District a few years down the road — but that has since changed.

Since the narrow vote to close the school in July of 2010, Abrams has been approved for use by several school-related organizations including wrestlers, fencers, Project Play, basketball and dual-language groups.

"It is not dangerous to send a child into this building, and I have always felt that from my heart," said school board Trustee Kimberly Brown — staunchly opposed to denying use of the building to the Helping Hands group, but not to others.

Sporting a new hairdo in recent days but keeping the same hard-line stance against the closure of the school as in months past, Brown remains peeved by last year's Abrams decision.

"We should never have closed the school and I am completely opposed to this — and it still sickens me," said Brown, who along with current School Board President Emily Rogan have fought to keep the school open.

At Monday's meeting, the pair remained united.

Rogan said voting against school usage by the Helping Hands group would run a risk of kids not having a Christmas Party. "I would not feel comfortable with that personally," Rogan said.

"To take a stand on them now would not be right," said Brown. "If you want to take a stand ... we should say no to everyone. That's why I think this school should open in September, but that's just my opinion."

School Superintendent Jim Polansky said the item was put on the agenda because it was an outside group requesting use of the facility and the board wanted to look at it in a manner consistent with decisions regarding other groups that use the school.

Motions against tabling the agenda item and for the approval of the Helping Hands Christmas party were approved 4-2 — with BOE members Spector and John Paci III voting against.

Interestingly, Paci voted to close Jack Abrams last year, as did Elizabeth Black, who was absent from Monday's meeting.

Less than one week after a , the Huntington school board voted to scrap a plan to move sixth-graders to this fall. Then school board President Bill Dwyer was joined by Paci, Black and Richard McGrath in voting to close Abrams.

Trustees Brown, Rogan and former Trustee Christine Bene opposed.

New board Trustee Jen Hebert and Trustee McGrath were silent on the Helping Hands issue Monday, other than raising their hands to vote in favor of allowing Jack Abrams facilities use for the Christmas party.

Linda Otta October 25, 2011 at 12:20 PM
These current Town Board members up for re-election need to be voted out. Only then can we have a town board willing to work with our Board of Education to achieve the goal of opening the Intermediate School.
Robert Desmond October 25, 2011 at 12:22 PM
Kara, I respectfully disagree. Charity should be left to the churches and synagogues not our schools. Supporting these groups with tax payer funds is not smart and is simply a continuation of failed policy. There are plenty of religious facilities that can accommodate Helping Hands. I know nothing of this group and do not feel comfortable not having down some serious due diligence.
Kara October 25, 2011 at 12:29 PM
Mr. Desmond, there are certainly wonderful religious facilities in Huntington. I am sure HH is asking for the Abrams building for a reason (size, location etc.) I am also pretty sure that to be allowed to use that building, they would need to have their own insurance policy etc. so I'm not worried about the financial cost to the school district. I agree with you that the school building has become a symbol of failure but I think it's a symbol of failure to the kids and families in Huntington Station, more than a failure of any government. I respect your passion for wanting certain people elected and others not. It's people like you that help show people every side of a story and that's a good thing. I must respectfully disagree though with your assumptions. If a person receives a section 8 voucher, it does not mean they are less human or somehow bad. Reading your comments, I can see you would be against section 8, but I think there is a really big danger when we start labeling poor people as somehow of less value.
Joseph October 25, 2011 at 01:00 PM
Seems hypocritical to me. Either it's safe for kids or it's not. What am I missing? Why is this complicated?
2 Turn Tables October 25, 2011 at 01:58 PM
Kim - I am ok with white collar crime. The number 2-3 from Lehman live in Huntington Bay. Thei houses look magnificent.
Joe Obermaier October 25, 2011 at 02:13 PM
Enough with the politicking! Whether Ms. Black or Dr. Spencer wins that race won’t reopen that building; nor will the winner pay anything other than lip service to the issue come November 9th. We still have performance issues that need to be addressed. In that regard, the consolidation may actually help: Issues that frankly ought to have been addressed at the primary level, we may now be forced to address at the intermediate level; instead of waiting for them to surface in junior and senior high. We still have major budgetary concerns: increasing demands on our budget for mandated costs, compounded by new state limits, declining local revenues and projected deficits at the state and federal levels that will affect aid. For better or worse, the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee has put a steep price tag on the reopening of that school (at least $9 million). If the reality is even half, or a third, of that number, it’s clearly not happening this coming September. It’s a distraction. This board cannot succeed in the grueling work still to come if it spends its time wallowing again in the dysfunction of the previous one. Looking backward (“I never wanted to close it”) is self-indulgent and does little to move the ball forward. That school will inevitably reopen someday. We’ve got a new administration with a fresh perspective. Take advantage of that to tackle the problems everyone agrees need fixing: poor grades and budget cuts.
Urban October 25, 2011 at 02:30 PM
Dear Mr. Desmond, If you truly "know nothing about this group", perhaps this address will make you better informed. The Helping Hand Mission has been an important part of the Huntington community for decades! http://hhrm.net/newsandnotes.html
Thom October 25, 2011 at 02:47 PM
Liz Black missing an important meeting and ducking the consideration of a difficult issue is not surprising. She had done that for years on the School Board.
George October 25, 2011 at 02:52 PM
You are missing the between the lines messages. If you are affluent and come from an upper class family. And due to the ignorance of most parents you are not permitted to attend school at JAI. BUT!! if you have very little or no financial revenues and come from the lower class community it's OK to attend school at JAI. It has been that way since they changed both JAI & Woodhull to intermediate schools. Now when the BOE wanted to make it a sixth grade center there was no place to transfer the students. Thus put all the pressure on the board to close down the school. The school is not closed because of the neighborhood shootings (although it happened almost simultaneous to the re configuring of schools). Because the school has been closed for over a year now and unfortunately there are still shootings and our youth dying on our streets. What these people shouldbe doing is putting the pressure on the TOH and the Suffolk county police
Kara October 25, 2011 at 03:53 PM
It's interesting because from what I understand the current Town Board candidates on both Republican and Democrat party lines all support the reopening of the Jack Abrams School. In terms of putting pressure on the Town and County, I think we need County leaders that will give Huntington the law enforcement help it needs. Unfortunately all of this does become political because it is people in positions of power who make decisions that effect everyone. For example, Elizabeth Black was in a position of power when she voted to close the school this article is about. She maintains that she made a decisions she can live with. Mr. Garetano has also said he thinks the decision was right because it brought attention to Huntington Station. You can agree with their positions or not (I don't) but to say that this isn't a political issue is untrue. I understand wishing it wasn't and I agree that there are very pressing issues facing every school district in NY and Abrams is only one issue. I hope people can come together and talk because if there continues to be a battle, I think nobody will win in the end.
2 Turn Tables October 25, 2011 at 04:30 PM
Kim, lets build very tall buildings right in Huntington Village, for low income families? How do you like my idea? We can have conclaves for gangs, rap contests, hand outs, soup kitchens, graffiti and other delights of urban blight!
Kimberly A. Brown October 25, 2011 at 05:35 PM
Joe, when I said that I never wanted to close the school, it was to explain my position. I have always felt the school is a safe facility, therefore, I would not deny Helping Hands the use of Jack Abrams. Self-indulgent and wallowing are two words that do not describe me. Well, maybe self-indulgent, I do get my hair cut. Joe, with our new Superintendent I am positive that we have the leadership this district needs to face the many challenges ahead. Challenges that you have accurately described in your post. All the best to you.
Andrea October 25, 2011 at 06:45 PM
Pockets of Huntington Station are most certainly "war zones" and they are spreading. To say otherwise is just naive.
Frank H. October 25, 2011 at 07:25 PM
The station is war zone? What parts and where is it spreading?
Andrea October 25, 2011 at 07:28 PM
Cute. Go walk around there at night - you'll find out. Or ask the Guardian Angels walking around there... Or most people in the Huntington area. If you don't know, I'm guessing you're not from around here.
Kara October 25, 2011 at 07:37 PM
War Zones? I understand that everyone experiences fear differently, but I would hardly call Huntington Station a war zone area. What I will say is that if the banter on sites like this continues to be hurtful and negative, I fear there will be much more division and damage as a result. I think we can all agree that crime is an issue across the country and that crime is not a Huntington Station issue anymore. Greenlawn is struggling a lot with crime. Huntington Village has seen its fair share. Crime doesn't know boundaries of neighborhood or lines of geographic area. In the 21st century, crime travels. We all have cars, the internet and an ability to be in many different places. Crime can only be solved at its root causes. We have to see jobs comes into the community, get rid of poverty and help raise all boats. We can't keep attacking communities, neighborhoods and people. It does nothing to take us any further and every single person in huntington or huntington station or greenlawn or the village deserves better than this.
Joseph October 25, 2011 at 07:39 PM
Did anyone notice the picture of Liz Black's empty chair? Where was she? Why was she not at the meeting for a job she already has? Did she leave a statement or a reason?
Andrea October 25, 2011 at 07:52 PM
Kara, I think you're misunderstanding what I'm saying. By using the term "war zone" and referring to the Station, I'm simply referring the constant violence there. It is more than other areas but of course some other areas also have their share of violence. However, it's not just that there is crime - it is the increasing prevalence of extreme violence (shootings) that I'm referring to. I'm not attacking the community by stating what's true. And you're right, it needs to be "solved" and changed. I'm not blaming any one reason for the increase in violence - but it would be crazy to not recognize how much violence there has been lately and to distinguish it from other areas. But let's get real - we can't keep sidestepping this by refusing to state the obvious - there is a reason why 110 in the Station has police cars on every block at night.
Frank H. October 25, 2011 at 08:04 PM
I grew up in Huntington Sta. Went to Saint Hughs. In my option the station is a lot better then it was 10-15 years ago. There are problems but war zone is way to much for me. Just my option.
Andrea October 25, 2011 at 08:17 PM
Well, we can agree to disagree. 10-15 years ago I was a teenager in Huntington - went to HHS - and my friends and I were a lot more comfortable hanging out at friends' houses in the station (I grew up by Southdown) than we would be now. I don't remember hearing about shootings all the time the way we do now. Granted, I'm older and more aware, but I do know that the number of violent crimes/ gang related incidents in the past year or two has been significant. Call it whatever you want - there are serious problems in the station area and whether or not they're "spilling over" doesn't matter - we all need to come together to help turn the area around and make it a safe place for both Station residents and the residents of all Huntington, etc.
Merrick7 October 25, 2011 at 08:33 PM
These areas have high crime and poverty rates. These do not compare to "War Zone" atmospheres of Jamaica, the Bronx, Newark, or the Southie Projects of Boston. I understand we are in the suburbs and many of us are used to a different lifestyle than the rest of the world, bad neighborhoods do exist and do need police protection, but the characterization is excessive. Nassau: Hempstead, Freeport, Baldwin, Roosevelt, Inwood, Lakeview, New Cassel, Uniondale, University Gardens Suffolk:Mastic Beach, Copiague, Gordon Heights, Greenlawn, Huntington Station, Lake Ronkonkama, North Amityville, North Bellport, North Lindenhurst, Port Jefferson Station, Wyandach and Wheatley Heights.
Andrea October 25, 2011 at 08:40 PM
When people are regularly shooting and killing each other over drugs, gang affilations, etc - I call that a war. Unchecked and it ends up like your noted "war zone" places. Ok wanna split hairs and change "terms" - call it the beginning of a war zone. Let's not let it get worse by acting like what you call it is more important than trying to fix it.
Joseph October 25, 2011 at 08:47 PM
People are not regularly shooting and killing each other. Homicides are down in Huntington from a year ago. Violent crime and Property crime have both been on a continual decline over the last few years including the year that school was closed. Just because a crime gets media visibility doesn't mean it signals some major change. The crime is a problem that we all need to get addressed-by getting whoever the next County Exec is to get the police here and the training they need here asap. We also need to get other resources here. But saying it's a war zone or trying to make it sound like being on the streets of huntington station (especially during the day) is scary is to mischaracterize this town. I've lived in the city---and in other states and peopel would laugh at us if they heard that people here felt like they were in a war zone. I get that the crime sucks and we all need to come together to stop tolerating it, but let's not turn this into a cry about something it's not....
Kim October 25, 2011 at 09:01 PM
So the argument now becomes it's not as bad as ______? So deal with it till it's worse?
Frank H. October 25, 2011 at 09:04 PM
I also went to HHS 10-15 years ago. I knew kids is MS13 and another group then called MMP. My parents still live in the Station have a number of friends who own houses in the Station. Closing schools and using words like war zone to talk about where they live really doesn't help and only makes things worse.
Andrea October 25, 2011 at 09:08 PM
Awesome - homicides are down... so the shooters are a bad shot. And yes, there are regular shootings. There is more than one violent incident a day (shooting or otherwise) on average in Huntington Station.
Robert Desmond October 25, 2011 at 09:30 PM
We don't live in a war zone? Why then do we need the high tech 24/7 defenses? Does South Hampton or Upper Brookville have this system? Why don't I feel any safer. I guess I simply don't appreciate the leadership that created the environment that requires us to have this wonderful system. Folks, When you wake up in the morning and aren't surprised that there was another murder in Huntington you live in a war zone. When the criminals who we help subsidize cause us to close down well maintained school facilities we live in a war zone. When our children are then forced like refugees to squeeze into mobile school rooms to learn you live in a war zone. When you have street gangs better armed then the police you are living in a war zone. What more does it take to finally admit that we need a change in town hall? Berland and Jackson must go so that Frank Petrone is a lame duck town supervisor. Firing one of them won't do. Both must go, failure at it's finest. http://villagetattler.com/2011/10/25/cooper-announces-shotspotter%C2%AE-gunshot-detection-system-in-huntington-station-before-thanksgiving/comment-page-1/#comment-78358
Cathy Ribando October 25, 2011 at 10:14 PM
@Joe - the LRFPC was never tasked with determining the cost of opening or closing Jack Abrams. The $9 Million price tag attached to Jack Abrams in the committee's findings is for facility improvements to Jack Abrams, in conjunction with the other schools in the district, to accommodate our ever growing number of students and any improvements needed to the buildings. It cannot be looked at independently of the other schools. And it cannot be looked at as a price tag for opening the school. It really has nothing to do with opening Jack Abrams or keeping it closed.
Joseph October 26, 2011 at 11:38 AM
A war zone? No. An area in need of improvement? Yes. Let's stop the mudslinging. Many of the people who read this live in Huntington Station. How do you think they feel hearing their community described in an inaccurate way like this? Let's look forward and towards solutions. I'm hoping people elect Spencer. His opponent has clearly shown her hand-first in avoiding the Huntington Station area, second in not reaching out to people of Huntington Station during her campaign. That's not someone I can trust to fix issues.
M4Huntington October 27, 2011 at 05:38 PM
Well said & true.....It's not about excluding people, it's looking at things realistically, and not through rose colored glasses. The JAI area has had issues for 40+ years, and that is not to say that good, hard-working people don't live in those neighborhoods too - for everyone's benefit it's time to face the facts, there is "undesirable" activity going on everywhere, however you can't dispute violence happens in that section more often than in others. It's about protecting our children and the good people of the community. I don't think anyone is trying to exclude or segregate and it is a shame that when anyone mentions fixing problems into low income areas that the race and economic card is used in defense because the issues once again are ignored and now we are now racists for wanting to keep violence out of our town. It's a vicious cycle that has to stop, I don't care if you make 20 grand or a million dollars a year, every law abiding, tax paying, hard working resident deserves a safe place to live. Huntington has always been a town of diversity and that is what makes it such a wonderful place, however when people are being shot on a regular basis that's not diversity, that's danger and absolutely NO ONE should be put in that type of situation. Should JAI be reopened? Yes, but the town officials need to step up first and do what they've been promising to do for years and have not. They talk the talk, yet they have never walked the walk......

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