Fire Islanders Meet with County Officials on Safety and Security

Growing anxiety about safety and security, and quality-of-life matters, led three Fire Island Association Directors to the Patchogue office of County Legislator Jack Eddington in February (photo 1). The issue was brought to the fore last August by Fire Island’s representative in the State Assembly, Ginny Fields, when she led a large delegation of concerned islanders to a meeting in Hauppauge with County Executive Steve Levy and Police Commissioner Richard Dormer.

Photo 1

Photo 1

At the meeting with Mr. Eddington was FIA President Jerry Stoddard, Suzanne Goldhirsch, President of the Seaview Association, and John Lund, President of the Davis Park Association, both of the latter are Vice Presidents of FIA. Ms. Goldhirsch stated the issue: the issues of crime and safety are of growing importance on Fire Island, and incidents are becoming more frequent and more serious. After describing a few of them, she said a visible increase in police on patrol would start to address this issue. In addition to criminal activity, Ms. Goldhirsch is concerned that older residents, especially, feel isolated on Fire Island and fearful of not getting prompt transport to mainland hospitals in a medical emergency.

Mr. Eddington chairs the County Legislature’s Committee on Public Safety, which includes review of the Police Department budget. One of several suggestions he made was that island communities work with the Marine Bureau to form Neighborhood Watch groups to advise of potential problems before they get out of hand. He also said the islanders should meet with police officials and urge restoration of the summer police contingent to former levels. He acknowledged this would be a problem in light of cutbacks being urged by the County Executive to balance the budget.

In March, an expanded group acted on Legislator Eddington’s advice, meeting with Nicholas Mango, Chief of Patrol; Patrick Cuff, Assistant Chief of Patrol; John Meehan, Deputy Chief of Patrol; and Deputy Inspector Harold Jantzen, Commander of the Marine Bureau. FIA Officers included included the above mentioned, joined by Hugh O’Brien, Trustee of Saltaire; Tom Ruskin, Seaview’s Vice President for Security; and Bartley Horton, Ocean Bay Park Community Manager (photo 2).

At the meeting, the island representatives related details of their concerns. The police officials, while forthright about the budget constraints they operate under, showed a reassuringly detailed familiarity with the special problems of the various Fire Island communities.The meeting brought out that last year’s experiment with assigning the west end sector car to the 1st Precinct (Babylon), while keeping the crew as part of the Fire Island contingent, was not effective and won’t be continued. Also, there are expected to be ten seasonal patrol officers (virtually all of them with island experience) assigned to Fire Island for the 2010 season. This compares to six seasonals in 2009, plus the crew from the west end sector car. The group hopes to meet with Inspector Jantzen for an update following the Memorial Day weekend, typically the most problematic of the summer.

One request from the police: response times will be improved if all house numbers are clearly shown on the sidewalk. For houses that are rented, detailed instructions of how to report an emergency should be posted near the telephone. If 911 is dialed from a landline, the police will know how to locate the house; if the call is from a mobile phone, the system for doing that will not work.

Photo 2

Photo 2