Suffolk County plans to create a database of parks, exercises and maps and encourage doctors to "prescribe" outdoor activity to patients, under a bill the legislature passed Tuesday.
The "Parks Rx Program" also will create an advisory committee to encourage doctors and patients to come up with an outdoor activity plan.
"This is a program that will work to make Suffolk residents more active," said Legis. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). Doctors will be able to set up plans for patients to exercise and map town, county, state and federal parks, "instead of a vague recommendation to get more active," Hahn said.
The online database of information, including exercise opportunities, will be available to the public.
The program is modeled after similar legislation in Washington, D.C. It does not entitle recipients to free or discounted parking or entrance to parks.
The bill says that the county staff will gather the information and create a website "as staff is available." But Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider said the administration supports the bill as part of Bellone's initiative to increase the health of Suffolk County.
The resolution also establishes a 14-member advisory board, which will meet within 30 days to assist in the development and implementation of the program. It will also advocate for its use.
County officials said they could implement the program with existing staff.
-- DAVID M. SCHWARTZ
Immigrants urged to get health care
Long Island's immigrant residents should put aside any fears and apply for coverage for the second year of New York's version of Obamacare, say community advocates who are helping people get access to health care.
Lorraine Gonzalez-Camastra, health policy director at the Children's Defense Fund, a multistate child advocacy group, said at a Brentwood briefing Tuesday that their goal is "to create awareness" during the open enrollment period about the options for immigrants — particularly children who can be insured regardless of their immigration status.
People can enroll in the plan through Feb. 15.
"It's important that all New Yorkers get access to preventive care and also care for chronic disease management," Gonzalez-Camastra said. "It's in everyone's best interests to have that happen across the board, because it is going to improve the public health in our state."
Advocates particularly seek to increase insurance rates among Hispanics, known to be disproportionately uninsured. A Georgetown University Health Policy Institute study showed that 11.5 percent of Latino children nationwide were without coverage last year, compared with 7.1 percent of children in the overall population.
New York is doing better than average, with only 4.7 percent — more than 47,000 — of its Latino children remaining uninsured.
The state launched a Spanish-language version of its health care enrollment website this year. It also is offering health enrollment information in eight languages and translating select documents to 10 more languages, the state health department said.
Central Islip resident Miriam Elaraby said she is glad she applied for health care with help of a navigator from the advocacy group Make the Road New York. She wanted to be able to afford her glasses, and discovered other benefits.
"It had been a while since I had medical coverage," Elaraby, 57, said in Spanish. "And, wow, now I have Medicaid . . . I can now get preventive care."
-- VÍCTOR MANUEL RAMOS
Tips for safe turkey frying served up
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone deep-fried a turkey and offered up Thanksgiving tips to avoid accidents Tuesday.
Bellone was joined by members of the Suffolk County Fire Rescue and Emergency Services at the Suffolk County Fire Academy in Yaphank, as they cooked the turkey, a spokeswoman said.
New York State ranked third in the country in fires and injuries from turkey fryers, according to a National Fire Protection Association report cited by Bellone.
That study used data gathered by the State Farm insurance company between 2007 and 2011. Illinois ranked second, while Texas had the most turkey fryer fires.
On a yearly basis, deep-fryer fires cause five deaths, 60 injuries and more than $15 million in property damage, according to the association report, which was released in 2012.
Among the tips from Suffolk are to keep turkey fryers off decks, out of garages and away from trees and structures, to place the fryer on solid ground so it doesn't tip over and not to overfill the pot with oil. Also, make sure the turkey is fully thawed, Suffolk officials said.
-- DAVID M. SCHWARTZ
School repair bond may be scaled down
Copiague school board members and administrators said they will propose another, probably smaller "repair and renovation" bond issue in coming months. Meeting Monday for the first time since a $69.4 million proposal went down, 694-383, last Thursday, some said that failing infrastructure and student overcrowding left them no alternative.
"If we do nothing, in the long run it's going to cost taxpayers even more money," said board president Brian J. Sales.
The failed bond resolution would have added $239.58 to the $6,779.52 yearly school tax bill for the typical Copiague household. Over the 15-year life of the bonds, that contribution would have amounted to just under a quarter of the $69.4 million total. Under state law, New York State would have reimbursed Copiague taxpayers for the balance.
But reaching what Superintendent Charles A. Leunig called the "sweetspot" — an amount both palatable to voters and sufficient to cover the most urgent needs in a district whose 50- to 90-year-old schools are so full that some classes are taught in converted locker rooms and storage spaces — may prove difficult.
Officials acknowledged Monday night that they had little understanding of the voter sentiment behind last week's results.
While public meetings and surveys earlier this year indicated support, they said, a fraction of the district's 16,000 eligible voters turned out to vote.
"Right now, we're operating blind," said Leunig, who suggested more public outreach before the next referendum.
That task began Monday night with one man who said he voted against the bond issue.
James Kempsey, 72, a retired glazer, said he believed some of the proposed capital projects, like a new gym at Deauville Gardens School West, were unnecessary.
"I can see doing repairs, but a $70 million bill? People ain't got the money," he said.
-- NICHOLAS SPANGLER
Sylvester Manor up for historic register
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is urging the National Park Service to name Sylvester Manor, the site of a 17th century slave plantation on Shelter Island, to the National Register of Historic Places.
"Sylvester Manor has a long and complex history over eleven generations on Shelter Island," Gillibrand said in a news release Monday. "This site has seen much transformation over those years and should be preserved for generations to come."
Gillibrand said she wrote a letter to the park service Monday saying the manor has "contributed over one million artifacts and 10,000 primary source documents which describe the quality of life on Long Island for over 400 years."
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced in September that the 225-acre estate, now a nonprofit organic farm, is among 22 properties the New York State Board for Historic Preservation was recommending for the national register of 90,000 historic sites.
Sylvester Manor was established in 1652 after Nathaniel Sylvester and three partners bought all of Shelter Island, hoping to produce food and other provisions for their two sugar plantations in Barbados.
At one point, 24 African slaves labored there alongside American Indian and European indentured servants, historical records show.
The Sylvester family held the estate for nine generations, selling it piece by piece, until 10th-generation descendant Eben Fiske Ostby and his nephew, Bennett Konesni, founded the Sylvester Manor Educational Farm in 2009. Ostby later gave almost all his family's remaining land to the nonprofit.
"We are proud of all the manor has to offer our community, but are especially honored and humbled by the number of visitors who come to Sylvester Manor seeking remembrance and reconciliation of northern slavery," Cara Loriz, executive director of the nonprofit, said in a news release.
-- WILL JAMES
Hearing on luxury apartment proposal
The Port Jefferson Village Planning Board plans to meet Thursday at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School for a public hearing on a proposed luxury apartment complex.
East Setauket-based Tritec Real Estate has proposed a $43-million, 112-unit development on a 3.74-acre parcel at 201 W. Broadway. The project would have 178 underground parking spaces and a bridge spanning nearby Mill Creek.
Village officials have said one- and two-bedroom apartments at the complex are expected to be rented for $2,000 to $3,000 monthly.
Tritec has previously constructed New Village at Patchogue, a residential, retail and office complex in Patchogue Village that opened earlier this year, and is the master developer of the Ronkonkoma Hub muti-use project at the Ronkonkoma train station.
The planning board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the high school, 350 Old Post Rd.
-- CARL MACGOWAN