Feral felines and farewells
Islip Town Hall

File photo

Feral felines and farewells

Story By: RICK CHALIFOUX
9/24/2015


ISLIP TOWN—At Tuesday’s Islip Town Board meeting, Supervisor Angie Carpenter and the Islip Town Board bid farewell to two commissioners: deputy commissioner of parks, Inez Birbiglia and Eric Hofmeister, commissioner of environmental control. Between 2013 and 2014, Hofmeister also served as supervisor during the one-year deployment of then-Supervisor Tom Croci, who is now a NYS Senator. Hofmeister will be working in Senator Croci’s office.

Inez Birbiglia, who joined the town several years ago as director of public information, was appointed deputy commissioner of parks last year to oversee the cleanup of Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood. Supervisor Carpenter presented both with tokens of appreciation.

 During the public session, a group of individuals urged the town to take steps to combat a growing town-wide feral cat problem.

Residents and leaders of animal advocacy groups asked the town board to follow the examples set by other townships by establishing proactive measures to deal with the growing population of feral cats.

Bay Shore resident Linda Han read aloud a letter written by Linda Sturrman, president of Last Hope Animal Rescue.

“The question is why has Islip Town ignored the feral cat population within its borders, unlike all surrounding Long Island townships?” she said.  “Why [do] the personnel at the Islip Animal Shelter only offer euthanasia as a solution to the maintenance of cat overpopulation? Why is the Town of Islip 20 years behind all other towns on Long Island alleviating the suffering incurred by this critical community problem? It is time for the town to join us and all concerned residents to develop an appropriate TNR [Trap, Neuter, Return] plan for its community of feral cats.”

Islip resident Julie Moretti said that she has been involved in Shelter Link and has been active in animal rescue her entire adult life.

“The situation here is dire,” said Moretti. “We really need the town to step up and help us. We will work with you, we network with all sorts of rescue groups…and we can help publicize it on social media. We are willing and able to help. We just need your support, and that’s why we’re here.”

“What I and my fellow animal-loving residents are asking for today is nothing different than what most every other township on Long Island provides for its taxpaying citizens who are trying to be a part of the solution instead of ignoring the problem,” said Sayville resident Donna Rinaldi. “[Our shelter should] maintain an active, consistent, and progressive feline program, which not only encompasses accepting residents’ adoptable pets and kittens for rehoming…but also and especially offering a comprehensive TNR program for the overwhelming and growing population of feral, or ‘community cats,’ as they are also known, and are just that—a part of each and every one of our Islip Town communities, whether you choose to see them or not.”

Babylon resident Joanne Anderson, who is also a member of Last Hope, expressed similar sentiments.

“I used to have wonderful things to say about your shelter…but I can find nothing good to say now,” she said. “The fact that Islip Town continues to be the only Long Island town not to have a Feral Cat Neuter Program is ‘cat’-astrophic for the cats and the citizens of Islip.”

Anderson noted that while Babylon has 100,000 fewer residents than Islip, they lent out its supply of 40 humane traps and issued low-cost and free vouchers to residents who spayed and neutered over 650 cats last year on their own. Meanwhile, she said that Hempstead Town spays and neuters approximately 100 feral cats a week, lends out traps, and even assists citizens with trapping.

“Feral cats are a man-made problem,” added Anderson. “This is a community problem that calls for cooperative, collaborative solutions, and there are people out there that will help you set this in place. Town government has to be an integral part in alleviating feral cat overpopulation. Otherwise, the entire burden falls on the nonprofit rescues and individual citizens. Neither can keep up with the numbers of Islip’s neglect that have been created over the years.”

A few other residents came forward to voice complaints about the state of Casamento Park Pool in West Islip this past summer season.

“The pool was closed two weeks prior to the end of summer, and the people that use that pool were really quite upset about it,” said Laurie Hollander, who added that residents were forced to travel to Byron Lake Pool instead. “I understand that other pools closed as well. One of the reasons that was cited to me was staff shortage. If other pools were closed, we don’t understand why those other lifeguards could not have been pooled and kept our pool open until Labor Day…Our pool is the only pool in the western part of Islip, and we feel like we got the short end of the stick.”

Hollander noted that at one point, both the children’s and adult pool were closed due to chemical readings that the state determined to be “inappropriate and unacceptable,” which she said could have been avoided with proper management.

Bay Shore resident Nancy Tomasek also spoke about Casamento Pool, noting that 2,000 people had signed a petition requesting improved conditions for next season.

“We are the orphans compared to the Byron,” said Tomasek. “We have no hot water, and we’re lucky if we have soap or paper towels. Not only that, but the cleanliness of that pool is a disgrace…We expect something for our tax money…and we’re hoping that this coming year something is done at our pool to clean it up better, and at least give us some hot water.”

Supervisor Angie Carpenter directed the residents to further discuss the pool issues with Parks Commissioner Kerry Basset.

Elsewhere, East Islip resident Pat Montanino castigated the board for retaining Public Safety Commissioner John Carney, who recently resigned from the position of deputy supervisor. Montanino asserted that Carney’s resume submitted to the town was inaccurate and that he remains unqualified for his position.

“And now you also want to blindly move Mr. Carney to the airport, hoping that the residents don’t notice,” she said.

During the regular business portion of the meeting, the board unanimously passed a resolution to both apply for and accept $8,500 worth of playground equipment from KaBOOM!—a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing outdoor play areas for children—to be installed by community volunteers at the recently cleaned up Roberto Clemente Park in Brentwood.

The next Islip Town Board Meeting will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 2 p.m.