Monthly Archives: June 2015

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Top row, from left, Isabella Eredita Johnson, Bruce Teifer, Jessica Stolte Bender, Danielle Davis, Arthur Lai; bottom row, from left, Bob Westcott, Charlotte Koons, Maddalena Harris, Cheryl Savitt Spielman, Lorraine Helvick, Lauren Murray, Kayla Dempsey. Photo from the Three Village Historical Society

By Frank Turano

On Sunday, June 14, it was standing room only at the Bethel A.M.E. Church on Christian Avenue in Setauket. The Three Village Historical Society sponsored a concert featuring an 1860 Robert Nunns piano built in Setauket. A Robert Nunns piano has probably not been heard in concert for more than 100 years.

The concert was developed by the Three Village Historical Society Rhodes Committee. This committee was also responsible for the construction of the exhibit, Chicken Hill: A Community Lost to Time, the community in which the piano was manufactured. Michael Costa of Costa Piano Shoppes has been working to restore the Nunns piano for more than six months.

The featured artist was Isabella Eredita-Johnson, a classically trained pianist living in Northport. Assisting Ms. Eredita-Johnson were Kayla Dempsey, cello and Lauren Murray, violin. The program featured classical music from the period of the piano’s manufacture.  Sopranos Cheryl Savitt Spielman, Jessica Stolte Bender and Danielle Davis performed, as did mezzo soprano Lorraine Helvick and tenor Arthur Lai.  The highlight of the concert was Ms. Eredita-Johnson playing Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” on the Nunns piano. A sprinkling of American classics from Stephen Foster were rendered by guitarist Bob Westcott and folk singer Maria Fairchild. The entire program was enhanced by visits from Clara Schumann, played by Carlotte Koons, and Robert Nunns, played by Bruce Teifer. The surprise of the day was the presence of Frederick Lorthioir of Connecticut, Robert Nunn’s great-great- great grandson. Since the restoration of the piano is not complete, funds will continue to be solicited to complete the restoration and it is anticipated that future concerts will make more complete use of this historic instrument.

An expert panel at Stony Brook University discusses environmental issues facing Long Island. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

After a month of increased algal blooms, reduced water quality and two of the most severe fish kills the county has ever experienced, Long Island scientists and officials have decided it is past time — yet about time — to address the issue of harmful nitrogen pollution in our waterways.

Hosted by the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, a forum on water pollution in Suffolk County was held at Stony Brook University’s Charles B. Wang Center on June 23 to identify the core causes of nitrogen pollution and brainstorm functional, cost-effective technological solutions.

In his welcome address, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) emphasized the gravity of the problem.

“This problem wasn’t created overnight, and it won’t be solved overnight,” he said. “Big challenges like this won’t be solved in election cycles.”

But he has noticed signs of progress.

“To see this group all coming together, saying we’re going to work to solve this problem, gives me great hope and optimism that we have actually turned the corner and we are now on the road to addressing our water quality issues in a real way.”

At the forefront of the technical and technological sides of this progress are panelists Walter Dawydiak, director of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services; Amanda Ludlow, a scientist at Roux Associates Inc.; Theresa McGovern, a water resources engineer at VHB; and Harold Walker, a professor of Mechanical and Civil Engineering at Stony Brook University.

Dawydiak identified unsewered septic flow as the main source of the nitrogen problem.

“Nitrogen, which we expected to level off, is not leveling off,” he said.

He noted that 85 percent of unsewered septic flow originates in residential areas.

“The elephant in the room is us.”

He said a change in health department standards for residential wastewater treatment — for the first time in 40 years — could mitigate the problem by regulating the installation, operation, and maintenance of septic systems. He referred to this proposed set of regulations as an example of policy driving the technology to where it needs to be.

“We need better technology in this area,” Walker said. “If we’re going to solve this problem, we need to expand the tool box that we have available. … We need to think about systems operating effectively for as long as possible, with little or no maintenance. That’s the challenge.”

Ludlow agreed, and emphasized the importance of implementing systems that treat nitrogen and other pollutants, like pharmaceuticals and hormones, on the 360,000 homes running on old systems: “Focus on technologies that affect all the constituents in our wastewater.”

McGovern said that a holistic yet specific approach to wastewater management would make improvements possible.

“We need to be consistent and science-based with the targets, yet still allow some flexibility,” she said. She suggested setting a universal — instead of concentration-based — limit on the amount of nitrogen allowed to remain in wastewater, while allowing households that consistently perform under that limit increased wastewater flow.

Of course, new technologies and oversight costs money. During the second panel discussion on funding proposals, Suffolk County Planning Commission co-chair David Calone suggested using Hurricane Sandy recovery funds to improve storm-water drainage and prevent sewage from entering waterways.

Dorian Dale, director of sustainability and chief recovery officer for Suffolk County, noted that, though the $16 million of Sandy relief money would cover some of the cost for improvements, it could not provide the minimum $8 billion necessary to replace 360,000 septic systems.

He said changing the tax on drinking water from a base price to one that reflects household usage could help close the gap.

Calone brought up the possibility of reaching out for federal funding and increasing the cap on private activity bonds to spur work on water quality issues.

“Involving the private sector is where we’ve shown a lot of leadership on Long Island,” said Anna Throne-Holst, Southampton Town supervisor. “It has to be a public/private partnership.”

The panelists were optimistic about the county’s ability to undertake the project.

“The last sewer project, 40 years ago, was rife with cesspool corruption,” Dale said. “I don’t think anybody’s going to have time for the shenanigans of the past.”

Throne-Holst expressed her faith that the public will remain informed and engaged on this issue.

“The public education process is well underway,” she said. “People are well aware of what a crisis this is.”

Huntington Town honored the Chapin family with a proclamation and the unveiling of the Chapin Rainbow Stage sign before a two-hour long concert on Monday, June 29. The concert, which was rescheduled because of inclement weather Saturday night, when Sandy Chapin was honored by the Huntington Arts Council, featured performances by Tom Chapin, Steve Chapin, The Chapin Sisters and the Jen Chapin Trio before a finale featuring all the members of the family.

Camila dos Santos photo from the scientist

By Daniel Dunaief

Mothers of more than one child have blogged about it for years. When they have their second child, the breastfeeding process is often quicker, with milk available sooner than for the first child. Camila dos Santos, who became an assistant professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in February, has found a reason.

Cells in the mammary gland go through something called epigenetic changes. That means something affects the genetic machinery, causing them to react differently under the same circumstances. In mouse models, dos Santos discovered changes in cell proliferation and milk production genes to the hormones estrogen and progesterone.

When she was a postdoctoral student in Greg Hannon’s laboratory at CSHL, dos Santos said they “decided to profile the epigenome before and after pregnancy.” At first, she was looking for changes associated with the effects of pregnancy on breast cancer development. The recent work, however, described the presence of epigenetic memory of past pregnancies, which influences milk production in the next pregnancy.

The message from these studies was that those areas where she saw changes “are associated with the genes responsible for lactation and the proliferation of the mammary gland during pregnancy,” said dos Santos.

The implications of this research extend from the potential to enhance breastfeeding in women who struggle during lactation to breast cancer.

Indeed, other studies have shown that women who become pregnant before 25 have a lower risk for all types of breast cancer.

“We believe that such strong protective effect must have an epigenetic basis,” dos Santos said. She would like to “understand how this stable, pregnancy-induced epigenome prevents cancer development,” she continued.

Hannon believes the kind of research dos Santos is conducting holds promise.

“The world of breast cancer prevention is badly in need of very solid underlying molecular biology and I think there’s a fair chance that what [dos Santos] is doing will eventually get us there,” said Hannon, who recently left Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and is now the Royal Society Wolfson Research Professor at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute at the University of Cambridge.

Dos Santos said her research is exploring ways to turn the changes that occur during pregnancies before the age of 25 into a “preventive strategy to treat women that are high risk and even those that are not.”

To be sure, Hannon and dos Santos cautioned, it’s difficult to know how quickly or even whether this kind of research will lead to any treatment or prevention options.

“The main goal of my lab is to try to understand the effects of pregnancy on normal cells, to devise a strategy to prevent breast cancer from arising,” dos Santos said. She recently published her work in the journal Cell Reports.

Dos Santos and Andrew Smith, a computational biologist from the University of Southern California, along with his postdoctoral fellow Egor Dolzhenko discovered that mice that had been through a single pregnancy had methylation marks that were different from mice of the same age that hadn’t been pregnant. The group connected the changes in the genome to a transcription factor called Stat5a. A transcription factor is a protein that acts like a genetic traffic light, turning on or off genes.

When she joined Hannon’s lab in 2008, dos Santos wanted to study gene regulation throughout cell development. It took her three years to purify stem cells.

Hannon credits dos Santos for developing new techniques.

“She had to build the tools she needed to ask” these questions, Hannon said.

Dos Santos lives in campus housing with her husband, Christopher Vakoc, who is an assistant professor at CSHL. The couple take their young sons hiking and can’t wait for the spring and summer because they hike, swim and kayak. Vakoc and dos Santos met when they were in adjoining labs in Philadelphia.

“We used to have joint lab meetings and one day he asked me on a date,” she recalled.

This summer, dos Santos’ lab will include a premed undergraduate student from Hofstra and high school students from Cold Spring Harbor High School and  Southampton High School. She recently hired a postdoctoral fellow.

“I envision my lab growing according to my needs,” she said. “Right now, I want to continue to work at the bench while training students and postdocs.”

A scene from last year’s event. Photo by Bea Ruberto

By Ernestine Franco

Help the best and brightest young people in our community by attending this year’s Sound Beach Civic Association scholarship fundraiser — a food fair and raffle auction that will allow the Civic to award $1,000 scholarships to two high school seniors for the seventh consecutive year.  The event will be held on Sunday, July 12, from 4 to 8 p.m., at the Sound Beach Firehouse, 152 Sound Beach Blvd., Sound Beach.

Come sample steak tidbits, baked clams, General Tso’s chicken, eggplant parmigiana and more, as more than a dozen area restaurants have donated their signature dishes, including CaraMia Restaurant, Papa Francesco’s, Great Wall and Hartlin Inn of Sound Beach; Sea Basin and J & R’s Steakhouse of Rocky Point;  Tuscany Gourmet Market, CP La Manno’s, Miller Place Pastaria, Rubino’s and Fusilli Restaurant of Miller Place; and Land & Sea Restaurant of Mt. Sinai. Coffee will be provided by Starbuck’s in Miller Place and dessert will include two cakes (one a chocolate mousse, the other a vanilla creme), creme puffs, eclairs and cookies.

A scene from last year’s event. Photo by Bea Ruberto
A scene from last year’s event. Photo by Bea Ruberto

More than 50 great raffle prizes, donated by local merchants and individuals, will be raffled off, including artwork, housewares, pet products, kids’ games, wine baskets, a lotto tree, home décor and a variety of gift certificates, including one valued at $500 from Reality Carpet in Rocky Point. The door prize will be a flower arrangement donated by Flowers on Broadway in Rocky Point.

Nicole Berg and Megan McCarthy, this year’s recipients of the scholarships, will be in attendance and Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), who has been a strong supporter of this worthy cause from the beginning, will be on hand to honor their achievements. “The Sound Beach Civic does so many wonderful things for Sound Beach,” Bonner said, “and this is just one of them. It’s a great opportunity to honor their annual scholarship winners, meet great new people, catch up with old friends and try some yummy, local food.”

Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley)will be there to honor former Civic president John Moerlins, who passed away several years ago. A copy of a testimonial that will go into the Congressional Record will be presented to John Moerlins’ widow, Audrey Moerlins.

Civic president Bea Ruberto fondly recalls one of the previous recipients, Cassidy Bohan. “Cassidy was one of the first to receive the scholarship,” Ruberto said, “and she keeps in touch and has done so well.” Bohan attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and is currently working in advertising as a campaign manager.

When asked what receiving the scholarship meant to her, Bohan said, “It was an honor to receive the support of a community that I love so much.”

“It’s been so gratifying to be part of this,” Ruberto said, “and I hope to see a lot of people at this year’s event.”

Tickets are $20 each, $18 each for a table of eight, $10 for children under 12, and free for children under 6. For more information or to order tickets, call 631-744-6952.

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Port Jefferson school district held its 57th annual senior prom on Monday night. Parents had worked tirelessly to transform Earl L. Vandermeulen High School into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory for the event, secretly painting sets and making dummies to surprise the Class of 2015.

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More than 400 Newfield High School students received their diplomas on Saturday, June 27, at the school’s annual commencement ceremony.

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The rain couldn’t put a damper on the Harborfields Tornadoes last weekend, as the Class of 2015 celebrated the 56th annual commencement on Saturday, June 27.

Gowns of green and white could be spotted, and seniors were greeted with cheers from the stands and triumphant sounds delivered by the high school band.

Salutatorian Jamie Letourneau, Class President Katherine Ryan and Valedictorian Eli Slamowitz spoke fondly of their classmates and provided words of encouragement for the future.

The ceremony also featured speeches by Superintendent Diana Todaro, Principal Rory Manning and English teacher Kristen Gavin.

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On Sunday, June 14, Cold Spring Harbor High School held its 52nd commencement honoring the Class of 2015.

High School Principal Jay Matuk congratulated the class, and following tradition at the school district, there were three reflection speakers this year: David May, Gabrielle Bailenson and Allison Grey. The ceremony also featured a performance by senior Christine Collins, who joined the wind ensemble on the flute. Senior Emily Gallagher led the audience in the national anthem.

Commencement also featured comments from Superintendent Judith A. Wilansky and school board President Anthony Paolano.

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The Class of 2015 celebrated their graduation in Port Jefferson on Friday, remembering their pasts as they looked toward their bright futures.

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