Monthly Archives: July 2015

William Belanske sketches while waiting with his luggage to embark on a journey with William K. Vanderbilt II. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum archives

William E. Belanske already had an enviable job as an artist and taxidermist for the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) when he got a call from William K. Vanderbilt II.

The year was 1926 and Vanderbilt was preparing for an expedition on his yacht Ara to collect animal and marine life. The voyage would take him to one of the most scientifically diverse and remote places on earth — the Galápagos Islands, on the Equator off the coast of Ecuador. He needed an artist to record the live specimens he would bring back to his private museum in Centerport. To Belanske, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, which marked the 65th anniversary of its official opening on July 6, has created a new exhibit honoring Belanske’s work.

On display in the Memorial Wing of the museum, the installation features a recreation of Belanske’s studio on the Vanderbilt Estate and includes some of the detailed paintings of the numerous marine specimens Vanderbilt collected from the oceans of the world. Large illustrated panels detail Belanske’s work, on the expeditions and at the museum.

Kirsten Amundsen and Brandon Williams of the curatorial staff came up with the exhibit concept and design.

“The ship’s artist, Mr. William E. Belanske, has been with me since 1926,” Vanderbilt wrote in 1932. “He makes accurate paintings of rare fish. With every scale carefully drawn, every shade, every nuance of color exactly portrayed, his reproductions are true, lifelike, and of value to science.”

In 1927, following the Ara expedition, Vanderbilt requested Belanske’s services full time at his museum, and Belanske chose to resign from the AMNH. He served as Vanderbilt’s curator and lived in a cottage on the estate from 1928 to 1945. His work included taking part in around-the-world cruises on the Ara in 1928-1929 and on the Alva in 1931-1932.

Notably, Belanske collaborated with the renowned painter Henry Hobart Nichols (also of the AMNH) to create the Vanderbilt Habitat in 1930, nine stunning dioramas that depict animal life from several continents. The centerpiece of the room is a 32-foot whale shark, the world’s largest taxidermied fish, caught off Fire Island in 1935.

Stephanie Gress, director of curatorial affairs for the Vanderbilt Museum, said, “On the Ara, they placed fish in holding tanks with saltwater to keep them alive. Belanske would paint the catches immediately in order to record the colors accurately.”

Before color photography, Gress said, the beauty and vibrant hues of the collected marine specimens could only be captured with an artist’s hand. Belanske’s perfect color images of the specimens were displayed in the Marine Museum next to the faded, fluid-preserved specimens.

When he returned to his studio, the artist began the time-consuming task of creating his final images. He used his notes, measurements and rough sketches to create fully accurate, detailed fish prints worthy of scientific publication, she said.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport. Through Sept. 6, the museum will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Camp counselors and young campers yank on a rope in a tug-of-war exhibition at Benner’s Farm. Photo by Michaela Pawluk

By Susan Risoli

Benner’s Farm doesn’t slow down for the summer.

Dave Benner gives some of the farm guests a ride across the property. Photo by Susan Risoli
Dave Benner gives some of the farm guests a ride across the property. Photo by Susan Risoli

Since 1751, this working farm in Setauket has been an oasis for anyone who cares about a way of life that surprises as much as it teaches. Bob and Jean Benner bought the 15-acre property in 1977. They still run the place, but now their sons Dave, Sam and Ben handle much of the outdoor work, while daughter Kirsten, who used to teach in the farm’s community education program, now lives in New England.

The Benners host a summer camp for children, toddlers to teens, including a full-day showing of how to care for the animals and the gardens. Times Beacon Record Newspapers spent a day at the farm for a firsthand look at life as a Benner.

7:50 a.m. The Benners and their staff of counselors are getting ready for the campers. Some of the children have seen farm animals up close.

“They have backyard chickens and such,” Bob Benner says.

Most, however, have never been at a place like this, and Benner calls it “amazing, to see how quickly they warm up to it.” Today, the children will do farm chores and help feed the animals.

Pancake the chicken and her baby, Waffle, go by. This chicken has flown the coop, preferring to hang out with the cow. She’s actively raising her chick.

This is unusual behavior, Benner says, as modern chickens have been bred to spend more time laying eggs for profit and less time nurturing babies.

Pancake walks briskly, clucking constantly to Waffle, who runs on teeny legs to keep up.

“She’s showing the chick how to eat and how to be,” Benner says.

There are always some chickens that forsake the safety of the coop for an independent life in the open, says Benner. And when they do, “they have to live by their wits.”

8:30 a.m. The lambs are getting antsy.

“Their stomachs are talkin’,” says Sam Benner.

Camp counselors and young campers yank on a rope in a tug-of-war exhibition at Benner’s Farm. Photo by Michaela Pawluk
Camp counselors and young campers yank on a rope in a tug-of-war exhibition at Benner’s Farm. Photo by Michaela Pawluk

One runs to the fence and makes a tentative baa. Soon, three others follow. Now the group is singing a loud, indignant chorus of appeal for their breakfast. Benner tells them they have to wait until the campers get there.

Farm life is satisfying, says Dave Benner, but the hours are long. When it’s time for “spring baby-watch,” he says, “any time the animals go into labor, we have to be there to help ‘em, for as long as it takes.”

Each animal has a distinct personality. Take Shrek, the little pig born in April. “Shrek is a handful,” Benner says, looking over at the piglet that, in the span of about a minute, has pushed his nose through the fence, run around his pen, rooted in the dirt and enthusiastically munched a snack.

10 a.m. The campers are here. Some are gathering hay from the barn. The littlest ones sit on counselor Michaela Pawluk’s lap, as she teaches them how to milk Zoe the goat. The milk is used to feed baby animals, Pawluk says, or is made into cheese.

Other kids wield rakes and shovels. Counselor Nick Mancuso is helping them make a feng shui-themed rock garden.

All the children have a multitude of questions. Nine-year-old Teppei says the animals “are funny sometimes. The chickens look like they’re playing running bases, because they’re running back and forth.” Teppei says he was surprised “at how big cows can get, at a really small human age.” He drew that conclusion after meeting Minnie, the Benners’ massive two-year-old cow.

2:30 p.m. Afternoon on the farm is a time for noticing — the feel of the strong sun, the sound of water rushing out of a garden hose into the goats’ drinking basin, the fragrance of oregano as a breeze blows across the herb garden.

Grown goats and sheep are out of the barn, grazing on the grass. Their babies rest in the shade, leaning on each other with their eyes closed. Minnie the cow is like a big puppy, licking the arms of any human she can reach, her soulful brown eyes trusting and calm.

7 p.m. Campers are long gone, and grown-ups are gathering on the farm for an outdoor bluegrass concert in the pasture. The sheep are starting to hunker down in groups.

Minnie and Shrek are beside themselves with joy as people gather to admire them. But soon, even they will settle down for the night. Tomorrow will be another busy day.

Dance students go through a routine together at the Huntington YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

Walking into the dance studio at the Huntington YMCA feels like walking into a family gathering full of distant relatives you’ve never met before. But the vibe is one of comfort and inclusion, especially if you’ve got a penchant for impromptu group renditions of Taylor Swift songs.

Dance students go through a routine together at the Huntington YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Dance students go through a routine together at the Huntington YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano

The friendly atmosphere inside the studio is natural, according to dance instructor Pam Christy-Allen, after students, teachers and parents have worked together for as long as they have.

“I have the same kids every year, so I build relationships with them,” Christy-Allen said in a recent interview. “As their sweet sixteens have come we’ve been invited to them and they include you like their family. It’s very rewarding.”

Last month, the YMCA’s dance program turned two decades old, a milestone that staff there celebrated. But there’s no resting on laurels — program leaders say they plan to stay on their toes.

In a recent visit to the program, students showed appreciation for their instructors. Thirteen-year-old hip hop, acro and ballet student Samantha Sluka began taking YMCA dance classes at age 3 and said that Debbie Smith, her ballet teacher, has kept her interested in dancing through the years. Sluka said YMCA classes have improved her self-confidence in addition to technical dance skills, and that in the future she “would love to dance on Broadway”.

Mary Dejana, a 17-year-old tap and jazz student, said that she likes lyrical and contemporary dance styles best because they help her express her feelings. She said that the YMCA program has taught her teamwork.

“Under the tutelage of my ballet, modern and pointe teacher Jo-Ann Hertzman and with the many opportunities the YMCA provided, I have come to understand not only more about dance but more about myself and the world around me,” wrote former student Mariah Anton in a letter to the staff at the YMCA. With plans to continue dancing at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Anton wrote that her “experiences at the YMCA have directed [her] to invest back into others through teaching, encouraging, and opening the world to the next generation in the same way that the YMCA invested in [her].”

Students practice using the bar at the YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Students practice using the bar at the YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Citing the Huntington YMCA as a “second home … during [her] childhood and early adulthood,” former student Melanie Carminati, now physical therapist and Pilates instructor in East Northport, called the dance program “a safe haven for artistic growth and creativity” in a written statement. She attributed the environment to the guidance of Edie Cafiero, cultural arts director.

Cafiero stressed the importance of allowing dancers to express their creativity from a young age. “We start with 3-year-olds,” he said. “We make it fun while still using terminology and introducing steps. We let them explore themselves at that age.” She said that classes become more serious as students age and advance, but that they have the option to either hone in on certain dance styles or further expand their horizons and learn new styles.

Among some of the less conventional dance classes offered at the YMCA are Irish step, hip hop, acro, lyrical, contemporary, modern and adult ballet.

When asked what factors have contributed most significantly to the success of the Huntington YMCA dance program, Cafiero pointed to the variety of classes offered and the welcome-all attitude of the staff.

She said she walked into a famous ballet school at age 15 “and they told me I was over the hill before seeing me dance. I never wanted a kid to feel like that. We don’t turn anyone away. If they have the passion to dance we want to nurture it.”

Anyone interested in the Huntington YMCA cultural and performing arts program is invited to contact Cafiero at 631-421-4242, ext. 132.

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The deck of the Martha E. Wallace, taken by John M. Brown. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village archive
Spectators fill the dock to watch the Martha E. Wallace launch, taken by John M. Brown. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village archive
Spectators fill the dock to watch the Martha E. Wallace launch, taken by John M. Brown. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village archive

It was the largest wooden sailing vessel ever built in Port Jefferson, during the village’s shipyard heyday.

The Martha E. Wallace was built at the Mather & Wood Shipyard in 1902 and topped off at more than 200 feet long and 1,108 tons, according to a history of prominent residents interred at Port Jefferson’s Cedar Hill Cemetery written by cemetery historian George Moraitis.

John Titus Mather — the very same whose name is memorialized on a Port Jefferson hospital, and one in a long line of shipbuilders — and Owen E. Wood had started the shipyard around 1879. Located on the harbor, near the current ferry terminal site, they quickly got to work building the first ship for the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company, Nonowantuc, a wooden-hulled steam ferry, and later the original Park City ferry before designing the Martha E. Wallace.

The Martha E. Wallace is docked at Steamboat Landing. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village archive
The Martha E. Wallace is docked at Steamboat Landing. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village archive

The schooner Martha E. Wallace launched on Aug. 2, 1902. According to “Images of America: Port Jefferson,” written by local library staffers Robert Maggio and Earlene O’Hare, it was “the last of the great schooners built in Port Jefferson,” with four masts and 16 sails. Those sails were made at the Wilson Sail Loft, another village business situated at the harbor.

About 2,000 people witnessed the ship’s launch, Maggio and O’Hare wrote, but the majesty was short-lived — the vessel was destroyed eight years later when she ran aground off the coast of North Carolina.

The Martha E. Wallace, under construction, sits at the Mather and Wood Shipyard with the Ida C. Southard, which is getting repairs. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village archive
The Martha E. Wallace, under construction, sits at the Mather and Wood Shipyard with the Ida C. Southard, which is getting repairs. Photo from the Port Jefferson Village archive

That incident was early one morning in late December 1910, and records show the Martha E. Wallace got stranded near Cape Lookout in the Southern Outer Banks, while carrying cargo on a trip between Georgia and New York. The small crew was rescued as the schooner was rapidly taking on water.

The Martha E. Wallace was one of several dozens of vessels the Mather family had a hand in building. A half-hull model of the ship is on display — along with other ship models and shipbuilding tools — at the historical society’s Mather Museum on Prospect Street in downtown Port Jefferson, based at a former Mather family home.

Young bathers dive into the waters of a newly reopened beach at the Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The county health department warned locals on Friday against bathing at 25 Huntington area beaches, the morning after heavy rainfall drenched the North Shore.

According to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, it issued the advisory because the rain could have led to bacteria levels in the water that exceed state standards.

“The beaches covered by the advisory are located in areas that are heavily influenced by stormwater runoff from the surrounding watersheds and/or adjacent tributaries,” the department said in a press release, “and, because of their location in an enclosed embayment, experience limited tidal flushing.”

Affected beaches include Eagle Dock Community Beach, Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club beach, West Neck Beach, Lloyd Neck Bath Club beach, Lloyd Harbor Village Park beach, Gold Star Battalion Park beach, Head of the Bay Club beach, Nathan Hale Beach Club beach, Baycrest Association beach, Bay Hills Beach Association beach, Crescent Beach, Knollwood Beach Association beach, Fleets Cove Beach, Centerport Beach, Huntington Beach Community Association beach, Centerport Yacht Club beach, Steers Beach, Asharoken Beach, Hobart Beach (both the Long Island Sound and cove sides), Crab Meadow Beach, Wincoma Association beach, Valley Grove Beach, Prices Bend Beach and Callahans Beach.

The advisory was scheduled to be lifted at 9 p.m. on Friday, to give enough time for two tidal cycles to clear out the water. However, the health department said the advisory would not be lifted if water samples from the affected beaches showed continued high levels of bacteria.

For up-to-date information on the affected beaches, call the health department’s bathing beach hotline at 631-852-5822 or visit the beach monitoring webpage.

People should go through several bottles of sunscreen in one season. Using an ounce of sunscreen is ideal, as companies measure the SPF of a sunscreen by applying that amount of sunscreen to the body. Photo by Giselle Barkley

A little dab here and a little dab there. That’s usually how people apply sunscreen to their skin, according to Dr. Michael Dannenberg of Dermatology Associates of Huntington, chief of dermatology at Huntington Hospital. But with around one in five people developing skin cancer on their scalp, a dab of sunscreen isn’t enough.

Skin cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers in America, and cases for scalp cancer have increased in the past several years. While those who don’t have hair may be more prone to getting scalp cancer in comparison to those with hair, anyone can develop any form of skin cancer on this area of their body.

Squamous cell and basal cell carcinoma are common for those who are frequently exposed to the sun and those who are losing hair. Melanoma can also develop on the scalp. In 1935, one in 1,500 people developed melanoma, but the rate has since increased. Now, one in 50 people have a lifetime risk of developing melanoma.

According to Dr. Tara Huston, a surgeon in the Melanoma Management Team for Stony Brook Medicine, there will be 74,000 new cases this year of melanoma in the United States alone. Huston also said that this form of skin cancer usually requires a surgeon’s attention, as it calls for “a larger excision margin than either basal or squamous cell skin cancer.”

Huston and her team help patients with various forms of skin cancer. While dermatologists treat skin cancers like melanoma if caught early, people with more advanced stages of skin cancer may need surgery and additional treatment to recover. A patient’s lymph nodes are also examined. Lymph nodes are responsible for the drainage of certain parts of the skin. Doctors can further repair issues found from examining the nodes associated with the cancer in that area.

Sunburns, above, and increased sun exposure increase an individual’s risk of getting skin cancer like Melanoma, which accounts for four percent of cases, but 75 percent of skin cancer-related deaths according to Dr. Huston. Photo from Alexandra Zendrian
Sunburns, above, and increased sun exposure increase an individual’s risk of getting skin cancer like Melanoma, which accounts for four percent of cases, but 75 percent of skin cancer-related deaths according to Dr. Huston. Photo from Alexandra Zendrian

Although skin cancer of the scalp is not difficult to detect, Dr. Dannenberg says it can be missed because it is on the head. Lesions can vary based on the form of skin cancer on the scalp. Yet, it is easy to detect, especially when people receive frequent haircuts. According to Dannenberg, his office receives countless referrals from barbers and hairstylists who may find a cancerous lesion on their client’s heads.

Huston agreed with Dannenberg regarding the role of barbers and hairstylists, as a number of skin cancer lesions are identified by these professionals.

Squamous cell carcinoma appears in dull, red, rough and scaly lesions, while basal cell carcinoma appears as raised, pink and wax-like bumps that can bleed. Melanoma on the scalp appears as it would on any other part of the body — irregularly shaped, dark-colored lesions.

While sunscreen is more often associated with skin protection, dermatologists like Dannenberg also recommend protective clothing and hats. Cloth hats allow the wearer’s head to breathe while protecting the scalp. Hats with a three and a half inch or more rim offer the best protection, as they cover the head while protecting the ears and other parts of the face or neck. While people can also use straw hats, the hats should be densely woven and not allow sun to penetrate. Hats as well as sunscreen and protective clothing should be used together to provide people with the best form of sun protection.

“Nobody is completely compulsive about putting on that hat every moment they walk out the door,” Dannenberg said. “Likewise, even for people [who] are using sunscreens, people tend not to use enough of it and they don’t reapply it as often as necessary.”

One ounce of sunscreen might be hard to hold without dripping down the side of someone’s hand, but it is the amount of sunscreen people should use on their entire body. Dannenberg also says that sunscreens usually last for about three hours before people need to reapply.

Since few people follow the directions when applying sunscreen, Dannenberg as well as the American Academy of Dermatology recommend people use sunscreens with at least SPF 30. Using sunscreens with higher SPF counts means that people can under apply and still get some degree of sun and ultraviolet radiation protection.

Huston said individuals who don’t want to wear sunscreen or those with a history of tanning should seek a dermatologist and schedule appointments at least once a year to conduct a full body skin examination.

According to Huston, operating on areas of the head like the ears, nose, eyelids, lips and scalp is difficult because of the surrounding tissue.

“Reconstruction of a 2 cm defect on the nose may require multiple stages/surgeries in order to optimize the aesthetic result,” Huston said in an e-mail interview.

While some patients need skin grafts upon the removal of a cancerous lesion, Huston said, “incisions on the scalp can lead to alopecia, or hair loss along the incision line, if it stretches, and can be very upsetting to patients.”

Both Huston and Dannenberg emphasized the importance of protecting the skin and skin cancer education. Dannenberg hopes that the rates of skin cancer will decrease if people are more consistent about protecting their skin with protective attire, sunscreen and hats.

“We’ve been talking to people for years about wearing hats…telling them that as fashion always seems to follow need, that these hats are going to be coming in style,” Dannenberg said. “We’re hoping that over the next 10 or 15 years, we’ll be able to get a drop in the incidences of skin cancer.”

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Hydrangea macrophylla. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

In many of my previous columns, I’ve talked about the benefits of using compost and compost tea on your plants. Let’s start with some basic information on what compost is and how to make it.

Compost is decayed organic matter. It’s full of nutrients and makes a great fertilizer for plants. Compost aerates clay soil and helps to hold moisture in sandy soil, so it improves soil structure. Making your own compost keeps waste out of the land fill. It also ensures that you can keep pesticides and other chemicals out of the compost and therefore out of your soil.

There are two types of compost piles, hot and cold. The hot pile raises the temperature of the ingredients to at least 135 degrees. There are several benefits of a hot compost pile. One is that many damaging organisms, like plant bacteria, are killed in a hot pile. Another is that the hot pile decomposes more quickly. Add equal parts green and brown matter, grass clippings and dry leaves, for example, all finely chopped and mixed together. Smaller pieces will decompose more quickly than larger ones. Add some manure in the ratio of 1/3 to 2/3 plant matter for a hot pile or add some blood and bone fertilizer.

A cold compost pile takes longer to decompose, but you need to be less concerned with ratios, manure, etc. Never put diseased leaves in a cold pile. You’re just saving the disease organisms for the next season. Actually, I never put diseased plant parts in any compost pile, just to be on the safe side. Make sure that you keep the compost pile moist or the plant matter will not decompose. Think about the Egyptian mummies, in the desert for thousands of years, yet not decomposed. Periodically turn the pile over. If you use one of the rotating composters on a stand, this step is very easy.

What goes in the compost pile? Any healthy green plant matter, but not woody as it takes too long to decompose, and lawn clippings; coffee grounds and used tea bags; paper towels; and kitchen peelings including apple cores, orange peels, etc. — keep a closed container in the kitchen to collect them and then periodically bring them out to the garden — crushed eggshells and manure from herbivores, such as cows and horses.

Do not add protein, such as leftover meat, which draws critters and is slow to decompose; fatty substances; manure from carnivores, such as dogs and cats, as it can transmit disease; and diseased plant parts.

Compost can be applied as a top dressing or lightly dug into the soil, being careful to avoid surface roots of plants. It can also be mixed into the soil when you transplant or add a new plant to the garden.

If you choose not to make your own compost, but acquire it from other sources, remember that you don’t know what has been used to make that compost. It may be exactly as you would make yourself or not. If you are keeping a strictly organic garden, this can be a problem. For example, whoever made the compost may have used insecticides on the plant matter or weed killers. I used to get compost from a local free source only to find pieces of broken glass in it along with pieces of wire. So, always wear your gardening gloves to protect your hands.

Next week, making compost tea.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

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Footprints mark a sandy trail at Cupsogue Beach in Southampton. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

Finding an enjoyable vacation doesn’t have to involve booking a cruise to the Bahamas, a plane ticket to California or even a train ride to New York City. With Long Island’s more than 100 museums, 20 state parks and 30 wineries/vineyards, going somewhere great is as easy as stepping outside of your own backyard (and contains less risk of trampling your neighbor’s freshly planted rhododendrons).

A kayaker enjoys a tranquil evening on the Nissequogue River in Smithtown.Photo by Talia Amorosano
A kayaker enjoys a tranquil evening on the Nissequogue River in Smithtown.Photo by Talia Amorosano

So hop in your car — or better yet, save gas money by hopping in a friend’s car — and explore an unfamiliar township. Because whether you’re looking for fun for the whole family, an escape from reality or a romantic getaway, you’ll find that the list of things to do here stretches as long as the Island itself, and well beyond the length of this list.

Oyster Bay
Spend a day in Oyster Bay if you love history. Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park encompasses hundreds of acres of gardens, trails and woodlands, not to mention a 1920s Tudor mansion. There’s also Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, home of Theodore Roosevelt from 1885 through 1919, and Raynham Hall Museum, former residence of Robert Townsend, George Washington’s intelligence operative.  Who knows, maybe history will repeat itself and you’ll visit again.

Huntington
There are a ton of things to do here. Purchase tickets to an unforgettable show or concert at The Paramount Theater, tour the Heckscher Museum of Art and historic Oheka Castle or explore the outdoors at Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery and Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve.

Smithtown
Tap Nissequogue River Canoe and Kayak Rentals Inc. to rent (or bring) a canoe or kayak, and paddle along 5.5 miles of tranquil river. If you still can’t get enough nature, take a stroll at scenic Caleb Smith State Park Preserve or visit the rehabilitating animals at Sweetbriar Nature Center.  If you still can’t get enough nature, build a tree house in your backyard when you get home or something. But before you go, be sure to stop at Whisper or Harmony Vineyards in St. James, listen to live music and buy a bottle of wine.

An injured red-tailed hawk gets another chance at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown. Photo by Talia Amorosano
An injured red-tailed hawk gets another chance at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Brookhaven
This town offers some wonderful watery swimming, boating and fishing destinations: West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook, Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai, Corey Beach in Blue Point, Davis Park and Great Gun Beach, both on Fire Island, are just some of the important names to remember when planning your next beach daycation in Brookhaven.

Riverhead
Head to the river for a family fun day. The Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center, located along the Peconic River, is home to birds, butterflies and bats, along with great numbers of ocean and river dwelling animals. Also fun for kids and adults alike are the Riverhead Raceway and Long Island Science Center.

Southold
Don’t hold out on visiting this beautiful Long Island location. Book a cab ride through gorgeous rural Southold and visit one or more of its many wineries and vineyards: Sparkling Pointe, One Woman Wines and Vineyards, The Old Field Vineyards, Croteaux Vineyards, Mattebella Vineyards, Corey Creek Vineyards and Duckwalk Vineyards are just the cork of the wine bottle. Later, dine at one of more than 40 eateries in the maritime Village of Greenport, considered one of the prettiest towns in the United States.

Southampton
See the seashore like never before at sandy, clean Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton, or lay back in luxury on a True East Charters boat tour of the Hamptons.  If staying grounded is more your style, spend a day playing minigolf with the family at the Southampton Golf Range, which also features a driving range, batting cages and an ice rink.

East Hampton
If you’re up for an art-filled adventure, spend an hour at the Pollock-Krasner House and view the paint-splattered space where abstract impressionist Jackson Pollock and fellow artist Lee Krasner created some of their most provocative works.  End the day in another world: LongHouse Reserve, where modern sculptures and furniture (created by a seasonal group of artists) fuse seamlessly with the interestingly landscaped grounds.

Restaurant is first in village to attempt rooftop dining

Skipper's wants to create outdoor rooftop dining. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Skipper’s Pub of Northport Village has set its sights on the sky with plans to create rooftop dining at its Main Street eatery — but the proposal saw a bit of grounding by village zoning officials and residents on Wednesday.

Representatives of the restaurant came before the Northport Village Zoning Board of Appeals at a public hearing with hopes of gaining area and parking variances to create a 109-seat seasonal rooftop dining area atop Skipper’s. The plan raised eyebrows and exclamations from ZBA chairman Andrew Cangemi, who questioned whether the ZBA even had jurisdiction over the proposal and brought to light parking issues with the plan.

This is the first time a restaurant has attempted to gain approvals for rooftop dining in Northport Village.

“What we’re doing is a little different than a couple of tables and chairs, Mr. Chairman,” Chris Modelewski, the attorney for the applicant said.

Skipper’s needs a variance from the code for about 37 parking spots, as they want to build a 2,750 square foot rooftop deck. The deck would add 33 additional seats to its eatery and plans to remove a number of sidewalk dining seats and tables.

A view of what a proposed outdoor rooftop dining space would look like at Skipper's Pub in Northport. Photo by Rohma Abbas
A view of what a proposed outdoor rooftop dining space would look like at Skipper’s Pub in Northport. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The plan also includes adding a bar and bar stools, a stairway and fencing to the roof.

Officials and residents at the hearing questioned where those spots would come from, in a village that is already strapped for parking spots during the busy summer months.

Another issue Cangemi raised was whether the ZBA should even be reviewing the application. Modelewksi said the rooftop dining complies with the village’s outdoor dining code, which allows restaurants to create sidewalk dining for a $50 annual permit fee. Those applications don’t require ZBA variances, Cangemi said, according to the code.

“Why are you here?” he asked.

Modelewski said he needed variances for parking and other issues, and that he wanted to secure them in case the law changed in the future. Cangemi replied that the applicant basically wanted the ZBA to assume a legislative role and “play village board.”

“Chris, I hear what you’re saying, but it seems like you’re asking this board for cover.”

The representatives delved into the details of the application. When pressed on parking figures — Cangemi asked where the applicant would create 37 additional spots — Modelewski said he reasoned many of the individuals who come out to eat at night are out-of-town visitors who arrive by boats and moor up to the neighboring marinas and village dock, therefore not requiring parking. Representatives also mentioned there are available spots open to the public at Woodbine Marina.

About 10 residents weighed in on the proposal at Wednesday night’s hearing. Those who critiqued the plan did so on the parking issues. One person who spoke in favor of the plan noted that the village is home to a number of large-scale events like the farmers’ market and the Great Cow Harbor 10K Race, and people manage to find parking at those events.

Former Northport Village Trustee Tom Kehoe also made an appearance and spoke on the application. The original author of the outdoor dining legislation, Kehoe said it was initially drafted years ago when vacancies and inactivity were a common sight in Northport. Officials then were looking for ways to stimulate activity in the downtown.

He said everyone has had a hand in “the Renaissance of Northport,” turning it into a destination.

“Sometimes you just have to be careful what you wish for.”

Cangemi said the public hearing would be held open until Sept. 16 for any additional comments to be entered into the record.

Historian pens new book on local amusement parks of yesteryear

Actors, including local resident Jane Owen playing the notorious outlaw Belle Starr, pose in front of the bank at Dodge City in Patchogue. Photo from the Eaton family

Living in Suffolk County, we’ve all heard of Splish Splash, Chuck E. Cheese’s, Dave and Buster’s, Boomers, Adventureland and the Long Island Game Farm. But how many of us have ever heard of Frontier City, Fairytown USA, Dodge City or Turner’s Amusement Park?

Photo from The History Press
Photo from The History Press

Historian Marisa L. Berman’s latest book, “Historic Amusement Parks of Long Island: 118 Miles of Memories” (The History Press) takes us on a nostalgic journey to explore the kiddie parks of Queens, Brooklyn, Nassau and Suffolk that are now just a distant memory. According to Berman, this book is “a celebration of the amusement parks that Long Islanders have loved and unfortunately have lost. … [It] will tell the story of Long Island through the memories of its children.”

Berman’s first book centered on Nunley’s Amusement Park in Baldwin, which she often visited as a child. At book signings, according to her second book’s introduction, many people would mention other parks on Long Island that they had fond memories of and she “quickly realized that there were many more stories that needed to be told.”

The author reached out to sources on Facebook and received many photographs, stories and memorabilia from people who had visited these parks. After much research and numerous interviews, the book finally came together.

All of the 33 amusement parks featured in the book opened in the 1940s and ‘50s, with the exception of Playland Park in Freeport, which opened in 1924 and closed in 1931. Berman attributes this to the many veterans who moved east from the city to Long Island to raise their families after World War II and the need to “entertain the masses.”

Each park is described in vivid detail, from inception to closing, from admission prices to rides, including what is in that location today — almost always a shopping mall or store. The wonderful black-and-white photographs, 80 in all, pull everything together.

Many of the kiddie parks featured a petting zoo, carnival rides and a train, but each had its own special niche. In our neck of the woods, there were western-themed parks like Dodge City in Patchogue, on the corner of Sunrise Highway and Waverly Avenue, and Frontier City in Amityville, on Route 110, complete with a bank, jail, cemetery, general store and sheriff’s office.

Children ride the miniature train at Lollipop Farm in 1952. Photo by Kathryn Abbe, courtesy of SPLIA
Children ride the miniature train at Lollipop Farm in 1952. Photo by Kathryn Abbe, courtesy of SPLIA

Fairytown USA in Middle Island, which was located across from Artist Lake on Middle Country Road, consisted of a storybook-inspired village and sections with themes like Planet Mars and Mother Goose. Farther west, Lollipop Farm in Syosset had a miniature train that carried children around the four-acre farm. The train miraculously survived, stored in pieces in a barn, and was recently lovingly restored by the Greenlawn-Centerport Historical Association.

The majority of the defunct parks’ artifacts, however, have been lost forever. Mostly family-owned and operated, Berman attributes the parks’ demise to the decline of the baby boom in the mid-1960s.

By the end of the book, Berman will have the reader yearning for a simpler and more innocent time, “a time when there was nothing better than your parents bringing you to your park so you could play and just enjoy being a kid.”

Todd Berkun, founder of the Facebook page “Long Island and NYC Places That Are No More,” sums it up perfectly in the foreword: “Whether you spent time in these parks growing up or live on the Island now and have wondered about their glorious past, this book is for you. As a testament to an era of great fun and enjoyment on the Island, this work describes a vibrant and important part of Long Island’s history.”

“Historic Amusement Parks of Long Island: 118 Miles of Memories,” $21.99, is available at local retailers and online bookstores. It is also available through Arcadia Publishing and The History Press by calling 888-313-2665 or by visiting www.arcadiapublishing.com.

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