Monthly Archives: November 2015

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File photo.

Police arrested two men who allegedly tried to steal tires and rims from cars at a dealership in Smithtown early Sunday morning, with the help of a police dog named Thor.

Officers Frank Filiberto and Vincent Liberato first came upon the suspects as they looked around the King O’Rourke dealership on Nesconset Highway in Smithtown, the Suffolk County Police Department said. Filiberto, while on patrol, had seen a suspicious vehicle turn into the business’ rear lot at about 2:30 a.m. and called for backup. As he and Liberato investigated, they allegedly saw two men removing lug nuts from a 2016 Cadillac Escalade, but the duo fled when they noticed the officers.

Police said canine officer Michael Cassidy and Thor arrested the alleged perpetrators, 38-year-old Lake Grove resident Steven Hall and 51-year-old Lake Ronkonkoma resident Joseph Stoddard, a short time later.

Hall and Stoddard were charged with third-degree attempted grand larceny, third-degree auto stripping and possession of burglary tools.

Attorney information for the defendants was not immediately available.

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North Shore residents burned off calories to make some room for turkey early on Thanksgiving morning, running the 1-mile and 5-mile paths at Shoreham’s 35th annual Turkey Trot.

Three Shoreham and Wading River residents earned top finishes, including 2014 Shoreham-Wading River graduate Ryan Udvadia, who earned first place in the 5K for men with a time of 17 minutes, .01 seconds.

A portion of the proceeds from the charity event will fund community programs.

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The Newfield football team poses for a group photo after defeated MacArthur, 41-33, for the Long Island Class II title on Nov. 27 at Hofstra University. Photo by Joe Galotti
Newfield’s Elijah Riley, Joe Saladino, Nick Favaloro, Steven Hoynacky and Isaiah Israel pose with the Long Island Class II football championship trophy after defeating MacArthur, 41-33, on Nov. 27 at Hofstra University. Photo by Newfield High School Video Club
Newfield’s Elijah Riley, Joe Saladino, Nick Favaloro, Steven Hoynacky and Isaiah Israel pose with the Long Island Class II football championship trophy after defeating MacArthur, 41-33, on Nov. 27 at Hofstra University. Photo by the Newfield High School Video Club

By Joe Galotti

Newfield has not faced much adversity this fall. The team entered this year’s Long Island Class II football championship game with an 11-0 record, and had yet to be truly challenged on their quest for a perfect season.

On Friday night at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium, the Wolverines were finally tested.

After holding a 20-point advantage over MacArthur at halftime, Newfield quickly saw its lead evaporate to just a single point before the end of the third quarter. But Wolverines senior wideout Elijah Riley refused to let his team lose on this night, running for two touchdowns in the contest’s final quarter to power his team to a 41-33 victory.

“Eli’s been our lightning guy all year,” Wolverines head coach Joe Piccininni said. “He just comes out and makes things happen for us when you least expect it.”

Thanks to Riley’s heroics, Newfield earned its first Long Island Championship since 2011. Senior quarterback Ryan Klemm was excited that the team was able to not only bring the title back to their school, but also record the program’s first ever perfect season.

“It’s awesome,” Klemm said. “They always refer to the 2011 team, and we wanted to do something better — something that they didn’t do. So 12-0 was definitely the goal.”

The Wolverines got off to a quiet on the gridiron, as MacArthur held Newfield’s explosive offense scoreless in the game’s opening 12 minutes. Senior halfback Vin Martino gave the Generals an early 7-0 lead, with a nine-yard touchdown run.

In the second quarter, the Wolverines began to take over.

Newfield’s players stand behind a banner that reads "Let’s Make H15tory" which the Wolverines did, with a 41-33 win over MacArthur for the Class II Long Island championship title and the first undefeated season in program history on Nov. 27 at Hofstra University. Photo by Joe Galotti
Newfield’s players stand behind a banner that reads “Let’s Make H15tory” which the Wolverines did, with a 41-33 win over MacArthur for the Class II Long Island championship title and the first undefeated season in program history on Nov. 27 at Hofstra University. Photo by Joe Galotti

First, Riley got his team on the board with a six-yard touchdown run. Then Klemm left his mark on the championship game, connecting on touchdown passes with senior wide receiver Jelani Greene, senior running back Denzel Williams and senior tight end Austin Gubelman before halftime.

Up 27-7 entering the third, Newfield seemed to have their Class II title wrapped up. But, the Generals were prepared to go down fighting, beginning the second half by recovering an onside kick. Shortly after, Martino found the end zone to make it a 13-point game. MacArthur attempted another onside kick, and once again gained possession. Martino followed that up with his second touchdown in a span of just 34 seconds.

Later in the quarter, MacArthur senior quarterback Jimmy Kelleher threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to senior wideout Jared Wolfe. The ensuing extra-point attempt was missed, but the Wolverines’ lead fell to just 27-26.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Klemm said. “They’re a great team, and we knew we’d have to face adversity eventually, and it came tonight.”

Riley added, “Nobody gets flustered. Everyone knows they have another chance to get the job done and do what they have to do to finish their assignment.”

Nick Adler hugs his new fiancée on the field after proposing following Newfield's 41-33 win over MacArthur for the Wolverine's Long Island Class II championship title. Photo by Joe Galotti
Nick Adler hugs his new fiancée on the field after proposing following Newfield’s 41-33 win over MacArthur for the Wolverine’s Long Island Class II championship title. Photo by Joe Galotti

In the fourth quarter, Riley was able to right the ship for his team. He first provided an eight-yard touchdown run. Then, with 2:49 remaining in regulation, scored on a 30-yard rush, to extend Newfield’s lead to 15 points.

MacArthur added a late touchdown, but failed to pull any closer, as Riley recovered the Generals final onside kick attempt and took a knee just shy of another touchdown, despite any player being within 15 yards of the senior.

“MacArthur did an outstanding job of preparing for us and playing against us,” Piccininni said, “They left their hearts out on the field. They really pushed us to our limits today, but our kids overcame it.”

Also leaving his heart out on the field after the game was Wolverines assistant coach Nick Adler. He proposed to his girlfriend after the team was presented with their championship trophy. And when she said yes, the Wolverines were left with a storybook ending to their perfect season.

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Senior running back Chris Rosati rushes away with four touchdowns in team's 24th win in two seasons

By Joe Galotti

Most young men who decide to put on a helmet and pads and play high school football never get to experience the joy of winning a class championship or putting together a perfect season. On Friday afternoon, at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium, the Shoreham-Wading River football team had the rare opportunity to reach both of those achievements for a second straight season, and did not let it go to waste.

The Wildcats jumped out to a 28-point first-half lead over Locust Valley, helping them come away with a 35-7 victory in the Long Island Class IV Championship game. Senior running back Chris Rosati led the way with four rushing touchdowns, and the team’s eye-popping winning streak was extended to 24 games.

“(Going undefeated twice) is very special,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Matt Millheiser said. “It really was something I wanted them to achieve and carry with them, and they did that today.”

After the victory, Rosati admitted that the team felt pressure all season long trying to repeat last fall’s undefeated campaign.

“Every team was looking to beat us,” Rosati said. “We got everyone’s best game, but we just really fought hard against every team we faced.”

If the Wildcats were at all nervous on Friday, they did not show it, as they jumped all over the Falcons early on, putting up two quick scores on the team that had entered the contest allowing the fewest points on Long Island this year.

Rosati got Shoreham-Wading River on the board when he capped off the team’s opening drive by taking a pitch to the right side 26 yards for a touchdown. On the Wildcats next drive, Rosati delivered a two-yard rushing touchdown, which was set up by a 31-yard run by senior wideout Jon Constant.

Early in the second quarter, Rosati drove his way into the end zone once again, this time, on a 1-yard rush.

“Chris is amazing,” senior guard Dalten Stalzer said. “Just watching him play every week; it’s crazy. Some of the things he does and the tackles he breaks, it makes us look good.”

With 1:24 remaining before the half, senior quarterback Jason Curran put the game out of reach with a six-yard touchdown pass to Constant.

Shoreham-Wading River was extremely effective on the ground in the game, with Rosati rushing for 110 yards, Curran rushing for 91 yards and Constant rushing for 90 yards. Much of this was made possible by a dominant performance from the team’s offensive line.

“We knew what we needed to do to execute,” Constant said. “But [our success] all starts with our line’s performance.”

The Wildcats’ defense also put up a strong effort, forcing three interceptions and not giving up a score until the fourth quarter. Constant was responsible for two of the picks, while Rosati had the other.

With another perfect season in the books, Shoreham-Wading River is arguably in the midst of one of the best runs in Long Island high school football history. But Millheiser says that the key to the Wildcats’ success has been not getting caught up in any of the streaks or stats.

“We were more concerned about doing our jobs and doing the right thing,” Millheiser said. “When you focus on those things the fun numbers like 24-0 seem to come with it.”

During Shoreham-Wading River’s postgame team photo with its championship trophy, the team once again got the opportunity to honor the memory of their former teammate Tom Cutinella, who died as a result of an on-field collision in a 2014 game. Senior lineman James Puckey held up Cutinella’s No. 54 jersey for the group shot, making it clear that he was still very much a part of the Wildcats team.

Port Jefferson is fighting to keep property tax revenue flowing from the power plant and to prevent restrictions from being lifted on peaker unit output. File photo by Lee Lutz

The Port Jefferson school district has climbed aboard a lawsuit against the Long Island Power Authority that challenges the utility’s efforts to reduce its property taxes at North Shore power plants.

LIPA has been working for the last several years to significantly reduce taxes at the aging Port Jefferson and Northport plants, saying the facilities are grossly over-assessed and force the utility to pay more in property taxes than it should. But the school board voted on Nov. 24 to join a lawsuit filed by the Town of Huntington and the Northport-East Northport school district that disputes LIPA’s legal right to file its tax challenges, claiming they are a breach of contract.

That argument stems from a 1997 letter from former LIPA Chairman Richard Kessel, in which Kessel said the utility would not file property tax challenges in the future “on any of their respective properties at any time in the future unless a municipality abusively increases its assessment rate.”

The “respective properties” referenced include the Port Jefferson and Northport power plants, which are owned and operated by energy company National Grid. That company sells the energy it produces to the Long Island utility.

In Port Jefferson, the power plant’s property taxes provide much support to the school district, accounting for almost half of its budget, making the potential loss of that revenue a serious issue for the district.

The Port Jefferson Village government is in a similar position, funding about one-third of its budget with power plant taxes. Smaller stakeholders include the Port Jefferson fire and library districts and the Town of Brookhaven.

In an announcement posted on its website last week, the Port Jefferson school district said, “Our decision to join this lawsuit is a necessary step to protect the resources of our school district and the financial stability of our taxpayers.”

Before the Port Jefferson school district joined the lawsuit, LIPA had filed a motion to dismiss it, but New York State’s highest court denied that motion earlier this year and allowed the case to move forward.

At that time, a LIPA spokesperson said the utility does not comment on ongoing litigation.

After the utility’s motion to dismiss was denied — representing a small victory for those fighting LIPA’s tax challenges — Port Jefferson Village filed a separate lawsuit in September that alleges the same breach of contract as the schools’ lawsuit. Village Attorney Brian Egan requested that court action on LIPA’s tax challenges, which are still pending in the court system, be delayed until the new lawsuits are resolved.

If the plaintiffs win their arguments, the pending tax challenges would be thrown out.

According to Egan, however, the lawsuits are now facing a new motion to dismiss, this time from National Grid.

Rocco Donnino, founder of Cow Harbor Warriors, and Tony Donnino, board member, wait to award a service dog to a veteran at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 15. Photo from Don McKay

The Cow Harbor Warriors are committed to fighting for veterans.

The Northport nonprofit organization, established three years ago, raises money and organizes events to commemorate the sacrifices veterans have made. Since the group was founded, according to founder Rocco Donnino, it has raised $235,000 for organizations that help veterans in need, like Paws of War, which matches disable veterans with service dogs.

“It’s an opportunity for us to say thank you,” Cow Harbor Warriors President Don McKay said. “I’m a strong believer in small steps make great things. We can never do too much to help our veterans.”

The group organizes several fundraising events throughout the year to help fund their Warrior Weekend, which includes a 4-mile run, a golf tournament and a parade through Northport Village to honor and thank the veterans and their families. The event, which also has a fundraising element to it, was originally meant to specifically honor veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, and was held in 2012, 2014 and 2015.

“I travel a lot for my job, and in 2011, when the Iraqi war was ending, I was seeing a lot of servicemen and women in airports coming home,” Donnino said. “I would make sure to shake their hands and say thank you to every one I saw, but after a while that didn’t feel like enough.”

Donnino wanted to do something that takes advantage of the “wonderful and unbelievable” area he lives in — thus Warrior Weekend was born.

Veterans from those two campaigns and their families are brought for an all-expenses-paid relaxation weekend in Northport, starting with a Warrior Welcome parade and ending with a gala dinner with live music. The veterans ride into Northport Village on fire engines in the parade, and then are treated to activities of their choice, including fishing and golf.

Donnino said he wanted to bring veterans to a celebration specifically in Northport because the village has a “huge history of supporting troops and veterans.”

The event is held close to the anniversary of 9/11. This year, the warriors donated the money they raised during Warrior Weekend to three organizations: Paws of War, Hoops of Northport and the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Each organization received $25,000, McKay said.

Cow Harbor Warriors bounced back from a controversy to hold its signature event last year and this year. The Northport American Legion Post 694 alleged a couple of years ago that the group had not properly disbursed funds they had raised at the first Warrior Weekend in 2012 — a claim that canceled the event in 2013.

McKay called those allegations “baseless” and said the group has been fully vetted by the Suffolk County Department of Veteran Services and is in “full compliance.”

The nonprofit’s reach goes beyond the village boundaries. Paws of War invited members of the Cow Harbor Warriors to the New York Giants game at MetLife Stadium on Nov. 15 to present a service dog to a veteran at halftime on the field.

“It’s hard to explain how incredible the experience was to watch a veteran receive a service dog,” McKay said. “It was emotional, and a proud moment.”

Sabelo Ndala mugshot from SCPD

A motorcyclist was killed on Saturday afternoon when a young man who was allegedly on drugs crashed a car into his bike.

Two days after Thanksgiving, the Suffolk County Police Department said, 56-year-old Thomas Heissen Buttel was riding a 1972 Harley-Davidson north on Old Town Road when he was struck by a vehicle whose driver had been trying to make a left onto Hyson Way in Coram, just south of Hawkins Road.

The motorcyclist, a South Setauket resident, died from his injuries at Stony Brook University Hospital, police said, while the driver of the 2010 Volkswagen Jetta that struck him, 22-year-old Port Jefferson Station resident Sabelo Ndala, was not hurt.

Police charged Ndala with driving while impaired by drugs, operating a vehicle without an interlock device and second-degree aggravated unlicensed driving. He was arraigned the next day.

The suspect is listed as defending himself in the New York State court system’s online database and could not be reached for comment.

According to the database, Ndala had a previous drunk driving charge against him, dating back to February, to which he pleaded guilty. His license was revoked for 18 months in that case and he was mandated to use an interlock device on his vehicle, which prevents the car from operating unless a sober person breathes into the device, for three years.

After Saturday’s crash, police impounded both the Jetta and the Harley-Davidson for safety checks.

Anyone who may have witnessed the crash is asked to call detectives from the SCPD’s Vehicular Crime Unit at 631-852-6555.

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Danielle Wisnieski mugshot from SCPD

Police allege a pregnant woman was on drugs when she overturned and crashed her car in Kings Park the night before Thanksgiving.

The 26-year-old, Danielle Wisnieski, who is also 26 weeks pregnant, according to the Suffolk County Police Department, was driving north on Indian Head Road at the time of the crash. Police said she lost control of the vehicle, a 2003 Cadillac Escalade, near the intersection with Old Northport Road and overturned just after 8 p.m.

Paramedics treated her at the scene, police said, and administered Narcan, a medication that is used to block the effects of opioids like heroin and Vicodin and is commonly used to reverse overdoses.

The driver, a Kings Park resident, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital to be treated for minor injuries. The passenger in her car, a 34-year-old Kings Park resident, was treated for minor injuries as well at Huntington Hospital.

No other cars were involved in the crash.

Wisnieski was arrested and charged with driving while impaired by drugs.

Attorney information for the suspect was not immediately available, and she was scheduled to be arraigned at a later date.

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Port Jefferson’s chamber of commerce held the village’s annual Santa Parade over the weekend, bringing a little early Christmas spirit to children in the area.

The parade went through the heart of the village and ended at the Drowned Meadow Cottage on Barnum Avenue, which has been transformed into Santa’s workshop for the season.

The scene of Mother Ginger and her Polichinels from a previous performance of the Harbor Ballet Theatre’s ‘The Nutcracker.’ Photo from John Worell

There’s no stopping Port Jefferson’s Harbor Ballet Theatre.

For the 24th year, the theatre will have its dancers and residents on their toes with its annual production of “The Nutcracker.” John Worell, executive artistic director of the performance, said he and his wife Amy Tyler started the production as a means for dancers from various dance schools to work with professionals in a full-length ballet. Now, the production is a tradition in the community.

“We would be killed if we stopped. It’s become such a part of the Dickens Festival and the community and the school,” Worell said. “We have made it 24 years … but we plan to go further than that.”

Current soloist for the American Ballet Theatre Craig Salstein and the theatre’s former principal dancer Ashley Tuttle are returning to reprise their roles as the Cavalier and the Sugar Plum Fairy in the show. Tuttle is also a Tony-nominated dancer for her performances in “Moving Out” and “Come Fly Away.”

Shannon Christ and Hannah Smith,  seniors from Earl L. Vandermuellen High School, are also returning for their last performance in the ballet. Both Christ and Smith are excited for the performances on Dec. 4, 5 and 6 this year. Smith described the nearly 75- to 80-member cast as a big family, saying that everyone bonds during rehearsals. Sara Jaffie and Jack Worell also return to play Clara and The Nutcracker for another year.

While these dancers have remained the same, some aspects of the play haven’t. Aside from changes in props, setting and dancers, Worell said the ballet’s battle scene changes every year according to the skills of the cast.

“If I have strong mice, then they can pick the soldiers up. If I don’t have strong mice, then they just battle around the stage,” said Worell, who choreographs the battle scene every year. Worell didn’t mention what his plan was for this year’s battle scene.

Overall the choreography will remain the same unless Worell and Tyler, who owns the ballet company, decide to let another choreographer take the lead on the production (typically the choreography doesn’t change until a new or guest choreographer takes over.) While “The Nutcracker” is a popular ballet production around this time of the year, it is the tradition that keeps people coming back every year.

When Tyler’s company started the production in 1991, three or four other dance company’s performed the play on the Island. Now, around nine company’s perform this ballet around the holidays. What separates Tyler’s company from the others is how they tell the story. Unlike some productions of “The Nutcracker,” the audience can see Clara in the beginning and how she and the story progress.

Audience members can decide if the story is a mere dream or rooted in reality on Dec. 4 at 8 p.m., Dec. 5. at 3 and 8 p.m. and Dec. 6 at 3 p.m. at the Earl L. Vandermuellen High School auditorium, 350 Old Post Road, in Port Jefferson. All seats are $24 with senior and group rates available. For more information call 631-331-3149.