Monthly Archives: January 2016

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The Ward Melville cheerleading team poses for a group photo after claiming the top spot at the Empire Regionals for the third consecutive year. Photo from Loren Quitoni

The Ward Melville cheerleading team is heading back to nationals next month.

After placing in the top three at three state competitions this season, the Patriots also finished first for the third year in a row at the Empire Regionals at Hofstra University in December, where the girls earned an automatic bid to attend the national competition in Walt Disney World on Feb. 6 and 7.

“We worked really hard to perform the way we did that day,” senior co-captain Kellyann Egan said of the team’s performance that earned them the right to perform on the big stage for the fourth year in a row. “There was more pressure there because we wanted to do really well at home, and we ended up placing first and taking the automatic bid home and a banner for our gym.”

This was the first season when cheerleading was recognized as a sport by Section XI, and although the state scoring is different than that of the Universal Cheerleaders Association guidelines that the teams are used to, Ward Melville head coach Loren Quitoni said she’s just glad her girls are getting the recognition she feels they should.

“Being declared a sport has been a great way to give all cheerleaders the long overdue respect that they earned and deserve,” she said. “As there is more and more exposure to the sport each year, there is more and more respect and support given. Cheerleaders practice all but two months. It is extremely demanding on the body and requires an endless amount of time spent on proper safety skills, body technique and correct execution, not to mention that they perform during football and basketball season, on top of their own competition season.”

Cheerleading being declared a sport has also helped Ward Melville take part in more competitions, Quitoni said.

“Being a super large team, there weren’t many competitions that were offered that would hold so many girls, so we were never really able to compete that much in the past,” she said. “With each competition they’ve been getting better and better.”

The Ward Melville cheerleading team performs on the sidelines of a football game. Photo from Loren Quitoni
The Ward Melville cheerleading team performs on the sidelines of a football game. Photo from Loren Quitoni

The girls are in Division I Super Large, and although it’s been challenging for Quitoni to get all 35 of her girls in sync, senior co-captain and three-year varsity competitor Melanie Adams said she’s been surprised by what the team has been able to accomplish.

“I was nervous when I heard that we had so many younger girls, but they’ve really impressed me with their maturity and skill level,” she said of the team’s 15 freshmen and sophomores. “Representing Ward Melville is one of my favorite things. It’s very different from any other sport because you can’t ever just rely on yourself, you have to rely on your teammates, too, and they never let me down.”

Besides all that they do cheering-on their fellow student-athletes and taking part in their own competitions, the Patriots also partake in a myriad of fundraisers and community events, like clinics, family fun night at Minnesauke Elementary School and Stony Brook’s breast cancer walk, while also serving as special helpers at a dinner hosted by the school in honor of a student who is battling cancer, and adopting a family for the holidays.

“I love helping out,” senior three-year varsity cheerleader and co-captain Katarina Ramos said. “It’s really nice to gather together as a team to support the community and support our friends and our classmates.”

The squad also added a new teammate in sophomore Kim Yuknis, who is in a wheelchair.

“The girls have adopted her as one of their own,” Quitoni said. “She comes to every practice.”

Yuknis said she’s had a lot of fun fulfilling her dream of being on the varsity team, and hopes the Patriots can excel at nationals.

“I want them to do their best and I’m always going to be supporting them because they’ve always done that for me,” she said. “Loren was my gym teacher and helped me achieve this goal of mine. She’s always been supportive and she’s always believed in me. I’m very grateful, and I hope to be able to give back to them what they’ve given to me.”

Now that the big day is fast approaching, senior co-captain Katrina Henry said her squad is focused on next weekend’s event.

“We’re just working hard on competing at nationals and trying to do the best that we can do,” she said.

The girls have one more competition on Saturday before nationals, and Adams said her team’s goal is to outdo last year’s feat, where the girls placed 11th, coming just one or two points shy of breaking the top 10.

“We practice so much and we’re just so good this year,” she said. “We struggled at times in previous years, but I only see good things in the future. The practices haven’t been all that hard, and I know the girls listen very well and they take direction. I want to do even better than Top 10. I want to make the Top 5 this year, and I really think my team can make it.”

Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer and Board President Andrew Rapiejko discuss the district's letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Northport-East Northport Board of Education is seeking a moratorium on state-run teacher evaluations for the current time.

In an open letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Superintendent Robert Banzer criticized the fact that

public schools are still required to administer state assessments to measure student progress, despite the fact that these tests have been put on a temporary freeze.

“The district cannot use the state assessments for teacher evaluation, so it must use a form of Student Learning Objectives and report those scores for teachers even though they will not be used to determine teacher effectiveness,” Banzer said in the letter.

Student Learning Objections, first implemented in 2012,is a teacher evaluation tool used when state assessments are not in effect.

“As a result, we are burdened with setting aside time for both state assessments and SLOs, which will increase the amount of time preparing, administering and scoring assessments,” Banzer’s letter said.

In the letter, Banzer proposed that the moratorium be extended to eliminate Student Learning Objections to comply with the recommendation of the state task force, to reduce the amount of time spent on state assessments.

“Needless to say, the poor implementation of the state assessments and their use as an instrument to measure teacher effectiveness over the past few years undoubtedly minimized their effectiveness as an instructional tool,” Banzer said. “Instead, it has turned into a political debate and created a fracture between and among parents, educators, board members and political leaders that needs repair.”

Trustees applauded Banzer’s letter at the board meeting on Thursday, and discussed other concerns with the current state of Common Core.

“I think it’s really important that we engage the community,” Trustee Donna McNaughton said at the meeting. “I know that the knee-jerk reaction is to say ‘this was done so poorly … I’m not doing anything else until we change what these things are.’ But we don’t want to have four years go by and the tests haven’t changed.”

The board plans to set a date in February to meet with the community and explain where the district is now, with the changes to Common Core and teacher evaluations, along with what a student’s day will look like if they choose not to participate in the state assessments this spring.

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The Salvation Army youth league begins Feb. 3 and will take place every Wednesday. File photo by Kevin Freiheit

Northport has announced year-round basketball divisions for boys and girls for third-grade to eighth-grade.

Final divisions will depend on enrollment, but each season will be 10 weeks, beginning Feb. 3.

Enrollment is $140 per player, and games will be every Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Salvation Army Gym at 319 Clay Pitts Road in East Northport.

Teams of three to four players will play three 10-minute games every week, and every player gets a reversible jersey with enrollment.

There are no coaches, but official and certified referees will be at every game.

The 3-on-3 games will heighten the awareness of applying skills in game-like settings where players will have an increased repetition set on both the offensive and defensive side of play. Through each game, players will be able to address skills that are often overlooked in a 5-on-5 setting.

Since there are no coaches, young players are forced to rely on their own instinct and abilities which facilitates quick growth and development. It is difficult to hide in 3-on-3, so everyone participates. There is an emphasis on fundamental skill sets and an increased competitive advantage.

Some topics addressed in 3-on-3 basketball include movement with and without the ball, screening action, individual and team defense, offensive spacing patterns, and the ability to read and react to players.

The program is geared toward providing all players an opportunity to enhance player development in a supervised, small, controlled setting while actively engaged in a safe and healthy environment and is directed by Long Island standout Ralph Rossetti.

Rossetti has been the recreational director and trainer for the Salvation Army since 2013, and has been training basketball players at the Army since 2008. At the Salvation Army, Rossetti has worked with dozens of boys and girls from the youth level through high school as well as a number of NCAA and professional players.

Registration can be done as a team or individually.

Space is limited, but athletes can register online at

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The Friends of Flax Pond are planning a winter lecture this week. File photo

The Friends of Flax Pond will hold the first presentation of its 13th annual Winter Lecture series on Sunday, Jan. 31, at the Childs Mansion, 19 Shore Dr., Setauket, at 3 p.m. Guest speaker will be Grace Scalzo, who will share her love of the outdoors with an innovative presentation of her photography of local birds. An avid nature photographer whose images have received numerous awards, Scalzo will also hold a book signing at the end of the event.

The lecture will be moderated by Stony Brook University distinguished service professor, Malcolm Bowman. Light refreshments will be served. There is no cost to attend but donations are gratefully accepted.

Future lectures in the series are scheduled for Feb. 21 and March 20 followed by an outdoor activity in early May.

For more information on the Friends of Flax Pond, other programs and directions to Childs Mansion, please visit, email  or call 631-767-6287 during business hours.

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File photo by Michael Ruiz

Super Bowl Sunday is a special occasion for the entire country, but Three Village’s own Emma S. Clark Memorial Library is also  preparing for Super Saturday — Football Game Day.

On Saturday, Feb. 6, between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. in the library’s Children’s Department, Emma Clark Library will have many activities that revolve around football. Kids are invited to watch football-themed movie “Air Bud: Golden Receiver,” play a football bean bag toss game, enter a raffle to win a special prize and make a football craft. Children may also learn how to make and then play in a Paper Flick Football tournament starting at 2 p.m.

There is no need to register for this event, and any child may stop by to participate. The library welcomes all ages to this event and also encourages patrons to wear a shirt or jersey with their favorite football team (but this is not required).

Join the library and kick off Super Bowl Sunday weekend. If residents have any questions, they can email or call 631-941.4080 ext. 123.

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Talking wine with Louisa Hargrave

By Alex Petroski


The frigid temperatures and daunting weather last weekend aside, spring is right around the corner. It’s never too early to start thinking about fun weekend activities for the warm weather. I could think of none better to act as a guide to the vineyards of the North Fork than the woman who is widely considered the “Mother of the Long Island wine industry.”

‘The people that work at the wineries now work together. I think it’s something that does evolve as a region goes along.’ — Louisa Hargrave
‘The people that work at the wineries now work together. I think it’s something that does evolve as a region goes along.’ — Louisa Hargrave

Louisa Hargrave and her then-husband Alex Hargrave were pioneers of the Long Island wine scene back in the early 1970s. The couple drove cross-country to Napa Valley to learn more about the art of growing grapes in 1972, Louisa Hargrave said in a phone interview this week. Though they knew nothing about wine, the couple was eager to learn and to find an ideal place to grow grapes that would produce delicious, French-style wines.

“If you’re pioneers, you’ll be the ones with arrows in your backs,” Hargrave said was a piece of advice she was given before she began her wine growing endeavor on Long Island. “We’re 24 and 25 years old. If this doesn’t work we’ll try something else. We were very excited to find this special place,” she said.

Long Island’s climate was especially conducive to growing nicely ripened fruit, the Hargraves would soon find out once they got to work.

“[The wines] had a particularly vivacious quality. The reds came out a little bit lighter then we had hoped, but they had such complexity,” Hargrave said. Things have only gotten better with improvements to technology and technique. Teamwork has also played an important role in the development of the region as a whole, Hargrave said.

“One of the things I see that’s so terrific now is there were separate capsules of people then; now it’s a real industry,” Hargrave said. “The people that work at the wineries now work together. I think it’s something that does evolve as a region goes along. I have seen it in California. There are some people that are so dogmatically noninterventionists that look at the grapes and hope they turn into wine.”

Those noninterventionists with that frame of mind are luckily few and far between on Long Island, according to Hargrave.

When asked what her favorite wineries to visit from her current residence in Jamesport are, Hargrave answered quickly and definitively — Pellegrini Vineyards in Cutchogue. Her answer comes with a bit of bias however, being that her son Zander Hargrave is currently their winemaker.

“I visit my son’s winery quite often,” she said with a laugh.

McCall Wines in Cutchogue was another of her favorites that she mentioned. McCall is the true essence of the North Fork (winemakers Russ and Brewster McCall),” Hargrave said. “To go there, it’s just so low key. It’s really just the essence of the North Fork.”

For her favorite wine picks, other than Zander’s Pellegrini Sauvignon Blanc, Hargrave mentioned Lenz Cuvée, a sparkling white from the Lenz Winery in Peconic made by winemaker Eric Fry, which she said was on par with French Champagnes. As far as reds go, Paumanok’s Petit Verdot from winemaker Kareem Massoud stood out to her.

For the last leg of winter, bundle up, grab some Long Island wines and fantasize about warmer days ahead on the North Fork. Also, keep an eye out for the “Get to know a Long Island winery” series once a month in Arts & Lifestyles.

Mollie Adler bakes her brownies at her home in Shoreham. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Don’t look back. Keep going forward.

That’s what Mollie Adler’s father said to her before he died several decades ago. And she hasn’t looked back since — even as she is fighting to save her home with her new business “Miss Mollie’s Brownies.”

Around two years ago, this single mother of two hit hard times when her divorce not only left her struggling to put food on the table but also resulted in her Shoreham home going into foreclosure. Adler suffered another huge blow last September when she was laid off from her part-time job. With kids to feed and a home to worry about, baking brownies became Adler’s best bet.

Adler established her business after applying to New York’s Self-Employment Assistance Program last year. She was accepted into the program in October and started recycling water bottles to help pay for brownie ingredients. She’s currently selling her brownies at the Port Jefferson Winter Farmers Market.

“She’s always wanted to pursue a career in baking,” Denise Rohde said. “Her brownies honestly are her claim to fame. It’s almost like getting laid off was a blessing in disguise because it gave her time to actually pursue her dream.”

Rohde, of Baiting Hollow, met Adler nearly 17 years ago and has seen her through the many obstacles in her life — including the first time Adler was laid-off several years ago. After losing her second job, Adler decided to pursue her dream.

“I just had to reach and say this is what I’m going to do,” Adler said about creating Miss Mollie’s Brownies. “I’m going to do it for me. I’m going to have hours that make sense for me and I want to empower myself.”

“Miss Mollie’s Brownies” are packaged and arranged at her home. Photo by Giselle Barkley
“Miss Mollie’s Brownies” are packaged and arranged at her home. Photo by Giselle Barkley

But a chronic health condition further complicated Adler’s life when she started losing her sense of smell and taste. While she can taste salty or sweet foods, she can’t taste flavors, and has no sense of smell. Regardless, her fudgy brownies have friends, family members and clients coming back for more.

While her business is only a few weeks old, Adler has a wide range of brownie flavors including classic, espresso and nutty. Some seasonal flavors include apple pie, s’mores, mint and lavender, which she’s perfected with the help of her children who taste-test the brownies. But their help doesn’t stop there.

Adler’s daughter Melanie, who doesn’t share her mother’s last name, was the first to tell her mom’s story. Now, with the help of Adler’s graphic designer Gary Goldstein, Adler’s clients can read her story on the tag tied to each of her brownies. Goldstein met Adler more than a year ago. Goldstein, an art teacher who is designing Adler’s labels for free, started working with her last November. In that time, he’s seen her tenacity as she works to save her home.

“She deserves this,” he said. “She deserves not only things going well for her, but to be successful because she’s a dedicated mom and she’s hard-working. Like everyone else in life, you have your ups and downs, but this is a woman I envision being successful.”

In 2014, according to, nearly 12 million families in America were single-parent families. According to Port Jefferson resident Pat Darling, a friend of Adler, some single parents don’t always pick themselves up when they hit hard times.

“I think when a person is down, instead of staying there they should reach, and they should dream — and she’s reaching for her dreams,’ Darling said. “I hope they all come true.”

Adler doesn’t just want her dreams to come true. She also wants to show her kids and single parents alike what dedication and perseverance can achieve. She said she hopes to create a place for single parents to help them through their hardships once her business takes off.

“Everyday I get up and do whatever it takes to get this done,” Adler said about building her business. “I’m not going to stop until “Miss Mollie’s Brownies” is a household name.”

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Above, the eastern prickly pear cactus. File photo

By Ellen Barcel

Last week I wrote a column about planning a garden with the idea of making jams and jellies out of unusual plants: passionfruit, beautyberry and even Kousa dogwood. All are beautiful landscape plants but have the added bonus of edible fruit.

Well, there’s another fruit that can be used to make jams and jellies, as well as wine, and has the added benefit that it doesn’t need a lot of water since it’s a cactus. Opuntia, the prickly pear cactus, is native to much of North America and was most likely first used as food in Mexico, where it was known by the Aztec name “nopal.”

In the spring, the clumps of the cacti are filled with beautiful yellow flowers, which are followed later in the growing season by the fruit. Yes, Opuntia are flowering plants and like all true cacti are originally native to the Americas although they have been introduced to many other parts of the world.

The cactus fruit (also called cactus fig, Indian fig or “tuna” in Spanish) must be peeled carefully to remove the spines before eating. In Mexico and the American Southwest, the fruit is used in salads, soups, vegetable dishes and yes, jellies. I’ve even come across a recipe for cactus fruit gum drops that uses cactus fruit, applesauce, sugar and pectin. The pad, “nopal,” is also used in cooking.

Like so many cacti, a paddle (flat piece of the cactus) broken off from the main plant can be stuck in the ground and rooted to make more plants. Since pieces of cacti break off so easily from the main plant, this is an easy way of getting more plants.

The plants can also be grown from seed, since this is a flowering plant and the fruit does contain seeds. Like tomato plants, cut open a ripe cactus fruit, scoop out the gooey inside that has black dots and put it on some paper to dry. Separate the seeds out and plant them. On rare occasions, a plant will grow out of the fruit itself, like tomatoes can.

Remember, that cacti grow naturally in arid and semiarid climates. The worse thing that you can do to any cactus is to overwater it. In general, this is not a problem on Long Island, because despite our occasional deluges, we have sandy, i.e., well-drained, soil, so the prickly pear does well here. It even survives our winters. The paddles will dry up and sort of flatten out, but the plants will easily come back to life in spring.

If you decide to grow your prickly pear in containers, remember to make sure the containers have drainage holes and you use potting soil designed for cacti and succulents. I frequently see prickly pear cacti growing wild along the North Shore. A gardening friend of mine noted that Cedar Hill Cemetery in Port Jefferson is full of them and “the yellow flowers are beautiful.”

The fruit is ripe when, depending on variety, it is red or purple in color. Remember to be careful peeling it as it has not only large spines, but tiny ones as well, which can be very irritating.

Since there are so many varieties (I’ve read 181 species) of prickly pear, there are a number of different colors flowers. Opuntia ficus-indica (Indian fig prickly pear) is a large plant that has orange or yellow flowers, while O. basilaris (beavertail prickly pear) is a small plant but spreads. The variety that grows in the Northeast, i.e., Long Island, is called O. vulgaris, the eastern prickly pear. This is a comparatively small plant and so produces fairly small fruit.

If you find that your prickly pear isn’t bearing fruit, it’s too small, for example, you can find the fruit in many grocery stores in the produce section. These are usually from the western prickly pear and are much larger fruit.

Where you plant your cacti depends on several factors: sun (it prefers lots of sun), where the soil is dry and the ouch factor. Don’t put them near walk ways, children’s play areas or pools for obvious reasons.

Mine have survived winters outdoors but have remained small. I’m experimenting overwintering one grown in a pot indoors. When picking the fruit or transplanting the plants themselves, remember to wear gloves. Wrapping a cactus in newspaper is another way of handling it when transplanting.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions and/or comments to To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

Kieran Bunce mugshot from the SCPD

A man previously convicted of a sexual offense against a minor was arrested on Thursday after allegedly being caught undressed inside a vehicle with a 14-year-old boy.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, an officer was on routine patrol when he spotted the car in a dark area of the parking lot of the Fort Salonga Shopping Center on Route 25A, near Bread and Cheese Hollow Road, shortly after midnight.

Police said the 4th Precinct officer, Dennis Lynch, approached and saw two people inside with their clothes off: registered sex offender and vehicle owner Kieran Bunce, 48, and a 14-year-old boy.

The pair had arranged their meeting over a cell phone application, police said, and sexual contact did occur.

Bunce is a registered Level 1 offender. According to the database of Parents for Megan’s Law, a nonprofit advocacy and victim support group that monitors sex offenders, Bunce was previously convicted on a 2003 sexual misconduct charge stemming from an incident with a 16-year-old girl.

That charge, a Class A misdemeanor, is a crime of sexual intercourse with someone without their consent, whether it is because the victim is a minor, mentally incapacitated or forced, according to state penal law.

According to the Parents for Megan’s Law database, Bunce was sentenced to six years of probation for that 2003 offense.

The Melville resident was charged with two felony counts of second-degree criminal sex act, as well as the misdemeanor first-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

Attorney information for Bunce was not immediately available. He was scheduled to be arraigned on Friday.

Narcan, a drug that stops opioid overdoses. File photo by Jessica Suarez

Concerned that a loved one will overdose on drugs? Suffolk County is hosting training classes over the next few months to teach residents how to identify overdoses of opioid drugs — such as heroin, Vicodin and Percocet — and use the anti-overdose medication Narcan to rescue victims.

The county’s parting gift for people who show up to the program is an emergency resuscitation kit that contains Narcan as well as a certificate of completion.

The first class, on Feb. 4, will be a bit of a hike away, at the Mattituck firehouse on Pike Street from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. (RSVP to

There will be another in Greenlawn on Feb. 12, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Harborfields library on Broadway (RSVP to Sheila Sullivan at 631-271-8025 or

A third will take place on Feb. 18 in Wyandanch, at the Wyandanch Community Resource Center on Straight Path from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. (RSVP to 631-643-1960 or

Following a March 3 course in Bohemia, at the Connetquot Public Library on Ocean Avenue from 6 to 7 p.m. (RSVP to 631-665-2311), the county is holding one at the Setauket firehouse on Nicolls Road. That event, on Thursday, March 31, will run from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Participants can RSVP to 631-854-1650 or