Monthly Archives: January 2017

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Shot put throwers Andy Suarez and Billy Grosse finished second and third, respectively, at a meet at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus Jan. 29, both tossing over 50 feet. Photos by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Comsewogue has never had a thrower capable of hurling a shot put over 50 feet, that is, until this winter boys’ track and field season. In fact, there are two Warriors —Andy Suarez and Billy Grosse — who have been breaking the school record meet after meet this year, and Jan. 29 was no different.

Reno Molina finished third in the 55-meter dash with a time of 6.87 seconds. Photo by Bill Landon

The seniors placed second and third at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood. Grosse had set a new school record with his toss of 50 feet, 11 inches, but it was short lived. Suarez sent his first shot put 50 feet, 8 inches, but came up moments after Grosse, and set a new record with his second toss of 50 feet, 11.25 inches.

After the last meet before the Suffolk County finals, the two remain ranked in the Top 15 throwers in the state.. Both will have their work cut out for them come then, because Kings Park’s Dan Byrne ruled the day with a toss that measured 56 feet, 9 inches.

“If I’m not throwing as well as I know I can, I’ll go off to the side and practice my form,” Suarez said. “I listen to what my coach is saying because I can’t look at myself, but he watches very closely.”

Comsewogue head coach Brad Posnanski said he knew the duo had the potential to throw as well as they have been, and said all season long the two have only pushed each other to work harder.

“Last year Billy Grosse threw 48 feet, 10 inches, and Andy Suarez had thrown 47 feet,” he recalled. “Earlier this season they both got better and better. Andy was the first to throw 50 feet, and then Billy threw 50 feet and we’ve never had that. They’re both great friends so to have two throwers over 50 feet is something pretty special.”

Travis Colon finished the 55-meter hurdles in 8.55 seconds for sixth place. Photo by Bill Landon

The meet, titled “Last Chance,” was an opportunity for the athletes to better their performance to gain a higher seed before the county championship, and other Warriors also made their presence known.

Coming back from a minor injury, sophomore Reno Molina clocked in a 6.87 seconds in the 55-meter dash to finish third behind Miller Place senior Bick Niemcyzk (6.85) and East Islip senior Andrew Moschetto (6.83). Sophomore Travis Colon took advantage of that opportunity, placing sixth overall in the 55 hurdles with a time of 8.55. He’s already an All-League competitor after placing sixth in the League IV championship last year.

“Reno Molina is a pleasant surprise,” Posnanski said. “Where he is in the county speed-wise, and he has the best chance to make a statement in the counties next week. My hurdler [Travis Colon] has made tremendous improvements with his technique with hard work and just sticking with it.”

Posnanski said he has been impressed with his younger runners on the team, who’ve bettered their times all season long.

“I have such a young team, so I didn’t have any expectations,” the coach said.

But Matt Krieg, who placed ninth in the 1,000 in 2:56.55, caught his eye.

Matt Krieg finished ninth in the 1,000-meter in 2:56.55. Photo by Bill Landon

“He’s tough when he runs and he’s a competitor,” the head coach said of his Warrior. “He won the freshman championship meet this year.”

Sophomore Brandon Bailey clocked in at 1:39.96 in the 600, for 22nd overall.

The county championships are will be Feb. 4 at Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood at 10 a.m.

Grosse said he and his teammate will be ready.

“It’s all about repetition — we’ll get as many throws in as possible, lift some weights and then rest a day or two before the counties,” he said. “Andy was running and only began throwing this season, and having him around has been more important than anything, because without him, I wouldn’t be pushing myself the way I am.”

Over the summer, Shoreham-Wading River graduate and singer-songwriter Gina Mingoia stepped into her father’s home studio in their garage to fulfill a promise she made to her late friend and classmate Tom Cutinella, a 16-year-old student who died in October 2014 following a head-on collision during a football game.

Months before his death, when they were both entering 11th grade, Cutinella told Mingoia, who was then in the process of auditioning for NBC’s “The Voice,” that if she ever became famous, she had to write a song about him.

More than two years later, it’s the 18-year-old singer’s heartfelt and moving “I Wish (Tom’s Song),” released last week on iTunes, Spotify and YouTube with a music video that’s reached more than 8,000 views, about Cutinella, their long friendship and the impact of his loss, that has catapulted her into the local spotlight.

Gina Mingoia and Tom Cutinella in eighth grade. Photo from Gina Mingoia

Both the song, which recently hit the airwaves on 101.7 “The Beach,” and its video, which shows Mingoia reflecting on her friend in several settings including the high school’s recently-dedicated Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field, have served as sources of healing for those closest to Cutinella, especially Mingoia herself.

“I Wish” was the first song she wrote after the fatal accident, between December 2014 and January 2015, after taking some time away from her passion in the midst of mourning.

Even though she had been trying to write songs in the aftermath that weren’t about the loss, she couldn’t. Finally, she sat down and the song came pouring out in as little as 15 minutes. “I wish I got to say goodbye,” sings Mingoia in the bridge. “To see his smile one more time.”

“The words came quickly,” Mingoia said. “I played the guitar and wrote it. I didn’t even show my dad for a while after … I just kind of kept it to myself.”

Her father Sal, a Suffolk County police officer and local musician who served as producer and played all the instruments on “I Wish,” said the song helped his daughter get through her devastation.

“[Gina] had a strange reaction to the death; all of her friends were collapsing and hitting the ground and screaming and crying, but she almost had no reaction,” Sal Mingoia said. “She just walked around in a daze — so maybe the song is what brought her out of it and brought her back to normal. She put all her feelings into it and it just came out.”

“To know that [Gina Mingoia] respected and loved [Tom] so much that she would write about him was amazing. We were just so humbled that she did it.”

—Kelli Cutinella

After recording “I Wish” in the middle of summer, Mingoia said her father was adamant about filming a video for the song and showing it to the world, but she knew she couldn’t do that without the approval of the Cutinella family. Sal and Gina Mingoia have performed together at the Thomas Cutinella Golf Tournament, a fundraising event started by Frank and Kelli Cutinella, Tom’s parents, and it was there, in October 2016, that Mingoia shared the song with them.

“I thought they were going to say no,” she said. “I thought it was going to be too invasive, but they loved it and pushed for it. Once it was done, Mrs. Cutinella just got right up and hugged me, for like five minutes, and said in my ear that he is watching and that he loved it. That made me cry.”

Kelli Cutinella, who thinks Mingoia is “an amazing artist with a beautiful voice,” was especially moved. As it’s their mission in life to keep her son’s memory alive and his legacy strong, she and her husband felt honored.

“She did not have to write this song about [Tom] … she wrote it from her heart and that speaks volumes to us,” Cutinella said. “To know that she respected and loved [Tom] so much that she would write about him was amazing. We were just so humbled that she did it, and as soon as she shared it with us, we shared it with others.”

Thomas Cutinella died following a head-on collision on the football field in 2014. Photo from Kelli Cutinella

For the video, shot in November, Sal Mingoia enlisted the help of his friend Frank Lombardi, a police helicopter pilot and skilled cameraman whose expertise helped bring the message of the song to life.

The emotional video features the singer, wearing a hat that bears Cutinella’s jersey number “54” throughout, looking at her late friend’s “in loving memory” page in the yearbook, clippings from newspaper articles following his passing, and a local barber shop adorned with his name and number.

In a shot in the beginning of the video, Mingoia shows a tattoo on her bicep that reads “I love you” in Cutinella’s handwriting, taken from a little note, featured at the end of the video, he gave to her in health class.

She said she and Cutinella, upon meeting the summer before sixth grade, were immediate friends, were always in the same science and math honors classes, and even formed an “apocalyptic preparation squad” through their love of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”

“There was not a single person in the world who knew him and didn’t love him,” Mingoia said. “He was just a genuinely good person in every way.”

She thinks it’s incredible that even people who don’t know her, only knowing Cutinella, are sharing the video, a majority of whom have sent her messages sharing their favorite memories of the former Wildcats athlete.

“They’re incredible to read,” she said. “I just want people who loved Tom and need a way to remember him to use [the video]. I think our community, in particular, and all of Long Island can relate to it.”

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By Paul Feinberg

While walking near Central Park the other day, watching the construction of a massive skyscraper, a thought came to mind. On one hand, we as humans posses the brilliance to make this happen, and on the other hand, we have difficulty getting along in a humanistic manner.  Amazing, I say. Sad, I say. Unfortunate, upsetting and disturbing, I say.

In the words of Bob Dylan, “the times they are a changin’.”  But for the better? Or for the worse?     

As I see it, the concept of abuse is out of control. Whether the form taken is physical, mental, sexual, drug, alcohol, eating, et al., it appears out of control.

How difficult it is for humans to fully embrace the concept of “things are the way they are, because we, together, allow it; because we choose to be disconnected.” We seem to struggle to think clearly and to stay united and connected. It takes a conscious level of awareness or mindfulness, or whichever terminology fits, to be developed and focused.

Again we are currently witnessing a high level of abuse in our society, in various forms: violence, terrorism, drug abuse, mental abuse, suffering, among others. We all play a part in allowing it to continue. We can all benefit by training our minds to be caring, respectful, gentle, kind, loving, understanding, tolerant, patient and sensitive with each other and also with ourselves.

We have collectively allowed ourselves to tolerate behaviors which have become the norm in today’s society; behaviors which are abusive, hurtful and disrespectful. Consider allowing ourselves to focus on the effect our behavior has on ourselves and on others — to create a healthier society.

Focus on the effect our behavior is having on the receiver, with regard to sincerity, honesty, caring, understanding, sensitivity, love, compassion and truthfulness — so that this new approach may become infectious and result in an epidemic — like a plague, or a disease which spreads rapidly through society.

Each of us has within us the potential to develop this new consciousness, with the proper training, guidance and support. Let us focus not solely on ourselves, but on others — and collectively work towards creating a healthy society for ourselves and future generations.

Let us allow ourselves to empower ourselves, to feel a greater energy in being part of building a consistently better place to live. Let us be constructors of the creation, rather than recipients of unhealthy circumstances created by individuals with, perhaps, unhealthy motivations.

We do not have to accept these changing times, if we learn how to empower ourselves. Let us collectively do this — in great numbers. Let us not just talk about it. Let us live it as part of our lifestyle on a daily basis.

In the words of Eli Wiesel, “We must always take sides, neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. We must interfere.”

Paul Feinberg lives in S. Setauket. He is a retired Three Village junior high school guidance counselor and acting administrator.   

Stakeholders gather to review documents at a meeting held last year in preparation for the 25A corridor land use study. File photo

The next phase of the Brookhaven Town Planning Department’s land use study for the Route 25A corridor from the Smithtown border heading east to the Village of Poquott is set to begin.

An invitation-only focus group for business owners and tenants of buildings along the corridor will be held Jan. 31, according to Councilwoman Valerie M. Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station). Letters were mailed previously to these stakeholders.

Community Visioning Meeting Schedule

•Stony Brook Community Vision Meeting:

Saturday Feb. 4, from 2 to 5 pm

•Setauket /East Setauket Community Vision Meeting:

Saturday Feb. 25, from 10 am to 1 pm

•All Hamlets Wrap Up Meeting:

Saturday March 4, from 2 to 4:30 pm

All meetings will be held at the Stony Brook School, 1 Chapman Parkway off Route 25A, opposite the Stony Brook railroad station. Groups will meet in the Kanas Commons.

Councilwoman Cartright requests community members wishing to attend any of the sessions RSVP by the Wednesday before the scheduled meeting.

Email jlmartin@brookhaven.org or telephone the office 631-451-6963.

Beginning Feb. 2 there will be community visioning meetings aimed specifically at interested parties in the Stony Brook and Setauket/East Setauket portions of the corridor. (See meeting schedule below.) A final meeting will provide a wrap up, including all hamlets along the corridor.

The community visioning meetings will be led by a consulting firm, BFJ Planning, hired by the town to facilitate the land use study.

A proposed shopping center in the vicinity of the Stony Brook railroad station will not be discussed in the land use study, Cartright said. It is scheduled to be reviewed by the Planning Department Feb. 6. The developer, Parviz Farahzad, had previously presented a request for specific zoning variances to the Zoning Board of Appeals Dec. 14, 2016. The board has 62 days to render its decision.

According to Cartright, the business zone change for this property was made more than 10 years ago. More recently, public comment was heard at the zoning board meeting and, she said, changes based on community comments may have been made by the developer in response.

“One caveat,” Cartright said, “this is a long term plan. They’re building a shopping center there now, but the community would like [to revisit the site in the future] if there’s ever an opportunity [to do so].”   

The study was authorized by a town resolution Jan. 14, 2016, which included the establishment of a 20-member Citizen’s Advisory Committee including representatives of all identifiable stakeholder groups.

Guardians of Rescue members cut the chain holding Bear. Photo from Guardians of Rescue.

One dog in Smithtown has more than a few guardian angels watching over him.

Bear has spent 15 years chained to a doghouse in the backyard of a Smithtown home, but as of Jan. 23, he’s officially off the leash. The black lab has Guardians of Rescue, a Smithtown-based organization that works to provide aid to animals in distress, including facilitating foster programs, rehabilitation and assisting other rescue groups, to thank for his new-found freedom.

“We received a call about a dog in need of a doghouse,” Robert Misseri, founder and president of the group, said. “But when we got there, it was even worse than that. That’s when we discovered the poor dog had spent his whole life attached to a heavy chain. We knew then and there that we had to do something to make a difference in that dog’s life, and so we did.” The group said Bear had endured harsh winters with little attention.

The guardians said they spoke with the dog owner, who agreed to surrender the animal to the rescue group.

“It’s excellent,” Misseri said as Bear was cut free from the chains. “It’s nice to see the dog get off the chain after 15 years and live out the rest of its life with a nice older family, perhaps who will treat him right. He’ll lay around inside and have a good rest of his life.”

Bear was cut free, loaded into the front seat of a pickup and sent to the groomer. The group is currently searching for a permanent home for Bear.

The rescue group said its plan is to make Bear veggie burgers, take him to dog parks, on car rides and even get him into an indoor pool. The helpers also want to make sure he’s able to spend some time lying in front of a warm fireplace.

“Our mission is to help rescue as many animals as we can, but we can’t do it without the help of the community,” Misseri said. “One phone call from someone in the community set the wheels in motion that have changed Bear’s life. That’s a true success story and why we exist.”

Guardians of Rescue has a new show “The Guardians,” which airs on Animal Planet Saturdays at 10 p.m. The show depicts the work of the group as they travel Long Island rescuing animals and providing them with a better life.

The community can assist the group by watching out for animals in need and contacting the organization when they see one in distress. To learn more or get involved, visit www.guardiansofrescue.org.

Scenes of the fire that spread through several townhouse units in Centerport. Photo from Centerport Fire Department

The Centerport Fire Department responded to a fire in the Bull Calf Landing Townhouse Complex on Bull Calf Lane early Tuesday morning, Jan. 24.

Scenes of the fire that spread through several townhouse units in Centerport. Photo from Centerport Fire Department

At about 1:10 a.m. more than 100 firefighters from Centerport assisted by Northport, Greenlawn, Halesite, Huntington, Huntington Manor, Cold Spring Harbor, East Northport, Eaton’s Neck and Kings Park FD’s battled the blaze with EMS support from Commack and Huntington ambulance.

Strong winds from the nor’easter storm that swept through the area hampered firefighters’ efforts, as they worked several hours to knock down the flames that spread through several townhouse units.

About 20 residents were safely evacuated from the building that later collapsed, and there were no injuries reported. Centerport firefighters provided shelter for some of the displaced residents at the Centerport firehouse.

The fire is under investigation by the Suffolk Police Arson Squad and Town of Huntington Fire Marshal. The firefighting operation was under the command of Centerport Fire Chief Tom Boyd and Assistant Chiefs Rich Miltner and Andy Heglund. Boyd commended the firefighters for their efforts working in adverse conditions, and thanked the mutual aid departments for their assistance.

Asharoken Village beach. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Earlier this month, Asharoken officials voted to bring an end to the multiyear-long dune restoration project with the Army Corps of Engineers.

The village had been working with the Army Corps to create a proposal to replenish the community’s eroding beaches, but part of the plan included creating public access points at certain private properties, which many residents rejected.

Mayor Greg Letica wrote in a letter to residents that the decision to no longer go forward with the plan was a result of surveying residents and opinions from public hearings.

“I was not surprised by the outcome because this is what the residents wanted,” Letica said in a phone interview. “It was a combination of the public access points, the liability and the cost.”

According to Letica, residents would have been liable for any injuries or mishaps that happened when the public was on the shoreline of the property — if new public access points had been created.

The village would have been expected to pay 10.5 percent of the $21.5 million cost for the initial placement of sand, and then 15 percent of the future sand placement costs, which were left undefined.

Back in December, village officials looked over the results of a public survey where it was revealed 85 percent of the 427 surveyors were against moving forward with the plan. Ninety percent of the homeowners that own Long Island Sound beach property that responded were opposed. If the remaining homes on the Sound property all responded with approval of going ahead, opposition would still be at 73 percent. Half of the beach lot owners in Asharoken responded.

“The responding property owners sent a comprehensive, resounding, unambiguous and nearly unanimous message to the board of trustees — we do not want to do the ASDRP,” Letica said in the letter. “You were heard loud and clear.”

Village trustees said repeatedly during previous board meetings they wouldn’t approve a plan without resident approval, and Letica said he was grateful for resident participation throughout the process.

“I would like to sincerely compliment the residents of Asharoken for their participation in the process to help guide the board of trustees in their decision on the ASDRP,” he said. “You were engaged every step of the way, provided very helpful insight into aspects of the plan that otherwise may have gone unnoticed, communicated passionately to the board about how you felt, responded to the survey in very high numbers and provided polite, concise and clear comments at the public hearing. Everyone who took time to be involved in this historic decision should be proud of their efforts.”

The village originally entered an agreement with the Army Corps in 2001 to perform a Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study, but it did not obligate the village to move forward with any of the proposals suggested. The resolution was approved with a 4-0 vote, with Trustee Laura Burke being absent.

In previous meetings, some residents expressed the need for a plan to protect the beaches.

“We need to protect the beaches,” Asharoken resident Christine Peterson said in a previous interview. “I understand the residents that don’t want to give access to their private property, but I think this is something we need to do. It’s not like we’re opening up a new beach and expect many new visitors to come and use it.”

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Do you ever wish you had asked for advice about life from older members of the family or friends who have now passed away? I certainly do. Like an inheritance, advice that has withstood the test of time can make the life of the beneficiary easier. Hence the clever idea, by an assisted living community on Long Island, of producing a distributable calendar filled with some of the wisdom of its residents was immediately interesting to me. The Gurwin Jewish-Fay J. Lindner Residences, located in Commack, collected the thoughts of one person or couple in the community for each month and named the project “From Generation to Generation 2017.”

As the calendar states in the introduction, “The advice contained in these pages … is priceless, and made all the more meaningful because of the life experiences that season [the residents’] words of wisdom.”

The January advice comes from Gerald Burberry, who was sent to England on the Kindertransport — also known as Children’s Transport — during World War II and was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. Gerald focuses on the beauty in life through the lens of his camera and is an enthusiastic nature photographer. He and his wife have visited as many U.S. National Parks as they could in pursuit of his goal to “appreciate nature.”

Janet Munday adorns February and urges everyone to “blaze new trails.” She was a computer engineering major at Hofstra, one of few women at the time, and also played the bass guitar in a cover band and traveled to Italy just to learn Italian.

Others, like Helen and Mel Morgenstein, who are wedded 73 years, offer this advice to married couples: “Respect each other.” Mel adds, “Respect your differences, and have your own interests. It makes for a much better life together.” Mary Falcone says, “Cherish family.” She has four daughters, 12 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren, “They’re wonderful,” she declares and she sees them regularly. “Their heart is my heart.” Florence Levenbaum, who is 91, loves to dance. She urges, “Keep moving and smile.” For her, movement and good humor are the keys to good health. She posed for her photo in the calendar carrying a Wilson wooden tennis racket over her shoulder.

Further advice includes “Pursue your passions” from Stewart Greene, a devoted lifetime sailor; “Keep learning” from Sandra Peltz, a former registrar at Hofstra who feels she learns from each new person she meets; and “Be independent” from Ruth Kaufman, who doesn’t worry about what others might think and say. “Use common sense!” urges Edwin Zola, who feels that people could find a way to end war and suffering if they would treat others as they would like to be treated, adding, “This just makes sense.” And Sidney Klein speaks proudly about serving one’s country, as he did during WWII.

What advice would you pass along to those younger than you? I asked that question of some of the newspaper staff, and here is what they offered.

“Live in the moment,” said one. “And enjoy the moment.” Another counseled, “Don’t put it off,” whether a task, a career move or a relationship. “Anticipate life’s many stages,” suggested another. “Be yourself, don’t be afraid to be who you really are rather than trying to please others,” is one piece of advice one mother had just shared with her daughter. Another mother offered, “Enjoy your childhood. You are only a child once.” And how about this one for your children? “We were young once too!”

Some others included, “Work hard, play hard and include balance in your life,” “Be kind,” “Stick together with family,” “Hang around with happy people,” and this timely bit for today’s world, “Be entrepreneurial.”

You might ask what words I would offer the next generations. My advice: “Have courage.” Have the courage to be the person you want to be, to do the things you most wish to do, to go to the places you yearn to see, and to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

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Watch out, Madison Avenue! People everywhere are gunning for your jobs.

Well, maybe people don’t want advertising and marketing jobs, but they do want to express themselves in ways guaranteed by the Constitution. How could the Founding Fathers have known that the war with words, on words and of words would require an ability of people on both sides to understand that each of them has a right to speak?

The Women’s March, the day after the inauguration, was a spectacle. People from around the nation, indeed the world, took considerable time to write, design and share signs about any and every issue important to them.

People are searching for the words to share their convictions.

One sign read, “Without Hermione, Harry would have died,” referring to the brilliant friend of Harry Potter whose smarts helped Harry survive despite numerous murderous attempts by Voldemort.

Another sign suggested, “So bad, even introverts are here.”

The president’s hair, a subject for television discussion well before the commander in chief left for the White House, made it onto several signs, with “We shall overcomb,” offering one of many toupee moments.

Whether the Trump administration recognizes or addresses it, we are a nation divided and, no, that’s not a statement about the size of the crowd at the inauguration. Who cares? If not a single person attended the inauguration, do you know what we would be calling Donald Trump? President.

I understand that and so do all those people writing signs, discussing the future direction of the country and arguing over the internet. I know Trump and his team seem disillusioned with the media. The president can’t stand the way he’s covered, but plenty of past presidents no doubt could relate to his discomfort.

Trump has tried to ostracize the media, going straight to the people with his creatively spelled Twitter messages.

One woman used Trump’s penchant for direct messages with a sign saying, “Tweet women with respect.”

Trump continues to make the argument about the number of people who voted for him. Can someone please tell him he won the election?

By walking side-by-side in marches, people aren’t sitting comfortably at home typing angry computer messages: They’re sharing their views and are traveling to see people “in real life.”

This is not — to borrow from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” — “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” These are people sharing a message they hope others and, in particular, the administration, hears and understands.

Trump didn’t get to the White House propelled by the hopes of these sign makers. He won the votes of millions who believed in him.

He wants to make America great again. He and his voters have red hats to prove it. That’s great and maybe the sale of red hats will be sufficient to create more jobs, just as his office has increased the sale of poster boards, crayons, markers and block-lettering kits through these marches.

No doubt, Trump, his team and many other Americans will come up with great slogans and catchy one-liners to offset the marchers’ messages.

What will bring us together? Maybe there’ll be a moment similar to the one in the movie “Miracle,” which was about the improbable Olympics victory by the United States hockey team at Lake Placid in 1980. As these players bonded, they learned that they weren’t playing for their schools but, rather, were representing their country.

The Founding Fathers may have created a slogan that’s hard to top: We the People.

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