Monthly Archives: March 2017

A view of the Stony Brook house, a half a mile from the water. Photo from Donna Newman

Erratic weather patterns have become more prevalent, causing climate change believers to cite them as evidence of the declining health of the Earth. Still, for many people the changes have had no tangible effect on their daily lives. I experienced my first, rather distressing significant outcome of the climate crisis seven years ago. It had to do with my homeowners insurance.

Donna Newman. File photo.

We purchased our first — and only— home in northern Stony Brook in 1973. Major selling points for our little white cape cod house were: it was located in the renowned Three Village school district; it was on a large, beautifully landscaped piece of property in charming Old Field South; and it was not far from West Meadow Beach on the Long Island Sound.

When choosing homeowner’s insurance we selected a major company with a solid reputation. It was already providing our automobile coverage and even offered a discount if you took out multiple policies.

Over the years I only remember submitting one insurance claim, when a burst pipe damaged the wall-to-wall carpeting in our living room and dining room. Even through major hurricanes like Gloria and Sandy we never experienced any flooding in our basement.

Then in 2010 — quite out of the blue — a letter arrived from the company informing us it would no longer be able to provide us with the homeowner’s insurance we had counted on for 27 years.

What? Why?

We always paid our premiums on time. We had only one claim in all those years. I was completely bewildered.

I placed a call to the office of the president of the company and was told that, due to recent statistical data evaluations, the company had determined it was necessary not to renew coverage for anyone living within a mile of the water.

“But,” I argued, “you have insured us for 27 years. Our house is in the exact same location as it always has been. I just don’t understand.”

She explained that things had changed; that there would be no exceptions; and that I needed to look for a new insurance carrier.

“What about longevity,” I countered. “What about loyalty?”

She said it wasn’t personal and that she was sorry.

I threatened to drop the auto coverage on our two cars and to tell everyone I knew about this upsetting turn of events.

“Whatever you need to do,” she replied, and she apologized again.

So it was that, already in the year 2010, climate change was being taken very seriously by big insurance companies seeking to minimize their liability.

I began to wonder if we’d even be able to get insurance, considering that “things had changed.”

It took us some time to locate a company that would provide the same level of insurance coverage we’d previously obtained. Thankfully, with the help of a local broker, we were able to get a policy with a much smaller company that we had never heard of before.

And here we are in 2017, hoping that our policy with our current insurer will be renewed come the fall. We’re also hoping we’ll never again have the need to file a claim.

Donna Newman is a former editor of The Village Times Herald.

Ben May is a Mount Sinai High School senior student. Photo from Ben May.

It doesn’t take much to start helping the environment.

Eight-year-old me was exploring a stream with my brother and our friends. As we began heading home, I spotted a large plastic container sitting on the bank. Everyone else seemed to ignore it, but I wandered over to examine its contents. After a quick examination, I decided it contained nothing of interest and threw it back to the ground. My brother yelled up at me to ask why I was not recycling it.

I responded, “No one else is going to do that, why do I have to clean it up?”

With a stern face, he said, “For exactly that reason.”

From this quick conversation, my outlook on the world was forever changed. Humanity faces many challenges, but not everyone chooses to help confront them. The environment is in danger of destruction; it is our obligation to save it.

I began my environmental activism at Mount Sinai High School. As a sophomore, I founded the Environmental Outreach Club. This club implemented a recycling program and facilitated annual beach cleanups each year with a turnout of more than 70 students. It amazed me how many people were ready to help. Even a small group of passionate youth can make an observable difference. Then, last fall, I found myself one of three high school students on the planning committee for the first Long Island Youth Ocean Conservation Summit. This event, where participants heard from environmentalists such as Fabien Cousteau, was meant to bring about youth-driven conservation efforts. Since earning a minigrant from the summit, the Environmental Outreach Club has been pressing for the elimination of one-use bottles and cans from the cafeteria of Mount Sinai High School.

Thus far, we have installed three water bottle refill stations throughout the school and plan on selling reusable bottles at the cafeteria. We hope to later replace the vending machines with beverage fountains to eliminate the need for one-use cans and bottles. Local projects usually have the most powerful impact to someone’s community with small-scale actions creating large-scale changes; however, national endeavors bring a far-reaching aspect to environmentalism.

Last year, I had the honor to be a member of the seven-person Sea Youth Rise Up delegation to lobby President Barack Obama (D) to establish a new marine protected area off the coast of Cape Cod. We met with the Environmental Quality Council at the White House, ran a live international broadcast on World Oceans Day, filmed a documentary and visited the United Nations in New York City to bring attention to the cause. As a teenager, it is difficult to enact change at the federal level, but this opportunity enabled me to engage in debates that directly affected legislation. When Obama heard our collective voices and established the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts National Monument, which protects large sections of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Cape Cod, I realized change can be created by anyone — no matter their age. After returning from the Sea Youth Rise Up campaign, I was appointed communications coordinator for the national Youth Ocean Conservation Summit organization, was a guest speaker at this year’s Long Island YOCS, and have been invited to speak at an upcoming TEDx event in London this June.

From my limited personal experience so far, the world of environmentalism is composed of smart, passionate people. Today — even when temperatures and sea level are rising, fish stocks are being depleted, water is becoming scarce, petrochemicals are being added to the oceans at an exponentially increasing rate and a mass extinction is occurring — I am still extremely hopeful. After meeting other people who help mitigate these ailments of our society,  both by small-scale and large-scale actions, I am confident in our collective ability to save our world.

Over my few years of being an environmental advocate, I have learned two things: the opportunities to get involved are endless, and an open door foreshadows more doors to come. Every opportunity that presented itself to me has been the product of some previous action I had taken — all tracing back to my brother yelling at me to throw out a piece of plastic.

Ben May is a Mount Sinai High School senior and is the founder of the Environmental Outreach Club at the school.

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It happens somewhere between midnight and 6 in the morning during most summer days. During those witching hours, when most people are resting before the challenges of the day ahead, automatic systems silently climb in synchronization from below ground and propel a precious resource. When the system is done, it silently submerges below ground.

These irrigation systems spread water on lawns all over Long Island and, indeed, the United States.

This year, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation sent out a letter to the water departments throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties, asking them to reduce water usage by 15 percent within the next three to four years.

The 15 percent reduction is “an ambitious goal,” acknowledged Ty Fuller, director of strategic initiatives and lead hydrogeologist at the Suffolk County Water Authority, which is “attainable” but “it will not be easy.”

For consumers, reducing water usage offers several benefits. For starters, less water used means a lower water bill. Beyond that, however, lower water use conserves a valuable resource. Cutting back on water use also keeps water sources like SCWA and others from needing to drill more wells, upgrade pumps or develop more water systems to meet the increasing summertime demands of Long Islanders eager for lush, green lawns.

As Fuller pointed out, lowering water demand during those peak hours can also ensure that the water system can maintain a fire flow protection.

“That’s always a top priority,” Fuller said. “We want to make sure we can always meet” that demand. It is particularly important in the midst of a drought and as the threat of wildfires increases.

Yet changing consumer behavior on any level is challenging. After all, some of those who need to alter their watering habits are the same people who make New Year’s resolutions that barely last a week.

Fuller said SCWA has identified its top water users during the summer and is reaching out to them to advise on different conservation practices.

The authority is also holding regular water talks and has created a Water Wise Club, where some 382,000 account customers can qualify for credits if they purchase water savings devices. These items include low-flow shower heads and rain sensors, which turn off sprinkler systems after rainstorms when the lawns already have sufficient moisture. The rain sensor provides up to a $50 account credit.

SCWA is encouraging customers to adopt an odd/even system. If their street address is an odd number they water their lawns on odd days, while the even numbers only water lawns on even days.

SCWA rolled out the Water Wise CheckUp scheme with Brinkmann Hardware in Blue Point. Through a consultation with homeowners, an expert identifies each point of water use and provides a road map for savings. Customers requesting a checkup can call 631-292-6101. Customers can also receive information and print out a form at the website

Consumers who become more informed about best practices for watering their lawns can help make this conservation initiative a reality.

“People have been led to believe that irrigating every day is a good thing,” Fuller said. “That can encourage fungal growth. If people see brown blades on their grass, they assume that’s not irrigated properly,” but that can be fungal growth. Adding more water to the lawn can exacerbate the problem.

Cutting back on water usage is a “win-win situation” for the customer and for the water system, Fuller said. “Why would people not want to play a role?”

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Today I am going to pull back the curtain and let you see what is going on backstage at the newspaper office. To begin, there is the issue of the newspaper that you are now holding in your hands. You have probably noticed that it looks different from the typical weekly offering. Almost the entire edition is devoted to a single concerning theme. We did this last year for the first time, devoting space to the opioid epidemic that is affecting the ranks of our young. We had hoped to get the conversation going in our communities about this troubling scourge, which too often is hidden away for its stigma. The resulting issue was so positively received that we decided to pick some of the other urgent subjects and, likewise, concentrate attention on them individually from time to time. It is our belief that when the community is unified at recognizing and dealing with a challenge, we can overcome.

The current issue deals with climate change. We are not entering into discussion here about whether or not it is real. Instead we are reporting on changes to our local environment that are taking place, organizations that are tracking and dealing with those changes, governmental programs that have been formed in response to weather-related events and some of the economic effects of the above that touch all of us. We are especially interested, as always, in finding out what our residents are thinking and feeling, and helping you to understand the many aspects of the subject.

We hope we have done that this week. Look on our website for a video that accompanies this theme at We welcome your responses, via email, texts or letters to the editors.

On a more joyful note, we partied hearty Sunday night celebrating the 2016 People of the Year. As you know, we fill the last issue of each year with profiles of those working hard to make our towns and villages the wonderful places that they are. Some of those we salute are rather obvious, some are hidden from sight and largely unappreciated. You, our readers and our reporters who are covering the news have nominated most. We offer the spotlight of publicity to help the winners in their efforts and also to express our appreciation for their ongoing work. We limit the candidates to those who work here, live here or are doing something valuable that makes our lives better.

Then, the following March, in a grand hands-across-the-community collaboration, the Three Village Inn, Stony Brook University and Times Beacon Record News Media throw a fun party for the winners in Brookhaven Town and their guests, along with community leaders and some previous winners. Framed certificates and explanations are offered at that time. It’s a perfect setting for productive cross-pollination of ideas and resources, and sometimes the Inn has to urge us out because guests are reluctant to leave the conversations at the end. Normally we would run some of the photos from the party kindly taken by Setauket resident Bev Tyler in the following issue to remind readers of the winners, but that feature will have to await next week’s edition.

Also, did you know that nine first ladies among the 45 so far were born in New York state? That’s a concentration of 20 percent born in what amounts to 2 percent of the union. And they are a fascinating bunch, with stories surrounding them all. We have made a video of them, “The Ladies of Liberty,” narrated by Elizabeth Kahn Kaplan, complete with photographs and artifacts, and we showed a bit of it at the party. If you would like to use the video at fundraisers or other group meetings, ask us for the link. It’s free, it’s a service we offer, it runs for about an hour and it’s engaging for the history painlessly learned. Or you can view it soon on YouTube or our website.

So that is some of what has been happening in our world.


Montauk daisies should be divided, if needed, in spring. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

Coneflowers can be divided in spring or fall. Photo by Ellen Barcel

One of the nice benefits of growing perennials is that they come back year after year without replanting — it saves time, energy and money. However, as the years go by, perennial beds can become overgrown and need to have their plants divided.

When is the ideal time to divide your perennials? Perennials can be divided almost any time, but, ideally, don’t divide perennials in the summer since it will be harder to keep the new plants growing with the heat and lessened rain. In an emergency, for example, when having to clear part of your property for new construction, divide as needed even if it is 90 degrees outside. But this is an emergency situation rather than good planning and means you need to take extra care to keep the plants thriving.

Black-eyed Susans can be divided in spring or fall. Photo by Ellen Barcel


The rule of thumb is to divide spring and summer bloomers in the fall. That means that you should have already divided plants like hostas. Fall-blooming plants (like mums, asters, Montauk daisies, etc.) should be divided in spring. By dividing them at the appropriate time, more of the plant’s energy will go into growing new roots and leaves. However, always do some research on the specific plants you need to divide before digging up the perennial clump as some plant species can be very persnickety when it comes to dividing time. And, some plants, like black-eyed Susans and coneflowers can be divided in either spring or fall.

Some perennials need to be divided every three or four years, depending on how thickly they have grown. Others don’t need to be divided for many years, like peonies. If there were fewer flowers last year than in the past, it’s a sign the clump needs to be divided. If there is a bare spot in the center of the clump, that, too is a sign the perennials need to be divided.

Steps to follow:

• Look at the size of the clump and decide into how many pieces you want to divide the clump.

• If possible, dig the appropriate number of receiving holes before you actually cut the clump. This will lessen transplant shock. You can, naturally put one of the divisions back into the original hole.

• If you can’t plant the divisions immediately, wrap them in newspaper or burlap, dampen with water and store in a bucket in a cool, shady place. Plant them ASAP.

• It’s easiest to dig up and divide a clump of perennials after there has been a rainfall.

• Start digging at the drip line and work your way around the outside of the clump of perennials.

• Once you’ve lifted the clump, if possible, divide the rooted sections by hand. This will lessen root damage.

• If necessary, take a sharp spade or gardening knife (make sure you have thoroughly cleaned it first) and cut the clump into several sections, making sure that you have roots attached to each section.

• If there was a bare spot in the center of the original bed, do not replant that section, but rather discard it to your compost pile. • Make sure you add organic matter to the newly planted divisions of the perennials.

• Keep the new plants moist, but not soggy, until they have had time to establish themselves. Mulch would be useful here. In a few months, your new plants should be growing well.

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

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

By Barbara Beltrami

Ah, consider the lowly peanut relegated in most culinary estimations to its more popular descendant, peanut butter. True, you seldom see it on a restaurant menu or even in a cookbook. In western cultures it hardly bears mentioning unless you’re talking about something to munch with your martini. In eastern cultures, however, the peanut, also called the ground nut, plays a larger role in native cuisine.

The recipes below will give you a taste (pun intended) of how the peanut figures into both the western and eastern food cultures and exhibit its versatility according to traditional preferences.

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


For the marinade:

½ cup coconut milk

1 teaspoon curry powder

2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic

2 level teaspoons brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

²⁄₃ pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch strips

For the peanut sauce:

1 cup coconut milk

1 tablespoon curry powder

½ cup peanut butter

²⁄₃ cup chicken broth

¼ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 teaspoon soy sauce

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt to taste


For the marinade: Stir together the first six ingredients. In a medium bowl, toss with chicken, cover and refrigerate for two hours. If using wooden skewers, soak in hot water until ready to use.

For the sauce: In a small-medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, combine coconut milk, curry powder, peanut butter, chicken broth and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice, soy sauce, cayenne pepper. Add salt to taste (You probably won’t need much). Set aside to keep warm.

Meanwhile heat grill to medium high, remove skewers from water and wipe dry, then thread marinated chicken onto them. Grill 5 minutes per side or until golden brown and cooked through. Remove to platter and ladle warm peanut sauce over them. Serve with rice and vegetable slaw.

Peanut, Carrot and Mango Salad

YIELD: Makes 4 servings


2 cups grated carrots

½ cup chopped roasted salted peanuts

3 tablespoons lemon juice

1-2 teaspoons sugar

One green chile pepper, seeded and diced

¼ cup red or yellow bell pepper, minced

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Salt, to taste

One mango, peeled and diced

DIRECTIONS: In a medium bowl, combine the carrots and peanuts. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, sugar, chile pepper, bell pepper and cilantro. Combine with peanut and carrot mixture. Add salt and mix again. Fold in mango. Serve immediately with chicken or lamb.

Peanut Brittle

Peanut Brittle


YIELD: Makes one pound


Butter for greasing pan

2 cups sugar

2 cups roasted salted peanuts

DIRECTIONS: Grease low-rimmed baking sheet. In a heavy skillet combine sugar with 2 tablespoons water. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until mixture boils. Steadily, continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture turns golden (it happens pretty quickly!). Stir in peanuts and immediately pour and spread mixture onto greased baking sheet. Allow to cool half an hour, until hard. Then break into uneven, asymmetrical pieces before serving with coffee or tea.

SUNSET AT STONY BROOK HARBOR Stony Brook resident Jay Gao captured this image at Stony Brook Harbor on Feb. 24 using a Nikon D750. He writes, ‘The harbor is one of my favorite places to visit. This picture was taken at 5:30 p.m., when many geese were leaving the harbor.

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Above, the staff of the Adult Day Health Program at Gurwin Jewish Center. Photo from Gurwin Jewish Center

Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center’s Adult Day Health Program was recently named Long Island’s Best in Adult Day Health for 2017 through Bethpage Federal Credit Union’s Best of Long Island competition. The full-day medical model program, which opened its doors in 1989, offers comprehensive medical and social services to frail, elderly and cognitively impaired residents of Nassau and Suffolk counties in a supervised, secure and enriching environment.

“We are honored that Gurwin’s Adult Day Health program has been recognized as the Best on Long Island,” said Herbert H. Friedman, Gurwin’s executive vice president/CEO. “At the core of the Adult Day Health program is our talented multidisciplinary staff whose compassion and dedication is evident in their person centered care and innovative programming. Their attentiveness to each participant’s individualized needs offers families respite from the demanding responsibilities of caregiving, and peace of mind knowing that their loved one is good hands. We are pleased that our staff and the program have been recognized for the outstanding care they provide for the residents of our local community.”

Up to 133 individuals with varying health and cognitive challenges attend the program daily, which is located on Gurwin’s 67-acre campus within the renowned Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. Medical and nursing care, rehabilitation therapy and a wide range of engaging therapeutic activities are offered for those who attend up to six days per week, supporting the physical, social and emotional needs of each participant.

According to Jeraldine Fedoriw, LMSW and Gurwin Adult Day Health Program director, “Socialization and structure in a secure environment are key to helping those with physical and cognitive disabilities flourish. From the moment our buses pick them up in the morning, to the time they return home in the afternoon, our registrants are kept busy and engaged. Starting with a well-balanced breakfast, the day is fun-filled with hands-on activities such as painting, crafts, exercise, music and dancing. It is a stimulating day that gives our members a sense of belonging and oftentimes a renewed sense of purpose.”

In addition to a full calendar of events and assistance with activities of daily living, Gurwin’s program offers access to its in-house clinic which provides a full array of health services including dental, ophthalmology, audiology and other specialty services. Other on-site amenities include access to the facility’s professional barber and beauty parlor and well-stocked gift shop for light shopping needs.

“At the Gurwin Adult Day Health Program, our staff is proud to make a difference in the lives of those who attend our program each day,” Fedoriw adds. “I’m delighted for our staff that we’ve been named the Best on Long Island — it’s a well-deserved honor.”

Cary Grant in a scene from ‘North by Northwest’. Image courtesy of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc.

Alfred Hitchcock’s suspense-filled action-adventure “North by Northwest” (1959) will return to more than 700 select movie theaters nationwise on April 2 and 5, courtesy of Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies and Warner Bros. The star-studded cast includes Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Martin Landau and Jessie Royce Landis. Audiences will also enjoy specially produced commentary by Turner Classic Movies host Ben Mankiewicz before and after the feature.

Participating theaters in our neck of the woods include AMC Loews Stony Brook 17 (at 2 and 7 p.m. on both days), Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas (on April 2 at 2 p.m., April 5 at 2 and 7 p.m.) and Island 16 Cinema de Lux in Holtsville (on April 2 at 2 p.m., April 5 at 2 and 7 p.m.). For more information or to purchase your tickets in advance, visit

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By Linda Toga

Linda Toga, Esq.

THE FACTS: My friend Joe, a New York State resident, was never married, but he and his on-again off-again girlfriend had a son together. The child was 14 months old when Joe died without a will. Before his death, Joe spent most of his free time with his son who lives with the girlfriend in New York. My friend’s parents live in Ohio and did not know about the girlfriend, much less the baby. They were shocked to learn that a baby they did not even know existed was the sole heir to Joe’s estate. They are now insisting on a DNA test.

THE QUESTION: Can Joe’s parents insist that a DNA test be done to prove paternity?

THE ANSWER: Whether or not a DNA test is appropriate will depend on what steps Joe may have taken to establish paternity. If, for example, Joe signed a paternity acknowledgment, the Surrogate’s Court will not order a genetic marker test or DNA test.

Under Public Health Law 4135-B, the father of a child can establish paternity by signing a paternity acknowledgment immediately before or after an in-hospital birth of a child to an unmarried woman. The acknowledgment must be signed by both parents and witnessed by two people who are not related to either parent. The acknowledgment must be filed with the registrar along with the child’s birth certificate.

If neither parent rescinds the acknowledgment within 60 days of signing it, the acknowledgment is deemed conclusive evidence of paternity. While challenges to a paternity acknowledgment based upon fraud or duress can be brought, the burden of proof is very high.

Another way the paternity of a child born out of wedlock can be established is through an Order of Filiation. A proceeding to establish paternity may be brought in Family Court by the mother of the child, a person claiming to be the father, the child or the child’s guardian. Assuming adequate proof is submitted to the court, an order will be issued setting forth the relationship between the father and the child. Just as there is a 60-day period during which the paternity acknowledgment can be rescinded, the court has 60 days in which to vacate an Order of Filiation before it is deemed conclusive evidence of paternity.

If, during Joe’s lifetime, an order of filiation was issued stating that the girlfriend’s son was Joe’s child, Joe’s parents cannot demand a genetic marker or DNA test. If there is no paternity acknowledgment or Order of Filiation, Joe’s parents can insist that proof be presented establishing that Joe is the child’s father. In that case, genetic marker and/or DNA testing would certainly be appropriate.

Other evidence may include proof that Joe was providing child support or that he publicly held himself out as the child’s father. If paternity cannot be established, Joe’s parents are in line to inherit his estate. Such an unfortunate outcome could have easily been avoided if Joe discussed his situation with an experienced estate planning attorney and had a will prepared that expressed his desire to leave his assets to his son.

Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of estate planning, probate, estate administration, litigation, wills, trusts, small business services and real estate from her East Setauket office.