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Barbara Donlon

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Smithtown’s Landing Methodist Church. File photo

Nine churches will take part in the Smithtown Church History Day to honor and celebrate the town’s 350th anniversary.

Sunday, May 17, has been the designated day for residents to learn about other religions and discover the similarities between faiths. The churches will open their doors to interested parties for tours and historic activities.

The Resurrection Byzantine Catholic Church on Edgewater Avenue is welcoming visitors to its regularly scheduled Sunday Divine Liturgy at 11:15 a.m. followed by an open house and guided tours between 1 and 5 p.m.

The Smithtown United Methodist Church on Middle Country Road will open from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. for tours and additional activities. Members will also be serving light refreshments.

St. Thomas of Canterbury Episcopal Church on Brooksite Drive will also open its doors to the public for its 8 and 10 a.m. services with coffee following each one.

Between noon and 2 p.m. volunteers will be there to hand out brochures and give tours of the church and garden. There will also be a demonstration of how to use the Meditation Labyrinth.

For residents who would like to see Smithtown’s oldest church, they can visit Smithtown First Presbyterian founded by Richard Smythe in 1675, located at the corner of Middle Country Road and North Country Road.

Starting at 1 p.m. DVDs on the church and its history will be shown in the Narthex along with light refreshments available in the Parish Hall. Family activities will take place on the church lawn throughout the afternoon. Several other events will take place throughout the day.

Both St. James United Methodist located on Moriches Road and Trinity AME Church located on New York Avenue are inviting the community to come and learn about their respective history.

St. James United Methodist is inviting people to come see the interior of the church that was rebuilt in 1899 after being destroyed by a fire. Members are also inviting people to take a look at the popular stained glass windows. Trinity AME Church will serve refreshments and invites the community to join them for a meet and greet.

The Smithtown Landing Methodist Church on Landing Avenue is offering open tours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Members of the Ladies Auxiliary will be on hand to present the history and background of the church. There will also be information on the founding members of the church who are buried in the little cemetery on the grounds.

The Hauppauge United Methodist Church on Townline Road will also be participating in the big day. The church will open for services at 9 a.m. when all are welcome. Between 2 and 3 p.m. there will be church tours followed by a tour of the old Hauppauge burial grounds behind the church with graves dating back to the Revolutionary War.

The last church that will participate in the festivities is St. James Episcopal Church on North Country Road. Worship services will be held at 8 and 9:30 a.m. followed by an open house from noon to 4 p.m. Guided tours to see the church will be available throughout the day as well as guided tours of the cemetery.  A picnic lunch featuring hot dogs, apple pie and other goodies will be available as well.

Two remain in school board race

The two remaining candidates running for one open seat on the Miller Place Board of Education opened up to the community Tuesday night during the district’s meet the candidate night.

Keith Frank photo by Barbara Donlon
Keith Frank photo by Barbara Donlon

Mike Manspeizer, 55, a former board member and Keith Frank, 50, an attorney running for the first time, answered questions from roughly 20 people in the audience during the 45-minute event.

Tom Brischler, a retired high school English teacher, announced he was withdrawing from the race on Tuesday.

Manspeizer, 55, a program manager for Cisco Systems, said board members do a lot and he wants to be there to review sensitive issues, like those discussed in executive session.

“I want to make sure we’re thoughtful about the things that we do so when personnel issues come up, we want to make sure we address that,” he said.

Frank said he is running because he’s seen how well the district has met the needs of his three children and he would like to be part of helping others as well.

“I think the main reason I wanted to run for the board this year is because I live it everyday [with his own children],” Frank said.

Residents at the meeting wanted to know what the two candidates would bring to the board. Both men felt their careers would assist them.

Mike Manspeizer photo by Barbara Donlon
Mike Manspeizer photo by Barbara Donlon

“What I will bring to the board is my 25 years experience working with businesses, working with management, working with unions, working as a labor and employment attorney, working to make everybody work together,” Frank said.

Manspeizer highlighted the contractual work he does with his company and the technology knowledge he could bring to the board. Manspeizer said his business in the tech world has given him a somewhat worldly background.

“I work with people from all over the world, different cultures,” Manspeizer said.

When a question on education reform was asked, things got tense, as Manspeizer stopped mid sentence to address an audience member who may have rolled their eyes.

“Like I said before, things are changing the world is changing. Education may stay the way it is for a while, but forces will break it eventually. So you have to … ,” Manspeizer said with a slight pause. “Yeah I mean you can come up here and you know talk if you want to if you want to roll your eyes that’s fine.”

Manspeizer went on to finish his statement. He said that because the district is a state institution, they must adhere to the law.

Frank expressed similar sentiments.

“What it really does come down to is we are guided by the law, we do have to follow the law,” Frank said. “However parents can feel the way they want to feel [and] parents can do what they feel is necessary for their child.”

In their closing remarks, the candidates thanked the community for coming out to the event and encouraged residents to come out more often.

The school board election and budget vote will be held on Tuesday, May 19 at North Country Road Middle School from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m.

East Northport lawmaker says responsibility of new role to include rebuilding public trust

John Flanagan and former state education commissioner John King at a Common Core forum. File photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

Suffolk County’s own state Sen. John Flanagan has been elected to serve as temporary president and state Senate majority leader after former head Dean G. Skelos resigned from the post on Monday.

The Republican-led chamber appointed Flanagan (R-East Northport) as its new leader amid the arrest of Sen. Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) last week on federal corruption charges. The change in leadership comes after several Senate members pressured Skelos, a Long Islander who touts a more than 30-year tenure, to resign from his position.

Flanagan has been appointed the temporary position of president and State Senate majority leader for the remainder of the 2015-16 term, according to a video from his swearing-in.

“I am proud and humbled to have been chosen as temporary president and majority leader of the New York State Senate,” Flanagan said in a statement. “I thank my colleagues for the confidence they have placed in me. With this job comes a responsibility to lead and to listen, and to rebuild the public’s trust.”

Flanagan, 54, has held the position of senator since 2002. Prior to joining the Senate, he was a member of the New York State Assembly for 15 years.

State Sen. John A. DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse), who was vying for the majority position, spoke to Flanagan’s appointment on Monday and said there were no hard feelings.

“I know he is not only a great senator, he’s a great man and I’m proud to move his nomination,” DeFrancisco said.

Flanagan’s colleague, State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) also lauded the move.

“It gives me great joy, great pride to second the nomination of John Flanagan as our temporary president,” LaValle said. “John Flanagan has great intellect, great energy and he has a wonderful, wonderful demeanor that brings people together.”

Many of Flanagan’s colleagues spoke highly of the new majority leader prior to his swearing-in ceremony that took place in Albany following the 32 ayes he received out of 63 senators present.

“The Senate made the right decision by voting Sen. John Flanagan as the newest majority leader,” Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Melville) said in a statement. “Flanagan has a track record for getting things done in the Senate and working with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.”

After his swearing in, Flanagan thanked Skelos for his decades of service and accomplishing the enactment of Megan’s Law, a law that publicizes the whereabouts of sex offenders.

“I have now had the good fortune of being in the Legislature for 29 years and I am proud to be in public service,” Flanagan said in a video from his swearing-in ceremony. “I spent 16 years in the Assembly in the minority, I’m now in my 13th year in the Senate, two of which [were] in the minority and I learned a lot being in both venues.”

Two candidates remain

Tom Brischler. Photo from Brischler

Just one week before the election, a Miller Place school board candidate has withdrawn his petition to run for the one open seat on the board.

Tom Brischler withdrew his petition on Tuesday, according to a district spokeswoman. In a phone interview, Brischler said he pulled out of the race for personal reasons. The news comes just hours before a meet the candidate night at the high school.

According to a press release from the district, petitions to run can still be filed until 5 p.m. on Tuesday and are available at the district office, 7 Memorial Drive, Miller Place.

Last month, Brischler, a retired high school English teacher, said he decided to run for the board because he felt public education was in jeopardy. He said he hoped to bring shared decision making come back to the Miller Place school district.

Two candidates — Michael Manspeizer and Keith J. Frank — remain. Manspeizer, a program manager for Cisco Systems, is a former school board member and 10-year Miller Place resident. Frank is an attorney and is running for the first time

The election and 2015-16 budget vote will take place on May 19 at North Country Road Middle School.

Rabbi Chaim Grossbaum speaks at a ceremony last week. Photo by Barbara Donlon

The North Shore Jewish community is one step closer to getting its forever home as the groundbreaking ceremony for its new center took root in Stony Brook on Thursday evening.

Rabbi Chaim and his wife Rivkie Grossbaum addressed the eager crowd at the ceremony at R.C. Murphy Junior High School to mark the new Chabad Merrin Center at Stony Brook, named after Edward and Vivian Merrin, who donated $1 million to the center.

“Our wandering has come to an end,” Chaim Grossbaum said at the ceremony last week. “The Merrin Chabad Jewish Center is the answer.”

Since acquiring its first space at the Lake Grove Jewish Center in 1990, Chabad Stony Brook has spent much of its last 25 years wondering where it would offer its services. The growing Jewish community was hard to fit in the current center and it often relied on rental space to get the job done, Grossbaum said.

Members of Chabad at Stony Brook join with community leaders to ceremoniously break ground. Photo from Motti Grossbaum
Members of Chabad at Stony Brook join with community leaders to ceremoniously break ground. Photo from Motti Grossbaum

The current space can fit roughly 80 people, far less than the 400 families Chabad Stony Brook serves. The new center, now in phase two of the $5.5 million four-phase project, will be able to accommodate far more families once it is completed, he said.

The new center will have a banquet room, a gym, Mikvah and spa, a library, a pool, a santuary and more. The building is expected to open in the summer of 2016, the group said.

“It will pretty much be multi-use in many fashions for the several programs we service the community with,” Grossbaum said in a phone interview.

The center will offer Hebrew school, pre-school, summer camp and other school programs. According to layout plans, there will be five pre-school rooms and two regular classrooms.

The new center will be right in the heart of the Three Village community it serves, Grossbaum said. The center will also have a hospitality suite for the Jewish community taking care of sick loved ones at Stony Brook University Hospital, the group said.

The rabbi said he is hoping the center attracts new families to help Chabad Stony Brook grow exponentially.

“We want to give them reasons to want to go,” Grossbaum said. “It’s hard to create atmosphere in a rental space.”

The rabbi highlighted many of the difficulties the group experienced while going from place to place over the last 25 years. He said the center would help expand on everything they currently offer to enhance services.

Sheila Skolnick, an attendee at Chabad Stony Brook, said the center’s kind and welcoming atmosphere would draw many people into the new center. Skolnick along with many others said she is eagerly waiting for the new center to be built.

“The Merrin Center will be our place and we’ll know where to go,” Skolnick said. “It’s really a place for Jews to congregate from all over.”

Construction of the new center is expected to begin shortly. Kevin Harney of Stalco Construction is leading the project and John Tsunis of Gold Coast Bank is financing it.

Couple and young twins uninjured

Firefighters spray water to put out a blaze that engulfed a Cordell Place home in East Northport early Sunday morning. Photo by Steve Silverman
Firefighters work hard to put out a blaze that engulfed a Cordell Place home in East Northport early Sunday morning. Photo by Steve Silverman
Firefighters work hard to put out a blaze that engulfed a Cordell Place home in East Northport early Sunday morning. Photo by Steve Silverman

An East Northport couple and their four-month old boy-and-girl twins escaped unharmed after their home went up in flames on Sunday morning.

The East Northport Fire Department responded to the Cordell Place blaze on Mother’s Day at about 10 a.m. and found the attached garage of a single-family home engulfed in flames, according to a press release from Steve Silverman, public information officer for the Town of Huntington Fire Chiefs Council.

Three propane tanks outside the garage ignited and fueled the fire that spread to the kitchen and living room.

Firefighters check the roof of a Cordell Place home in East Northport early Sunday morning after a fire destroyed the garage and living room. Photo by Steve Silverman
Firefighters check the roof of a Cordell Place home in East Northport early Sunday morning after a fire destroyed the garage and living room. Photo by Steve Silverman

More than 50 firefighters from East Northport, Commack and Kings Park fire departments and seven trucks worked to get the fire under control within 20 minutes, led by East Northport Chief Wayne Kaifler Jr. and First Assistant Chief Dan Heffernan. The East Northport Rescue Squad had three ambulances and paramedic unit on the scene for EMS support.

The garage, living room and kitchen were destroyed. and the rest of the home sustained smoke damage.

The Suffolk County Police Arson Squad and Huntington Town fire marshal are investigating the fire, according to the press release.

Kaylee Corrar, 4, held a food drive to benefit the group’s food pantry. She is pictured with her sister, Abby, 3. Photo from Katie Corrar

A 4-year-old Selden girl has warmed the hearts of many after organizing a spring food drive that helped feed close to 70 needy families in the Middle Country community.

Kaylee Corrar, a preschool student at Unity Drive Pre-K/Kindergarten Center in Centereach, was discussing an upcoming Disney cruise with her parents when they explained to her how lucky she was. Kaylee questioned what it meant and her parents explained that not everyone is as fortunate as they are. That’s when the idea hit the 4-year-old.

Through the Kaylee Cares Spring Food Drive, Kaylee Corrar helped feed nearly 70 families in the Middle Country community. Photo from Katie Corrar
Through the Kaylee Cares Spring Food Drive, Kaylee Corrar helped feed nearly 70 families in the Middle Country community. Photo from Katie Corrar

“She stood up and said she was going to feed the homeless,” her mom, Katie Corrar, said.

Kaylee hosted a two-week-long food drive in March called the Kaylee Cares Spring Food Drive to benefit the Selden Centereach Youth Association’s Helping Hand Food Pantry in Centereach.

“I heard that people was homeless,” Kaylee said. “I feel bad.”

Kaylee’s mom and grandmother, Janet Taggart Corrar, of Yaphank, helped spread the word through social media and before she knew it, Kaylee was receiving boxes of food from family all over the country. Boxes filled with canned vegetables, pancake mix, syrup and more came from Kansas, Florida and Pennsylvania.

“It felt good when opening boxes because I really wanted to feed the families,” Kaylee said.

With some help from grandma, her parents and her 3-year-old sister, Abby, Kaylee filled their living room with food. The family even did some shopping of their own, visiting Trader Joe’s, ShopRite and Target where they bought meat, fresh vegetables and toiletries.

Taggart Corrar even reached out to her friends at Gallagher Bassett Services, an international insurance agency with a location in Melville. The office ran a food drive in Kaylee’s honor and raised enough food to fill a third van with goods.

Kaylee Corrar, 4, poses with her certificate of appreciation from the Selden Centereach Youth Association. Photo by Barbara Donlon
Kaylee Corrar, 4, poses with her certificate of appreciation from the Selden Centereach Youth Association. Photo by Barbara Donlon

According to Sal Bush, the youth association’s executive director, the pantry was in desperate need of the food. He said Kaylee’s donations helped feed between 60 and 70 local families.

“I kid you not, this little girl was instrumental in getting this food,” Bush said. “We were fortunate enough that Kaylee came to the realization that people were hungry.”

The Middle Country school district and the Selden Centereach Youth Association recognized Kaylee’s hard work at a April 22 school board meeting. Mother Corrar couldn’t contain the pride she had for her daughter.

“I feel our heart is bursting with pride,” she said. “I’m not surprised, she’s always been like this. She’s caring and always goes out of the way.”

Taggart Corrar called herself Kaylee’s biggest fan.

“As a grandma, I can’t not have tears,” she said. “It’s very moving and inspiring to see a 4-year-old do this.”

The family hopes to make the food drive a tradition. And while Kaylee will help out, she also plans to tackle another issue.

“I’m going to recycle and pick up garbage at the beach because I don’t want the animals to get sick.”

Marissa Pastore and her mom, flanked by Disney characters. Photo from Katrina Kurczak

A 14-year-old Huntington Station girl who was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness got the wish of her life on Sunday when her favorite Disney characters came out to celebrate with her.

Marissa Pastore, who has been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) on April 20, was treated at the Cohen Children’s Center, but her fragile body was unable to handle the chemotherapy, according to a GoFundMe online fundraising account set up for the family. A few days later, Marissa returned home with her mom Risa, dad Domenick and two brothers Domenick and Ryan, to enjoy their final days together.

Marissa’s mom is an emergency department nurse at Huntington Hospital and her dad is a former Huntington Manor Fire Department chief and a fireman with the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), according to the account. Both are volunteers at the Huntington Manor Fire Department, and the account was set up so the family could “concentrate solely on loving Marissa.”

Marissa Pastore, 14, gets the surprise of a lifetime when Disney characters visit her. Photo from Katrina Kurczak
Marissa Pastore, 14, gets the surprise of a lifetime when Disney characters visit her. Photo from Katrina Kurczak

“Please help us support the Pastore family with any donation you can make which will go toward covering their living expenses while they take time off from work to celebrate Marissa’s life together.”

Not only did the account amass more than $55,000 by Wednesday, Marissa got a special surprise when Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse, Olaf and other characters from popular Disney movies greeted the 14-year-old Disney lover, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

According to Katrina Kurczak, one of Marissa’s wish granters and assistant director of program services for Make-A-Wish, the nonprofit group and the family put together Marissa’s wish quickly. Family and community members contacted them Tuesday, April 28, and the group met with the family Wednesday. On Sunday, her wish came true.

“She was surprised and so happy, she couldn’t believe it,” Kurczak said. The characters rode in on fire trucks and greeted her.

The goal was to bring Disney to her, as Marissa is unable to travel due to her condition. Disney princesses Anna and Elsa from “Frozen” also made a special appearance and sang to the young girl.

“Her dad wanted to do something to make her smile,” Kurczak said.

Many volunteers came together to help make the day as special as possible. The Huntington Manor Fire Department, Cold Spring Harbor Fire Department and the FDNY also helped make Marissa’s wish come true.

To donate to the Pastore family, visit http://www.gofundme.com/sus6z8.

Unger makes a statement regarding pending lawsuit and superintendent's action

Miller Place school board President Mike Unger praised the district’s superintendent and administration for how they handled the situation. Photo by Barbara Donlon

Miller Place school board President Mike Unger broke his silence four weeks after a student announced he would sue the school for allegedly violating his first amendment rights.

At the school board meeting on April 29, Unger took a minute to comment on the situation, which stemmed from the high school’s variety show back in March. During the show, Kyle Vetrano, senior class president, appeared in a skit poking fun at the high school’s bathroom policy, which allows one student at a time to use the facilities in an effort to combat drug use and sales. According to the senior, he improvised the line that later got him into trouble.

“Is this what our superintendent gets paid all that money for? To write bathroom policy,” Vetrano said in the act.

Vetrano was not allowed to participate in the next performance and was banned from school grounds during the second show, as the line was not included in the pre-approved script.

On April 2, the Vetrano family, his lawyer John Ray, of Miller Place-based Ray, Mitev and Associates, students and community members held a rally in support of Vetrano outside the high school and announced their plan to sue. The crowd also marched toward the district office where Ray and his associate served the district with a notice of claim, which must be filed before a municipality or municipal agency — like a school district — can be sued, according to state law.

While Superintendent Marianne Higuera sent out a letter to residents that addressed the incident, the school board has stayed mum.

At the April 29 meeting, Unger described the family as “seekers of 15 minutes of fame” and described Higuera as “the rock of this district.” He said he admired her strength and praised her and the rest of the high school administration for how they handled the situation.

“While I’m not supposed to comment on recent litigious events, I want to state that I support the actions of our high school administration and Dr. Higuera 100 percent,” Unger said to a round of applause from attendees.

The school district has 90 days after receiving the claim to conduct a 50-h hearing, which is similar to a deposition. After 30 days, the complainant has a right to proceed with the lawsuit.

As of Monday, the district had yet to request the hearing Ray said in a phone interview, adding that while he could proceed with the suit, he plans on waiting until the 90-day deadline.

Ray said that while the school can specify a wrong doing on Vetrano’s part all they want, there isn’t one. He said Vetrano is an American citizen and has a right to free speech.

“It’s an arbitrary rule by the district,” Ray said regarding the bathroom policy. “That person [Vetrano] has a duty, a high duty, to take the district to court and right the wrong.”

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen speaks at a meeting. File photo

The Kings Park school district has reached an agreement with its civil service employees and signed a four-year contract that includes a 2 percent salary increase.

At Tuesday’s board of education meeting, the four board members present voted to authorize Superintendent Timothy Eagen to sign the new contract with the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA).

“I’m happy to present this evening that we have come to an agreement, “ Eagen said.

In an interview after the meeting, Eagen said the current contract for the roughly 225 employees was set to expire June 30. This contract affects bus drivers, teacher aids, custodial staff, secretaries, nurses and more.

The contract also has no step movement, Eagen said.