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David Luces

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Aerial view of Indian Hills Golf Course, where developers want to build 98 townhouses.

A proposed development at Indian Hills Golf Course in Fort Salonga is once again drawing criticism and the ire of a community. A public hearing scheduled for Sept. 18 will open discussions on the environmental impact statement for the construction of 98 town houses. 

In August of 2018, the Town of Huntington’s planning board issued a positive declaration to the developers, Hauppauge-based Northwind Group. The environmental impact statement review is the next step of the approval process. 

The upcoming presentation will focus on how potential development would impact water quality of local watersheds, the area’s steep slopes, coastal erosion zones, traffic and other issues.

John Hayes, president of the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association, said the proposed development is massive and will negatively impact local roadways and surrounding wetlands, among other things. 

“We’ve been opposed to the development, it’s not something the community wants,” he said.

The project, dubbed the Preserve at Indian Hills, is a 55-and-over clustered housing development. In addition to the 98 town houses, the project also includes a new fitness center with an expanded clubhouse alongside the existing golf course.  

Previously, the association asked town officials to place a moratorium on new developments in the Crab Meadow Watershed area, which includes Indian Hills. It came after town officials released a draft of the Crab Meadow Watershed Plan, done by GEI Consultants. 

The study’s goal was developing a community-driven stewardship plan that highlights best practices in the future management of the watershed area, according to a March 2018 TBR News Media article. It also focused on evaluating the environmental conditions of the land around the Jerome A. Ambro Memorial Wetland Preserve in Fort Salonga.

“The study showed that the watershed area is built out to its zoned density, we believe there shouldn’t be close to 100 homes built there,” Hayes said. 

The proposed development has been a decisive topic in the Huntington community for close to three years. Over the years, the developers have tried to change zoning for the property from 1-acre single family to open space cluster district, in the hopes of building homes on the property. They also changed the initial plans from building 108 units to 98. 

“We expect public comment on our application which is permitted within our current zoning,”   Jim Tsunis, managing member of The Northwind Group said in a statement. “Our professionals will address all concerns during the hearing on Sept. 18 and the extended public comment period.”

The president of the association said they remain skeptical of the development and plan to attend the upcoming planning board hearing. 

“We will be there to challenge their findings and we’ll counter their points,” Hayes said. 

Residents can review the Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the town’s website under the Planning and Environment Department page: www.huntingtonny.gov/indian-hills-deis-july2019. 

After the public hearing, the town will be accepting public comments through Oct. 18 either online or letters can be mailed to: Huntington Town Hall, Department of Planning & Environment (Room 212), 100 Main St., Huntington, NY 11743.

Following public comments, the next steps for the development would be a final environmental impact statement and a possible preliminary subdivision hearing.

Josie the bulldog, the organization’s mascot, is resting up for this Sunday's fundraiser.

By David Luces

For the seventh year running, the Long Island Bulldog Rescue will host its Barbecue and Yard Sale fundraiser on Sunday, Sept. 15 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will be held at 304 Frowein Road in Center Moriches on the grounds of a horse farm.

“The fundraiser helps us cover the cost of medical bills and other services for these dogs,” explained Laurette Richin, executive director of LIBR. “It also allows us to educate people on the breed and it brings in people who are interested in either fostering or adopting.”

A number of bulldogs will be on hand for visitors to meet and interact with, as well as volunteers to answer questions.

Richin said while the Stony Brook based organization serves areas of the Northeast, the majority of bulldogs they take in are found on Long Island, which increases the need for them to find local foster homes and individuals who are willing to adopt.

The executive director said before adopting individuals should consider making sure a dog will fit their lifestyle and that they are ready to take on a full-time responsibility.

“There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about this breed,” she said. “Many believe that bulldogs are good for apartment dwellers — they are not necessarily couch potatoes.”

Richin mentioned bulldogs become very attached to their owners and said potential adopters should also consider how they may fit in with young children and other dogs or cats.

For the past 20 years Richin along with LIBR volunteers have rescued thousands of bulldogs; last year alone they saved 340.

For Richin, it all began when she was asked to stop by the Little Shelter Animal Rescue to check on an older bulldog. When she looked at the dog’s teeth she realized it was a puppy that was atrophied due to being in a crate all the time.

“I was leaving the shelter and I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I was like, I can’t leave it there,” she said.

Richin went back and took the dog home and helped nurse it back to health.

“It feels great to be able to help these dogs, it’s just wonderful,” the executive director said. “We’ve been grateful to the people that have donated to us over the years.”

The fundraiser will include a yard sale, a mobile dog grooming van from Jill’s Pet Spa, face painting, a Frisbee contest, a bake sale, raffles, mystery boxes, a visit from Jester Jim and a duck race. The barbecue will include hot dogs, hamburgers and pasta salad for sale donated by event sponsors Iavarone Brothers.

All proceeds from the fundraiser will go toward providing medical, behavioral and other services to save the lives of bulldogs. Admission is free and the rain date is Sept. 22. For more information on LIBR visit www.longislandbulldogrescue.org.

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Close to 50 people attend a candlelight vigil and prayer service for the victims of 9/11 at Harborfront Park. The event was headed by the Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America Vigiano Brothers Lodge Brothers Lodge 3436. 

Anthony Rotoli, Jr., president of the lodge, said this annual event has a significant impact on them as they are named after two brothers John T. Vigiano, Firefighter First Grade NYFD and Joseph V. Vigiano, Detective, Emergency Services NYPD who perished on 9/11. 

“It’s a way to honor them and the lives lost that day,” he said. “We had a pretty good turn out.”

 

 

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Bob Rodriguez and his wife Wesam Hassanin. Photo by David Luces

For Bob Rodriquez, owner and brewmaster of Po’Boy Brewery, located at 200 Wilson St., Building E, in Port Jefferson Station, it’s all about making his customers feel like family and keeping them on their toes with the constant variety of beer and cider options. 

Rodriguez shows how brewing is done. Photo by David Luces

Rodriquez said he had a dream to open up a brewery of his own for quite some time, first beginning home brewing as a hobby in his garage. As he got better at the craft, he began entering his own creations into competitions and racked up a number of awards along the way. 

For the past two years, Rodriquez has amassed a dedicated group of customers.

“It is a life changer, it definitely took over our lives,” he said. 

What makes Po’Boy stand out from other breweries is that it releases a new cider weekly and a new beer every two weeks. 

“It’s fun for me, I get to create new recipes and people come back to see what’s new,” Rodriquez said. 

The owner said everyone, for the most part, finds out about new releases the day of. They send the new menu to a customer email list and share it through social media. Even the bartenders find out the same time the customers do. 

Rodriquez enjoys making new creations. 

“I wake up — OK, I want to make this,” he said. “Let me see if I have the ingredients, if not I’ll get it and then in the next couple of days I make it. I like to keep it a surprise for everyone.” 

Behind the tasting room are three tanks that Rodriquez uses to make his new creations. From there, it goes to the breweries cold room which is the final step before it gets put on tap for customers to enjoy. 

“Not to mention the ‘sick’ beers and ciders — you can’t go wrong with that.”

— Bob Rodriguez

While big companies may use a full automated system and more man power, Rodriquez does it all by himself. 

“It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of physical labor — you sweat,” he said. 

Wesam Hassanin, Rodriquez’s wife and bar manager at the brewery, said most places you go to they’ll have their mainstays, and only once in a while they will add another option. 

“We have a lot of regulars, they come in often, so we want to keep it fun for them,” she said. “It’s all [Rodriguez’s] ideas, he’s like a mad scientist,” she said. 

While the business has taken off for the couple, as of now they only operate the brewery from Wednesday through Sunday. Both of them have jobs working at Stony Brook Hospital. Rodriguez has been a nurse practitioner for the past 25 years while his wife works as a senior administrator in the surgery department. 

“I said I’d go part-time when I hit 25 years and that has made it a little easier — opening up this place was much more difficult to do than getting my doctorate in nursing,” Rodriquez said jokingly.

Since Po’Boy opened in January 2017, the menu has grown from eight to 16 beers and ciders on tap. Last December, they began distributing to local businesses including Prohibition Kitchen among others. 

“What I really love about it is the people that come here, the atmosphere and the comradery is really awesome,” Keegan Johnson, a bar regular from Setauket said. “Not to mention the ‘sick’ beers and ciders — you can’t go wrong with that.”

Johnson praised Rodriguez’s craftsmanship. 

“I appreciate the craft — you see someone that really enjoys what they are doing,” he said. “You can tell he loves what he does, he loves making people happy.”

Po’Boy Brewery has created a large following in a short amount of time. Photo by David Luces

Po’Boy has been recognized islandwide as it was one of News 12’s fan-picked winners in its Brewery Battle poll. Regulars come from all over Long Island, and even beyond.

Yolanda Ramos, of Brooklyn, said she and friends make the drive down to Port Jeff just to come to Po’Boy. 

“We all walk in strangers and we walk out making so many new friends,” she said.  “It’s just a beautiful place.”

Ramos said she started enjoying ciders because of Rodriguez. 

“I was never a cider person until I came here,” she said. 

Johnson said Rodriquez takes it to another level and dubs him “the chemist.” 

“He understands what people like,” he said. 

Rodriquez is proud of what he able to cultivate over the past two years. 

“This is something they can identify with: This is Port Jeff Station, this is Po’Boy,” he said. “They feel like they are a part of this.”

The community is asking SUNY for a chance to sit at the table in selecting a new president. File photo

With the departure of Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. as Stony Brook University president July 31 and the appointment of Michael Bernstein as interim president, the school and the State University of New York have begun the process of finding a new permanent president. Elected officials and community groups have called on SUNY to include local representatives in the search committee and selection process.

Supervisor Ed Romaine during his State of the Town address. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Stony Brook University is one of the crown jewels of the SUNY system,” said Ed Romaine (R), Town of Brookhaven supervisor, in an Aug. 26 letter sent to Kristina Johnson, SUNY chancellor. 

Citing SBU as being ranked one of the top 35 public universities in the nation and a major health care provider for the community, Romaine described SBU as “an integral part of our community as an educational resource, employer and economic driver.”

“Because of this, I urge you to include at least two representatives from the community on your search committee for a new university president,” Romaine said.

The supervisor recommended eight different community groups that he felt had qualified individuals that could serve on the search committee.

“The president of the university is a huge part of the community. I believe the community should be invited to the search committee for the new president,” Romaine reiterated in an interview. “We have a lot of local issues, and there needs to be better communication between the university and the community.”

The Brookhaven supervisor brought up the issue of off-campus housing, particularly illegal rooming homes, which he acknowledged the school has worked with the town to crack down on landlords.

Romaine brought up traffic, especially the issues on Stony Brook, Oxhead and Nicolls roads.  

“I proposed to the county they consider making three lanes north and south from 347 to the university because that’s where it really jams up,” he said. “… The university is already working with us, but the best way to confirm that is to make sure the local community is represented.”

The Three Village Civic Association also sent Johnson a letter.

“We appreciate the many benefits of being the home community of a large world class university,” the association stated in the letter. “However, with those benefits come many challenges for our small community. We think it would be beneficial for the search committee to include a civic perspective that can help bridge the specific needs of the university with those of the surrounding community.”

“We have a lot of local issues, and there needs to be better communication between the university and the community.”

– Ed Romaine

University officials, said in a statement that SUNY board of trustees sets the procedure for the search and determines the mix of committee members. Members of the Stony Brook Council will be included who are also community members.

SUNY Guidelines for Conducting Presidential Searches require that the local college council, the Stony Brook Council, follow a prescribed process and submit names to the SUNY board for consideration.

The search committee would consist of four members of the local council, including the chair, seven members of the full-time teaching faculty of the campus, one undergraduate student, one graduate student, one alumni representative, two campus-related foundation representatives, one academic dean, one professional or support staff member, one incumbent or retired SUNY president from another campus or a member of the chancellor’s senior staff designated by the chancellor.

SBU said members are nominated by faculty, staff and students. The faculty then vote via a secret ballot on the seven faculty positions, and the rest of the positions are selected by the council chair from the list of nominees. 

Nominations for the committee took place over the summer, according to university officials. Voting on faculty representatives began on Aug. 26 and runs until Sept. 6. Once the faculty results are in, the council chair, Kevin Law, will finalize his selections and will convene the first search committee meeting. The first meeting will likely be in late September.

SUNY could not be reached for comment before press time.

Red light cameras along Route 25A. File photo by Elana Glowatz
Since 2010, Suffolk County has been authorized by New York State to install red-light cameras at intersections. Today, 215 cameras operate at 100 intersections. The program is intended to reduce the number of cars running red traffic lights and by extension reduce the number of crashes and the severity of the crashes. The county has as its vendor for the red-light camera program Conduent, a divestiture from Xerox. Conduent receives from Suffolk County 42 percent of all fines as per contract terms, and its contract was set to expire December 2019. Graphic by TBR News Media

The next five years of red-light cameras’ survival in Suffolk County has finally been decided.

After lengthy debate and public comment period, Suffolk lawmakers voted along party lines to extend the program for another five years Sept. 4. The program was set to expire by the end of the year.

Legislators speak out on the red light camera program. Photo by David Luces

The issue of red-light cameras has been a divisive topic since its inception nearly a decade ago. Republicans, who unanimously opposed the program, have called it a ‘money grab’ for the county, which has generated $20 million in revenue annually. Democrats, on the other hand, supported the extension though acknowledged that it needs to be fixed.

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who co-sponsored a bill for a report on the county’s red-light camera program, said she remained frustrated with its findings but ultimately supported the program. She also called for more education on distracted driving prevention.

“There needs to be improvements [to the program], the program right now is not acceptable,” she said.

Legislators proposed the idea of payment plans for fines, waiving administrative fees for first-time offenders and the implementation of an annual report on all camera locations.

Republicans said the program has negatively affected driver behavior, as many drivers stop short at red lights to avoid getting a ticket. The county has seen a marked increase in rear-end accidents in the last few years.

Paul Margiotta, executive director of the Traffic and Parking Violations Agency, disagreed and pointed to the increased prevalence of distracted driving as the culprit. He said he believed the program has been working.

Republicans continue to disagree.

“It has become clear that the program isn’t working said Comptroller John Kennedy, who is running for county executive in the fall against Steve Bellone (D). “Suffolk’s residents realize it’s little more than a money grab,”

Supporters have said the program has saved lives by reducing red-light running and serious accidents on roadways.

“The minority caucus led by Rob Trotta and his band of conspiracy theorists were dealt a resounding defeat. This is a victory for common sense and effective public safety programs,” said Jason Elan, a Bellone spokesperson, in a statement.

Though before the vote, many of those who attended the Sept 4. meeting spoke negatively about the program.

“Red light cameras are disproportionately located in lower income neighborhoods.”

— Hector Gavilla

Hector Gavilla, a Huntington-based lawyer who is running for county legislature, said Suffolk is trying to come up with reasons to say the program works.

“Red light cameras are disproportionately located in lower income neighborhoods,” he said. “This red-light camera tax is placed on the most vulnerable people in our communities… we all agree that whoever intentionally tries to run a red-light should definitely get a ticket, however the vast majority of these tickets are on right turns on red.”

Previously, legislators proposed relocating red-light cameras to areas and intersections where the most serious accidents occur.

Other speakers said the program is failing in its original goal to improve public safety.

As one individual put it: “If it’s [red-light cameras] causing more accidents than it’s not safe,”

Another concerned county resident said it is a no-brainer to not extend the program.

“You can’t delay this to another five years, fix the flaws of this program, fix the quality of life in Suffolk County,” he said.

Legislators have already put in a request for proposal to find a new vendor for the program. They stressed the need for the new vendor to be either locally based or be required to have an office in the county. Also, Margiotta said county officials plan to look for a vendor that provides a payment plan.

Public Works Committee to vote on extending the program Aug. 29

Suffolk County's Public Works Committee will vote Aug. 29 to decide the future of red-light camera program. TBR News Media file photo

The future of red-light cameras in Suffolk County remains up in the air. 

Legislators took issue with a report on the county’s red-light camera program in a meeting Aug. 26. It left some with more questions than answers regarding the divisive program as they prepare for a vote that could extend the program’s lifespan this Thursday, Aug. 29.

The countywide report carried out by Brookhaven-based L.K. McLean Associates found that the number of total crashes at 100 intersections with red-light cameras increased by nearly 60 percent from 2015 through 2017, compared to the time period (2007-09) before the cameras were installed beginning in 2010. The study found that at red-light intersections the number of crashes exceeded projections by 42 percent in total. 

Also, it found that a total of 17 fatal crashes occurred at red-light intersections for the duration of the report. Crashes that resulted in injuries decreased by nearly 11 percent, while the number of rear-end crashes increased by 46 percent. 

Officials from the consulting firm presented the report, which cost the county $250,000, to the county Legislature’s Public Works Committee Aug. 26 and disclosed they estimated the red-light program had generated more than $5 million in savings by reducing serious accidents. 

Despite those findings, legislators on the committee took issue with the results and said it left them with more questions than answers. 

One criticism levied was the way the consultants collected their data and how they determined if an accident was linked to an intersection with a red-light camera.

Raymond DiBiase, president and chief executive of L.K. McLean Associates, said they based their parameters from the New York State Department of Transportation. 

“The DOT in their crash data analysis and summaries identify an intersection crash as one that occurs within 10 meters or 33 feet from the center of the intersection,” he said. 

The consultants for the report expanded the crash area to within 200 feet of the center of the intersection, but some legislators questioned that decision and argued it could have captured crashes that fall in line with the definition of an intersection crash.

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said she was deeply disappointed in the report’s findings and criticized the firm with not looking at the link between distracted driving and crashes at red-light intersections. 

“What has not been mentioned at all during your report is distracted driving,” she said. “I have a traffic safety issue in my district; I have two of the most dangerous roads on Long Island —[routes] 25 and 25A.”

DiBiase responded by saying it is difficult to prove what exactly caused a crash from the data. Their goal was to make the study objective as possible and said distracted driving falls in a gray area as it is difficult to prove due to factors like lack of witnesses or evidence. 

“Distracted driving is why a lot of these accidents are happening,” Anker said. “We are here to try and understand how to make this program better. We know it’s saving lives, but we also know it’s also creating problems.”

The red-light program has generated more than $20 million in revenue annually for the county.

Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga), who has long been a severe critic of red-light cameras, said the program is a money grab and a tax on the taxpayers. He also criticized the consultants for only mentioning that fatal accidents at red-light camera intersections were lower than projected, and not also including data on fatal crashes that occurred at intersections without red-light cameras. 

“You can take these reports and throw them in the garbage can, it’s a joke — literally embarrassing,” Trotta said. “Everything here is jaded to make this program look good, it is a $32 million sham on the people of this county.”

Despite the lukewarm response to its report, the firm recommended continuing the red-light program, pointing to a decrease in crashes resulting in injuries and fatalities as well as a reduction in left-turn crashes.

The Public Works Committee is expected to vote Thursday, Aug. 29, on whether it will extend the countywide red-light camera program for another five years. If it were to pass it will go to the Legislature for a vote that could take place as soon as next Wednesday, Sept. 4.

 

A rendering of the planned Heatherwood Golf & Villas in South Setauket. Rendering from Town of Brookhaven Planning Board

The proposed apartment complex project on the property of the Heatherwood Golf Course in South Setauket will not receive a tax benefits package after the Brookhaven Industrial Agency rejected a proposal that would cut property taxes on the land by $3.76 million over 13 years at a hearing Aug. 21.

Also included would be $2,854,000 in sales tax exemptions and $420,000 in mortgage recording tax exemptions. In total the developers would see savings of more than $7 million.

The decision proved to be a small victory for some area residents who have been against the project since its inception. They were concerned that the proposed tax breaks could negatively affect local school districts and development would increase traffic congestion at the intersection of Route 347 and Arrowhead Lane.

Representatives for Heatherwood said at the meeting that they could not move forward with development without the tax breaks.

Salvatore Pitti, president of the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Civic Association, said the notion of developers abandoning the project was wishful thinking.

“We never wanted it from the beginning,” he said. “The entire community has been against it.”

The proposed project dates back to 2014 when it was brought up to the Town of Brookhaven zoning board and was approved of a crucial zone change that allowed for apartments on the property. As a part of the approval, the town board required the property owner to donate 40 acres of land to the Manorville Farm Protection Area, remove a billboard at the golf course and construct a sidewalk on the east side of Arrowhead Lane.

“The zone changes already occurred,” Pitti said. “We’ve already accepted the fact that it will be developed [eventually].

“Why do you need tax breaks if you don’t have the money to build it? It came off as them being more greedy.”

–Salvatore Pitti

In 2018, the Planning Board approved the proposed plans for the company to build on nearly 26 acres of its more than 70-acre property. The project, dubbed the Heatherwood Golf & Villas, will be a 200-unit senior apartment complex catering to individuals 55 and over.

The planned project would reduce the 18-hole golf course to nine holes to allow developers to build the apartments and would supposedly bring more revenue to the golf course.

IDA members questioned the reason Heatherwood needed tax breaks to move forward with the project. Heatherwood said that the project would create six permanent full-time jobs, though IDA members said it wasn’t enough jobs to grant it the benefits package.

Herb Mones, chair of the Three Village Civic Association land use committee, was shocked when he first heard that Heatherwood was looking for tax breaks.

“I was like ‘You gotta be kidding me,’” Mones said. “It wasn’t enough that they got the zoning approval, but now they need tax breaks — at some point enough is enough. It is corporate greed.”

Mones argued that the project would forever affect the surrounding communities.

“It adds to the over development, we lose open space and a golf course,” he said. “…We are happy the IDA turned them down.”

Mones along with Pitti wasn’t buying that the project would be abandoned if Heatherwood didn’t receive the tax benefits package.

“There is no possibility that they will not develop that land after they got the zone change, they are going ahead with the project,” Mones said. “It will yield a gold mine for the corporation. We believe this will bring no benefits to the community.”

Despite, the IDA rejecting the package, Pitti said he wouldn’t be surprised if Heatherwood broke ground on the project in the next few months.

A representative from Heatherwood did not return messages requesting a phone interview by press time.

 

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Former Ward Melville girls basketball head coach Samantha Prahalis coaches the Patriots from the sidelines at a January 2018 game. Photo by Jm Ferchland

Ward Melville High School girls varsity basketball players, parents and residents lent their voices in support for former coach Samantha Prahalis at a district board of education meeting Aug. 21.

The speakers during the board’s public session hoped that they could convince the board to reconsider the decision to dismiss the varsity girls’ basketball coach, which was made earlier this month. But after nearly a one-hour public comment session, the board ultimately sealed the coach’s fate. It would not reevaluate their initial decision to sever ties with Prahalis, a former WNBA player, and she would not be returning to the sidelines.

William Connors, Three Village board of education president, delivered the news to the crowd through a prepared statement.

“While the district does not comment on matters of personnel, I can say the coaching position for the Ward Melville [girls] high school varsity team currently remains open for the 2019-20 school year,” the board of education president said. “The district will not be filling this annual appointment with the individual who served in that role for the past two years. As such, we are in the process of selecting the most qualified individual to lead our team next year.”

Supporters of Prahalis questioned the board’s reasons for the dismissal and argued they acted too harshly. Some also felt that the district ignored and chose not to meet with students during the board’s investigation of the former coach.

“They have been trying to reach out to you from May 19,” said parent Gina Agostino. “We sent out a letter that day because players wanted to share their feelings on coach. Emails have been ignored, phone calls were not returned, request for meetings were blown off. You chose not to hear their voices … and treated them like adversaries the entire time.”

District officials disputed those claims saying they had reached out to parents.

Chris Agostino said the fact that the district would have their own agenda is embarrassing.

“I’ll tell you something, if I had students like this standing up for a coach the way these young ladies are, its powerful,” he said. “… What I don’t understand is that you get one complaint, maybe two complaints from parents or players and as a board you acted. You never listened to these students. You’re not looking out for them. If you were, you would understand how they feel.”

A parent of a former varsity girls basketball player said he supported the decision to release the coach. He detailed how in May he received a phone call from the district asking for permission for his daughter to be surveyed by the district’s athletic department regarding Prahalis and the basketball team.

He said he told his daughter to tell the truth and others did too and added that it was more than two complaints.

“My daughter for three years was treated terribly and was abused verbally and mentally without the board knowing, she wanted it that way and I stood by her,” he said. “Sammy’s [Prahalis] abusive record speaks for itself and anyone that asked about her knew about her reputation.”

Six former players of Prahalis were present at the meeting. Many of them spoke of how their coach was the best mentor they ever had and how they had learned and grown so much as a player during that time.

“Coach has transformed me not only as a better basketball player but also as a better person,” said Katherine Kelly, a rising senior on the varsity team. “She helped me gain the confidence I’ve been lacking on and off the court. She helped recognize my potential … She has made this team a family.”

This summer the team won in their league during the Brookhaven Town recreation program playoffs and credited their former coach for the strong summer season.

Cheryl Pedisich, Three Village superintendent of schools, spoke toward the end of the meeting to clarify some things parents brought up, including that she had said to Prahalis in a meeting that the district had failed her.

“I said the district had failed her in not giving her the proper mentorship, that I think every coach deserves, every new coach deserves,” she said. “For new coaches that don’t have that opportunity to know how to work with students is a travesty. That was something incumbent on the district and the former athletic director to make sure that happened for all new coaches. Moving forward every coach that is new will be mentored in an appropriate way.”

Post was updated Aug. 30 to include a statement from Three Village district officials. 

Officials train residents on how to avoid being taken

Phone scams are on the rise, and officials say these and other scams are targeting the senior population.

Local government representatives emphasize that the elderly need to be better informed about what to look out for and how to avoid them.

On Aug. 20, at the Huntington Senior Center, state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport),Town of Huntington Receiver of Taxes Jillian Guthman and state attorney general representative T.J. Hatter held a Smart Seniors event. Together they cautioned seniors against handing over large sums of money through phone, email, letter and internet scams. 

“These scammers will use fear if they think that will work, they will use kindness and they will use intimidation,” Hatter said. “The important thing is to please do not send these people your money. It is very hard to get it back once it is gone.” 

One of the most common scams targeting the senior population includes the sweepstakes scam, which requests the “winner” to send a check or wire money to cover taxes for their prize. Another one is where the scammer will act as a relative, such as a grandchild, and claim to be in danger. Sometimes, the scammer acts as a lawyer or police officer. In each case, they ask for money immediately. 

“There are two approaches to dealing with these types of scams,” Hatter said. “Ask for the person’s name and a call-back number.” He also recommends answering the phone only if you recognize the number as a friend or a loved one. “Let everyone else leave you a message,” he said. 

“The important thing is to please do not send these people your money. It is very hard to get it back once it is gone.”

— T.J Hatter

Hatter said the scammers are often out-of-the country and can’t be traced. 

“These scammers are using something called routing technology,” he said. “The idea is to make the number they are calling from have a ‘631’ or ‘516’ area code to make it look more local and make it more likely someone will answer.”

According to Suffolk County officials, in 2018, there were 68 phone scam incidents reported, targeting the elderly and non-English speakers. Of the 68 victims, 40 were elderly, as reported in a January 2019 TBR News Media article. Between 2017 and 2018, the largest amount of money taken in once incident was $800,000, according to Suffolk County police. 

In 2019, nearly half of all calls to mobile phones will be scammers looking to fraudulently gain access to financial information, according to a report from telecommunications firm First Orion. 

One of the latest scams to target seniors urges them to purchase gift cards to help a relative in trouble. 

“We are finding that [scammers] are asking for those prepaid gift cards and then they will ask you to scratch off the back and read them the numbers,” he said. “That’s the most common one we are finding right now.” 

Home improvement scams are also common and often offer “free inspections.” The inspections will almost always find a problem that requires an expensive solution.

“Someone will knock on your door and say they are a repair person and ask if something is wrong with your home,” Hatter said. “They will say they can fix it and even offer you a discounted rate. Do not pay this person.” 

Hatter said ultimately you hold the power so if you are not sure that you recognize the caller, you are not forced to answer the phone. 

The Office of the Attorney General urges people to use strong passwords and avoid using birth dates, Social Security numbers and mother’s maiden names in them.

If you shop online, be sure the sites you use are secure. A secure site will start with https:// and most use a padlock icon, which will tell you the name of the owner. Also, use only credit card rather than debit or check cards.

“Debit cards, even those with a credit card name and logo, do not carry the same protections,” the Smart Seniors program states. If credit card information is stolen, you are only liable for $50 in fraudulent charges. If your debit card information is stolen and the thief wipes out your bank account, the money is gone. 

It’s also important to remember that email scammers often masquerade as a familiar and trustworthy company, such as your bank, online store or credit card company. Sometimes they pretend to be a government agency. These scammers are “phishing” for personal data and often claim that there’s a problem with your account. Do not click on a link no matter who they claim to be. You may be directed to a bogus, look-alike website that spoofs a real company. 

“The key to the phishing scams is that they ask you to provide personal information, such as your Social Security number or password, so they can “confirm your identity,” the program warns. 

“If you get a call, text or email from a company claiming there’s a problem do not respond,” the Attorney General’s Office states. Instead delete the message or hang up, and contact the company yourself. It’s important to protect your personal information. Papers should be shredded before you throw them away. 

New Yorkers donate more than $10 billion to charitable organizations each year, with older New Yorkers being the most generous, the Attorney General’s Office states. It is suggested that you confirm that a charity is registered with the Attorney General’s Office, as required by law and find out if the funds will be used for programs, administrative costs and fundraising. Avoid charities that will not answer questions about its programs and finances. 

Residents can greatly reduce the number of unsolicited calls, mailings and internet offerings they receive. The National Do Not Call Registry can be reached at 800-382-1222. You can place your landline and your mobile number on the Do Not Call List. Registration never expires. Political organizations, charities and telephone surveyors are still permitted. 

Patricia Wagner, a Huntington resident who attended the session, said she was grateful. 

“This was really informative and I’m going to share this information with my friends [who are not here],” she said. “We are getting older … we need an event like this every year.”