Authors Posts by Donna Newman

Donna Newman

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Snow and sleet notwithstanding, spring will soon be here, and it’s time to ask the question: Will environmental education programming return to West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook and Cedar Beach in MountSinai?

When queried last year, Brookhaven Town spokesman Jack Krieger responded in an email, “At this time the position [environmental educator] is occupied and budgeted in the 2017 town budget.” When he wrote that, the person holding the title, Molly Hastings,  had been suspended since September pending the outcome of a hearing process that has yet to be concluded nearly five months later.

The 1996 New York State legislation that decreed the removal of the cottages being used by private individuals, and returned the beach to its natural state, also contained a provision that there be an environmental educator hired to provide programming to add an informational component to the newly reclaimed preserve.

The cottages were razed in 2004 and, following a multi-year civil service process to establish the position, Eileen Gerle became the first environmental educator in March 2009. Upon her retirement in October 2014, Hastings became the second to hold the position the following December. 

Stony Brook civic leader Herb Mones said he dedicated a decade and a half to seeing that the town complied with the legislation.

“I spent 15 years of my life on this issue, to move the town to fulfill its obligation to make the public park public, fulfilling the vision of local industrialists Ward Melville and Eversley Childs,” he said.

Mones said the town has done some very good things at West Meadow, remodeling the main building, adding a lifeguard station and providing new playground equipment.

“If the town never did another thing, it would still be a remarkable resource,” he said. “It’s a little slice of heaven. I think there are a lot of things that are very positive. West Meadow really defines the Three Villages.”

Still, he said he’d like to see refurbishment of the remaining cottages, addition of a nature trail and installation of security lighting near the Gamecock Cottage. And, of course, restoration of educational programming.      

When Nick Sicurelli, a 17-year-old Hauppauge High School senior, learned all the fall environmental education programs at West Meadow Beach — as well as at Cedar Beach — had been cancelled this year, he said he felt bad for all the students and scouts who had missed out.

“It’s important to reach out, to inform people [about the environment], to let them know the scale of what’s going on — and the small things they can do [to improve the planet],” he said, adding he believed the cancellations were unfortunate.

Sicurelli first came to West Meadow Beach to complete an environmental science merit badge with his Boy Scout Troop 343. He returned happily and often to take advantage of the opportunities to learn and do more including search for turtles and turtle eggs, help with beach cleanup, remove invasive plants and replant a beach garden for which he raised funds to purchase trees and plants.

In all, 19 programs open to the public and 22 public school programs were canceled in September and October at the two sites, according to a Sept. 27 email sent from Tom Carrano, supervisor of the environmental educator, to Molly Hastings.

In addition, a variety of tours, field trips, school assemblies, citizen scientist projects and volunteer opportunities were unavailable this fall.

Elyas Masrour of Setauket, a student at P. J. Gelinas Junior High School, saw a film years ago that engendered in him a passion for birds.

“I watched ‘The Big Year,’ a funny movie about birders who go on a trip and try to outdo each other sighting birds,” he said. “It lit a spark for me and I signed up for bird walks at West Meadow Beach.”

He said he met other birders and they did a ‘Big Year’ together — right in the Three Village area — identifying more than 100 bird species. Taking the next step, Masrour started photographing birds he spotted, until he realized taking videos made it easier to capture a good shot in an individual frame. That led to wildlife filmmaking.

He asked permission of Hastings to film the piping plovers at West Meadow last summer. She worked with him so he could create a five-minute documentary.

Catherine Masrour, Elyas’ mother, would like to see the educational programming resume.

“It’s such an important thing,” she said. “Kids don’t get outside enough as it is. There are all these opportunities at West Meadow that make it so special and wonderful. If we are going to combat climate change, we need to start locally — and with the young. We need an informed future generation.”

The Dalys smile looking back on 60 years of marriage

Bill and Angie Daly with their wedding photo. Photo by Donna Newman

Angie and Bill Daly are months away from celebrating 60 years of married bliss. Well, maybe it wasn’t all bliss, Angie said, but they must know how marriage survives, because they are still happily together.

The two met at a church dance in Brooklyn in 1956. Angie’s brother Vin knew Bill from their days together at the Vincentian seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. So when they encountered each other at the coat check, Bill noticed Vin’s armful of coats.

“Where’re you going with all those coats?” Bill asked. To which Vin explained he brought seven girls to the dance. “I said, you’re just the guy I want to talk to.”

Angie was the first girl he asked to dance.

“I was attracted to guys who were fair with blue eyes,” Angie said. “It was those blue eyes. And I thought he was suave.”

At the end of the evening, Bill asked Angie if he could drive her home.

“I thought everything about her was terrific,” Bill said. “She was so bright and cheerful and outgoing — and cute.”

She said yes, but only if some of the other girls could come along. So they piled into his yellow Olds 98 convertible and on the way home, the car broke down.

“It just died,” Angie said. They were alongside a big cemetery. It was around midnight; no houses or stores were nearby. It started to snow. Angie and Bill left the others in the car and went to find help.

They finally reached some stores, but only the bar and grill was open. They went in and called Vin, who had been home for some time, got dressed, picked them up, drove all the girls home and dropped Bill off at the train station.

“So the first night we met, we had problems,” Angie said.

They got engaged in 1957, married in 1958, and the babies started coming in 1959. By 1969, the couple had four sons and two daughters. Bill taught algebra and business at John Adams High School in Queens. The family lived in Brentwood. He moved into sales with State Farm insurance company and operated his own agency for 28 years. The pair moved to Smithtown, where they resided for 25 years before moving to Jefferson’s Ferry in South Setauket a little more than four years ago.

They still enjoy spending time together.

“We have a lot in common: walking, dancing, visiting friends. We’re on the same page,” Angie said, as she turned to Bill to says “Is that a good answer?”

“Yes,” he replied, adding, “listening to a little music … we try to outdo each other in kindness.”

Asked what she thought were the main factors in a good marriage, Angie said she thought that having animals helped a lot.

“Our loving, therapeutic animals kept us together,” she said, adding that she believes they had a calming influence and can reset your feelings when emotions occasionally get out of hand.

And, of course, there is their faith.

“I remember in elementary school the nuns saying ‘marriage is not just a man and a woman. It’s God, man and woman,’” she said. “And I think we both felt that. We always forgave.”

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Sasha and Wookie enjoying their years in Setauket. Photo by Holly Leffhalm.

Two large German shepherd dogs attacked and killed a pet alpaca and severely injured a llama in a pen at the back of a home on Main Street in Setauket Feb. 5. It happened at about 2 a.m., according to Bob Ingram, a neighbor who witnessed the aftermath and found the dogs still at the scene.

“I heard barking coming from the pen,” the next-door neighbor Ingram said. “It was pitch black out and the barking was aggressive. Then I heard a shrill sound and knew one of the llamas was in distress.”

He drove his car onto the grass, toward the pen where he saw the two black-and-brown dogs menacing the llama. It was barely 10 minutes from the time he was awakened to the time he viewed the scene, he said. Ingram said he honked the horn, but the dogs just ignored it. Finally, he rolled down the car window and yelled and the dogs took off. Ingram called 911 and awaited police response. Upon arrival, an officer determined it necessary to euthanize the surviving animal.    

The animals, 17-year-old Sasha the llama and Wookie, the alpaca, rescued eight years ago by Kerri Glynn, were beloved by many in the neighborhood.

“Llamas are such lovely animals,” Glynn said. “There’s not an aggressive bone in their bodies. We’d let them out [of the pen] in the backyard and they would never leave the property. They were the easiest animals to care for that I’ve ever owned.”

Ingram reached out on social media to alert Three Village residents of the danger posed by the dogs. The pen abuts the field at Setauket Elementary School, so he called to alert administrators there. He called his veterinarian, to spread the word.

In the wake of vicious maulings in Brookhaven Town last summer, the board unanimously approved a new policy Jan. 24, effective immediately,  intended to keep a tighter leash on dangerous dogs and their owners.

“If there’s a message tonight, it’s to dog owners: Watch your dogs, protect them … and be a responsible owner … if you’re not, the town is putting things in place as a deterrent,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said at the meeting.

Under the new town code amendment, which reflects stricter state law for dealing with “dangerous dogs,” the definition has been expanded to include not just dogs that attack people, as the code was previously written, but other pets or service animals as well.

Now the town, or the person attacked, can present evidence with regard to an attack before a judge or local animal control officers.

Owners of a dog deemed dangerous, who do not properly house their pets, will face large fines. A first-time offender of dog attacks will now pay $500 as opposed to a previous fine of $100; third-time offenders will pay up to $1,000 and must keep their dogs leashed, and in some cases, muzzled, when out in public.

After the Sunday attack, on social media people who travel along Mud Road, Quaker Path and Christian Avenue reported sightings of the two dogs dating back to January.

Save-a-Pet founder Dori Scofield said she had not received any calls about the dogs at either Save-a-Pet or Guardians of Rescue.

“German shepherds are super smart dogs,” Scofield said. “They’re going back to where they’re from.”

Area searches done since Sunday by local residents have not located the dogs.

Roy Gross, who heads the Suffolk County SPCA, said the organization had no knowledge of the Sunday morning incident.

Gross recommended a course of action should anyone see the dogs.

“Do not approach the dogs,” he said. “Dial 911 immediately, tell them you’ve sighted dogs matching the description of the ones that killed the pets on Main Street in Setauket, and give the location. If you are driving and can safely see where the dogs go, do so. A second call should be made to Brookhaven Animal Shelter (631-286-4940) to inform them of the location.”

He also gave advice to pet owners in the area.

“All animal owners should keep tabs on them — do not leave them out alone unattended,” he said, adding that is always good policy.

Ingram said he was devastated by the loss.

“I know these llamas really well,” he said. “They’ve been to my children’s birthday parties. Sasha was here when I moved in … [Those dogs] really scared me. A single person couldn’t handle those two dogs.”

Additional reporting by Kevin Redding.

A motor boat heads toward Shipman’s Point at West Meadow Beach. File photo.

The history of West Meadow beach is a contentious one. Cottages leased to private citizens left a large portion of the beach unavailable to the public throughout the years. A headline in the Port Jefferson Echo newspaper June 19, 1930, read “West Meadow Beach Cottages To Be Ousted By January 1940.” According to Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), removal of the cottages was a cyclical issue. Every decade or so there was a public outcry for a return of the beach to all Brookhaven citizens.

“This had become the norm by the 1960s,” he said.

When Englebright proposed legislation in June 1996, there was significant opposition from cottage owners who fought to keep the beach as it was. Since state legislation could only be established over the Brookhaven Town-owned property with the town’s express permission, a document called a “home rule message” had to be obtained before the legislation could move forward. Under then Town Supervisor Felix Grucci (R), the town agreed.

Even so, the opposition from cottage owners continued.

Bipartisan legislation [then Senator James Lack (R) sponsored the bill in the New York State Senate] was signed in 1996 stating West Meadow Beach “be preserved, protected, enhanced, and studied while simultaneously being made available for use by the general public for educational and passive recreational activities.” It stipulated the cottages be removed “on or before Jan. 15, 2005.” Removal of the cottages would be funded by payments from cottage owners for the use of the land over the following eight years. Interest accrued on the account, holding these payments were to be transferred annually into a separate account, previously established by the town July 6, 1993, called the West Meadow Beach capital restoration fund. This money was to be kept separately, overseen by a nonprofit Stony Brook community fund.

“When my husband Peter died last year I wrote to the town offering to fund the installation of a bench in his memory.”
—Muriel Weyl

The Stony Brook community fund became The Ward Melville Heritage Organization in 1996 and, according to a long-term board member of the organization, the town never came to them with a proposal. Since then it’s unclear who has been overseeing this money.

Attorney George Locker, a Stony Brook University graduate and former member of the Stony Brook Environmental Conservancy, believes the town is in breach of the statute.

“When the [Stony Brook community fund disbanded] instead of finding another third party to handle the funds, the town took control of the money,” Locker said. “The only thing I could find [after requesting all filings related to this account] was an invasive species plant removal.

“It took 20 years to elevate the Gamecock Cottage. At least one cottage was to be turned into a nature museum.

“[According to information provided by the town’s Department of Finance] the money is earning [virtually] no interest. The town has a fiduciary duty to grow the money in some safe way.”

Brookhaven Town spokesperson Jack Krieger provided the following information about investments in an email.

“The New York State Comptroller and New York State Municipal Law define what type of investments are acceptable for a municipality to engage,” he said. “The special New York State Law governing the WMB endowment made no special provisions for investment of the monies; therefore, the investment of the monies have been subject to the municipal law guidelines. The interest rate for the endowment account, and all town bank accounts, are monitored constantly by the finance department.”

Stony Brook resident Muriel Weyl said she is distressed by the lack of bench seating along the paved walk out to Shipman’s Point.

“When my husband Peter died last year I wrote to the town offering to fund the installation of a bench in his memory,” she said. “He was an oceanographer, and a founder of what is now the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook and I thought it would be fitting. They would not do it.”

She said she loves spending time at West Meadow Beach, and now that she uses a wheelchair she can be seated while enjoying the walk. When she was still walking, she said it was difficult because there were not enough benches to enable her to make it out to the Point. Even now, she said, “it would be nice for the person pushing my chair to have a place to sit.”

Krieger said there was a period of time several years ago where the town allowed residents to dedicate a bench with a memorial plaque if they paid all of the costs for the bench and its installation. This has since been discontinued.

He said he had no answer as to the question why there are not more benches.

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) recently sent a letter to Englebright offering to work together to solve issues regarding funding and oversight of the West Meadow Nature Preserve.

Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn and recovering alcoholic and addict David Scofield answer questions posed by concerned parents at a past Three Village Drug & Alcohol Awareness meeting. File photo by Donna Newman

Heroin addiction can still be seen as a closely guarded secret in North Shore communities, but a couple of Three Village residents are doing their part to try to change that.

About 20 people were present Jan. 22 at the Bates House in Setauket for an informational meeting geared to help the loved ones of those battling heroin addiction. The addicts themselves were not present, but parents, grandparents, siblings, friends and other loved ones were, with the hope of gaining a greater understanding for how to combat the problem.

The gathering was a joint venture of both the public and private sectors, initiated by Lise Hintze, manager of the Bates House, a community venue in Frank Melville Memorial Park.

To help a loved one dealing with addiction call Lise Hintze 631-689-7054

“Pretending we don’t have a drug problem [in our community] only hurts the children and perpetuates the problem,” Hintze said. “I have a 19-year-old and a 21-year-old and we’ve been to too many funerals. Parents say ‘not my child, not in our town’ but it’s very real and it’s happening here.” 

Stony Brook resident Dori Scofield, who lost a son to heroin addiction in 2011, established Dan’s Foundation For Recovery in his memory to provide information and resources to others. Old Field resident Dana Miklos also has a son battling addiction and she wants to share what she has learned to empower parents and help them deal with addiction’s many challenges. The two represent the “private” interests.

“One of the reasons I wanted to come out and talk about it is to give parents ways to navigate through this horrible process,” Scofield said. “From being at the hospital when your son or daughter ODs and you know you have to get them into treatment, but you don’t know [how].”

Scofield said she dialed a 1-800 number someone had given her when her son overdosed and said she lucked out when the placement turned out to be a good one. She told the event attendees they need not “reach out to a stranger” as she did. She can help.

Miklos wants to eliminate the stigma that keeps affected families in hiding.

“I want parents to know the three Cs: they didn’t cause it, they can’t cure it, and they can’t control it,” she said. “We become so isolated [dealing with an addicted child] just when we should be talking to other parents, supporting each other.”   

Suffolk County Leg. Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who has been working to alleviate the community’s drug problem since taking office, also participated in the event.

“In 2012, the first year I was in office, I couldn’t believe this would be something I could work on and change,” Hahn said. “But I wrote legislation that got Narcan — which is an antidote for opioid overdoses — for our police sector cars. Within a matter of days we were saving one, two, three a day. Within two weeks we had an officer who had two saves back to back.”

Hahn said she authored another bill that would make sure there was a follow-up for each person saved. A Narcan reversal saves a life, but does nothing to end the need for the drug and the cravings. The second piece of legislation tasks the health department with reaching out to those saved to attempt to get them into treatment.

A third piece of legislation she wrote provides training for lay people — like the group assembled at the Bates House — to carry and use Narcan. She encouraged all present to be trained and prepared.

The statistics Hahn gave for Narcan saves showed a steady increase over the last five years. In 2012 after passage of the legislation in August, there were 325 saves. Numbers rose year by year to 475 in 2013, 493 in 2014, 542 in 2015 and 681 in 2016 when at least 240 people died of overdoses, according to Hahn.

David Scofield, who has been sober for three years, delivered a message of hope for those in attendance.

“I don’t have the answers,” he said. “I do know how [it is] to be a kid struggling with drug addiction. This thing is killing people. Hundreds of people are dying from heroin addiction every day and you don’t hear about it. That’s just the truth.”

Scofield’s message also included a plea for loved ones of addicts to get past the stigma of addiction and bring the conversation to the community. As long as people hide the cause of death, he said, he believes kids will continue to die.

For information about this support group, call Lise Hintze 631-689-7054.

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

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

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

Community Visioning Meeting Schedule

•Stony Brook Community Vision Meeting:

Saturday Feb. 4, from 2 to 5 pm

•Setauket /East Setauket Community Vision Meeting:

Saturday Feb. 25, from 10 am to 1 pm

•All Hamlets Wrap Up Meeting:

Saturday March 4, from 2 to 4:30 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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One of the four remaining cottages at West Meadow Beach has a collapsed roof and is a virtual zombie house, orphaned by a lack of interest. Photo by Pam Botway

After demolition of the 52nd zombie house by the Town of Brookhaven in Sound Beach last month, the town had fulfilled Supervisor Ed Romaine’s (R) mission to tear down one home a week in 2016. But there are other eyesores that have yet to be addressed.

While abandoned houses in the community are eligible for demolition, the Town had taken no action to prevent Town-owned cottages at West Meadow Beach from deteriorating.

Under legislation sponsored by state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and former state Senator James Lack (R), which was signed into law in 1996, Brookhaven Town officials had agreed to maintain responsibility for the preservation of the beach and the four cottages designated to be used for security or educational uses..

Following a Nov. 24 article in the Village Times Herald titled, “A look at West Meadow Beach — 12 years post-cottages,” East Setauket resident and community activist Pam Botway wrote a letter to the newspaper asking about the condition of the remaining cottages at West Meadow Beach.

“I inquired with the town after noticing the roof caved in on one of the cottages,” she said. “It seems there is a lease agreement between the Three Village Community Trust and the town, in place since 2010. [I’m wondering] why have the cottages turned into zombie houses in the past six years when there is $1.45 million in the bank to maintain them?”

Botway said the Town claimed it has no access to the trust’s funds to make necessary repairs.

While the Town had a five-year license agreement with Three Village Community Trust for the Gamecock Cottage, which commenced in 2010, Town public information officer Jack Krieger said there are no leases for the other cottages.

The endowment fund created by the legislation currently contains $1.45 million, according to the Department of Finance, but only the interest accrued may be used for the property’s upkeep. At today’s rates, interest on the account generates about $2,000 a year, not nearly enough to achieve proper maintenance.

In an interview conducted in November, Englebright theorized that after the Stony Brook Community Fund became The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, and the new entity declined to handle responsibilities spelled out in the legislation, that left the endowment an orphan. As there was no one to oversee the proper application of the account’s interest, the cottages have been neglected.

Until such time as the endowment is actively managed, and some person or group is keeping track, things will remain the same.

“It may be time for a public/private partnership vision to be pursued,” Englebright said. “A not-for-profit operating the Nature Center in conjunction with the Town [would be preferable to what exists now].”

This version was updated Jan. 26 to correct the featured photo.

Edna White offers a section of clementine to her granddaughter, Alexandria McLaurin. Photo by Donna Newman

In today’s world, the loudest voices often preach a message of divisiveness and look to create an environment that excludes rather than accepts. This message runs contrary to the one preached by Martin Luther King Jr. and [his] vision for a just and peaceful future.

The invitation extended to community members was made in those words for an event titled We Thirst for Justice at the Bates House in Setauket Jan. 16 — the designated commemoration of the birth of the civil rights leader.

The event was organized by Michael Huffner, co-founder of the Community Growth Center with locations in Smithtown and Port Jefferson Station, in partnership with the All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook. A newly formed service organization, The Spot — a new service group that provides resources, community and mentoring— and artist Alex Seel of the Center for Community Awareness facilitated a collaborative art project for the multifaith gathering. Each person was invited to record his/her vision of justice on a small square of colored paper. Seel, assisted by Vanessa Upegui worked to merge the squares into a colorful mosaic.

Huffner said he hoped the celebration would inspire people to work collaboratively for justice.

Vanessa Upegui and Alex Seel pause to display their art project. Photo by Donna Newman

“What seems like a small piece of paper can become a beautiful work of art when combined with others,” he said at the event. “What seems like a small voice becomes a sound capable of changing the world when combined with others … Dr. King’s message is simple. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. We must be the light; we must be the love that Dr. King spoke about.”

The Rev. Farrell Graves, spiritual leader of the All Souls Church, an associate chaplain at Stony Brook University and a founder of The Spot, added his take on the day’s significance.

“This is the joyful part of our work,” he said at the event. “We also have some more difficult work — to stand up for the common good. Freedom is for everyone, or it’s for no one. The cost of our freedom is constant vigilance, and by that I mean awareness, and I include in that self-awareness … If we don’t have the courage to look ourselves in the face, then fear and scapegoating take over. We start blaming others for our inadequacies … This is not yet the world that Martin Luther King envisioned. If we want to change the world, we must have the courage to change ourselves.”    

Seel stressed the importance of the fact that the civil rights movement of the ’60s was a collaborative effort and that such an endeavor is needed again to further the cause of justice in our country in our time.

“What we need now is leadership,” he said. “We need leaders who will bring different faith communities together. There needs to be a call to engage in a clear and effective goal.”

The event included live music and a diversity of foods. More than 65 people attended and, while the host organizations encouraged mixing and mingling, when approached, most people admitted they were sitting with people they already knew.

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Firefighters tackle the blaze at St. George’s Golf Course. Photo by Dennis Whittam

Paul Rodier, the first assistant chief of the Setauket Fire Department, responded to the scene of a car accident Jan. 3 at St. George’s Golf Club on Lower Sheep Pasture Road in Setauket. What he found on arrival was much more than that.

“The original call stated ‘car accident,’” Rodier said. “A minute and a half later ‘car into building.’ Then, ‘car into building on fire’ and finally, ‘possibly a person trapped in the car.’”

According to Suffolk County police, 19-year-old Alyssa Chaikin lost control of her 2003 Jeep Liberty on wet pavement at about 5:40 p.m. She struck a wooden guardrail, went through a chain-link fence and down an embankment. The car crashed into a building on the golf course. The Jeep caught fire and the fire spread to the building, which houses a bathroom and is used for selling refreshments, and was destroyed.

Chaikin was able to crawl out of the vehicle and was assisted by another driver, Richard Glaser, who quickly ushered her away from the blaze to his vehicle, parked on the side of the road.    

Upon his arrival at the scene, Rodier said the car and a third of the building were engulfed, and traffic was heavy on Sheep Pasture Road. An electric pole was also involved and may have been the cause of the fire.

“That female is very lucky to be alive. The call went from bad to worse. Thankfully, it ended well. That’s our main goal.”

— Paul Rodier

Rodier said he found a first responder and a medic with the ambulance. He was directed to the young woman, seated in the passenger seat of the good Samaritan’s car, where he assessed her condition. Finding her breathing, able to communicate and not requiring emergency measures at the scene, Chaikin, of Stony Brook, was transferred to the ambulance, and Rodier turned his attention to orchestrating the fire response.

Glaser, a manager of information technology at Stony Brook University Hospital, said he was driving by and pulled over to try to help. He said he did not see the accident happen.

“It feels really good that I was able to pay it forward and help someone out,” he said in an email. “I just hope that more people do the same when the opportunity happens.”

Stony Brook University Hospital was contacted to confirm if Chaiken was still a patient on Jan. 10, but no further information was available. Her parents could not be reached for comment.

Rodier said an investigation was ongoing to determine the cause of the accident and that he hoped news of the accident would cause other drivers to concentrate more on their driving and try harder to avoid distractions.

“This was a wake-up call to pay attention to your driving,” Rodier said. “We don’t know all the details. It should not have happened. That female is very lucky to be alive. The call went from bad to worse. Thankfully, it ended well. That’s our main goal.”

Just in time for the holidays, Suffolk County has received a gift that will keep on giving.

Suffolk is slated to receive funding through New York State’s Regional Economic Development Councils for the creation of a countywide Blueway Trail.

According to the National Park Service, a blueway trail is a water path that provides recreational boating opportunities along a river, lake, canal or coastline.

The application submitted by the county earlier this year was based upon a recreational water trail plan Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) was developing for her North Shore district.

When Hahn took up paddle boarding about three years ago, she said it was a transformational experience.

“I was so excited to get a whole new perspective of our community,” she said, adding that although she grew up in the area, she only recently discovered water sports that provide a view of the shore.

“As more and more tourists seek out off-shore recreational activities … there’s no reason why Suffolk County’s lure should end at the water’s edge.”

— Kara Hahn

Reading an article about an established trail in Nassau County gave her the impetus to get a working group together, she said.

After evaluating the economic benefits and increased tourism a more comprehensive blueway trail would bring to the region, the preliminary plan was expanded to include all of Suffolk.

In June, Hahn sponsored bi-partisan legislation authorizing the county to pursue state funding, which resulted in the awarding of a $60,000 grant. She is hoping the seed money will give the county access to other grant funding.

“For generations, Long Island has attracted visitors from around the globe and international acclaim because of its shoreline of world class beaches,” she said. “However, as more and more tourists seek out off-shore recreational activities like canoeing, windsurfing and stand-up water paddling, there’s no reason why Suffolk County’s lure should end at the water’s edge. Once completed, this project will help drive new opportunities for regional tourism and serve as a catalyst to the local economy as our residents — and those vacationing here — discover Suffolk is amazing both on and off shore.”

According to the proposal, during its first phase, Suffolk County — in collaboration with its towns, villages and paddling organizations — will develop a blueway trail plan for the north and south shores as well as the Peconic Estuary in Riverhead. A schematic design of the trail route will include potential launch and landing locations, and there will be signage drafted and project identification for public access and facilities — an implementation plan will complete this phase.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) sees the project as an economic win.

“The funding for the blueway trail plan is a significant breakthrough for Suffolk’s local economy and its regional tourism industry,” he said.

Kristen Jarnagin, formerly of the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau in Hauppauge, and now president and CEO of Discover Long Island, a marketing website that facilitates the booking of vacation plans, envisions an increase in tourism.

“Tourism is a $5.5 billion industry on Long Island, which translates to more than $356 million in local and state tax revenues for Suffolk County,” she said. “We applaud Legislator Hahn’s effort to develop the new Blueway Trail that reflects the beauty of our destination and will assist in meeting the demand of our 9.1 million annual visitors.”

Jarnagin is one of many supporting the project.

Long Island Paddlers, Inc. President Steve Berner echoed her sentiments.

“Tourism is a $5.5 billion industry on Long Island, which translates to more than $356 million in local and state tax revenues for Suffolk County.”

—Kristen Jarnagin

“The Suffolk Blueway Trail will be a real benefit to prospective, novice and experienced kayakers alike,” Berner said. “The Long Island Paddlers commend legislator Hahn for spearheading the effort, and New York State for recognizing the economic potential of such a plan.”

George Hoffman, a founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said he doesn’t forsee any downsides to the plan.

“It gets you out on the water,” he said in a phone interview, “and in addition to the environmental aspects, you get to see colonial history from a different vantage point. There should be markers to flag what you’re looking at.”

He mentioned the Nassau County south shore blueway trail that opened last June.

Ann Strong, of Strong’s Neck, who is on the board of Strong’s Neck Civic Association, is a member of the Three Village Historical Society and is a real estate broker whose family has been in the Setauket area for over 350 years, said she thought it seemed like a good thing for a lot of people.

“I can’t see it would be anything but favorable,” she said, adding that she looks forward to learning more about it. Upon hearing that Hahn was the prime mover of the project, she said she felt heartened that it would be done well.

A total of 10 Regional Councils were established by the state — including the Long Island Regional Council — to assist the regions in jumpstarting their economies. The Councils empower businesses and leaders, as well as citizens to develop strategic plans tailored to their region’s unique strengths and resources.

During the most recent round of funding, the Long Island Region awarded $62 million in grants to support 101 projects, which includes the Suffolk County Blueway Trail Plan.

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