Authors Posts by Giselle Barkley

Giselle Barkley

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Giselle Barkley is a reporter and a Stony Brook University graduate. She loves photography, videography and spending time her family and friends.

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Anthony Forte, left, leaves behind his mother Debbie Carpinone, right, and 21-year-old brother Christopher. Photo from Debbie Carpinone

Anthony Michael Forte was a 24-year-old who got good grades in high school and went home to a loving family. He dreamed of a pursuing a career in the entertainment or food industries — until he died of a heroin overdose on May 2, 2015.

Forte is the new face of heroin addicts on Long Island.

While the drug problem continues to rise, his mother, Debbie Carpinone, is doing what she can to keep her spirits high and her son’s alive. Last October, Carpinone, of Port Jefferson, created Anthony’s Angels and established a $1,000 scholarship in Forte’s name.

The scholarship will help send one Mount Sinai High School senior to college this year. Carpinone, who works as a teaching assistant for the Mount Sinai Elementary School, wanted to pay it forward and give one student a chance to do the one thing her son couldn’t — go to school.

“He was so smart,” she said. “He wanted to go to school so bad, but he just couldn’t get his act together due to his addiction.”

The teaching assistant of 13 years sold 128 “Anthony’s Angels” T-shirts last year for the fundraiser of the same name. She raised $1,610 and also established a Facebook group. She approached Mount Sinai Elementary School Principal John Gentilcore in January regarding her son’s death and her scholarship, Gentilcore said.

He said it was easier for the small school district to spread the word about the scholarship. Forte was Carpinone’s eldest son, who went to Comsewogue High School until 2006, before he graduated from Newfield High School in 2008. His mother said even when he hit tough times, Forte remained loving and always had a smile on his face.

According to Carpinone, her son started using heroin in his junior year of high school. He told her about his addiction around two years later, and was in and out of sober houses.

“Talking about the loss of a child, if that doesn’t move you, if that doesn’t evoke a response to support and help … then I’d be surprised,” Gentilcore said. “She was honoring her son. To be able to do that in a way that helps others is a wonderful thing.”

Forte’s autopsy showed high levels of fentanyl in his system. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, fentanyl is more potent than morphine. Carpinone said she discovered the identity of her son’s dealers, their address and their contact information. She provided Detective Ghyslaine McBean with this information, but said the detective hasn’t returned her call since November. McBean didn’t respond to media inquiries prior to publication.

While tackling the issue of drug use on Long Island is important for many communities across Long Island, acknowledging the evolution of heroin addicts and other drug abusers is also vital.

Carpinone said some people still think all heroin users are dirtbags or come from terrible homes, which is not the case. Tracey Budd, who lost her son to a heroin overdose four years ago, met Carpinone last year. Budd, who helps families dealing with addiction, said nowadays, anyone could become a drug addict.

“The majority of people I know [who are affected by a drug addiction] all come from good families or good homes,” Budd said. “The thing we learn in addiction is, we didn’t cause it.”

Shop employee Alex Patel said he’s seen 10 parents purchase vaporizers or accessories from the Rocky Point Smoke & Vape shop. Photo by Giselle Barkley

During last week’s Rocky Point Drug Forum, Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) announced her new step to combat drug use, with a ban regarding hookah lounges and smoke and vape shops in Brookhaven Town.

If the town approves and implements the councilwoman’s proposal, prospective shop owners cannot establish their businesses within 1,000 feet of family- or child-oriented institutions or various public places. These locations include educational and religious facilities; non-degree granting schools, like ballet and karate studios; and swimming pools. The ban won’t apply to existing lounges and shops that have proper permits and certificates of occupancy.

The idea isn’t simply to deter students from purchasing items from the store, but also to prevent them from using these devices, or similar items, to smoke drugs like marijuana. During last week’s forum, John Venza, vice president of Adolescent Services for Outreach, said some vaporizers can accommodate various forms of marijuana including dabs, a wax-like form of the drug that has higher levels of THC.

According to Venza, marketing has also changed over the years to appeal to a younger audience. Bonner not only agreed with Venza, but went a step further.

“We all know that those attractive signs that lure the kids in are the very same reason the government banned Camel advertising,” Bonner said during last week’s forum. She added that parents need to keep a closer eye on their kids by observing their social media accounts, going through their phones and having family dinners.

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Councilwoman Jane Bonner announces her proposed ban at the Rocky Point Drug Forum last week. Photo by Giselle Barkley

For the Rocky Point school district and community alike, fighting substance abuse is a top priority. But according to Rocky Point Superintendent of Schools Michael Ring, the fight is an uphill battle with new devices on the market.

“One of the things that works against us is the emerging technology that makes it easier for students to be brought in and grow that into abuse,” Ring said.

But Rocky Point Smoke & Vape Shop employee Alex Patel said the ban might be a good idea with little reward. According to the Rocky Point resident and father of two, parents have purchased vaporizers and accessories for their children. Patel said the shop isn’t legally allowed to sell to residents who are under 21 years old, but this isn’t the only way students are acquiring the devices.

“Online, I see people buying left and right,” Patel said about vaporizers and similar devices. “It’s much cheaper online because they’re buying in bulk. So what they’re paying in the store $50, online, they can get it for $20.”

He added that it’s also easier for students to purchase these items online because these sites don’t verify the buyer’s age. In light of this, Patel continued saying the proposed ban won’t stop these underage residents from finding what they’re looking for.

North Shore Youth Council Executive Director Janene Gentile said she hasn’t seen an increase in these shops near her organization, but said the youth council works “with the legislators around holding the pharmaceutical companies accountable” as well.

“I believe in this bill,” Gentile added.

Residents can voice their opinions regarding the ban at the May 12 public hearing at 6 p.m. in Brookhaven Town Hall.

Ezra, one of the farm’s two alpacas, rests outside at the Lewis Oliver Farm. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In 1996, the Lewis Oliver Farm’s Friends of the Farm in Northport held its first barn dance. Twenty years later, the not-for profit is still letting Long Islanders move to the beat for its annual barn dance fundraiser to be held on Saturday, April 16, at the St. Philip Neri Parish Center in the village.

A goat steps out of it’s living quarters at the Lewis Oliver Farm. Photo by Giselle Barkley
A goat steps out of it’s living quarters at the Lewis Oliver Farm. Photo by Giselle Barkley

For members of Friends of the Farm, the dance isn’t simply a tradition but also provides funds for its approximately 60 animals. According to the organization, the dance was specifically created to help care for the farm animals.

While the 100-year-old farm used to produce butter and eggs in its prime, the organization now provides sanctuary-like care for Annabelle the cow, Tiny the pig, sheep Bitsie and Pepper, alpacas Ezra and Onyx, chickens, goats, rabbits, turkeys and more. The funds also help preserve the farm, which has been an area attraction for Northport community members.

“You see little boys and they’re playing ball and they’re independent and they want to get an ice cream,” said Wendy Erlandson, president of Friends of the Farm. “When I was growing up in Brooklyn I could do that … there were plenty of places to go but here there aren’t.”

According to Erlandson and another Friends of the Farm member, Judy, the dance is the not-for-profit’s main fundraising event to help the farm. The duo said the farm was in jeopardy of closing 15 to 20 years ago.  Now, with fundraising events like the barn dance, the farm can continue to thrive and be one way for kids to learn about some of the animals they see in their books.

“I think it is important to teach children … that [animals] don’t just appear. You just don’t push a button and there’s your animal like it is on Google,” Judy said. “You’ve got to feed it, you’ve got to wash it, you’ve got to take care of its health, oversee it … and [children] can be part of it.”

The Lewis Oliver Farm provides permanent housing for its animals, which will live out their days on the farm. Photo by Giselle Barkley
The Lewis Oliver Farm provides permanent housing for its animals, which will live out their days on the farm. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Judy added that community support is important especially since one ticket alone could pay for items like a bag of chicken feed. Erlandson said they’ve sold around 180 tickets thus far but there’s still room for more community members.

Erlandson added that ticketholders can take a chance on raffle prizes, with baskets valued at upward of $100 each,  and enjoy samples from local restaurants including Maroni’s, Aunt Chilada’s, Three Amigo’s, Deli 51 and Batata Cafe. Beer, wine and coffee along with dessert from Copenhagen’s Bakery will also be served during the dance.

Live music will be provided by the band Just Cause (country, rock).

This year, the Friends of the Farm has partnered with a fellow not-for-profit, Rock Can Roll Inc., which provides nonperishable items for food pantries on the Island. Residents are asked to bring a healthy nonperishable item to the event for people or pets to support the cause.

Residents who wish to attend this year’s barn dance can purchase tickets in advance for $50 or at the door for $60 per person. The Barn Dance will be held at the St. Philip Neri Parish Center at 15 Prospect St., Northport Village, from 7 to 11 p.m.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call Lynn at 631-757-9626 or leave a message at the farm at 631-261-6320.

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Nurses and their supporters picket outside St. Charles Hospital on April 8, calling for higher staffing levels and encouraging passing drivers to honk in solidarity. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Members of the New York State Nurses Association had drivers honking their horns near St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson on Friday, as picketers called for increased staffing of nurses.

Between 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 8, nurses and supporters marched and chanted outside the hospital to spread awareness of their cause. According to the nurses’ association members, some nurses tend to 10 or more patients and those working in St. Charles’ Intensive Care Unit are exceeding what they call a safe limit of one to two patients per nurse.

Increased staffing would help nurses devote more time to their patients, according to group members, which is better for the patient.

Nurses and their supporters picket outside St. Charles Hospital on April 8, calling for higher staffing levels and encouraging passing drivers to honk in solidarity. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Nurses and their supporters picket outside St. Charles Hospital on April 8, calling for higher staffing levels and encouraging passing drivers to honk in solidarity. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Nancy Joly, the New York State Nurses Association’s deputy director, said the organization has data showing that when ICU nurses have more than two patients “the chances of death are skyrocketed.”

The picketing comes as the St. Charles nurses’ union is negotiating with the hospital on a new contract, after the previous one expired in March 2015.

According to a statement from the hospital, the facility bases staffing guidelines on various factors, including when nurses call in sick, how much nursing care a patient needs, the number of patients who need care and guidelines set in previous union contracts.

Tracy Kosciuk, a St. Charles nurse of 27 years and president of the state nurses’ association’s executive committee for St. Charles nurses, said when they have too many patients, it’s difficult for nurses to give their “100 percent” and care for each patient, including teaching the patient and their family about their health.

“Unfortunately the mentality … nowadays in the industry is [that] all hospitals are short-staffed,” Kosciuk said. “That’s not acceptable to have that mindset.”

But St. Charles said the nurses and the hospital share the same goal of providing their patients with high-quality care. While the group has a right to picket, according to the hospital statement, it would prefer to discuss the nurses’ contract in a formal meeting.

“St. Charles remains committed to negotiating a fair contract … that supports our caregivers and the communities we serve,” the hospital said. “We will continue to negotiate in good faith with the union.”

Nurses and their supporters picket outside St. Charles Hospital on April 8, calling for higher staffing levels and encouraging passing drivers to honk in solidarity. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Nurses and their supporters picket outside St. Charles Hospital on April 8, calling for higher staffing levels and encouraging passing drivers to honk in solidarity. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Stony Brook resident Barbara Cea was among the nurses chanting outside St. Charles and celebrating when drivers honked their horns in solidarity. She has worked at the hospital for the past 32 years.

“They seem to be ignoring our pleas to increase the nurse-to-patient ratio so that we could provide adequate and safe care, which is more and more important,” Cea said. “We have to keep the nurses at the bedside.”

Cea supported the hospital’s statement that it’s trying to establish fair contracts with appropriate staffing guidelines, but said it’s been a slow process.

“Nobody knows when they’re going to end up in the hospital,” Joly said. “A lot of people are worried about their community hospitals being well-staffed. You really need to have good staffing everywhere.”

Caroline Woo, above, plays with therapy dog Beau. She named her black Labrador stuffed animal after her regular reading companion, Malibu. Photo by Giselle Barkley

A book and a calm canine companion are all Caroline Woo needs to practice reading.

Every Thursday afternoon, this 11-year-old from Setauket visits the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library for its Books Are Read to K-9s program. Caroline joined the program and fell in love with it last November, after her mother, Eydie Woo, learned of the club. But BARK didn’t just allow her to interact with a calm canine, it also improved her reading skills.

Last month for her birthday, Caroline asked her friends and family to make a donation to the program instead of buying presents. The $270 she received went toward training more dogs for the club and other therapy dog-related programs. For Caroline, reading to Patchogue Rotary Animal Assisted Therapy certified dog Malibu, a black Labrador, helped her tackle the big words she struggled to say when reading out loud.

“Malibu, she’ll … just sit down and they’ll kind of listen and it is better because the dogs, they mostly maintain one expression,” Caroline said. “It’s easier since she’s less judgmental than people”

According to Malibu’s handler and owner Fred Dietrich, the program hasn’t only helped her reading skills, but it’s also boosted her confidence. He added that he’s seen Caroline become more outspoken since she joined BARK.

Her mother agreed with Dietrich, saying Caroline “feels comfortable with Malibu and it’s translating into other settings.” The fifth-grader met Malibu when she started the program and they’ve been regular reading partners since. Malibu, like all eight dogs involved in the reading program, is PRAAT certified.

Stony Brook resident Jo-Ann Goldwasser established the Doggie Reading Club program, which is called BARK at the library, three years ago after learning about a similar program in Chicago. The Windy City’s Sit Stay Read program has served kids in Chicago’s inner-city schools for several years. Goldwasser wanted to help children overcome their reading difficulties with this program. Her club started with Rocky Point Middle School’s sixth-grade students and has expanded to the Comsewogue school district, two schools in Brentwood as well as the library. She plans to establish the program in Hauppauge school district.

Goldwasser said the school and library programs are somewhat different.

“Children who generally like to read, who go to the library, think it’s kind of a fun thing to come to the library and read to a dog,” Goldwasser said. “In the schools however, we go into … the same classes … every other week. It’s more academic in that we listen to the same children read week after week; we know what they’re reading [and] we know how to help them.”

Fellow therapy dog handler Linda Devin-Sheehan said it’s hard to track the program’s success in the library because the club is only three-years-old. A lack of regulars like Caroline also makes it difficult to monitor a student’s improvement.

Parents must register their children to participate in the library’s program, which is held every Wednesday and Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the library’s kids’ section.

According to the handlers, a dog’s patience and calm demeanor are helpful to students like Caroline. While the program has helped Caroline in the past few months, she simply enjoys being around dogs as they come in various shapes, sizes and dispositions.

“You can see [a dog] on the street and pet it and get to know it for a short minute but … you can already tell that they’re such a sweet dog and it’s nice getting to meet a ton of different dogs,” Caroline said.

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Children practice pedestrian safety. Photo by Giselle Barkley

The Town of Brookhaven’s Highway Department in conjunction with the Suffolk County Sheriffs Office STOPPED program is bringing the rodeo to Safety Town on Saturday, April 9, the first of three bike rodeos to be held this year at the Holtsville Ecology Site.

Children of all ages across the Island can bring their bikes and test their bike riding skills and safety knowledge in Safety Town’s kid-sized roadways and obstacles. Attendees can also participate in bike and helmet inspections and helmet fittings during the three-hour event.

According to the Town of Brookhaven’s website, the miniature village was modeled after Nassau County’s Safety Town at Eisenhower Park.

“It’s really a great program where the kids can come and learn on real equipment, while not having to be on an actual roadway,” said Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R). “It’s a completely controlled environment with traffic signals, crosswalks, [and] a railway crossing. It really has everything that you would encounter in a [real] roadway.”

According to Losquadro, the department doesn’t limit the number of kids who can participate in this event. While most families stay for a half hour or so, the department will separate the kids into groups if a large number of children attend. The groups will rotate between the Safety Town roadways and a course designed in front of the Safety Town building.

Children practice traffic safety in Safety Town’s small cars. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Children practice traffic safety in Safety Town’s small cars. Photo by Giselle Barkley

According to Traffic Safety Director Jon Sullivan, the department held its first bike rodeo around 2007 in the Brookhaven Town Hall parking lot in Farmingville. The event was moved to Safety Town after it was established in 2009.

Since it was moved to its new venue, Sullivan and Losquadro noticed that kids have a better time remembering the safety rules they learned during the rodeo or through Safety Town’s many programs. The programs cover pedestrian safety, traffic safety and bike safety among other topics. Sullivan added that the mock town and rodeo really resonate with these students.

“Kids will go home [and] they’ll be explaining [the program] to their parents,” Sullivan said. “The parents would then be calling us up saying ‘when can we bring them back?’”

Sullivan and Losquadro alike remembered their experience learning about road safety in their school gymnasium. At the time, some schools used small scooters and cones to help teach students. But Losquadro said learning these same rules at Safety Town is more effective.

“It’s just a very different hands-on experience and being in a physical environment like this, with … real traffic signals, real lane markings [and] not just things on a gymnasium floor … it’s much more impactful to the student,” the highway superintendent said.

Parents can watch their kids learn the rules of the road when it comes to riding bikes, on Saturday, April 9, between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at Safety Town at the Holtsville Ecology Site located at 249 Buckley Road in Holtsville.

In the event of rain, the event will be rescheduled to Sunday, April 10. For more information about this year’s bicycle rodeo, call 631-363-3770.

Residents flooded the Rocky Point High School auditorium on Tuesday for a night of education on drugs and a chance to see what drug use is like in the district.

John Venza, vice president of Adolescent Services for Outreach, a New York-based organization that encourages community residents to seek help for substance abuse, and Suffolk County Senior Drug Abuse Educator Stephanie Sloan tackled drug education in the nearly two-hour forum.

Gateway drugs, drug use causes, the evolution of these substances and how parents and students alike can navigate through life without using drugs were among the topics discussed. The forum was also an opportunity to see results from the New York State-issued 2014-15 survey regarding youth development. Rocky Point was one of 10 school districts that took the survey, which examined drug use and prevalence in the district.

“Let’s face it, teenage years are tough enough to begin with, but then you have all this stuff added on — I wouldn’t want to go through [adolescence] again [now],” said Amy Agnesini, forum organizer and athletic director for Rocky Point.

Although drug use in Rocky Point’s seventh and eighth-graders falls below state average for alcohol and energy drinks — the most common substances used by this age group — the survey revealed the use of these two drugs in addition to chewing tobacco or using marijuana, cigarettes and pain relievers, among a few other drugs, increased in high school.

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) was among the speakers in attendance. Bonner announced her piece of legislation to ban hookah lounges, vape and smoke shops within 1,000 feet of various locations, including schools, non-degree granting schools, like a ballet or karate studio, religious facilities, hospitals and other areas. She added that there will be a public hearing on the ban proposal in the near future.

“This is a war — we are in the trenches as parents, as educators, as members of the community — we’re the ones battling,” said Rocky Point Superintendent of Schools Michael Ring. “The battle isn’t necessarily in the streets, the way a lot of people think it is … it’s in your living room.”

According to Venza, technology isn’t the only thing that’s evolved; drugs have as well. People can now use devices like vape pens to smoke different forms of marijuana, including a dab, a waxy substance with high concentrations of THC. Between 14 and 24-years-old is the worst time to smoke marijuana in a person’s life, Venza said during the forum. The potency of drugs, including marijuana, has also increased over the decades.

“Unlike 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago where you needed a needle, you no longer need a needle because [of the purity of the drugs],” Venza said about heroin needles. People can now sniff the drug and get high, which makes trying the drug less daunting, Venza added.

Outreach’s Vice President of Adolescent Services John Venza educates adults and children about drugs during a forum at Rocky Point High School. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Outreach’s Vice President of Adolescent Services John Venza educates adults and children about drugs during a forum at Rocky Point High School. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Hope House Ministries’ Opioid Overdose Prevention Program’s Clinical Director Dr. Jennifer Serrentino said 120 people die from drug overdose daily. Last year, there were around 100 fatal heroin overdoses in Suffolk County alone.

Although one resident voiced her concerns that the forum would give students more ideas on how and where to use drugs, the speakers and parents, like Sound Beach resident Sharon Ferraro, think knowledge is power.

“If you were at a party or at a friend’s house and you see that paraphernalia, that’s your trigger to get out,” Ferraro said to her daughter Molly Searight, after the resident posed the question.

Ferraro said she is very involved with her children, but that’s not the case for every family. She said some parents are busy and don’t always spend quality time with their children. Although Ferraro’s daughter Molly hasn’t seen students using drugs on campus, beyond electronic cigarettes or vape pens in the bathroom, she said she hears of drug use from peers. After the event, Molly said she’s more aware of the effects of alcohol on youth.

Residents and speakers alike, including the councilwoman, were not only pleased with the event’s turnout, but also the large volume of residents who were in attendance.

“I was so proud of the community that I live in, that it was standing room only,” Bonner said. “People [are] finally recognizing that you can’t bury your heads in the sand. Community forums like this one are integral to combatting this [drug use issue].”

Community members passed the budget at the North Shore Public Library, above. Photo from Laura Hawrey

The North Shore Public Library ended Tuesday on a high note, after residents passed its 2016-17 budget proposal and re-elected library board of trustees member Richard Gibney. The library’s approximate $3.5 million dollar budget passed with 147 votes in favor with just 19 in opposition. The budget is around $18,500 less than last year’s budget.

Library Director Laura Hawrey said the money will help fund the library’s ongoing concert series and various programs. It will also help fund library books, electronic media and typical maintenance of the facility and its computers, among other items.

“Technology, educational courses, entertainment and other current offerings make this a much different library than what they grew up with,” Gibney said in an email about residents who use the library. “Anyone who visits and enjoys the library would never even think of voting down its budget. The returns far exceed the costs.”

Community members of the North Shore Public Library re-elected board of trustees member Richard Gibney to another five-year term. Photo from Laura Hawrey
Community members of the North Shore Public Library re-elected board of trustees member Richard Gibney to another five-year term. Photo from Laura Hawrey

As a member of the board of trustees, Gibney helped oversee the budget process. He was re-elected with 142 votes, and will serve on the board for another five years. The Wading River resident is a certified arborist and President of Gibney Design Landscape Architecture in Wading River. Although Gibney ran unopposed for his seat, the election isn’t political. Being a member of the board is simply a way for him to further serve his community.

“I like hearing about and being involved in the ‘workings’ of my library,” he said.

The trustee doesn’t only split his time between work and the library, but also lends a hand around the community. According to Gibney, he works alongside his wife Debra on Wading River Historical Society’s Holiday Tea and Duck Pond Day events. He also provided his professional services at the Tesla Science Center site and has educated second-grade Boy Scouts about landscape architecture and horticulture over the years.

“Richard Gibney has been a dedicated, responsible and cooperative member of the board, who knows the appropriate questions to ask at the appropriate time,” said William Schiavo, president of the board. “As a dedicated library user, he has been very sensitive and aware of the needs of the library and the taxpayers who support it. He has been a pleasure to work with in the past and I am looking forward to working with him in the future.”

Going forward, Gibney would like to have a new stand-alone or state-of-the-art library that has ample parking space, if the library can afford this kind of project. He added that he will serve as long as he feels he is effective and will step down if any future conflicts arise.

Hawrey was more than pleased with Tuesday’s results and was grateful for community members’ support of the budget and return of Gibney.

“The approved budget will continue to provide the North Shore Public Library community with exceptional library services,” Hawrey said in an email. “I am pleased that Richard Gibney has been re-elected and will continue to share his expertise with the other members on the Library Board of Trustees.”

After three years, Rocky Point Board of Education President Susan Sullivan will run for re-election.

Those who are eligible to apply for the position can do so by April 18. The new term begins on July 1, and ends on June 30, 2019. Board of education candidates, including incumbents, can pick up applications from and submit them to Patricia Jones, Rocky Point’s district clerk.

Candidates must be United States citizens, be at least 18 years old, be qualified voters in the district and live in the area continuously for at least one year before the election, according to the New York State School Boards Association requirements. Although Sullivan and other board members declined to comment on her seat prior to the application deadline, board Vice President Scott Reh said Sullivan, who has lived in the district for decades, brings knowledge and experience to the board.

“It’s been wonderful,” Reh said about having Sullivan on the board. “She’s upfront, she’s honest [and] she cares about the community, the students [and] the school district.”

Sullivan’s lived in the area since 1985. She worked for the district for 32 years as a teacher and eight years as an assistant principal before she retired as an educator. She first ran for her seat on the board in 2013, against teaching aid Jessica Ward.

Once a candidate files their application, he or she must also disclose their campaign expenses in a sworn statement filed with district clerk. Once elected to the seat, new board members undergo mandatory training from the New York State School Boards Association during their first year on the board. The association was founded in 1896 in Utica and serves more than 650 boards of education.

School boards are usually composed of community volunteers. The boards oversee and manage the public school system in their respective school districts. Board members serve varying terms between three and five years to ensure that all board seats aren’t open at the same time.

Boards are tasked with creating school budgets, hiring and maintaining a superintendent and improving the institution to help students advance. Around 25 voters, or two percent of those who voted in the previous election, must sign the application.

The applications must include the candidate’s name and residence, the vacant seat, name of the incumbent, residences of those who signed the applications and the length of term the candidate seeks.

Candidates can submit applications no later than 5 p.m. on April 18. For more information, contact Jones at 631-849-7243.

Developer Mark Baisch wants to establish 40 one-bedroom apartments for senior citizens on the former Thurber Lumber property in Rocky Point. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Nearly a month after Rocky Point’s Thurber Lumber Co. Inc. closed its doors, developer Mark Baisch of Landmark Properties plans on transforming the property to make room for senior citizens.

Baisch said he wants to establish 40 one-bedroom apartments on the former 1.8-acre space near Broadway to help the area’s aging population. Baisch hasn’t finalized rent for these 600 square foot apartments, but said future residents will pay a little more than $1,000 a month.

Baisch has been met with some opposition on his plans.

“People say he does good work, but to come in and say ‘this is what’s going to work down here, even though you don’t want it,’ is kind of strange,” said Albert Hanson, vice president of the Rocky Point Civic Association and chair of the land use committee.

Hanson said the civic and members of the community, who found out about the plans in February, haven’t had ample time to brainstorm alternative ideas for the area. Hanson added that the area doesn’t need additional housing.

According to Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Rocky Point is a high-density area already, and she added that the Thurber property is also a small area for Baisch’s apartments. The Legislator said she envisions different plans for the property.

“I would love to see a community center over there,” said Anker. “[The property is in] the heart of downtown Rocky Point.”

But Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said Baisch’s plans comply with a land use plan conducted in the area several years ago. Brookhaven officials adopted the land use plan for downtown Rocky Point back in 2012. The plan called for medium density housing in downtown Rocky Point, among other improvements. Although some residents oppose the plan, the councilwoman said there is a need for these kinds of residences townwide.

“There’s a large number of seniors who live back in North Shore Beach …. and many have reached out to me excited about this,” the councilwoman said.

Baisch wanted to create apartment units because of the property’s sanitary flow requirements — the amount of sewage per unit is less for a 600 square foot unit. According to Baisch, the apartments will give seniors more freedom in their daily lives. He added that Suffolk County is committed to establishing a bus stop in the area to further assist prospective senior residents.

“They have to pay taxes, they have to pay their oil bill, they have to pay for repairs [for their home] — Rocky Point is probably one of the most unsafe communities I know of, to walk around,” Baisch said. “So they have all these things that are burdening them as seniors and they basically have nowhere to go.”

Baisch added that these residents could live comfortably in his apartments on their Social Security or the equity they received after selling their home. While some senior citizens, like Linda Cathcart of Rocky Point, don’t plan on selling their home any time soon, she said Baisch’s plans will bring a stable population to the area.

“There’s 40 units proposed, so you’re talking about possibly 80 seniors who could bring business to the existing businesses,” Cathcart said. “Also, it would encourage new businesses to come into the area.”

Cathcart added that Baisch discussed putting the original railroad station structure from the area on the property, in addition to the apartment units. The railroad structure dates back to the 1920s and 30s.

Despite the proposed plans for the property, Hanson said the civic and some community members were debating using other local talent or developers to establish a vision and plan for the area that appeals to other residents.

“We have to think of what we would like to see down there that would make us draw [people to downtown Rocky Point],” Hanson said about the property. “I think what a lot of people don’t want is losing the opportunity to actually have a downtown.”

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