Authors Posts by Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr
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Rebecca Kassay along with the crew from Aureate Visuals and local hired help in front of their 1991 Winnebago. Photo from Kassay

Baltimore, Maryland. So much has been said about the city, criticism that came from way beyond the city itself. But Rebecca Kassay, the co-owner of the Fox and Owl Inn in Port Jefferson, saw something incredible from the people living there. There was a community in the neighborhood of Cherry Hill growing fresh fruit and vegetables, teaching others to farm, giving access to fresh food for people who live several miles from the nearest supermarket. The program, called the Black Yield Institute, was making a difference in their community, and the Port Jeff resident said she knew it needed to be seen by the world.

Rebecca Kassay fist bumps a volunteer at Cherry Hill, Baltimore’s Black Yield Institute. Photo from Kassay

“What they’re doing there is just so incredible as far as combining uplifting the community — integrating culture and fun,” said Kassay. “It was amazing to experience it with my own eyes and be there while this incredible group said, ‘we’re going to create this garden, how can we help people become more aware of health issues and social issues?’”

The inn owner is out on the road, touring in a renovated 1991 Winnebago with her husband, Andrew, and their dog. Filming with a Setauket-based crew, she is trying to spread the news of just how many nonprofits and volunteer works are out there and how much good they do for their respective communities.

“What I really love is connecting people, not just with a cause they love to help, but more importantly, connecting them with the power within themselves,” she said.

The show, titled “Be the Change with Rebecca,” is finishing filming throughout the fall before transitioning to full post-production during the winter. The show expects to come out sometime in spring 2020 on Amazon Prime video.

Kassay, 30, who was born in St. James and later moved to Port Jefferson to open the Fox and Owl Inn with her husband, said the show is inspired by modern serialized documentaries, and takes a form much like a show she loved as a child, “Dirty Jobs,” hosted by Mike Rowe. In much the same way to that Discovery Channel hit, which had the host performing a variety of blue-collar jobs on screen along with the regular workers, Rebecca gets down and dirty with the volunteers, whether it’s driving in nails while building houses or digging in the dirt in a community garden.

“We’re collecting the stories of how they do the work and how they decided to come out,” she said. “Such as, here’s what it looks like when you volunteer at a community garden, here’s what it looks like when you volunteer to restore an oyster reef.”

By the end of their trip, they will have traveled as far east as Baiting Hollow on Long Island, as far south as Washington D.C. and as far west as Detroit, Michigan.

Kassay had the idea for this project nearly two years ago, working off her own background as a youth volunteer project manager at Avalon Park and Preserve. She reached out through local Facebook groups for a crew interested in taking on the project, and the Setauket-based Aureate Visuals production team answered the call.

The three filmmakers, Steve Glassner, Larry Bernardo and Marvin Tejada, have donated their time on a pro bono basis to help make the project possible. All three have worked on projects before, such as Mentally Apart, a feature film set to premier by the end of the year. All three met while in school at Five Towns College.

“It’s been a very, very fun experience, especially all the people we meet and the locals who worked on the crew with us,” said Glassner. “It’s been a real learning experience. We’re meeting people from all walks of life, and it’s amazing and incredible what they’re doing in their own communities.”

The project has taken in this spirit of volunteerism with the crew. The folks at Aureate Visuals, in keeping with the spirit of the show, have volunteered their time to the project. Several of the crew work day jobs, and so they are constantly travelling back and forth from Long Island to where the next shoot is taking place.

Rebecca Kassay, middle, works with a group of volunteers at an oyster farm. Photo from Kassay

Glassner added production has been smooth, and each shoot “felt like we were a family — no egos — it’s one giant collaboration.”

For the most part, the project is self-funded, though they have received significant pledges from the Port Jefferson Rotary Club and have financed $1,654 so far from backers on Indiegogo. Everything else is coming from the owners of the Fox and Owl Inn. Their minimum budget, according to their Indiegogo page, includes $3,000 for travel and lodging, $3,000 for local crew wages, $1,500 for per diem food, $500 for miscellaneous expenses and $800 in Indiegogo related fees.

As the family goes around in the renovated Winnebago, retrofitted with whitewashed cabinets and flooring to make it feel like home, she has become surer this was the right way to get the message across.

“Working with these young people when you connect them with a power within themselves, they just light up,” Kassay said. “The light in their eyes is something the greatest gift you can give someone, connecting them with that.”

The project still has investor space open, and the Indiegogo ends on Sunday, Aug. 18. People can visit https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/be-the-change-with-rebecca#/to donate.

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Joyce Bloom

Joyce Susan Bloom, of Coram, died Aug. 8. 

She was the beloved wife of Ronald Bloom; the loving mother of Michael (Jill) Forst, Jeffrey (Laura) Bloom and Faith (Christopher) Kit; the cherished grandmother of Christopher, Jessica, Josh, Jordan, Jamie, Kirsten, CJ, Katie, Justin and Sean; the adored sister of Wally (Judy) Siegel; and is survived by many other family members and friends.

Interment was held at New Montefiore Cemetery in Farmingdale. Arrangements were entrusted to Branch Funeral Home of Miller Place. An online guest book is available at www.branchfh.com.

Robyne McGough

Robyne McGough, a Port Jeff native and graduate of Port Jefferson high school, passed June 15. 

McGough had worked at the Port Jefferson to Bridgeport ferry company for several years and later worked as a paralegal in Port Jefferson Station.

She was the daughter of Maryanne and the late Thomas McGough; the loving sister of Richard, Sharon, Kelly, Timothy, Joseph and Joanne; the beloved aunt to Monica Treutle; the friend of Dorthy, Nikki and Colleen; loved niece to James and the late Helen Knox and Richard Knox.

Our love and prayers be with you always.

Doris M. LaTurno (Beaumont)

Doris M. LaTurno (Beaumont), 83, died in Naples, Florida, Feb. 20. She was predeceased by her
husband Joseph Peter LaTurno.

She grew up in a large family of 10 sisters and three brothers. She lived in Suffolk County until relocating with her husband to Florida in 2016. Doris is survived by her sons Walter Chad Beaumont and Gary Roy Beaumont; four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Her and her husband’s remains will be put to rest at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale.

Joseph Peter LaTurno

Joseph Peter LaTurno, 91, died in Naples, Florida, Dec. 27, 2017.

Born in Mineola, he attended Hempstead High School. In the spring of 1944, when he was 18 years old, he enlisted in the Navy and served on LST 537/755 in the South Pacific until the spring of 1946. Between 1946 and 1950, he worked at Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp., in Bethpage. With the outbreak of the Korean War, he returned to active duty and was assigned to the USS LSMR-527 as a radio operator. Following a one-year tour he returned to Grumman where he retired after 40 years.

For the next 25 or so years, he and his wife Doris enjoyed traveling and their lovely home in Lake Grove. They relocated to Florida in July 2016. Their remains will be put to rest at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale.

Frank Ohman

Frank Ohman, former New York City Ballet soloist, founder and artistic director of the New York Dance Theatre and the Ohman School of Ballet on Long Island and internationally known dance professional died suddenly on July 22 at home in Centerport. He was 80 years old. 

Ohman began his critically acclaimed dance career with the San Francisco Ballet in 1959, moving quickly through the ranks while also serving in the U.S. Army Reserves. He joined the New York City Ballet in 1962, where he was a soloist for 22 years. During his distinguished performing career, Ohman studied professionally with icons of the American ballet world including George Balanchine, Lew and Harold Christensen, Ernest Belcher, David Lichine, André Eglevsky and John Taras. He appeared in leading and soloist roles in ballets of Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Frederic Ashton, Antony Tudor and Jacques d’Amboise among others. He partnered many of the world’s leading ballerinas including Maria Tallchief, Suzanne Farrell, Allegra Kent, Patricia McBride, Gelsey Kirkland, Kay Mazzo and Suki Schorer. Ohman performed with the New York City Ballet at the New York State Theater, Kennedy Center, Marinsky Theater, Bolshoi Theater, the White House and Jacob’s Pillow. 

With the blessing of his mentor George Balanchine, Frank Ohman established New York Dance Theatre Inc. in 1974 on Long Island to bring classical ballet to a broader audience. Five years later, the Ohman School of Ballet was founded as a training ground for young dancers, teaching the art of classical ballet in the style of Balanchine. Ohman’s commitment to the Balanchine legacy extended to his company’s annual production of “The Nutcracker,” Long Island’s largest and an annual tradition for families throughout the region. A prolific choreographer, Ohman created more than 200 original ballets, performed by his New York Dance Theatre, Boston Ballet, Edmonton Ballet, Syracuse Ballet (where he was director), the Cassandra Ballet of Toledo, the Long Island Philharmonic, the Long Island Lyric Opera, the School of American Ballet workshop performance and American Movie Classics, among others. Still actively teaching at his eponymous classical ballet school in Commack until his death, Ohman’s teaching career also included stints at prestigious programs including the School of American Ballet, the Boston Ballet, the St. Louis Ballet, the National Dance Institute and as guest Ballet Master at Ballet Philippines. 

Beyond his career as a dancer, choreographer and teacher, Ohman was a gifted fine artist whose paintings have been featured in art shows at libraries throughout Long Island and Queens. Ohman encouraged his students to be well-rounded students of the arts. In his 2014 memoir “Balanchine’s Dancing Cowboy,” Ohman wrote, “To be a great artist, one must care deeply and completely about something, and to work devotedly to contribute that artistry to the world.” Ohman is survived by his son, Johan (Soumala), and grandson, Luke, as well as his ballet family of students and colleagues who carry on his legacy. A private funeral service is being held for immediate family. A public memorial service is planned for late summer. Details to be announced at www.ohmanballet.org.

Rose Messina

Rose Messina of Hauppauge died on Aug. 10 at the age of 97. She was one of six children and is survived by two sisters Nellie and Lena, ages 93 and 94; six children, Linda D’Amico, Frank, Christopher, Mickey, Diane Cazzetta and Ramona Bisono; 21 grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren with three more on the way.

Born in Retsof and raised in Huntington, Messina attended Huntington High School. At 4 feet 9 inches, she was nicknamed “the peanut.” She was a four-year varsity letter winner in field hockey, basketball and softball and four-time outstanding female athlete at Huntington in grades 9 thru 12. Messina played semi-pro baseball, while working for Grumman during World War II. She gave up a baseball contract to marry Dominick Messina in 1946. She joined the Red Cross to help in the war effort in the 1940s. The family lived in Huntington and moved to Hauppauge in 1960.  Messina was a class mother to every one of her six children for over 20 years and an active lifetime columbiette member for 75 years. She was one of the original founders of the “Hauppauge Sideliners Club” and member for over 25 years, and also a member of the St. Thomas More church “Young at Heart” organization for over 30 years. She was a team mom, seamstress and cook for every sport her six children played from little league, football, wrestling, baseball, field hockey, eaglettes, cheerleading, volleyball, track, to dance and theater plays in the school.

As a seamstress, she made many of the costumes for the school’s musicals and plays, costumes that her children and grandchildren performed in. 

Messina started cooking for the Hauppauge wrestling team in 1969 and continued organizing dinners for many sport teams which evolved into an end-of-the-year awards banquet, a tradition still enjoyed by sport teams in Hauppauge today.

Messina was inducted into the Hauppauge Hall of Fame in 2011 as an honorary member and in 2018 with her entire family. Messina’s lifelong dream was to become a physical education teacher, which was fulfilled by seeing five of her children become teachers, two physical education, industrial arts and biology teachers and one an engineer.

Her compassion, beside for her entire family, was for the Hauppauge wrestling team. She spent 40 years supporting the team. 

Services were held at Moloney’s Hauppauge Funeral Home on Aug. 12 and 13 and a funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Thomas More R.C. Church in Hauppauge on Aug. 14. 

In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully asks that tax-deductible donations be made to the Rose Messina scholarship foundation. Please make checks payable to: The Hauppauge Wrestling Club, which is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and include “The Rose Messina scholarship foundation” in the memo. All money collected will be distributed to a Hauppauge wrestler and/or student in the upcoming years.

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Mayor: No money for state road paving projects in Port Jeff until 2025

Vanessa Taranto looks at letters she’s sent to officials over the years. Photo by Kyle Barr

For nearly six years, village resident Vanessa Taranto has sounded the drum to the New York State Department of Transportation for a sidewalk running along the north side of West Broadway from Setauket into Port Jefferson Village. 

DOT plans to build a sidewalk on the north side of West Broadway up toward Setauket. Photo by Kyle Barr

In letter after letter, she asked for a chance to take her children down the road without the anxiety of walking in the opposite direction of cars. In 2013, she received a letter from state DOT saying there were no accidents involving pedestrians on the road, and it would have been cost prohibitive. This, especially, had her laughing to herself.

“People are driving up the hill during the day sometimes with the sun in their eyes, and it’s dangerous,” Taranto said. “I wrote back to everyone, ‘Does the Village of Port Jefferson have to wait for someone to die before they build a sidewalk five blocks long?’”

To people like the Port Jefferson mayor and the DOT, she became known as the “sidewalk lady.” 

Now her wish could soon become a reality, and those looking to climb the hill of West Broadway into Setauket may soon find their path aided with a new sidewalk.

DOT confirmed the plans to construct a new sidewalk by late next year along the north side of West Broadway, a quarter-mile stretch compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act connecting existing sidewalk sections between Hoyt Lane and Bayview Terrace.

While this is good news for those along the state-owned stretch of road, of course, there is a catch — and it’s a big one.

While bids have already gone out for a sidewalk along the north side of West Broadway, otherwise known as Route 25A, a true repaving of the steep road from the village into Setauket is missing funds on the part of the state. Mayor Margot Garant told the public at the last board meeting Aug. 5 the state DOT does not have any more funds for road repaving in all of New York until 2025.

Though this does not preclude the village going in to patch holes, complete repaving — usually an expensive endeavor — might not be in the pipe for another six years.

“It means I could not put in a request to have West Broadway repaved,” Garant said, “[DOT] said the best they could do was to have the maintenance crew go out and patch on the south side of West Broadway going down the hill.”

The DOT did not confirm or deny the lack of funds for projects until 2025, and instead said they were looking for other options for dealing with Route 25A.

“Route 25A (Main Street) was resurfaced three years ago between the ferry terminal and NYS Route 112 and we are exploring options for additional paving on Route 25A in the near future,” DOT spokesman Stephen Canzoneri said in an email. “We are in the process of scheduling a follow-up meeting with the mayor’s team to discuss these projects.”

Garant said she learned this in a meeting with DOT officials several weeks ago along with other village officials including Steve Gallagher, superintendent of the village Department of Public Works.

West Broadway is a steep hill climbing up toward Setauket, and several parts of that street are pockmarked with wide and deep potholes. Route 25A, which is otherwise known as Main Street before turning into West Broadway, travels all the way from Calverton into Queens at Long Island City. Taranto called the state of the road “a nightmare.”

Garant said while the village could ask the state for permission to go in and patch the worst parts of the road, the village Department of Public Works would not be keen on spending time and money on a road that should be handled by the state.

“If we’re going to do this, we should do it right and make it one continuous walkable community.”

— Margot Garant

Though repaving on West Broadway has been stymied, the north facing sidewalk is still in the pipe. One plan for the new sidewalk goes all the way down the north side of West Broadway until Beach Street, but the other would be pushed back to start after Bayview Terrace. Garant was adamant it should start by the bottom of the hill.

“If we’re going to do this, we should do it right and make it one continuous walkable community,” the mayor said. 

The mayor said the village will be having a follow-up meeting Aug. 27 with the DOT. 

The final decision comes down to DOT officials. Meg Danielson, a transportation analyst for the state DOT who will be meeting with village officials later this month, did not respond to requests for comment. 

Meanwhile, Port Jeff is gathering funds to repave several village-owned roads, including: Pine Tree Court, Nadia Court, Contessa Court, Roslyn Court, Peninsula Drive and Landing Lane at a total cost $349,404. Paving is being done by Rosemar Contracting Inc. of East Moriches. Previous quotes for repaving had come in at just under $500,000, according to village officials.

“Their quote was so wonderful that we added another street,” Garant said at the Aug. 5 board meeting. “That’s not to say there’s other streets in the village that need to be done.”

And despite the state of West Broadway, Taranto is looking forward to a chance to bring her children down into Port. For one of her daughters, Roxanne, who is on the autism spectrum, it’s an important opportunity to allow her some degree of independence as she grows toward high school.

It wasn’t just for her, Taranto said, nor her other daughter Maggie, but for the other 12 children — 11 girls and one boy — living on her block along Longacre Court, who she said have developed into a close-knit community. 

“If I can do this for all of those kids to keep them safe, that’s really my goal,” Taranto said.

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File Photo

Police arrested a residential community security guard for allegedly assaulting a visitor Wednesday, Aug. 14.

Suffolk County Police said John Ruggiero, while working as a security guard at The Ranches at Mount Sinai condominium complex, located along Route 25A, allegedly denied entry to a 68-year-old man who was attempting to visit a friend Aug. 14 at around 2:55 p.m. The two men exchanged words followed by a physical altercation, during which the 68-year-old man sustained serious injuries. Police did not release the name of the other man involved in the fight.

Police could not say who provoked the incident or threw the first punch.

The visitor was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was listed in serious condition. Ruggiero, 50, of Port Jefferson Station, was treated and released from St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson for injuries sustained during the fight. He was charged with assault 2nd degree and is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 15 at First District Court in Central Islip.

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Cadets in the Naval Academy’s Summer Navigation and Seamanship Training Block toss a line as they prepare to dock in Port Jeff Harbor Aug. 8. Photo by Kyle Barr

From the west, a storm came in. Five U.S. Navy boats watched the clouds sweep in from the opposite direction they sailed, with lightning flicking out of dark skies. 

With the direction of the officers on the small 44-foot crafts, they knew what to do.

Two made it into Port Jefferson Harbor through the night of Aug. 7, while the other three stayed out in the Sound beyond the harbor. People on the vessel Valiant said they saw gusts of wind driving them at 38 knots, then staying in the mid 20s for a time after that. With two reefs in the mainsail and no jib, the boat, carrying eight midshipmen and two other officers, was as light and fast as a bird over a rough swell.

The Intrepid sailing into Port Jeff Harbor on Aug. 8. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We did hit that storm for a little while; for an hour and a half it was pretty rough,” said senior officer first class Joe Llewellyn, laughing, “It was a bit of a thrill … these guys,” he looked to the other young midshipmen, “handled the boat great though.”

The rapid entry into Port Jefferson Harbor was part of the U.S. Naval Academy’s Summer Navigation and Seamanship Training Block, where Lt. Matt Vernam, a commanding officer on one of the vessels, took around 40 young midshipmen (despite the name, it consists of both men and women) from Annapolis, Maryland, to Delaware Bay into New York City Harbor, where the cadets watched the Statue of Liberty and Freedom Tower roll by, before climbing up the Hudson and visiting the USS Intrepid. The boats then sailed down the East River and made good sail until they came outside Port Jefferson during the storm. 

The program that Vernam helps run, called the Offshore Sail Training Squadron, is meant to give cadets a leadership experience. Four midshipmen are up on deck at a time and are instructed to listen to advice as they carry out operations of the vessel, even getting the vessel safely into dock through their own muscle and sweat.

“We try to let these guys run the boat and exercise leadership,” Vernam said. 

George Hoffman, cofounder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, had helped suggest Port Jeff as a place the sailors could visit on their tour. When the boats came in the Thursday morning, they did so with a police boat escort.

Vernam, a graduate of Shoreham-Wading River High School and a Wading River native, said it was nice to be back to his home on the North Shore. His father, Don Vernam, was acting on the Valiant as a civilian volunteer, and his family reunion would include his mother who came up to greet them both on the harbor.

“It’s nice having two local bodies to plan this,” he said.

Rob LoScalzo, a Wading River resident, helped contact the Navy to have the midshipman take their boats into Port Jefferson. His son Mike, a fellow SWR graduate, had just graduated from the Navy academy in May. 

LoScalzo said he has been trying to get the Navy to Long Island for years, originally trying with the Village of Patchogue but the keel was too long for the harbor. 

“With all the naval history that’s around here, with the Culper Spy Ring, to the Taylor Brewster, to the shipbuilding — its rich history — we’re just so excited that we could piece it together.”

The Town of Brookhaven allowed the visitors to use the dock space, and the public was able to visit for tours on the vessels.  

People on the Port Jefferson Tall Ship Committee, who have been working to bring tall, masted sailing ships into Port Jefferson Harbor, watched the tall ship Lady Maryland sail away on the morning’s tide, listening for the cannon shot to announce its departure. Chris Ryon, village historian, said he expects the historical schooner Amistad to make its appearance once again in PJ Harbor some time in the near future.

 

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Security footage of woman police said stole from Chris Jewelers in Port Jeff. Photo from SCPD
Security footage of woman police said stole from Chris Jewelers in Port Jeff. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County 6th precinct police officers are trying to identify and locate a woman who allegedly stole merchandise from a Port Jefferson store in July.

A woman allegedly stole a silver ring from Chris Jeweler, located at 202 Main Street, July 30, at around 2 p.m.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this robbery to call Major Case at 631-852-6555. Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 800-220-TIPS (8477) or texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637). All calls and text messages are kept confidential.

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Security footage of the man who allegedly robbed the Miller Place Chase Bank. Photo from SCPD
Security footage of the man who allegedly robbed the Miller Place Chase Bank. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police are looking for a man who allegedly robbed the Miller Place Chase Bank the afternoon of Monday, Aug. 12.

Police said a man entered Chase Bank, located at 385 Route 25A, at around 2:40 p.m. and displayed a note demanding cash to an employee. The teller complied with the suspect’s demands and gave him cash from the drawer. Police said the suspect fled the bank on foot, west towards Miller Place road.

Security footage of the man who allegedly robbed the Miller Place Chase Bank. Photo from SCPD

The suspect was described as a white man in his late 20s to 30s, average height, medium build, wearing dark rimmed glasses and a full dark colored beard. He was wearing a blue t-shirt, blue jeans, dark colored shoes and a summer style fedora hat.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this robbery to call Major Case at 631-852-6555. Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 800-220-TIPS (8477) or texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637). All calls and text messages are kept confidential.

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Students will walk through security vestibules come first school day

Workers construct the vestibule in Terryville Road Elementary School. Photo by Kyle Barr

With $32 million in the Comsewogue school district’s pocket from a recently passed bond, school buildings are seeing various amounts of renovation and reconstruction throughout
the district.

The Terryville Elementary cafeteria flooring is being replaced. Photo by Kyle Barr

Phase I is a $5.8 million chunk of the $32 million, which voters approved 768 to 315 back in 2018. Work is well on its way this summer, with projects going on in all six of the district’s educational facilities, many of which focus around the same theme, security vestibules.

“They are security traps, so there is a staging area between the two doors,” said Susan Casali, associate superintendent. 

Vestibules are being installed in each of the six buildings, though they’re not uniform in shape and design, having to mold around the current entrances. In the Terryville Road Elementary School, the building’s office is being moved closer to the entrance to allow for windowed access into the vestibule, “like you would see at a bank,” Casali said.

A new addition to the parking lot at Terryville Elementary. Photo by Kyle Barr

This works with the school’s Raptor Visitor Management System, a web-based monitoring software designed to track visitors and electronically check them against public databases. In addition, all employees now use lanyards that can be scanned at the schools’ front entrances to gain access to
school buildings.

All vestibules are expected to contain bullet-resistant glass. It was something that school officials said was part of the planned bond project during committee even before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, last year. That particular shooting set off a wave of calls for increased school security. If the glass is not installed by the time school starts Sept. 3, the district plans to install it before Jan. 1, 2020.

“We wanted to really increase our security,” Casali said. 

New refrigerator equipment is being installed at several Comsewogue schools. Photo by Kyle Barr

Other than the vestibules, this year’s part of the bond project includes repaving the parking lots and replacing sidewalks at Terryville Road Elementary School and Boyle Road Elementary School. At Terryville, the work has created an additional parking lot for school staff on the north end of the lot, as well as replacing the cafeteria flooring for asbestos abatement. This accounts for a large portion of Phase I funds, with work at Terryville and Boyle costing a combined total of $2,733,435.

All elementary schools will see new kitchen equipment, including a new kitchen walk-in cooler at Terryville and gas conversion and cooled condenser, replacing an old freezer and refrigerator at Boyle Road, Clinton Avenue Elementary and Norwood Avenue Elementary. Norwood will also be getting a replaced kitchen ceiling and serving line reconfiguration. The high school kitchen and cafeteria ceilings are also being replaced with new lighting where the kids will sit and eat.

Associate Superintendent Susan Casali demonstrates the ID system. Photo by Kyle Barr

In addition, doors throughout the district with knobs are being replaced with levers that are American Disabilities Act-compliant.

Phase II, taking more than twice that of Phase I from bond funds at over $11 million, will mostly go to reconstructing sidewalks and roads at the high school and Norwood. The project is also expected to add a batting cage to the high school’s upper gym, renovate the JFK Middle School auditorium, replace Terryville’s roof and replace waterless urinals and sinks throughout the district.

Additional information and pictures about phases I and II of the bond projects can be found at www.comsewogue.k12.ny.us/school_board/bond_status_updates_summer_2019.

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Construction on the new Overbay apartments started Aug. 1. Photo by Courtney Biondo

On Thursday, Aug. 1, village residents noticed construction vehicles on the lot located on 217 West Broadway. Suspicions turned out to be correct, as development has finally started on the long-awaited apartment complex.

Construction on the new Overbay apartments started Aug. 1. Photo by Courtney Biondo

Overbay LLC has been in front of the project since it was first purchased in 2013 for $1.8 million. The company is a subsidiary of the Hauppauge-based Northwind Group, which does developments all along the north shore.

Jim Tsunis, the CEO of the Northwind Group, confirmed the start of construction, saying they received their final building permit from the village last week.

“Overbay will consist of 52 apartments with a fitness center and community gathering area,” Tsunis said in an email statement. “There are plans for outdoor balconies and upscale appointments to each apartment.”

The 54,000-square-foot “nautical-style” apartment building will be on the now-vacant site of the former Islander Boat Center building, which was demolished in 2017. Each apartment is expected to be 1,000 square feet each, and a common room area is expected to be approximately 800 square feet.

The start of construction was acknowledged by village officials at the Aug. 5 board meeting. Some in the public offered their concerns over a payment in lieu of taxes agreement between the development and the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency. That agreement would mean the property would be paying taxes on the assessed undeveloped property during construction and would pay only $28,000 for the first year. The PILOT payment would rise over 15 years to $184,015 before paying the full taxes on its assessed value. The total payment for the PILOT will be $1,590,115.

According to previous reporting by TBR News Media, the complex is also expected to create two permanent jobs and 150 temporary construction jobs over a two-year period.

This PILOT payment is the second in tax agreements between apartment complexes in the village and IDAs. The Shipyard apartments received a similar 15-year PILOT from the Suffolk County IDA, but that agreement was more generous than received by Overbay.

Community members argued that the development would be excused from paying the lion’s share of its taxes, but the mayor argued it was more taxes than a vacant lot.

Still, Mayor Margot Garant argued that while the village has sent letters of disagreement with the IDA decisions for both apartment complexes, they do not have control of how or when those decisions are made.

“We sent a letter saying we were largely concerned on the impact of the schools and our local services,” she said. “The Town IDA and County IDA are really looking to give construction jobs, that’s how they see these developments. We’re more concerned about long-term jobs in terms of IDA relief.”

In January 2018, Tsunis said the agreement would help in offsetting the cost of demolishing the original boat seller building.

Trustee Bruce D’Abramo, the liaison to the planning and building department, said the developer is looking into helical pilings, which screw into the ground instead of being hammered in, which he said should help reduce noise, such as had been residents’ complaints when pilings were being hammered in during the Shipyard apartments construction.

The $10.8 million project was put on hold for years due to financing difficulties relating to the death of a business partner, Garant said at the Aug. 5 meeting.

“That project’s been in the works pre-Garant — 10-plus years,” the mayor said.

The Overbay development is just one of several apartment developments within village limits, with apartments expected to be developed over the now vacated Cappy’s Carpets building, with storefronts underneath. Uptown, Port Jefferson is looking to Conifer Realty LLC, a real estate development firm with projects across New York State and south into Maryland, for “affordable” apartments in what was once the Bada Bing structure, and another project dubbed Walnut Hills located north of Bada Bing in the quadrant before Perry Street. The last project is being developed by the Gitto Group, who were also behind The Hills apartment complex in Upper Port.

In his statement, Tsunis said more information will be available on Northwind Group’s website after Labor Day, Sept. 2.

Kyra Sommerstad represents Port Jefferson at the Suffolk County championships. Photo from Sommerstad

Kyra Sommerstad, 17, lives for the water and the thrill of shaving seconds off her best swim times. Though she has been swimming competitively since she was 10, for nearly five years, her major goal was to make it to the Olympic trials. 

Kyra Sommerstad will be attending the Olympic trials in June 2020. Photo from PJSD

This year, during a meet at the Nassau County Aquatic Center, she was wide eyed when she reviewed her time for the 100-yard backstroke. Her time, 1:02.66, just under the qualifying time by .03 seconds.

“I hoped I would make the qualifying time any time this summer, but I really wasn’t expecting it at this event,” Sommerstad said. “When I looked up and saw my time, I didn’t really realize at first, so I had to do a double take to make sure the time was right, and I just got really emotional.”

Sommerstad’s dad, Ray, said at the time he and the rest of the audience weren’t especially looking at the times, instead focused on the intense back and forth between his daughter and another swimmer during the second backstroke leg, where each was neck and neck. Once she finally got out of the pool, only then did eyes turn up to her final times. 

“She goes to practice eight times a week, six days, some days she goes twice,” her father said. “She’s a hard worker — she shows up every day with a smile. Her positive enthusiasm is contagious.”

The Port Jefferson swimmer started in the pool when she was just under 10 years old, as part of what her dad described as every parent’s quest to find an activity for their kid that
would stick.

This one stuck. She took to the water like a fish, her parents said, and would improve in skill year after year after year. When she was 13, she set a goal for herself that she would make it to the Olympic trials, and she dedicated herself to that bar ever since.

While she represents the Port Jefferson high school in school swimming, for years, the Port Jeff swimmer has been practicing with the Three Village Swim Club. Her coach for the past three years, Mark Anderson, said she is as close to the perfect student as one can get. In his years of coaching, Sommerstad is the first he’s taught to qualify for the Olympic trials.

“She’s really a coach’s dream athlete — she makes corrections really well and she does what she’s told to do, and that’s really rare in a lot of people,” he said. “She’s finally starting to achieve every goal she’s set in front
of her.” 

When she made it her intention to make it to the Olympic qualifiers, she, her coach and her parents would look at the times expected to qualify increase from 1:03.99 in 2012 to 1:03.39 in 2016. For 2020, the time jumped by close to a full second.

Kyra Sommerstad represents Port Jefferson at the Suffolk County championships. Photo from Sommerstad

And in swimming, when shaving off decimals of a second in a swim time is considered solid work for months of effort, the task looked daunting.

“I’m happy if a swimmer takes off half a second in months trying to get better,” the coach said. “She made it by .03 … It’s a sport of hundreds of seconds, and it puts a lot of things in their lives in perspective.”

As well as being a Scholastic All-American recipient, Sommerstad currently is maintaining a 95 percent average in school and is already committed to The Ohio State University where she plans to compete in swimming. While she hasn’t settled on a specific major yet, she said she was looking into working with children, either in teaching or in occupational therapy.

Those who have seen her train know she puts the same amount of effort into training for swim meets as she does the other important aspects of her life.

“[Her academics] do not suffer at all for all the time she spends in the pool,” her father said. “It actually gives her discipline to make sure she manages her time effectively.”

Though she is heading to the Olympic trials, she, her family and her coach are trying to keep their expectations realistic, as she will be competing against the best swimmers from all across the nation. Despite this, Sommerstad, who is traveling from state to state competing in swim meets, expects her training to ramp up hard as they head to the Olympic trials June 22, 2020.

“I’m definitely going to be working a lot harder this year — doing some extra stuff out of the pool to maybe gain some muscle so I can swim faster,” she said. “I’m hoping to swim a best time at Olympic trials, so I can be seated higher among all the people who have made it.”

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