Authors Posts by Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr
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Annual enrollment numbers of 2012-13 school year compared to 2016-17. Graphic by TBR News Media

By Kyle Barr

A shadow hangs above the heads of Long Island’s school districts: The specter of declining enrollment.

“From last year, not a whole lot has changed, enrollment is still declining,” Barbara Graziano, the manager of the Office of School Planning and Research for Western Suffolk BOCES said. “What a lot of districts are seeing is there is a significant displacement between their graduating classes being larger than the following year’s kindergarten classes.”

School enrollment across Suffolk County has been in decline for nearly a decade. In last year’s annual report on enrollment, Western Suffolk BOCES, a regional educational service agency, said there was a 9.1 percent overall decline in enrollment in townships from Huntington to Smithtown from 2010 to 2016.

Students at Bicycle Path Pre-K/Kindergarten Center hop off the school bus. Photo from Middle Country school district

Between the 2006-07 and 2016-17 school years, Long Island saw a 6.2 percent decline in enrollment, according to Robert Lowry, the deputy director for advocacy, research and communications at the New York State Council of School Superintendents.

Statewide enrollment declined 4.2 percent in the same period. Nearly every school district on Suffolk County’s North Shore has seen at least some decline, and the trend can have tangible effects on a district’s long- and short-term planning.

“Declining enrollment may push a district toward reconsidering staffing and whether it’s necessary to close a school,” Lowry said.

Smithtown Central School District in the 2012-13 school year had 10,317 students enrolled in the district, and four years later the number dropped more than a thousand to 9,241 in 2016-17. The declining enrollment was cited in 2012, with guidance from the district’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee on Instruction and Housing, as the rationale behind the closing of Nesconset Elementary School, and again in 2017 when the district closed Brook Branch Elementary School.

“Over the last few years, the board of education and administration have been proactive regarding the district’s declining enrollment,” Smithtown Superintendent James Grossane said in an email. “The district
will continue to monitor its enrollment trends to plan for the future.”

“Over the last few years, the board of education and administration have been proactive regarding the district’s declining enrollment.”

— James Grossane

Experts cite factors like declining birthrate, aging population and changes in local immigration patterns as potentially having an impact on local enrollment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a report in May indicating the national birthrate in 2017 hit a 30-year low with 60.2 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. The national birthrate has been in general decline since the 1960s, but this most recent report is low even compared to 10 years ago when the birthrate was closer to 70 births per 1,000 women. Suffolk County’s population is also skewing older. Census data from the American Community Survey showed from 2010 to 2016 there was an estimated 28,288 less school-aged children between the ages of 5 and 19 living in the county. School closings are probably the most severe action districts tend to take to mitigate the effect of declining enrollment, but it is not the only option.

The Three Village Central School District has seen enrollment drop by about 900 students during the last decade. In its recently passed budget the district said it was making several staffing changes, including consolidating the roles of certain staff members. The district cited declining enrollment along with staff retirements and attrition for the changes, but also promised to add a new high school guidance counselor and an additional district psychologist to give attention to individual student’s mental health.

“While our district, like so many others in our area, have recently been experiencing a decline in enrollment, particularly at the elementary level, we have taken this opportunity to create efficiencies using current staff in order to lower class size and support a number of new initiatives, programmatic enhancements and student support services,” Cheryl Pedisich, the superintendent for Three Village schools said in an email.

“Declining enrollment affects school districts in several ways — perhaps most importantly through the impact on state aid.”

— Al Marlin

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen said lower enrollment allows for smaller class sizes and for more attention to the mental health of individual students.

“Our students today need a little bit more mental health support than students yesterday,” Eagen said. “Obviously we don’t need as many elementary sections, but we haven’t necessarily decreased our total staffing amount because we’ve been increasing our mental health supports.”

Even with those potential benefits, many districts are still trying to work out the long-term implications of lower enrollment. Al Marlin, a spokesperson for the New York State School Boards Association said enrollment has a large effect on how much state aid a school can procure.

“Declining enrollment affects school districts in several ways — perhaps most importantly through the impact on state aid because New York’s school-aid distribution formula is based, in part, on enrollment numbers,” Marlin said in an email. “Declining enrollment also can make it more difficult for districts to sustain academic courses, including Advanced Placement courses and programs such as sports teams.”

Shoreham-Wading River school district conducted an enrollment study in 2015 that was updated for the 2017-18 school year. The study predicted the district will recede to 1,650 enrolled students by 2025, compared to 2,170 as of May. Along with a declining birthrate and an aging population, the district pointed to low housing turnover from 2008 to 2016 for part of the declining enrollment.

As part of an ongoing Shoreham-Wading River bond referendum voted on in 2015, school classrooms, like those at Principal Christine Carlson’s Miller Avenue School, were expanded to include bathrooms. File photo by Kyle Barr

“It is difficult to predict the exact number, but it is fair to say that the enrollment decline in the district will be continuing in the near future,” SWR superintendent Gerard Poole said in an email.

Superintendents from SWR and Rocky Point school district both said they do not have any plans to close schools, but there is a possibility lower enrollment could affect the districts’ ability to apply for grants.

A few districts are breaking the trend. Huntington Union Free School District has actually seen an increase in school enrollment from 2012 to 2017, but Superintendent James Polansky said in the most recent years that increase has started to level off. Polansky did not want to speculate as to why enrollment in Huntington was not decreasing like other districts, but Graziano said it might be because the district is more diverse and attracts more immigration than nearby districts.

“Every district is different, they have to look at their own schools and communities to see how they deal with enrollment,” Polansky said.

Every year Western Suffolk BOCES releases a report that looks at schools’ current enrollment and compares it to previous years. Graziano, who is working on this year’s report, most likely to be released sometime this month, said the agency expects a continuing decline in school enrollment at least for the next several years. Though eventually, she said, the declining enrollment should level off as entering kindergarten class sizes stabilize. However, there is no telling when that might be. 

“Birthrates do not seem to be increasing, it doesn’t look like, as of right now, that’s going to turn around any time soon,” Graziano said. “But of course, we don’t have a crystal ball.”

Costume maker Tom DePetrillo will return this year as the Marvel Comics Giant Hulkbuster. Photo from Angeline Judex

By Kyle Barr

Creativity, innovation, experimentation and a whole lot of fun are all on the menu as the Village of Port Jefferson gears up for the third annual Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire to be held on June 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Hosted by the nonprofit Long Island Explorium (formerly the Maritime Explorium) and the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, the event will take place at the Explorium, all three floors of the Port Jefferson Village Center and spill out onto the adjacent Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park as makers from all over Long Island and beyond will come bringing robots, music, woodworking, metal sculptures and practically anything handmade to celebrate the exciting worlds of science, technology, engineering, music, art and math.

Last year the event drew more than 2,000 visitors who were able to experience everything from 3-D printing to flame belching metal sculptures. 

Ray Rumore with his robot ‘Volt’ at last year’s Mini Maker Faire. Photo from Chris Rumore

Angeline Judex, executive director of the Explorium in Port Jefferson, said she expects close to 60 “Makers” will be there for this year’s event. “At this event, people are able to explore new concepts and technologies, take [this knowledge] home with them and then dive into their own exploration and engagement to create their own maker experience,” Judex said in an email. “It transforms theory into reality. It excites, inspires and motivates the next generation to embrace STEM as a resource for innovative problem solving.”

New this year will be the Long Island Vegetable Orchestra featuring students from the Waldorf School in Garden City using carrots, squash and gourds as musical instruments and a visit from the Suffolk County Chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism, which will demonstrate how trades such as blacksmithing, inks and paints and naval shipbuilding technology have evolved over time. 

Returning this year will be costume maker Tom DePetrillo from Rhode Island-based Extreme Costumes who dazzled participants in last year’s Makers Faire with his burly Transformers Bumblebee costume. This year he will be bringing a to-scale HulkBuster Iron Man suit seen in the movies “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and “Avengers: Infinity War.”

“People really enjoy the giant costumes,” said DePetrillo. 

The Hulkbuster costume took 10 months and approximately 1,600 man hours to complete. DePetrillo tours all over the world with his giant designs as a full-time job. It enables him to keep making and creating. “It allows me to have an outlet for my creative energy,” he said. “I do this because I love doing it.”

Father and son team Chris and Ray Rumore have been attending the Mini Maker Faire every year since its inception. Ray Rumore got involved with 3-D printing, crafting and robotics, and created a robot named “Volt,” a companion robot who can follow him around and live stream events with his on-board camera.

“Ray enjoys three main things about Maker Faires — they allow him the opportunity to encourage others to join the fun and become a Maker, the opportunity to meet other Makers and learning about their creations and the food,” the elder Rumore said in an email.

The event is sponsored in part by Stony Brook University, BASF Chemical Company, Capital One, Riverhead Building Supplies and Suffolk County Community College.

The Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire will be held on June 9 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine, at the Maritime Explorium, 101 East Broadway, Port Jefferson. Tickets, which are $10 per person, are available online at www.easternlongislandmakerfaire.com and at the door. Parking will be available around the Village of Port Jefferson, Off Street Parking, Brookhaven Town Lot as well as Spring Street. The Port Jeff Jitney will be running during the day. For further information, please call 631-331-3277.

Nikola Tesla, depicted in statue at top, was a Serbian-American inventor who had a lab built in Shoreham, where the statue sits. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Shoreham’s Wardenclyffe property, the site of famed Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla’s last living laboratory, is up for consideration for historical site status by the New York State Historic Preservation Office June 7.

“We want to make the world aware, more than it is now, of the site’s importance,” said Jane Alcorn, president of the board of directors of Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe. “It gives the community and our investors some assurance that we’re moving in the right direction, that were not just gaining local recognition, but state and national as well.”

Inventor Nikola Tesla’s Shoreham laboratory, built in 1901, is his las lab still standing. TBR News Media

In 2012 the science center worked with The Oatmeal comic website to launch a successful Indiegogo campaign that raised $1.37 million to purchase the land. Since then the nonprofit has renovated the property with plans to turn the site into a museum and incubator for technology-based business startups.

Alcorn said the board hired a historic architect consultant who documented the land and its legacy. The group worked for months crafting a 92-page document describing Tesla’s life along with the many minute details of the 16-acre property, such as which buildings are historic and which are not, when each was built, and by what person and company.

Marc Alessi, the science center’s executive director, said that having the property on the historic register would help to indefinitely safeguard the land.

“It’s preserving it for future generations,” Alessi said. “When you get something registered as a historic landmark, we’ll be able to rest easy knowing 500 years from now if society completely changes, there is a very good chance the lab will still be there.”

“When you get something registered as a historic landmark, we’ll be able to rest easy knowing 500 years from now if society completely changes, there is a very good chance the lab will still be there.”

— Marc Alessi

Alcorn said getting historical status would not only increase the project’s notoriety, but would also allow the group to apply for state grants they wouldn’t be eligible for without the historic status.

“It’s often one of the requirements of many state grants — that you are located on the historic register,” Alcorn said. “We’ve been eliminated from granting opportunities in the past due to that lack.”

Many modern-day entrepreneurs and scientists have a vested interest in the lab’s history. Tesla, a self-starter and entrepreneur, created many technological innovations still used today, such as alternating current and electromagnetism technology. His research influenced modern day X-rays.

In the early 1900s Tesla acquired the Wardenclyffe property in Shoreham to test his theories of being able to wirelessly transmit electrical messages. The property housed a huge 187-foot tower for the purpose, but in 1903 creditors confiscated his equipment, and in 1917 the tower was demolished. The concrete feet used to hold the structure can still be seen on the property today.

The science center submitted the final historic register application nearly a month ago, and next week it will be reviewed by the state’s national register review board. The review process takes several weeks, and if
accepted, the property will be put on the state register of historic places. The application will then automatically go to the National Register of Historic Places review board for the potential of being put on the national registry. That process will take several months.

A sign outside of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe shows it was designed by architect Stanford White, as inscribed. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Not everything submitted to the national registry gets listed, but New York has a very good track record, so hopefully we’ll be hearing a good thing from this one,” said Jennifer Betsworth, a historic preservation
specialist for the state preservation department.

Only a day after the center announced its application, it had more than 6,700 people sign letters in support of the application, according to Alessi, and were sent to the state historic preservation review board.

Betsworth said despite how the property has been modified through the years, it has value as Tesla’s last intact laboratory and has historical significance as the site of some of his last and most ambitious inventions.

“It’s a bit complicated because it’s a building that’s absolutely covered with later additions that aren’t historic, so its value is not necessarily immediately obvious,” said Betsworth. “If this wasn’t the last remaining laboratory related to Tesla, it might not have been eligible. The incredible rarity and significance of this
resource is what it has going for it.”

The science center is currently working to fundraise for the first phase of a project that would turn two buildings on the grounds into exhibition spaces for science education. The fundraising has reached $6 million out of the planned $20 million, according to Alessi. The science center hopes to have the first part of a functioning museum up and running by the end of next year.

Dispatcher Gerard Boucher used a computer-aided Q&A program at his workstation to help a Stony Brook couple deliver their baby. Photo from the Suffolk County Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services

By Kyle Barr

A new resident arrived in Stony Brook with a little help from a fire and rescue dispatcher.

A couple were surprised May 30 when the wife went into labor while still over the phone with emergency dispatch, but the man behind the phone helped the family complete the birth with little to no complications.

“You could hear her going through contractions. She definitely sounded like she was in discomfort.”

— Gerard Boucher

Suffolk County Department of Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services dispatcher Gerard Boucher heard about other dispatchers in the office having to help deliver a baby over the phone, but he had never had to do it himself. Just an hour into his shift at 7:54 a.m. May 30, Boucher found he didn’t have a choice but to keep calm and go through the steps he learned both with his experience as a volunteer firefighter, emergency medical technician and his 10 years working for dispatch.

“I went through the usual spiel, the name, information, call-back number and the nature of the call, but then he stated his wife was 39 weeks pregnant and her water had broken,” said Boucher, a Bayshore resident. “I’ve had some close deliveries, but I’ve never actually delivered over the phone.”

In addition to his experience, Boucher relied on the dispatchers’ computer-aided Q&A program to understand what was happening and what to do.

“It involved prepping the mother, getting her the necessary tools — a dry blanket to wrap the baby in, a shoelace or a piece of string to tie off and cut the umbilical cord,” Boucher said. “We’re also instructed to have them get a safety pin if the amniotic sack is still intact. Another part of it is properly positioning the mother and talking her through the contractions. Just trying to have the person on the other end of the phone tell me what’s happening, asking him is she crowning, is she out, partially out, and most importantly if the babies coming out head first.”

The birth procedure went smoothly, and Boucher said that everyone involved kept level heads.

“You go from having one patient to two patients very quickly. Just to have the baby cry immediately was a big sigh of relief.”

— Gerard Boucher

“You could hear her going through contractions,” he said. “She definitely sounded like she was in discomfort. I do have to commend the two of them. I was surprised how calm they were throughout the entire experience. I was shocked at that, but it definitely lowered the stress level on our end.”

Finally, at 8:07 a.m., a little baby girl was born. She was breathing, and seconds after that, Boucher heard the baby start to cry.

“I was relieved, he said. “You go from having one patient to two patients very quickly. Just to have the baby cry immediately was a big sigh of relief.”

Setauket Fire Department emergency services arrived shortly afterwards and brought the family to Stony Brook Hospital, according to a press release.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) commended Boucher in a statement.

“The highly trained professionals that make up our Department of Fire Rescue and Emergency Services are exceptional public servants and dispatcher Boucher is a perfect example of that,” Bellone (D) said. “These everyday heroes continuously face some of the most stressful and difficult situations imaginable, and I applaud them for their continued work and service to the residents of Suffolk County.”

The Stony Brook couple declined to be interview and did not wish for their names to be disclosed, according to a representative of the county emergency services department.

Huntington Harbormaster Fred Uvena gives a tour of accident-prone sites. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

As Huntington boat owners get ready to pull up anchor and head out for the start of the season, town officials and maritime police emphasizing boating safety and a plan to crack down on drunk boating.

“Across Long Island and the entire state, boating accidents and deaths have been increasing the last few years,“ Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “At the local level, the coast guard and the
local marine units have noticed fewer boaters wearing life jackets, and general inattention to the rules of the waterways.

Across Long Island and the entire state, boating accidents and deaths have been increasing the last few years.”
– Chad Lupinacci

Lupinacci was joined by Huntington Harbormaster Fred Uvena, members of the Huntington Bay Constable and members of the Suffolk County Marine Bureau at a May 24 press conference where they called for stricter enforcement of speed limits inside Huntington Harbor, awareness of small craft in local waters and a crackdown on boating while intoxicated.

In 2017, there were more than 650 deaths across the country involving boating incidents, according to a report by the U.S. Coast Guard. There were 19 fatal accidents, resulting in 22 deaths, and more than 70 people injured in New York. The overall number of boating-related deaths is less than in 2016, but still represents a general increase over the last few years. The report said that there were 12 boating accidents in the state in which alcohol was found to be a contributing factor, which resulted in one death and 16 injuries in 2017.

“When you come down and get in your boat, the biggest thing we emphasis is common sense,” Uvena said.

The harbormaster emphasized that every boat should have life jackets for every passenger, that boat owners should check their fuel, flares and radio when boarding and that those in charge of the boats should know not to drink and pilot their craft.

There are multiple high-risk areas across Huntington Harbor and all the way out into the entrance to Long Island Sound, according to Uvena, He pointed out that hot spots for incidents include the private beaches along the harbor that host many canoers, paddle boarders and other small craft. There are also the hazardous areas full of protruding rocks along the beach near Huntington Harbor Lighthouse and an area commonly called The Box close to the Northport Power Station.

When you come down and get in your boat, the biggest thing we emphasis is common sense.”
– Fred Uvena

Over the past five years, Uvena said he has seen incidents involving kayakers and paddle boarders increase along with the surge in these activities’ popularity in Huntington. The harbormaster said that they are so low to the water that boaters who fly too fast, too close to the shore have the possibility of clipping them or running over them completely. The U.S. Coast Guard’s statistics show that canoe and kayaks had the second highest total death count at 152 compared to 323 in open motorboat.

”Boaters need to take heed of their speed in the middle of the bay,” Uvena said.

The Harbormaster office is receiving new buoys that have LEDs built in to be more easily seen at night. Uvena expects to receive them by the end of the year, but as the boating season kicks off, the harbor constables can only advise boaters on the dangers of speeding in the harbor and of drinking and boating. Those individuals who are found guilty of boating while intoxicated can face stiff penalties. On the first offense, an individual can receive from a $300 to $500 fine and 15 days in jail; additional offenses result in harsher fines and longer jail time. However, under current law a boating while intoxicated charge does go on a driver’s license or go onto the pilot’s record like a driving while intoxicated in a car would.

Deer Park resident Gina Lieneck has firsthand experience with the potential dangers of boating. In August 2005, she and her family were spending the day tubing off the coast of Fire Island. They were heading back to Bay Shore Marina when out of the dark, another boat approached them from behind at top speed. Lieneck and her husband were severely injured by the boat and its propeller, but her 11-year-old daughter Brianna was killed where she was sitting on the starboard side.

“We need to make this change, and make it now.”
– Gina Lieneck

If a boater is born on or after May 1, 1996, they are required to have a safety certificate to operate a boat, otherwise there is no certificate or license required for any noncommercial boater in New York. Lieneck has been making the long trek to Albany every week for the past three months to lobby for Brianna’s Law, that would require all operators of power-driven boats to take an in-person boating safety class inside state coastal waters.

“We need to make this change, and make it now,” Lieneck said. “We’re not decreasing in accidents, we’re increasing, and we need to think about the safety of everybody on our waterways.”

Uvena said that approximately 300 people attended the three previous safety courses required for prospective boaters under the age of 21, but he said he supports a law that would require similar courses for older boaters. Lupinacci, who before becoming supervisor served as state assemblyman for New York’s 10th District, said he expects Brianna’s Law to get bipartisan support.

“It’s about time that things need to get done about boating safety,” Lupinacci said.

Runners take off at the 2017 Breathe for Britt 5K. Photo from Megan Scheidt

Smithtown runners are preparing to take big strides and breathe deep to support a local nonprofit that helps people suffering from cystic fibrosis.

The Breathe for Britt Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting people suffering from cystic fibrosis and their families, will be hosting its 4th annual Breathe for Britt 5K run/walk June 2 at the Smithtown Elementary School. The funds raised from the race will be used to support the foundation in its efforts to help those diagnosed with cystic fibrosis and their families.

“This race lets people become aware of what CF is and what the foundation has to offer to them and those with CF who might not know this is offered to them,” Louise Nichols, the co-race director for the Breathe for Britt foundation, said.

Started in 2015, the race has grown to have 150 runners last year of all ages. Laura Bence, director of the Breathe for Britt Foundation, said she expects a similar number of people to attend this year’s event.

Brittney Braun. Photo from Breathe 4 Britt Foundation

The foundation runs multiple programs to emotionally and financially support those suffering from cystic fibrosis and their families. The organization has bought groceries, laptops and even paid the electric bills for
affected families who could not afford it. Bence and her organization has also helped patients make doctors’ appointments and taken them to the hospital when they had no other means.

The nonprofit also provides opportunities such as doing salon work for the patients in their hospital beds and even larger events like Gimme-a-Break! Day, when every month a different patient from the Cystic Fibrosis Center of Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park is brought on a day out to a concert, amusement park, sporting event and more.

“Some of our patients can be in hospitals for months at a time, and it can be so difficult to feel normal,” Katherine Henthorne, a cystic fibrosis social worker at Cohen’s Medical Center and Long Island Jewish Medical Center said. “It’s just so important for their quality of life. Some of our patients are affluent, they are wealthy and they have things, and other families don’t. They have to make them feel like normal people.”

The foundation is named after Brittney Braun, a young woman with who died from complications  of cystic fibrosis at the age of 14. Those who remember her know that she had a knack for putting life into perspective.

“She had a lot of spunk, a lot of personality, even if she went through a lot,” Bence said. “She was the type of person that you had to earn her love and respect, but once you did she was amazing. She had such a big impact on my life in the years that I knew her.”

Kings Park resident Brian Kane, who volunteered at Stony Brook University’s Children Hospital and became Brittney’s godfather, helped to found the organization along with Bence. He passed away in 2012.

Bence said she remembered how shortly after Brittney’s death Kane gathered her and others who knew Brittney so they could focus their loss into something positive.

[Brittney’s] story was very sad, but to have this in memory of her, it’s really amazing.”

Katherine Henthorne

“I took the [director] position to honor both of their memories,” Bence said.

Cystic fibrosis is a disease caused by a genetic mutation that forces the body to produce a thick mucus along the organ’s lining. That mucus builds up over time in the lungs, pancreas and other organs, trapping in bacteria that can lead to infections and extensive lung damage.

Approximately one out of every 31 people in the United States are carriers for cystic fibrosis, according to the nonprofit Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. If both parents are carriers, there is a 25 percent chance the child will be born with the disease. The average life expectancy for those afflicted who live past childhood is approximately 43 years, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

“Most of our patients unfortunately die from respiratory failure,” Henthorne said. “[Brittney’s] story was very sad, but to have this in memory of her, it’s really amazing.”

The Breathe for Britt 5K will take place at Smithtown Elementary School, located at 51 Lawrence Ave. in Smithtown. Preregistration costs $25 for adults, $20 for those age 17 and under. Day of registration costs $30 for adults, $25 for those age 17 and under. Awards will be given to the top three male and female
finishers in each age group.

Check-in will run from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. with the race starting at 9 a.m. rain or shine. For more information, contact the race director at breatheforbritt@yahoo.com.

By Kyle Barr

Shoreham-Wading River school district is asking students and staff to become the eyes and ears of the school with the introduction of the anonymous Report It app as part of the district’s increasing focus on school security.

Report It app draft of anonymous report questions.

“Last fall we started to look at different ways that students could report any safety or security issues they may have where they weren’t comfortable reporting in a regular venue,” Superintendent Gerard Poole said. “This was an anonymous way to let us know if there was something they know or to give us some advance notice of something that may be emerging.”

The Report It app allows students, teachers, staff or community members who access the website or download the app to anonymously report on any activity they think is suspicious to the school, whether its security or drugs related or even involving social media and cyberbullying.

Alan Meinster, the assistant superintendent for curriculum, instruction and assessment said at an April 18 board of education meeting each of the four district principals and administration will receive the tips and are responsible for checking up on any reports. The information in the report will then be monitored by the district main office.

“There are protocols they have to do involving investigating any information that is receive — all the principals will always follow the standard protocol, and part of that protocol is consulting with district administration,” Meinster said at the meeting.

The reports are monitored during regular school hours.

The app has been active in the district for approximately a month, but Poole said the district has yet to see any reports that have required action. Though Poole admitted that since reporting is anonymous there is potential for false reports, he believes students and staff understand the purpose and gravity of what this app means for the school.

“This was an anonymous way to let us know if there was something they know is emerging to give us some advance notice.”

— Gerard Poole

“We had a high school assembly where we were telling students how to use the app and what it was for, and I think the students took it very seriously as an option for them,” Poole said. “We haven’t had any false reports yet, and while there is potential for false reports it wasn’t enough of a concern for us not to implement it.”

Poole said that the school is not liable if they do not take action on any specific report.

The app is part of the district’s See It, Say It, Report It campaign to get students and staff active in being mindful of school safety. The app joins other security features that the district has implemented this year such as a visitor management system in all district buildings that scans licenses and prints out a tag with a person’s destination and photo. The district has also hired two more security guards for large gatherings as well arrival and dismissal during the school day.

The district is planning to implement more security features over the summer. Poole said the goal is for students to come back next year to new security vestibules and a student ID swipe-in system at the high school and Albert G. Prodell Middle School. The security features will be built with funds from the ongoing bond project.

“If you are going to encourage a student to come forward, which is not an easy thing to do, you have to provide mechanisms that are conducive to the culture.”

— Anthony Lavalle

Anthony Lavalle, executive director of Sayville-based Report It Inc., said that the app was designed for use in today’s technological age.

“If you are going to encourage a student to come forward, which is not an easy thing to do, you have to provide mechanisms that are conducive to the culture,” Lavalle said. “Even today if you think about it, a school shooting in Texas, school shooting in Florida, the concept is that students potentially know about these types of things, but they do not communicate them because of fear of some sort of retribution or retaliation.”

After the Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida, shooting, Lavalle said he’s seen a lot more interest from local schools in Report It as a means of enhancing security. A number of school districts on Long Island, including Half Hollow Hills, Plainedge, Lynbrook, Port Washington and Malverne have also signed on to using the app.

The application is web-based, but there is also an option for users to download it to their phone. Each school building’s webpage has a link that sends it to that specific building’s Report It page.

If logging into the app from the website, users will have to input five digits for reporting for Shoreham-Wading River schools. The code starts with “SWR,” with the last two letters being the school the user is sending it to, which are “HS” for the high school, “MS” for Albert G. Prodell Middle School, “MA” for Miller Avenue Elementary and “WR” for Wading River Elementary School.

School officials urge that if the report is an emergency, to immediately call 911 or contact emergency services.

Ryan Reynolds is back for more in ‘Deadpool 2.’ Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

By Kyle Barr

Deadpool, the fourth wall-breaking ninja of the first 2016 film, was everywhere before “Deadpool 2” arrived in theaters. Seriously, everywhere. He was on billboards with his name spelled with a skull and poo emoji. He was in paintings spoofing the Sistine Chapel. His masked face was even put on the slipcovers of DVDs in Walmarts. So instead of Arnold Schwarzenegger looking gruff on the cover of “Predator” you had Deadpool staring out with a bland expression and holding a water gun. 

It was almost too much. It was as if the 20th Century Fox sequel had to convince you even before you stepped in the theater that this movie was going to be zany, off the wall action and satire. 

Well it is, at least for the most part. Really, the film is at its best when it’s playing with common superhero comic and film tropes. It’s at its worst when it’s not.

“Deadpool 2” starts out with our main character, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) laying on a bed of gasoline cans and lighting a match. The explosion causes his body parts to fly every which way. How is this possible?

Ryan Reynolds is back for more in ‘Deadpool 2.’ Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Deadpool cannot die. If he has his limbs removed, they will simply grow back. If he is shot, his wounds will instantly heal. This is bad for Wade Wilson, the man behind Deadpool’s mask, as a terrible tragedy early on makes Deadpool want to quit living. X-Men member Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) tries to make him turn his life around and become a member of the vigilante mutant group, but murderous mutant from the future Cable (Josh Brolin) comes back in time to assassinate a young mutant named Russell (Julian Dennison). Deadpool, who decides to protect him, finds he can’t die just yet.

All the actors do a fine job in this film. Reynolds as Deadpool gives as much an enthusiastic performance as one could ask from a man who made the first film as a passion project. Another standout is Domino, played by Zazie Beetz, as she is just simply a fun character to be around. Her mutant power is Luck, and it was amusing to watch the film’s writers come up with ways her power works. Beetz’ sarcastic and self-confident style does such a good job playing off Deadpool’s antics. 

The film takes a little too long to pick up speed. The beginning act drags, even among the epic, R-rated fight scenes that include our main hero jumping headfirst into bullets and armed men like a kid jumping into a swimming pool on the first day of summer. 

But the joyride comes to a screeching halt as soon as we get to the romantic side of the story. Deadpool and his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) had what was an honestly sweet relationship in the first movie, but that mostly came down to how the two characters played off each other’s sense of sardonic and often violent humor. However, in this movie, none of that comes through. At certain points, in dreamlike sequences, Deadpool has conversations with his girlfriend who tells him his heart “isn’t in the right place,” a line that seems to come straight out of a soap opera’s playbook. I kept expecting the joke to continue where Deadpool reaches inside his chest to move his heart back into place, but that never happened. 

It’s bad likely because some of the gags in this film are just so good. Most of the best, hardest hitting gags come in the middle of the film. There’s nothing worse than ruining or explaining a joke. Suffice it to say when Deadpool tries to start his own team by the derivative name X-Force, it leads to perhaps the best sequence in the entire film that pokes the hardest at well-worn superhero clichés.

The movie is easily at its best when it relies on this biting satire of the superhero genre. The jokes are so good that they make you want for more. It gets worse when it cannot deliver. There are some great jokes made at the expense of Cable, who is really the stereotype of every jacked-up gritty vigilante hero we’ve had since the ’90s, but in the end those jokes don’t lead anywhere. The best satire often wants to come to a conclusion about whatever its ribbing, but this film lands somewhere in between and can’t seem to break away from the genre convention. 

Worse, it can’t do the romance, and hopefully when they do the inevitable sequel and go for even bigger, they leave all that at home.

Rated R for violence and profanity, “Deadpool 2” is now playing in local theaters.

St. James artist Arline Goldstein stands with a piece of her work in Studio 455. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Among the empty storefronts, cracked sidewalk and blighted buildings along Lake Avenue, local artist and longtime St. James resident Arline Goldstein drives down the road and pictures something better, something that will draw crowds and make the area vibrant with art and music.

“When I ride down Lake Avenue, I don’t see [the blight], I see boutiques and cafés and art galleries,” Goldstein said. “I use my imagination.”

In a new twist on St. James revitalization, local artists are putting forth the idea of creating an art district along Lake Avenue in an effort to make St. James a hot spot for art and culture. Goldstein presented the idea to Town of Smithtown officials at the May 8 board meeting.

“It’s in my heart for artists to show their work, and for others to see that work,” she said. “This project is the culmination of all my ideas about art.”

When I ride down Lake Avenue, I don’t see [the blight], I see boutiques and cafés and art galleries. I use my imagination.”
– Arline Goldstein

In April, Golsdstein and Eric Neitzel, the owner of DeBarbieri Associates Real Estate agency, went up and down Lake Avenue from Moriches Road to Woodlawn Avenue. Together, they counted nearly 20 empty storefronts along the approximately .8 mile stretch of road. Nietzel hopes the project could not only increase interest in the arts, but bring in restaurants, retail and other businesses.

“I think we could make a prosperous little downtown here in St. James,” Neitzel said.

The artists involved in the project believe this project could be a way to bring business back to downtown St. James.

“I think it is one thing that will help save this town,” photo artist Jack Ader said. “It has been proven all over the country that when places get together and create an art district, it revitalizes the town, it helps the local businesses.”

On June 12, Goldstein and some of her compatriots will meet with the town board and town planning department in a work group so she can fully explain what she has in mind. She said that if all goes well she hopes they could form a committee to truly start work on creating plans for the project. Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) has already shown support for the idea.

“In my opinion it’s a great idea for St. James, and I think it could really work well,” Wehrheim said. “Once it gets advertised, and people come and see it, word of mouth goes around and it really attracts people to it.”

Smithtown historian Bradley Harris said there are a number of historical underpinnings of art in St. James, including the St. James Calderone Theater off Lake Avenue that was built in 1929 and hosted many early vaudeville shows.

“There were a couple of individuals, artists and musicians who made a big impact in the area,” Harris said. “We’re still rediscovering that history in what was devoted to the arts in the past.”

“It has been proven all over the country that when places get together and create an art district, it revitalizes the town, it helps the local businesses.”
– Jack Ader

Even with the excitement she’s seen from the community and town board, Goldstein said she knows that creating an art district could take quite a long time. In March, the Village of Patchogue named Terry Street an art and culture district, but the revitalization of the area into the artistic hot spot it is today took many years. Not only that, but making Lake Avenue an art district would require not a small amount of legal commitment. It would mean a total rezoning of the area, and Goldstein predicted there would likely need to be incentives for businesses to open along the road and for landlords to upgrade buildings while not increasing rents.

Wehrheim said the St. James revitalization project, slated to begin this month, has been pushed back approximately a year to allow the installation of dry sewer mains at the same time. The revitalization plan calls for the renovations of Lake Avenue from Moriches Road to Woodlawn Avenue. This will include new sidewalks, planting of trees, installation of street lighting, curbs, concrete gutters and crosswalks, driveway aprons, asphalt, driveway aprons, benches and other decorative amenities.

Goldstein said she believed that if all goes according to plan and everything from the sewers to the new sidewalks are installed in time, then this project could really get underway.

Natalie Weinstein, the owner of Natalie Weinstein Design Associates and Studio 455 Art Gallery in St. James, said they are not going to wait for the sewers and revitalization to move forward. The artists are already looking to create events to promote art on Lake Avenue this summer, at the St. James gazebo.

“The art district will not be able to occur before we have the sewers hookup,” Weinstein said. “While we are waiting for that we are not sitting on our duffs. We’re doing exciting things to excite people and help spread the word.”

Russell Burke, a professor of biology at Hofstra University, shows how newly state-mandated terrapin excluder devices keep turtles out while crabs can still get in. Photo by Kyle Barr

It has been a slow crawl saving Long Island’s turtles, but local conservation groups are hoping new state regulations will speed up the process.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Long Island environmental groups gathered May 23 at the Suffolk County Environmental Center in Islip to celebrate new rules requiring crab cages — used in Long Island’s coastal waters including many of the bays, harbors and rivers that enter Long Island Sound — to have “terrapin excluder devices” (TEDs) on all entrances. As carnivores, terrapins are attracted to bait fish used in commercial, or what’s known as Maryland style crab traps or “pots.” As a result, male and female turtles of all sizes push their way through the entrance funnels and end up drowning.

John Turner, a conservation policy advocate for the Seatuck Environmental Association, shows the North Shore areas where turtles are getting caught and drowning in crab cages. Photo by Kyle Barr

“With each and every season these traps are not required to have TEDs, there are likely hundreds of terrapins that are drowning,” said John Turner, conservation policy advocate for Seatuck Environmental Association, which operates the Islip center. “To me, one of the signs of a real civilized society is how we treat other life-forms. We haven’t treated terrapins very well.”

He said in Stony Brook Harbor alone there are dozens, maybe hundreds of terrapins that will spend the winter in the mud, emerging once the water runs up high enough. Turner said many of the North Shore areas that are home to these turtles, like Setauket Harbor, Conscience Bay, Port Jefferson Harbor, Mount Sinai Harbor and Nissequogue River, play a key role in preserving the species.

“In contrast to where I am in South Jersey, I can go by the canals and I can see a dozen [terrapin] heads bobbing up and down,” said James Gilmore, director of the marine resources division at the state DEC. “Here, it’s very rare to see one. Hopefully these new rules will help us see more.”

Gilmore said the DEC began working on changing state regulations in 2013 but have known long before there was a problem.

Carl LoBue, The Nature Conservancy’s New York ocean program director, said it was in the late 1990s he’d witnessed recreational crab traps in Stony Brook Harbor. One day he lifted a cage out of the water while trying to move his landlord’s boat and saw it was filled with trapped terrapins. Two were still alive, but five
had already drowned.

“With each and every season these traps are not required to have TEDs, there are likely hundreds of terrapins that are drowning.”

— John Turner

“I’m sure the crabber wasn’t intent to kill turtles,” LoBue said. “But when I looked across the bay at the 60 or something crab traps this person had set, I was crushed thinking of the terrapins drowning at that very moment.”

In the early 2000s terrapins became a popular meal in New York, but the harvest of those turtles led to a massive decrease in population, especially the diamondback terrapin, which was identified as a species of greatest conservation need in the 2015 New York State Wildlife Action Plan. In September 2017 the DEC passed regulations banning the commercial harvest of diamondbacks.

Terrapin population has slowly increased since then, but researchers say there’s still little known about the population, like life expectancy or habits while in water. The species has a very slow birth rate, with low local clutches of 10 or so eggs — sometimes only one or two of which hatch and mature. 

Russell Burke, a professor of biology at Hofstra University, said terrapins could live very long lives, pointing to older specimens he has seen living to 60 years old, but he estimated some could be twice that age. While Burke said it’s hard to estimate the total population on Long Island, he said in Jamaica Bay alone, he knows there are approximately 3,500 adult females.

Terrapin, or turtles, are carnivores, attracted to fish typically used to catch crab. Photo by Kyle Barr

The TED devices are 4 3/4 inches by 1 3/4 inches, an exact measurement, to ensure that while crabs can get through, turtles cannot. According to Kim McKown, leader of the Marine Invertebrate and Protected Resources Unit at the state DEC, the small, plastic TEDs cost $10 for the three needed to secure a normal crab trap. The cost exponentially increases depending on how many traps a fisherman has, with some owning up to 1,000 traps.

Turner said his organization used its own funds and purchased 5,000 TEDs and gifted them to the DEC. The state agency is giving them to Long Island crab fishermen on a first come, first served basis.

Commercial crab fisherman Fred Chiofolo, who hunts in Brookhaven Town along the South Shore, experimented with TEDs on his own for years before the regulations were passed. He said the devices
even improved the number of crabs caught.

“It made a significant difference with the pots that had them versus the pots that didn’t,” Chiofolo said. “Last year I put them in every pot I had — about 200 of them. I’m not going to lie it’s a lot of work to put them in, but we don’t want to catch the turtle. I don’t want them, and [the TED] does keep them out.”

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