Authors Posts by Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr
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Wei during a long jump at a recent meet. Photo from Eric Giorlando

By Karina Gerry

For the second time this season, Mount Sinai senior Kenneth Wei knows what it’s like to be No. 1 in the country for the long jump.

The Mount Sinai senior jumped 25 feet, the current record in the nation for this year, Feb. 3, at the Section XI Small School County Championship at the Suffolk County Community College campus in Brentwood. Earlier in the season, Wei held the long jump record with 24 feet when he competed at the Molloy Stanner Games at the Armory Track & Field Center in New York City.

“It was really adrenaline pumping,” Wei said about the experience of competing at such a
level. “Your heart’s racing, it’s really exciting.”

Wei leaps the hurdles at a recent meet. Photo from Eric Giorlando

Eric Giorlando, the Mustangs head track & field coach, proudly pointed out Wei’s other accomplishments at the recent meet, including beating the No. 2 athlete in the country during the 55-meter hurdles head to head and was named Male Athlete of the Meet. 

“It’s an experience that you hope to obtain sometime in your career,” Giorlando said. “It was a pretty big day overall, not just achieving the No. 1 spot in the long jump but to have that meet, in general, it was a pretty powerful moment.”

Giorlando, who has been coaching at Mount Sinai since 2002, has been working side by side with Wei since the beginning.

“Kenny has always done everything that we’ve asked him to do,” Giorlando said. “He probably runs more than the traditional long jumper or triple jumper — he’s kind of been easy to coach and understanding of my philosophy of how to get him to that point.”

Wei has been competing at the varsity level since eighth grade when an assistant coach saw him jump for a basketball in gym class. The long jumper got serious about winning titles last year where he started hitting the weight room. Last season Wei began to see the effects of his hard work with his multiple titles, but despite all the success this year, Giorlando doesn’t think the soon-to-graduate senior has come close to reaching his potential.

“I think he has a lot of room to go,” Giorlando said. “It’s about being patient and understanding that it’s a long road ahead of us — we’re not looking for county titles or state titles at this point, we’re looking for a national title.”

Wei’s goal is to place at Nationals in March where he hopes to compete in two events: the 55-meter hurdles and long jump. Despite the pressure of being a nationally recognized athlete, the nerves don’t really get to him anymore.

“Your heart’s racing, it’s really exciting.”

— Kenneth Wei

“Especially since last year I feel like the nerves have kind of calmed down a little bit, and I just really try to enjoy the run, enjoy the meet and enjoy the atmosphere,” Wei said. 

His coach can’t think of a time that he has ever seen Wei frazzled, even under the most immense pressure.

“Always laser focused,” Giorlando said. “Always knows what needs to be done, and I’d say about 99 percent of the time he is able to achieve those things.”

Wei, who is headed to MIT in the fall, plans on competing for their track & field team because of his passion for the sport.

“My big thing is to encourage people to pursue their passions,” the star athlete said. “And this is one of mine. It’s a big part of my life now, and running with the team competing is a lot of fun, and I hope to keep doing it.”

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File photo

Suffolk County Police 6th squad detectives are investigating a single-vehicle crash that killed a Selden woman the morning of Feb. 8.

Nancy Neumann, 60, of 16 Strauss Road in Selden was driving a 2006 Saturn northbound on Nicolls Road at around 11:23 a.m. when she lost control of the vehicle, which veered off the roadway and rolled onto its side, according to police.

Neumann was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

The Saturn was impounded for a safety check and the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information on this crash is asked to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

Sign outside Bakewicz Farms. Photo by Kyle Barr

On 11 acres of farmland in Wading River, the cross section between green living and green energy is coming to a head as developers are looking to install a solar energy storage facility.

“There are going to be days when the sun doesn’t shine, and the wind doesn’t blow,” said Rocky Point-based attorney Steve Losquadro, who is representing the developer TradeWind Energy and property owners Manzi Homes East construction company in Rocky Point. “If you’re truly committed to renewable energy you have to have storage. Otherwise, the whole thing doesn’t work.”

The 11-acre Bakewicz Farms property, located along Route 25A in Wading River down the road from Shoreham-Wading River High School, is rented by the Bakewicz family. Justin Bakewicz, who helps run the farm along with his mother, Marianne, said he built the farm up for two years, from selling hanging baskets to now growing crops and raising livestock. It was his dream to live that rural lifestyle since he was a kid spending time on his grandfather’s farm in Southampton.

“I put my blood, sweat and tears into this farm,” Bakewicz said.

“I put my blood, sweat and tears into this farm.”

— Justin Bakewicz

The land is already zoned for residential, and Losquadro said it already has preliminary approval from the Town of Brookhaven for a subdivision of 14 single-family homes. The attorney stressed new homes could lead to more traffic along the often-traveled corridor, along with concerns over nitrogen pollution from cesspools and a tax impact from the potential new students residences bring. This development would also mean the complete elimination of any farm property.

Losquadro said, due to feedback from locals, they are planning to draft up plans of the property that would shield the station from view with trees and accommodate a section of farmland in the front of the property to maintain that rural feel.

“This is the only path they could use to keep the farm,” Losquadro said.

Sid Bail, the president of the Wading River Civic Association, said he has heard from residents who were concerned homes might increase the burden on the Shoreham-Wading River school district. Originally Bail had invited TradeWind to give talks to the civic at its meeting in April, though after listening to more feedback from the community, he said he would withdraw from that meeting and tell the developer to focus on other properties such as the unused site that was once the Shoreham nuclear power plant.

“I’m just getting it’s the wrong location in reaction from other people,” Bail said. “I’ve also had some second thoughts about this.”

For years, New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has set lofty goals for New York’s renewable energy production, particularly to have 50 percent of the state’s energy consumed to be renewable energy by 2030. In January, during his State of the State address, the governor announced the adoption of a Green New Deal to promote projects and jobs in the renewable energy economy.

The area has been a focal point for renewable energy under this state initiation. Two solar farms are already soaking up the sun’s rays in neighboring Shoreham: one, a 9.5-megawatt array on a former sod farm along Route 25A, and another 24.9-megawatt array on the former Tallgrass golf course. 

While solar panels have existed for years, renewable energy storage facilities are much less prolific. The closest existing structure currently operates in East Hampton, though that property only has a 5-megawatt capacity whose facility takes up less than one acre. The Wading River facility would have a much larger capacity and need a larger footprint, according to Bail.

Brookhaven town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said the prospective location is close to the area’s power lines and the LIPA electrical substation, which is why the prospective developers are looking closely at the Wading River property. Because the technology is so new, Bonner said TradeWind and the property owner will likely have to work closely with the town, and it might require a zoning change similar to what was done with the solar farms in Shoreham, which maintained residential zoning but received 20-year zone overlays allowing for the arrays.

“You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

— Jane Bonner

She has heard from residents on both sides of the issue. Some locals raised concerns about the loss of farmland and potential noise from converters at the facility, while others are all for the idea, especially in the promise of reducing traffic on the often-congested state road.

“People don’t want houses because they don’t want traffic, some say they will miss the farm, but I have gotten complaints about traffic from the farm,” Bonner said. “You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

At a Wading River civic meeting Jan. 24, Bakewicz was asked what his thoughts on the potential facility were. 

“I wish we had another year to stay here,” he said, adding the family is trying to work out a deal to create a farm on some property in Center Moriches, and he would need time to set up that deal. “I threw my hands up and said, ‘I have handcuffs on because my hands are tied.’”

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Keith Brown, right, and other representatives display site plans for self-storage facility on Baylis Avenue. Photo by Kyle Barr

There are two new developments on the horizon for Port Jefferson Station, tucked away in the backwoods along Sheep Pasture Road. Despite first assumptions, they’re not hotels, restaurants or homes, but self-storage facilities. 

Beyond that, both projects could be located a three-minute drive from each other.

At its Jan. 31 meeting, the Town of Brookhaven board voted unanimously to change the zoning on a parcel located along Sheep Pasture Road, across from the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption from B1 Residential to L1 Industrial for the purpose of creating the 87,550-square-foot self-storage facility on the nearly five-acre wooded area.

site plans for the self-storage site at the corner of Sheep Pasture Road and Dark Hollow Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

“We make our best efforts to balance all of the competing interests and factors and make decisions that take into consideration all concerns.” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said. 

Enrico Scarda, founder of The Crest Group, a real estate firm based in Hauppauge that owns the property, said he expects to start building the structure within the next eight months.

“We had huge community outreach, both to the immediate residents and others, we couldn’t really do anything better than this proposal,” Scarda said. 

The development was initially proposed in 2018, but complaints about the structure being close to the road along with its large amount of parking spaces and its industrial-seeming facade made the company and town go back to the drawing board. 

Anthony Graves, the town’s chief environmental analyst, presented designs of the new structure that included an updated rustic facade, a limitation of 35 feet in height and 75 feet of natural buffering between Sheep Pasture Road, Dark Hollow Road and the structure. This pushes the facility back to the northern end of the property, near the LIRR train tracks. The site allows for 44 parking spaces and 41 spaces for the storage of vehicles. Graves and Crest Group’s attorneys said they promised to include solar panels on the roof and have the entrance onto the property come directly across from Harborview Avenue.

“The safest thing to do is not have people living on the site,” Graves said.

The town said they have received letters of approval from the Three Village Civic Association as well as the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption.

A number of residents spoke at the meeting, and while some spoke up in favor of the proposal, complementing its setback away from the road and for the convenience it could give some residents and businesses, others spoke their opposition to the development.

Anthony Graves, middle, speaks about projects site plans. Photo by Kyle Barr

“The value of my house is definitely going down because of this thing,” Port Jeff Station resident Richard Rowland said. His property was described as a “stone’s throw” away from the planned storage facility.

Cartright said the town worked hard to account for resident’s complaints.

“Every change that was made to the project was in response to a request or concern raised by constituents,” the councilwoman said.

The Crest Group president said they went ahead with this development instead of homes because of the unique nature of the property. In 2015 the town restricted development at the site as it was once owned by Lawrence Aviation Industries, which dumped harmful chemicals onto the property for years that then leached into the soil and groundwater. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, along with the Town of Brookhaven, have been working on cleanup efforts. In the meantime, the town promised to restrict certain industrial and residential developments. 

Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said self-storage facilities, at least compared to overall development, has relatively little impact in terms of cars, traffic or the environment. 

“It’s the least impactful on traffic,” the supervisor said.

Port Jeff Station resident Jim Fox contested the idea the old Lawrence Aviation property is unavailable for single-family residences
development in the near future. 

“The EPA has said there has been a significant reduction in the plume,” Fox said. “It’s going to be 100 percent drinkable in 10 years.” 

Baylis Avenue self-storage

Another self-storage structure has been proposed to the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, one with a much smaller footprint than the one down the road.

This project, which would be located at 16 Baylis Ave., is currently a small set of undeveloped woods and an empty field zoned L1 Industrial sitting next to a pocket of residential homes and apartments.

Designs presented to the civic by Atlanta, Georgia-based developer Talon Inc., show six storage units spaced 30 feet apart, with five being one story and the last being a two-story storage space. Each single-story unit takes up 7,750 square feet and is accessed from the exterior while the two-story has a footprint of 40,500 square feet and will contain an office space as well. 

Charlie McAteer, the civic’s corresponding secretary, said the developers had already talked to the civic and Brookhaven town in summer 2018, but that no moves were made before the Jan. 22 meeting.

Plans for the exterior of the self storage facility on Baylis Avenue. Photo by Kyle Barr

Keith Brown, a zoning attorney from Melville-based Brown & Altman LLP, said they chose the site because of its current zoning, its proximity to the railroad tracks, and the wooded buffer between it and the neighboring Heatherwood House at Port Jefferson apartment complex.

“The site is designed with a 76-feet-deep, contiguous, naturally wooded buffer that will serve as a buffer to the south and a 214-feet buffer to the north, and 48 percent of the site will be landscaped.”

Designs shown at the civic meeting indicate 53 parking spots with another four stalls designated for loading. The road leading up to the facility is currently pockmarked with potholes, and the property at the end of Baylis currently features a small-scale lumber operation. 

Brett Hatcher, senior vice president of investments at Columbus, Ohio-based real estate company Marcus & Millichap, who is working with Talon on the project, said they were already aware of the other self-storage site down the road, but wouldn’t comment on if that facility has changed their plans.

When asked, Scarda said he was unaware of the proposal for Baylis Avenue.

In a letter to the town, the civic relayed its appreciation for the 76-foot buffer and had no other comments on the property.

Rich Shaffer at his office in North Babylon. File Photo by Alex Petroski

In the lexicon of tarot, cards used by soothsayers for divination, there are many cards used to describe a person’s lot in life. 

If Rich Schaffer, the Suffolk County Democratic Committee chairman, could be represented by any card, it would be the chariot. Schaffer is at the head of the race, with the Democrats taking majority positions in the New York State Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, but he’s holding onto the reins of two horses, the moderate and far-left elements of his party, and he said his task is to keep both heading in the same direction.

“My job’s been described as the therapist in chief,” said Schaffer, who is also Town of Babylon supervisor. “I’m always either talking somebody off the ledge or helping them through an issue.”

“My job’s been described as the therapist in chief.”

— Rich Schaffer

In last year’s elections, the Democratic Party won big both in New York state and nationally, securing the state Senate as well as the Assembly, and gaining a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. It was a change of pace for the party, which was beleaguered after its loss during the 2016 elections that saw Donald Trump (R) sent to the White House.

In Suffolk County, many GOP members retained their seats despite hard campaigns from the Dems. Longtime Republican representatives such as state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) kept their seats in Albany, while U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) won out at 51.5 percent against his Democratic challenger Perry Gershon. Still, Schaffer said they have made strides in the county, pointing to the election of state Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood) who won out over her GOP rival Dean Murray by 2,996 votes.

Schaffer added that he thinks the next time District 1 is up for grabs, it could swing blue.

Suffolk County “has been blue in the past,” the Democratic committee chairman said. 

Specifically, he points to the 35-day government shutdown that was put on hold for three weeks Jan. 25. Schaffer laid the blame for the shutdown at the president’s feet and said his Republican supporters in Congress would take the brunt of the blame.

“What they are doing to people’s livelihoods and their survival is unconscionable,” he said. “A political debate has now turned into almost scorched earth, where people’s lives are at stake.”

On the state level Schaffer said there are, all in all, six Democratic members elected to the state Senate who will represent Long Island, including new members Martinez and James Gaughran (D-Northport). 

This is important to the party commissioner, as in other years when the Democrats had majorities in both state houses, his experience was many of those focused on New York City rather than Long Island’s more suburban elements.

The differences between those two subsets of Democrats is something Schaffer said he’s particularly aware of. Nationally, much has been said about the rise of much more left-leaning Democrats, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx). She has been open about progressive ideas such as universal health care, establishing tuition-free colleges and trade schools, and creating a marginal tax system as high as 70 percent, which would mostly affect those in the wealthiest tax brackets. A bill for single-payer health care is currently being circulated in the state Assembly.

“You can’t have Cortez running in East Northport.”

— Rich Schaffer

Schaffer said he was not against policies such as universal health care, but he wanted the discussion to be had up in Albany about how the state was planning to pay for that program. 

Schaffer also questioned the viability of a Cortez-like candidate in Suffolk County. 

“I mean it’s easy for [Cortez] to speak like she does with the district she comes from, when your main election battle is the primary,” Schaffer said. “When you’re running Suffolk County North Shore and your district is not as friendly registration wise, this gets to if you elect Democrats who support basic Democratic ideas.”

Overall, Schaffer was adamant the best way to win Democratic seats in Suffolk County was to form coalitions, work off core democratic principles and promise to work toward local issues.

“You can’t have Cortez running in East Northport,” he said. “Some people will argue with me that ‘Yes, you can,’ but it has not been my experience out here. That’s not to say we can’t have things on the progressive agenda, but they have to be spoken about in a way that’s going to get you 50 percent plus one.”

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Renee Goldfarb, the owner of Origin of Era. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Karina Gerry and Kyle Barr

The winds of change have began to blow in Port Jefferson village as the new year brings a host of changes to the area’s small businesses.

A few restaurants in the area are closing. Japanese restaurant Oceans 88, famous for its sushi bar, planned to be closed Jan. 31. Owners did not respond for requests to comment.

“There’s no more sushi in the village, that’s a real shame,” said village Mayor Margot Garant.

Though not all is bad as a number of new shops, both new names and old names, take shape all around the village.

Billie’s 1890 Saloon

Billie’s 1890 Saloon, a Port Jefferson staple, has reopened its doors after a kitchen fire forced it to close two years ago.

The bar and restaurant located on Main Street is back in business under its original ownership. Founded in 1981 by Billie E. Phillips and his late first wife, Billie’s 1890 Saloon soon became a community favorite. In 1987, after six years, Phillips sold his business, but after the fire in June of 2016 he purchased the restaurant and bar back with his son, Billie S. Phillips, and set about renovating the space. 

Billie’s 1890 Saloon. Photo by Kyle Barr

While the layout of Billie’s has remained relatively the same, the crowd has changed.

“It’s a more grown-up establishment,” Phillips Jr. said. “The same tables, and bar length and everything like that but it’s just been cleaned up and refurbished and we’re just going for a little more of an adult crowd than what it had turned out to be before the fire.”

Before the 2016 fire, Billie’s was considered a college bar, tailoring to the younger crowd with its infamous wheel, which was spun every hour and wherever the wheel landed was the drink that would be offered at a reduced price. Now, it has an age limit of 23, pushing away the crowd that made it so popular before.

“The new Billie’s seems to have a very different vibe,” Christopher Gulino, a former East Setauket resident said. “The renovations look great, but I think the customers that were regularly going to Billie’s when it was previously opened were looking forward to seeing the same old Billie’s.”

While the younger crowd may not be too happy with the changes to Billie’s, Phillips Jr. said they were necessary for the business to succeed.

“Billie’s had become the local meeting place and people have very fond memories of it,” Billie the younger said. “But I don’t think the business model they had would have survived much longer.”

New shop from East Main & Main

Food lovers can rejoice as one of the owners of East Main & Main is opening a new restaurant in Port Jefferson village.

Lisa Harris and her husband Robert Strehle opened the popular donut shop in June 2017, offering customers new flavors of donuts daily. After the success of the donut shop, Harris is ready to take on a new solo venture, a restaurant that offers brunch, lunch, dinner and shareable appetizers.

“It’s always been my dream to own a restaurant and run a restaurant,” Lisa Harris said. “It just seemed like the natural next step — it seemed like it was something that we were ready to take a chance.”

The new restaurant is slated to open around the end of February on Main Street. Harris said she plans for the space to have a casual comfortable vibe.

East Main and Main in Port Jefferson Village. Photo by David Lucas

“We didn’t have to do any building, any construction, or anything like that,” Harris noted. “We were very lucky because the restaurant there had pretty much everything we needed, it was just something we had to make our own by changing the color scheme and doing a lot of cleaning.”

Harris plans on having some crossover between the staff at the donut shop and the new restaurant, but she is also looking to hire a full-time crew.

“So we will be creating some new jobs,” Harris said. “Probably seven to 10 new jobs will be created in Port Jefferson, which will be great.”

While rumors have been making their rounds that East Main & Main is closing, Harris assures that’s not the case.

“We’re not moving the donut shop,” Harris said. “The donut shop is staying right where it is.”

And if donuts are more your thing, don’t worry, as Harris insists her and her husband are open to the idea of opening up another space somewhere else if the right opportunity comes along.

“It’s finding the right spot is always a challenge,” Harris said. “We’re kind of so spoiled here because of the foot traffic that we get. It’s just always exciting and fun, so we’re looking for a spot that is very similar to Port Jeff and there aren’t a lot of towns like Port Jeff.”

Origin of Era

A new clothing shop that just opened Jan. 26 in Chandler Square is looking to attract women of all shapes and sizes with a fashion-forward, inclusive ideal.

Renee Goldfarb, the owner of Origin of Era, is a Long Island native but has spent much of her life living in Queens and Brooklyn and abroad while working in the fashion industry. 

“I worked in film and fashion for 15 years — moved abroad and worked in Prague and Berlin. I worked in two corporations in branding, but I didn’t want to make money for anyone else anymore, I wanted to do it for myself,” she said.

Origin of Era in Port Jefferson Village. Photo by Kyle Barr

The owner opened and operated another store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, for several years before she and her husband bought a home in Amityville Harbor. When coming to Long Island Goldfarb wanted to find a town that had the same sense of community she originally felt in that city neighborhood. Her selection was between Babylon village and Port Jeff village, but she chose the latter because she said the elected officials had small businesses in mind, especially with events like the annual Charles Dickens Festival.

While she said her previous store focused on vintage clothing, her new shop emphasizes the modern. In terms of her clothing selection, Goldfarb supplies sizes from extra small to extra-large, and offers free alterations to any items purchased in the store. The brand selection encompasses companies from the U.S., Spain, the U.K., India and China, though she stressed she only selected ethically produced clothing.

Most important in her selection, she said, was the emphasis on getting clothing only designed by women.

“If I owned a woman’s store I would make sure we represented all women and made it inclusive,” Goldfarb siad. “That’s why I wanted to make sure we only carried female designers … If we think logically, we are catering to women, nobody knows women best but a woman.”

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Debra Bowling, the new owner of Pasta Pasta, and her husband Jerry. Photo by Kyle Barr

Debra Bowling, the new owner of Pasta Pasta in Port Jefferson village, knows the customers who walk through the old wood doors. She herself started 20 years ago as a waitress and has kept loyal to the restaurant ever since. Now, after two decades, she’s in charge.

However, despite owning the restaurant, she expects she will still continue to wait tables.

“That’s not going to change,” Bowling, a Setauket resident, said. She was almost successful at suppressing a laugh. “We still have two kids in college, so I really put a lot of hours in here. I said if I’m going to work so hard, I might as well work for myself.”

The restaurant serves what the new owner described as American food with an Italian flavor, providing everything from fish to pasta to salads. The eatery is also famous for its flaky and moist garlic bread.

Previous owners Steve Sands and Jules Buitron bought Pasta Pasta back in 1998, already owning another restaurant on the South Shore. Sands said they already knew and liked the Port Jeff restaurant, back when its menu was limited to pizza and pasta, so they decided to purchase it and bring in Bowling, who was at that time planning on moving to the North Shore.

Pasta Pasta in Port Jefferson Village. Photo by Kyle Barr

Once Sands and Buitron decided they wanted to sell, Bowling was the first person they talked to about buying the restaurant.

 

“She’s a hard worker, she knows the business and she knows the customers,” Sands said. “She’s got a great team. Much of the kitchen crew has been there before we even bought the restaurant.”

Sands said he still plans to visit the restaurant when he can.

“The reason I bought it because it’s always been my favorite restaurant,” he said.

That doesn’t mean it’s not a big transition for Bowling and her family. The new restaurant owner’s husband Jerry is also there on a regular basis where he can be seen manning the phone and helping with whatever needs doing. 

So much of Bowling’s life has been spent at the restaurant, and her children have also moved through the restaurant as a part of growing up.

“Five of my six kids have worked here, and two of them still work here,” the restaurant owner said. 

While many have moved on, the kids have been supportive of their mother’s new venture, with her son Ryan Burns posting a heartwarming social media message to his mother saying how much she inspired him.

And even with these new expectations laid on her shoulders, Bowling still has two families to assist her, one at home and one at work, including kitchen manager Anthony Vadala, who has helped Bowling and her team throughout the years. Now with her running the show those two families are more intertwined than ever.

“We’re all a family here, the kitchen staff has been here before me,” she said. “Most of the waitresses were here between 10 and 15 years.”

“We’re all a family here, the kitchen staff has been here before me.”

— Debra Bowling

Bowling intends to keep the food and the atmosphere the same as it has been, though she does have a few design changes in mind, including some new paint on the walls, new bathrooms and replacing the windows up front so they can be swung open on atmospheric summer evenings.

The customers who have gone to the restaurant for years probably couldn’t accept too much change, and there are quite a few regulars. Even before she owned the restaurant, Bowling was a well-known face to her multitudes of regular customers, often those who have their own set of menus internalized in the minds of the Pasta Pasta staff. Some of those longtime customers who constantly travel make it a point to stop in her restaurant, even going out of their way to call ahead of time and beg the restaurant for a bowl of pasta, the kind the restaurant staff knows they like in particular. Baby showers have been hosted in the restaurant, and just last year, the restaurant hosted a wedding as well.

“On New Year’s Eve we had a wedding here,” Bowling said. “They met on their first date here on New Year’s Eve two years ago. She met here, she has to get married here … That’s just from them getting to know us over the years.”

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Mount Sinai junior Adham Shata in the final match of the championship. Photo from video by Mount Sinai School District

Several days after Mount Sinai’s wrestling team won the state championship, coach Matt Armstrong was still basking in the glow of the victory.

“It was really something coming back to school,” Armstrong said. “It was one of those things being a state champ really means
something.”

More than 800 spectators came out to watch their schools compete at the New York State Wrestling Dual Meet Championship at the SRC Arena and Events Center at Onondaga Community College Jan. 26 where 12 of the best Division 2 teams squared off. 

Mount Sinai’s wrestling team crowds onto the mat. Photo from video by Mount Sinai School District

Mount Sinai, victors in the 2018 state championship, was No. 5 seed and received a bye for the first match. Mount Sinai started off seemingly unstoppable, first competing against Cold Spring Harbor, beating them, 47-27, then against Pleasantville which the Mustangs took to the mat, 57-27, to advance to the semi-finals. 

“I knew we could beat the first two, but the semi-finals were pretty interesting,” the wrestling coach said. “We had seen them last year and we knew how competitive they were.

That’s where they met the No. 1 seed Tioga. Mount Sinai had a balanced line-up and were able to deliver a 34-27 win, advancing then to the finals against Central Valley Academy from Ilion, the No. 2 seed. 

Out the gate things took a turn for the worse for Mount Sinai and after falling behind ,31-12, it appeared they were headed for defeat. Suddenly it all came around, and Mount Sinai went on a scoring run. Junior Brendan “Goody” Goodrich started it off with a win and was then followed by wins by brothers Mike and Joe O’Brien. Then it was victory after victory with fellow teammates Ryan Shanian and Matt Campo. 

Campo, wrestling at 152 pounds, won a  crucial match with Hunter Shaut, the former New York State Champion from Central Valley Academy in overtime 4-2. This was followed by a win by Joe Goodrich, at 160 pounds, who brought Mount Sinai even with Central Valley, 31-31. Central Valley won the next match taking the score to 34-31 with one match remaining. 

The final match fell on the shoulders of junior Adham Shata at 182 pounds. With the whole team cheering him on, Shata pinned his opponent and the entire arena erupted in wails and shouts of victory, as Shata brought his team up to 37-34 and won a 2nd consecutive championship. The entire team rushed onto the mat and piled onto Shata, cheering their victory.

You could say something great about every single kid.”

— Matt Armstrong

Armstrong couldn’t pick one person out amongst the team. He was adamant that every student played their part in the win.

“I think I could go up and down the entire lineup,” the coach said. “You could say something great about every single kid. Some were just outmatched, and even though they were they wouldn’t get pinned.”

Several students gained standout wins during the tournament, with the O’Brien brothers, Shanian, Campo and Goodrich each going up to 30 season wins. Senior Mike Sabella at 195 pounds, won all his matches by pinning his opponents.

“There might have been some people who though the first time was a fluke,” Armstrong said. “To do it back to back is pretty incredible.”

The season is not yet over for the Mount Sinai wrestling team with the team gearing up to compete in the individual county and state tournaments. The individual county tournament takes place Feb. 2, and those who win in that or get a wild card will have the opportunity to head back upstate and compete in the State Wrestling Championship at Times Union Center in Albany Feb. 22 and 23. 

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Picture of man who allegedly stole from a Speedway in December 2018. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police 6th Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate a man who allegedly stole merchandise from a Miller Place gas station in December, 2018.

A man allegedly stole approximately $600 worth of cigarettes from Speedway, located at 370 Route 25A, on three occasions between Dec. 5 and Dec. 7, 2018.

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 1-800-220-TIPS, texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637) or by email at www.tipsubmit.com.

All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

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Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister. Photo by Kyle Barr

While the Port Jefferson School District is preparing its budget for the 2019-20 school year, the shadow of LIPA still hangs over the small school district.

Superintendent Paul Casciano said the LIPA outcome, at least in terms of drafting next year’s budget, was not as bad as it could have been. 

“It was translated by the town to be on the assessment rather than our payments,” he said. “With the glide path it gets more challenging later on, but we have time to make adjustments.”

“With the glide path it gets more challenging later on, but we have time to make adjustments.”

— Paul Casciano

In December 2018, the Town of Brookhaven settled with LIPA over the tax assessment of the Port Jefferson power station whose white and red smokestacks can be seen almost anywhere near the harbor. LIPA filed a lawsuit almost a decade ago against both Brookhaven and the Town of Huntington saying its plants in Port Jeff and Northport have been overassessed by millions of dollars and were seeking a 50 percent reduction. The settlement decision agreed to lower LIPA’s assessments by 50 percent over a nine-year period from $32.6 million to $16.8 million starting with the 2017-18 tax year.

Even after the settlement, district officials said the Port Jefferson School District would have the second lowest school tax rates compared to others in Brookhaven Town, only being beaten by Riverhead. The district, going into the ninth year of the settlement, would have a tax rate approximately 100 less than the average of non-Port Jefferson school rates, according to the district.

The school district, along with several village residents, feared what a 50 percent reduction could do to school taxes. Casciano, along with Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister, hosted a special meeting for district residents where they estimated a tax rate of 159 in the 2019-20 school year, and an estimated 243 by the 2026-27 school year.

If local revenues remain flat and with their expected tax levy cap sitting at 1.18 percent, the district expects their current $43.9 million budget will adjust to a $44.1 million rollover budget next school year, an increase of $232,930 if the district maintains all current programming and staff. The current school tax levy — the money a school makes in local area taxes — of $36,434,479 would jump to $37,075,627, more than the schools expected 1.2 percent tax cap.

Leister said this would mean reductions, but the district is currently in the process of creating the upcoming school year’s draft budget.

“We haven’t identified those reductions yet,” Leister said. “We are going to take the next few weeks to see if it can be done through efficiencies: We have to identify what our enrollment looks like, what our student interest looks like and what our scheduling looks like.”

Casciano said this difference is minimal, and it can be made up on the school’s end by tighter budgeting.

“If the community stays in support of the district, it won’t be as dramatic,” the superintendent said. “If the school has to absorb the entire cost of the tax loss, it will be.”

“A cynic would look at it and say you’re just trying to dampen any resistance in the short term and pushing it back.”

— Todd Pittinsky

Before news of the settlement, residents had proposed that the district combine with other area districts, but Leister said that combining with a district like Comsewogue or Mount Sinai would overall increase tax rates. Port Jefferson’s estimated tax rate in the 2019-20 school year is 159 compared to Comsewogue’s 262, assuming an annual levy increase of 2 percent, or under the New York State tax cap.

While the difference is minimal for this school year, the district said the glide path of LIPA’s assessment reduction ramps up over time. While the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years see a 3.5 percent reduction, later years show reductions going up to 7.5 and 8.25 percent.

Todd Pittinsky, a Port Jeff resident and professor in the Department of Technology and Society at Stony Brook University, said it would behoove the district to think long term when it comes to the reductions over time, and not make those cuts more drastic when the reductions start to increase dramatically.

“A cynic would look at it and say you’re just trying to dampen any resistance in the short term and pushing it back,” Pittinsky said. “I would hope that the effort is one-eighth each year. The formula you are using is going to push back the pain of dislocation or relocation, and it would be very easy to think that other decision makers will be in this role.”

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