Authors Posts by Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr
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The vessels’ pennants and flags quivered in the mid-morning wind. Those who knew their way around a boat could tell Sept. 7 was going to be complicated day for sailing, as a storm that blew over the day previous left lingering swathes of somewhat choppy seas and miniature gales. The 10th annual Village Cup Regatta was going to be interesting one way or the other.

And it was, even before the race started, with the annual regatta raising $91,000 for cancer research, the most it has ever raised since the event started with help from the Port Jefferson Yacht Club 10 years ago. The amount is being split evenly by the national nonprofit Lustgarten Foundation’s pancreatic cancer research program and John T. Mather Memorial Hospital’s Palliative Medicine Program. The event has raised well over $600,000 in the 10 years since it was created.

After hours of tense racing through Port Jefferson Harbor, Port Jeff village regained the cup from Mather, who held it after winning it in 2017. The 2018 event was canceled due to weather, and the winner of the cup went to Mother Nature instead.

At a party after the race at the Port Jefferson Village Center, Mather Hospital gifted the yacht club a plaque commemorating its efforts to help put on the event. 

Joan Fortgang, a Port Jeff resident who has raced for the village the past nine years along with her husband Mort, said she has loved the event since the beginning. As part of the yacht club since 1973, she said their group has lost several good people to cancer, which originally helped prompt the idea for the event.

“This is great fun,” she said.

 

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Senior quarterback Xavier Arline lunges into the endzone for SWR against visiting Bayport-Blue Point in the Wildcats season opener Sept. 6. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior quarterback Xavier Arline led the Shoreham-Wading River with five touchdowns to power the Wildcats past visiting Bayport-Blue Point 41-7 in the team’s opening game of the season at home. Arline amassed 227 yards on 25 carries delivering interim head coach Virgil Romer his first varsity career win. Romer took the helm after 3year head coach Aden Smith was removed from the roster following an alleged incident Aug. 30 at Islip high school in a multiteam preseason scrimmage.

It was midway through the second quarter before Bayport-Blue Point put points on the board, their only score of the game. SWR sophomore running back Max Barone punched in from short yardage for the score and Jake Ekert, a junior, split the uprights five times in the rout. Outside linebacker Jake Wilson, a junior, was credited with a pair of sacks in the victory. The Wildcats hit the road Saturday, Sept. 14 to take on the Royals of Port Jefferson. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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Security footage of man who allegedly broke into Mount Sinai home. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police are looking to identify and locate two men who allegedly broke a door and illegally entered a Mount Sinai home at the end of August.

Police said two men broke a rear glass door to gain entry to a Liso Drive home Aug. 29 at around 8:40 p.m. The men fled the home without any proceeds.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 800-220-TIPS (8477) or texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637). All calls and text messages will be kept confidential.

Stock photo

The state health department said 10 mosquito samples tested positive for West Nile virus in Suffolk County at the end of August, with three samples being found in Rocky Point.

In a release Aug. 30, Suffolk County Department of Health said that the mosquito samples, collected Aug. 20 and 21, had examples of West Nile virus in Lindenhurst, North Babylon, Farmingville, West Babylon, North Patchogue, Huntington Station, Commack and Rocky Point. All but Rocky Point had only one such sample collected.

Suffolk County has reported 53 mosquito samples to date that have tested positive for West Nile and six for Easter equine encephalitis, a virus that can cause brain infections, though no new samples have been collected at this point.

Dr. James Tomarken, the county commissioner of health, said there is a presence, but there is no reason to panic.

“The confirmation of West Nile virus in mosquito samples or birds indicates the presence of West Nile virus in the area,” said Tomarken. “While there is no cause for alarm, we advise residents to cooperate with us in our efforts to reduce their exposure to the virus, which can be debilitating to humans.”

West Nile virus may cause a range of symptoms, from mild to severe, including fever, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, joint pain and fatigue. There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus. Patients are treated with supportive therapy as needed.

The best way to handle local mosquito populations is for residents to eliminate standing or stagnant water pools in their areas. Tomarken said it’s important for residents to stay vigilant especially if they enter the Manorville area.

People are also encouraged to use long sleeves and socks and use mosquito repellent.

Dead birds may indicate the presence of West Nile virus in the area. To report dead birds, call the Public Health Information Line in Suffolk County at 631-787-2200 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Residents are encouraged to take a photograph of any bird in question.

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Department of Public Works’ Vector Control Division at 631-852-4270.

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Varsity football coach Aden Smith, far right, was removed from the team by district officials just before a game against Bayport-Bluepoint Sept. 6. Photo from SWR

Shoreham-Wading River’s varsity football coach Aden Smith has been removed from his position in time for tonight’s game after an alleged “incident” in a multi-team scrimmage event in Islip last friday, the district said.

A statement from Superintendent Gerard Poole said Head Coach Smith had been involved in a scrimmage against Islip that took place Aug. 30 at the Islip High School. Section XI’s website said it was a multi-team nonleague scrimmage.

The district did not provide further details on what kind of incident took place.

“While this investigation is underway, the head coach has been removed and the current assistant coaches will be leading the team,” Poole said in the statement.

Smith could not be reached for comment. 

The team was set to play against Bayport-Blue Point’s Phantoms today at 7 p.m. at the SWR high school, and district officials said the game is still on.

Smith was installed as head coach last year and he helped take SWR past division finals in the 2018 season and to the top seed spot in Division IV this year.

The next SWR board of education meeting is set for next Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m.

 

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Thousands gathered for the last summer concert Aug. 27., but the chamber was denied entry to promote Photo by Greg Catalano

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and legislative challenger Gary Pollakusky have crossed swords over the final summer concert in Rocky Point Aug. 27.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker is running against Republican Gary Pollakusky to represent the 6th District. Photos by Alex Petroski

Members of the Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce said they were restricted from entering the concert venue, featuring Mike DelGuidice and Big Shot, to promote the chamber and their own businesses. Pollakusky is the executive director of the chamber, which was established last year.

Chamber members took to local Facebook groups to decry how they were allegedly treated, saying they were turned away by aides from Anker’s office. In a video posted to the chamber Facebook page, Pollakusky talked to Anker through an aide holding a phone, which had Anker saying she had already told the chamber president no, and said, “Police would be there if you are not off the premises in the next hour.”

Both legislative candidates have put the onus on the other for why the chamber was denied access.

Rocky Point VFW Post 6249 is the main sponsors and promoter for the summer concert series alongside the Suffolk County Legislature. Post Commander Joe Cognitore said he had told the chamber members they were invited and had written a letter to that effect. 

The letter, dated July 22, invites the chamber to manage and invite business in the community to the summer concert series, reading, “In keeping with our commitment to our downtown revitalization grant we look forward to supporting our business community.”

In the past, local businesses have been allowed at the annual summer concerts.

“The only permission required was that of the event organizer.”

— Gary Pollakusky

He added the VFW post does not get involved in politics and runs the concert for the benefit of the veterans and community.

“We’re apolitical,” Cognitore said. “The chamber, civic, they meet at the post. I’m part of all of them because we’re involved in all parts of the community.”

Charles Todaro, the treasurer of the chamber, confirmed the letter dated July 22, which said it gave permission to the chamber to come set up tables at the event. When they arrived, he said, they were denied entry by Anker’s staff, along with the threat of calling the police.

Todaro said the grants that supplies funds for the concert series are meant to help promote shopping in local businesses. He called the reason they were denied access “political,” but said it wasn’t because Pollakusky is running against Anker.

“We are shocked and appalled by Sarah Anker’s political actions because the chamber had written permission from the concert holder to take part in the event,” Todaro said. “We had all the wheels in motion, and we got this very last minute threat not to come.”

While Cognitore confirmed he had given the letter to the chamber, Anker said she had not learned of such a letter until after the concert. She said her challenger had called last minute Monday, Aug. 26, the day before the concert, to say he and chamber members would be attending. She said she told Pollakusky no over the phone, it being too last minute and with thousands of attendants there would be no room for tables. She added she told him he and his chamber members could come as attendants rather than as vendors.

“We have the concerts to bring people to downtown Rocky Point, not so much to bring the vendors into the concert,” she said. “That’s following the grant requirements for the cultural omnibus funding that funds these concerts.”

Pollakusky said they received contact from the VFW the day before the event asking them to place a courtesy call to the legislator’s office. They received a call the next day at 12 p.m. saying they were not allowed inside.

“There’s been a precedent set for years for the North Brookhaven Chamber to attend, there’s also been a precedent set for businesses to attend,” the chamber president said. “The only permission required was that of the event organizer … I’m very disappointed that Sarah would use her office to prevent the chamber and other local businesses from taking part in a community event funded from taxpayer’s money.”

“We have the concerts to bring people to downtown Rocky Point, not so much to bring the vendors into the concert.”

— Sarah Anker

Anker said Pollakusky came to the concert grounds at St. Anthony of Padua R.C. Church in the early afternoon and that he “harassed my staff in a confrontational manner that I had to call police and church security.”

Pollakusky referred to the video posted to the chamber page regarding the chamber’s interactions with Anker’s staff. 

“Our community and our businesses were harmed,” he said.

Both political candidates accused the other of politicizing the situation.

Jennifer Dzvonar, who had been president of the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce before it disassembled in 2017, wrote on Facebook that her chamber had a table at each concert where then members were invited to attend. Dzvonar is now president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce. 

Anker said that while the North Brookhaven chamber had attended previous concerts, they were allowed a single table to advertise members and chamber events. The RPSB chamber was looking to set up multiple tables. She added that previously with the old chamber, details of how and where they would set their tables was established months in advance.

If anything, it’s a rocky start to the upcoming election season.

22 veterans kayaked across Long Island Sound to help promote PTSD awareness. Photos by Kyle Barr

August 30 was a day about numbers.

Twenty-two kayakers in 11 boats. Twenty-two miles from Bridgeport to Port Jefferson. 

22 veterans kayaked across Long Island Sound to help promote PTSD awareness. Photos by Kyle Barr

On each of their minds, the estimated 22 veterans who commit suicide each day, and the many thousands more both veterans and others who suffer from PTSD.

In the final days of summer, the 22 veterans left Bridgeport at just after 10 a.m. and arrived in Port Jefferson at just before 5 p.m. As the fourth year of the event, called the 22-PTSD Awareness Challenge, those veterans have a long way to travel, having to turn their boats in a slight parabola to make it the full 22 miles. 

Frank Lombardi, one of the co-founders of the event and a veteran himself, said the event is extremely poignant just by the number. Veterans Affairs averages the number of soldiers and veterans who commit suicide at approximately 20 a day.

“Twenty-two veterans make the 22-mile trek, and that’s the magic number,” he said. 

22-PTSD Awareness Challenge was started in 2016 with Lombardi, fellow veteran Chris Levi and Alex Rohman, an executive of the Port Jefferson Station-based financial advisors Time Capital. That business, plus three others, helped get the first event up and running. At first, the three co-founders were the only ones to cross. Since then the number of veterans taking the challenge has only increased.

“I found that if I can get veterans to help other veterans, that’s the best way to help them,” said Rohman. “A lot of organizations compete for veterans, in a way, and we wanted to open this up to as many nonprofits as we can, so a veteran can walk in and see a multitude of services that can help.

On their arrival in Port Jefferson, the Port Jeff Village Center was crammed full of a number of veterans services initiatives for them to peruse. PSEG Long Island, while not sponsoring the event, aided the initiative through its community partnership program by providing volunteers. Eight of the kayakers were also employees of PSEG Long Island. 

22 veterans kayaked across Long Island Sound to help promote PTSD awareness. Photos by Kyle Barr

Two tables were for Independent Group Home Living Program, of which Lombardi is CEO. The money, Lombardi said, is going to Victims Information Bureau of Suffolk County, a subsidiary of IGHL that provides therapy services for veterans, among its other services for those experiencing family violence and rape. The first year of the event raised $60,000 to start a treatment program at VIBS, hiring a treatment specialist. While the amount they annually raise has gone down to around $15,000 per event, the IGHL CEO said the event now focuses more on outreach and getting veterans in touch with the services that can help them.

The veterans who kayaked said the Sound was relatively easy on the swell, though that didn’t stop the wind from picking up at the opposite direction once they neared Port Jefferson Harbor. The kayaks they rode in used pedals instead of oars, though the trek wasn’t any less tiring for it, with veterans of several different ages participating.

Friends and fellow veterans Martino Cascio, of Huntington, and Dennis Stringer, of New Hampshire, laughed as they described Cascio flipping their boat to dunk Stringer in the water.

Still, the two, who together completed several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, had a refrain running through their heads. Both have known fellow veterans who suffer from PTSD and others who took their own lives.

“I personally had a couple soldiers I was in a unit with take their own lives,” Stringer said. “It’s definitely affected me personally.”

Bayshore veteran Donna Zephrine has completed the kayak crossing several times. Having done two deployments in Iraq and having seen many of her compatriots from the army days suffer from PTSD, a few taking their own lives, she said the event truly helps gather veterans from all over into a single place where they might find life-saving services.

22 veterans kayaked across Long Island Sound to help promote PTSD awareness. Photos by Kyle Barr

“I try to do it in remembrance of them, and all the brothers and sisters who are still struggling, and all those suffering from PTSD,” she said. 

Mattituck veteran Tom Gross has done the event three years in a row. He served in the U.S. Army from 1984 through 1986 in the 82nd Airborne. 

“Twenty-two vets a day commit suicide, that’s over 8,000 a year, that’s unacceptable,” he said. “It’s a brotherhood, I didn’t understand how much of a brotherhood it was 30 years ago when I was in it, and when I raised my right hand how far that would carry for the rest of my life.”

The Mount Sinai Jetty will see reconstruction early September. Photo by Kyle Barr

After a decade delay and wringing of hands, the Mount Sinai Jetty project is going to start construction within a week as the end of summer closes in.

The ramp up East Beach in Port Jefferson is splashed with waves at high tide. Photo from Margot Garant

Ed Morris, the Brookhaven Town Parks & Recreation  commissioner, said construction is ready to start the project within the week. The contractor Bay Shore-based H&L Contracting is already in the process of gathering supplies. Materials will be stored at the Cedar West Beach Parking lot, which is down the road of the main town beach parking lot. 

“H&L will be starting up a staging area sometime in the next few days — [and will] be mobilizing everything,” he said.

H&L’s $7.4 million contract to rebuild the east and west jetties, which has been crumbled mess for close to a decade. The jetties rocks collapsed and submerged at the seaward ends during  high tide, and lower than 4 feet in some places. Holes in the jetty have also caused erosion to surrounding bluffs and beachfronts. The western jetty has been of particular concern to neighboring Port Jefferson village and its beaches.

Matt Miner, Brookhaven Town chief of operations, said an outside engineering firm did an underwater review of the jetties, which confirmed that sand is slipping through it. The rocks that will be placed in the jetties will match the size as the ones currently used and will restore the structure’s integrity.

In addition, Melville-based surveying and engineering firm Nelson & Pope is being paid $86,000 for full-time construction inspection services. 

The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with a finalization hopefully by spring, Morris said. Construction will be done on opposite sides of the inlet, which the commissioner noted, to allow boats through in both the on and off season.

The jetties are expected to increase in height and become slightly wider. The west jetty will extend slightly further south than the east jetty.

One element of the project that is still to be determined is the outcome of the sand sitting at the bottom of the inlet. Suffolk County has promised to dredge the sand from its bottom once the jetty project is concluded. Port Jefferson Village officials have been chomping at the bit looking to get sand back to repair its rapidly diminishing East Beach. Morris could not confirm where the sand would end up.

“Ideally, sand would be going on both sides of the jetty,” he said.

In the meantime, Port Jefferson officials have plans to piggyback the town’s contracts to aid their own beach restoration efforts.

Mayor Margot Garant said the village will be entering into contract with H&L to drop off materials at East Beach and to use the village’s East Beach parking as a staging area. She said it was still unclear how much of the parking lot they would be using. With the massive amount of rocks the company will be hauling, it could mean several trucks traveling down the steep driveway on a consistent basis. 

“I don’t know to what degree they’re going to be using the east end parking lot as a staging area for some heavy equipment, maybe not at all, but it’s mostly for access,” Garant said. 

As of Sept. 3, the village attorney was set to go over the details with the contractor.

Port Jefferson has plans of its own to revitalize its easternmost beachfront. The contract with H&L allowing them use of the beach will give them stone for use in rebuilding its cracked concrete access ramp. Plans are for a steel wall to cut back 200 feet tied into the hill along the country club property. The mayor said they originally looked at 356 linear feet to run along the tennis courts area, but New York State Department of Environmental Conservation restricted them to the 200.

However, the mayor said the state has promised to allow them to create a rock revetment wall around that tennis courts area to help offset erosion.

The village is still waiting on its permits from the DEC before going out to bid on those projects.

Selden residents lay out candles to spell Jenna’s name on the Newfield High School football field. Photo by Kyle Barr

On the green turf football field at Newfield High School, the Selden community, also swaddled in different shades of green, laid out candles in the grass. The crowd came together like a tide. As they stepped back, the candles spelled out the name “Jenna.” Underneath her name, the flickering yellow and green electric candles and tealights also framed a heart.

Community members hold candles at the Aug. 31 vigil. Photo by Kyle Barr

Jenna Perez, 17, a Selden resident who worked at the Five Guys in Port Jefferson Station was killed Aug. 24 while crossing Route 347 southbound at around 9:25 p.m. She crossed around 300 feet west of Terryville Road, police said. The driver who hit her sped off, and police said they are still searching for that person.

“She was one incredible kid from the day I met her,” said Scott Graviano, the Newfield High School principal. “A very quiet spirit, but always with a smile on her face, always saying hello. And with that sweet, soft quiet personality, she gained the love of support and respect of this entire community.”

For the hundreds of community members looking for ways to heal, remembering Perez as the loving and outgoing high schooler was the best way to deal with their pain. Wearing green, Perez’s favorite color, friends, family, faculty and more from the community held glowing electric candles while the sky slowly darkened Aug. 31. Several friends spoke for her, talking and remembering her fun-loving personality.

“She lived a short life but clearly left a significant imprint,” said Asia Austin to the crowd gathered at the vigil. “As someone who has been grieving recently, I want those to understand that we should not follow down that road in thinking we have no purpose … with support from family and friends, you will find yourself and you will be OK.”

Community members hold candles at the Aug. 31 vigil. Photo by Kyle Barr

Donna Austin was her guardian for the past three years, taking care of Perez and her twin sister Janell in Selden. She had met the twins in 2008 when they were 8 years old living in the Bronx as she went there to take care of one of their relatives. Austin would eventually run a community center out of the building where the Perez family lived, and the twins would always be there to decorate her offices for whatever holiday came up. When their grandmother died, she took both sisters in to live with her back in her hometown of Selden.

“Jenna’s face would have lit up, and she would have been smiling, looking at all of her friends who had come to her like this,” Austin said.

Their caretaker said Jenna thrived in Selden, making innumerable friends and rising higher at Five Guys. She was set to take up her first supervisor training sessions at Five Guys on her birthday Sept. 6. Austin said she had been extremely excited and proud. 

Naziyah Dash, one of Perez’s high school friends, said she has been heartbroken since she learned of her friends death.

“Your story will always be cherished,” she said. “I will keep you alive in my heart.” 

The community is helping monetarily with three separate GoFundMe pages that have been set up in  Perez’s name. The first, which is donating funds to twin sister Janell, has reached close to $9,500. The other two GoFundMe pages are for funeral expenses.

Newfield High School Principal Scott Graviano speaks at the Aug. 31 vigil. Photo by Kyle Barr

“The Newfield community is an amazing place — deep rooted, full of love and support, and that’s evident here tonight,” said the principal. “Janell, we love you very much as a community, I hope you know that. We will continue to love and support you.”

An additional memorial service will be held Sept. 14 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Church on the Sound, 335 Oxhead Road in Stony Brook.

A funeral for Perez will be held at Ortiz Funeral Home, 524 Southern Blvd. in the Bronx Sept. 11 from 4 to 9 p.m. Burial will be at St. Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx Sept. 12 with a time still to be determined.

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File Photo

Police said they arrested a man after he allegedly broke into the home of an off-duty Nassau County Police Department officer in Selden Monday, Aug. 30.

Suffolk County Police said Franklin Almonte, 25 of Selden, entered the Catherine Drive home of off-duty Nassau County Police Officer Mark Kellerman through a kitchen window at around 1:20 p.m. Almonte fled when Kellerman identified himself as a police officer, but he was quickly stopped and restrained by the officer, who called 911. 6th Precinct Patrol officers responded and arrested Almonte.

Officer Kellerman, 45, has been with the NCPD for more than 15 years.

Almonte was charged with criminal trespass 2nd degree and criminal mischief 4th degree. Almonte was held overnight at the 6th Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on September 3.