Authors Posts by Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr
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Above, Cayla Rosenhagen, Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and Iris Rosenhagen pose for a selfie. Photo by Kyle Barr

Walking along Cedar Beach Aug. 2, one child’s foot scuffed along something that wasn’t rock or sand. Lifting it out, Sean Hoag and his father Benjamin looked down and saw a small straw. Sean sticks it in his bucket. After walking around for 10 minutes, his small bucket is nearly full to the brim with everything from pieces of plastic to cigarettes to bottle caps.

Mermaid Mist thanks Sean Hoag for cleaning up the beach. Photo by Kyle Barr

Over two days, young people like Sean helped dig out just under 8,000 pieces of litter from Cedar Beach, according to Cayla and Iris Rosenhagen, two 14-year-old twins from Selden who helped start the beach cleanup they dubbed Beach Bucket Brigade.

From when they were around 10 years old, the girls would strike out on their own to do cleanups at their local parks and beaches, but on Aug. 2 and 3, the environmentally-minded sisters took it to the next level, hosting their own Beach Bucket Brigade to help clear Mount Sinai’s premier town beach of garbage and debris. They had planned the event for little more than two months ago.

“We really love wildlife. We’ve always been interested in conservation,” said Cayla. “We’ve been interested in beach cleanups in the past, and we’ve done some ourselves, so we wanted to find a way to reach other community members.”

Both Rosenhagen sisters were involved in all parts of the project, from collecting garbage to showing a breakdown of all the trash they collected after the fact.

“Wherever we go here, there’s litter everywhere,” Iris said. “So, it’s really a beautification project, to help the environment and help the animals.” 

The 14-year-old pointed out that just in the first few minutes of holding their event, they already had many families walking around doing their part, adding, “So it’s not just us.”

The girls reached out to Town of Brookhaven town officials to help get everything set, including Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who said she was more than happy to oblige.

Participants walk along Cedar Beach picking up debris. Photo by Kyle Barr

“This was all on their own, and they met with Councilman [Kevin LaValle (R-Selden)] with their own agenda, their own meeting,” Bonner said. “They designed everything, all on their own.”

From a young age, the Rosenhagen twins have been infatuated with nature, especially animals, and among those, especially birds. Their mother, Raina, said before the girls could talk, they would make animal noises instead.

“They had the idea, and I just said run with it,” she said. “They took a chance on it, and we’re very pleasantly surprised it’s been well received.” 

Within a few minutes of searching, participants were already back to the main tent, handing over buckets full of debris and trash. For each bucket of trash they returned, they were given a raffle ticket in which they could win any number of ecologically-sourced and recycled toys and products. In addition to the buckets, each bucketeer was given a bingo card, where they could strike out a patch for each different type of material they found on the beach.

The day was meant to incentivize and make enjoyable the act of taking care of one’s surroundings. Local mermaid actors, Mist and Marina, came to Cedar Beach to wish the cleanup well and give “mermaid kisses and starfish wishes” to the young people who helped clean the beach.

Making taking care of the beach fun is especially important, Iris said, as she pointed out approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans each year, while items like plastic straws and other plastic items are either ingested by marine life or otherwise harm them by being caught in gills or other parts of sea creatures.

Participants walk along Cedar Beach picking up debris. Photo by Kyle Barr

On Friday, Aug. 2, around 60 volunteers collected 3,827 pieces of litter, a majority of which was plastic, glass and cigarette butts. The following day, volunteers collected 3,885 pieces of litter, even more of which was plastic but also a heavier amount of paper products.

The sisters’ dad, Craig, said his daughters have managed to make him even more environmentally-minded than he already was, and have even volunteered to help set up another beach cleanup at Sunken Meadow State Park for him and his company.

“Most of this is just homegrown,” the father said. “They just care so much about the animals and, obviously, the planet.”

This is only the beginning for the Beach Bucket Brigade, with them already advertising additional cleanups at the beach Aug. 29 with what’s called the Beach Bucket Brigade’s Books at the Beach that involves a story time for young kids under the age of 10 then heading out to again clean the beach of litter.

“In your head, you know there’s something you can do,” Iris said.

LI and tristate distance swimmers participate in one of world’s longest swim challenges

SHU Swim teammates Victoria Catizone, Nikole Rudis, Julia Pusateri and Shanna Haddow pose for a picture after finishing the grueling 15.5 mile trek. Photo from SWIM organization

Just over 30 years ago, in 1987, three swimmers and two boats launched from Port Jefferson. For more than 15 miles they dragged themselves across the dark blue-green waters of the Long Island Sound, finally making it to Bridgeport, all for the sake of those battling cancer. 

Swimmers take off from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport. Photo from SWIM organization Facebook

This year, just over 100 swimmers sank into the cold waters of the Sound early morning Aug. 3, and in three groups took off on the 15.5-mile trek across the Sound with around 64 support boats and 20 law enforcement vessels staying in pace beside them all the way across to Captain’s Cove Seaport in Bridgeport, Connecticut. 

The event is part of Bridgeport-based St. Vincent’s SWIM Across the Sound Marathon, helping to support thousands of people in the Fairfield County, Connecticut area battling cancer. While in 1987 the swimmers raised approximately $5,000 for cancer charity, this has jumped to an average of $250,000 to $300,000 annually in modern times. So far, the foundation is halfway to its final goal of $300,000, while the SWIM program raises around $2 million a year through all their various events.

The money goes to the assistance of people suffering from cancer in the Connecticut area for financial assistance for things beyond what insurance provides, such as mortgage and tax bills. They also help provide mammograms and ultrasounds for uninsured women.

“The goal of the swim is to help patients get through the diagnosis and the cancer, a lot of them aren’t working,” said Lyn Fine-McCarthy, the executive director of St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation. “There is about 30,000 individuals every year that we help, these are patients who are going through cancer treatments, out of work, and sometimes are single moms, and just need a lot of financial assistance.”

Fine-McCarthy added they are grateful to Danfords Hotel & Marina for being the staging ground and home base for the event for years going on.

SHU Swim teammates Victoria Catizone, Nikole Rudis, Julia Pusateri and Shanna Haddow pose for a picture. Photo from SWIM organization

Each relay team is asked to raise a minimum of $7,500, while two-person teams must raise $3,500 and solo swimmers a minimum of $1,500.

While a majority of the swimmers were from Connecticut, a good portion came from the tristate area and from as far away as Tennessee and Florida. Two native Long Island swimmers and exercise science majors at Connecticut’s Sacred Heart University, Victoria Catizone, of Sayville, and Shanna Haddow, of Northport, participated in a team where they have already raised just over $3,000 for the event with a goal of reaching $7,500.

Haddow said this was the first time she and her three teammates have participated in the marathon, with her finishing in a time of 7 hours, 17 minutes.

“We had never done it before,” she said. “We knew what to expect, but not really what to expect. We were taking it swim by swim, and we knew we had a long day ahead of us.”

Haddow, has been swimming since she was 6 years old. She now swims distance for her college team, and said they trained year-round with two practices a day during the school semester and swimming all summer every day up until the start of the race.

Catizone, team captain, has been swimming for nine years, adding it wasn’t just their first time with the marathon, but collectively their first time in open water with the threat of the current, rising waves and poor visibility.

“You definitely start to feel it in your shoulders,” she said. “Once we got to mile 5 it got to be a little mentally grueling, but you just think about the reason why you’re doing it, and the people who you’re doing it for, and it helps you push through.”

Haddow said stepping into open water was at times a shock, sometimes literally as they approached the middle of the Sound where the temperature grew cold, and they swam on without wet suits. 

swimmers meet their boat professionals in front of Danfords Hotel & Marina. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Once we swam into Captain’s Cove, spirits were high again, and once we came in sight of the harbor, we kicked it into gear and all four of us were sprinting to make it to the finish,” she said, adding she was the last one to swim the last leg to the finish line. “Because you swam all day through 15.5 miles, just getting there and hearing your name being called, participating with such a great foundation, it was just the best feeling.”

Both the team and individual swimmers struggled the distance for people in their lives who have or are currently battling cancer. Catizone swam in honor of her grandparents and a friend who is a two-time cancer survivor. Haddow swam in honor of her grandfather, who was diagnosed with bladder cancer last year. As a team, they swam in memory of a SHU alumni family member who passed last year from cancer.

“Once it got really tough, I told myself, ‘Keep swimming,’ because it was not for me, it was for somebody else,” Haddow said.

A peek into the closed garden along Terryville Road, currently covered in weeds. Photo by Kyle Barr

Overgrown with weeds, the lone park on Terryville Road in Port Jefferson Station looks forsaken. Where students once grew plants for harvest, now the only thing cultivated there are weeds.

A peek into the closed garden along Terryville Road, currently covered in weeds. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though that could change, if local civic leaders manage to get the community involved.

“One day, I said to myself, maybe we can get this going again,” Sal Pitti, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association said.

The community garden, as it’s known, is owned by the Comsewogue school district, though it has been unused for years, according to Pitti.

The civic has asked community members for aid in repairing the garden, located just north of St. Gerard Majella Church on the other side of the street. The garden already contains an existing greenhouse, planter boxes, a gazebo and shed, though they have been unused for several years.

Susan Casali, associate superintendent at Comsewogue, said the property had been taken care of in the past by the Comsewogue Youth Center for years, but suddenly ceased operations several years ago. She added the district is looking forward to having the community revitalize the small patch of greenery along Terryville Road.

“The school district is very excited to have the community revitalize the garden and we have spoken to Sal and Ed about what we can do to help make the project a success and beautify the community,” she said.

Pitti and the civic are looking for a rotating cast of aid, with the civic president saying he did not wish for “the same five people to be doing the work every two weeks.”

The garden has been mowed enough to keep the grass from getting too long, but vines currently strangle the garden’s surrounding fence. On the inside, the greenhouse stands intact along with flower boxes, but those have similarly been surrounded by weeds.

Ed Garboski, the vice president of the civic, posted to the Comsewogue Community Group Facebook page asking if any community members would be interested in volunteering. Jennifer Dzvonar, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, said she would look into ways her group could help, while Rob DeStefano, school district board member, said he would look into getting Cub Scout Pack 354 families involved in aiding the project. Other community members mentioned getting local Girl Scout troops on board as well.

While Garboski expects they will gather enough interest and volunteers for the initial cleanup, what they truly require is people dedicated to weekly maintenance.

“Our future hope is to create a location our kids can use for school-related activities of all capacities, as well as a place our senior community members may relax,” Garboski said.

Once the project is up and running, Pitti said they could potentially donate the food they produce to local churches for soup kitchens or other such outreach programs.

Those who are interested in assisting in the project can visit the civic’s website at www.PJSTCA.org and send an email with one’s information and availability.

Melissa and Doug Bernstein, right, take a stroll across Port Jefferson for a company retreat aided by the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Kyle Barr

More than 400 employees from the Connecticut-based toy company Melissa & Doug descended from the Port Jefferson ferry July 25.

Director of Operations for the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce Barbara Ransome said the toy company contacted them about coming to Port Jeff for a company retreat. The chamber rolled out the red carpet, putting up signs welcoming them to the village while some local businesses welcomed them with signs to encourage them to patronize their shops.

Melissa and Doug Bernstein, the founders of the company, were glowing as they walked down the streets of the village. 

“We look at it all the time across the sound,” said Doug Bernstein. “We know how charming this town is.” 

They had previously visited Port Jefferson several times before, but were surprised that many of their employees had never been across the Long Island Sound to visit the small village across the way.

“Coming over I asked everyone who I was meeting: Have you been here recently,” Melissa Bernstein said. “Almost everyone on the boat said we hadn’t done this before,”

The Port Jefferson chamber, along with business groups in Bridgeport across the Sound, are looking to find ways to bridge that disconnect. 

The Bridgeport to Port Jefferson ferry company is looking to work with chambers on both sides of the Sound. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Certainly, we have enough to do for a day’s visit,” Ransome said. 

Jeff Bishop, the business development manager for the Bridgeport Regional Business Council, said he has long felt a connection to Port Jefferson and Long Island as a whole, even though he was born and raised in the Connecticut city across the pond.

“It makes complete sense to connect the two economically, as much as we can,” he said. “It seems like a no-brainer to me.” 

The Bridgeport area has a few new projects underway, including a seasonal amphitheater, along with new restaurants and breweries that complement a growing downtown. This has business leaders excited. 

Ransome said the point is to encourage people to shop in local businesses without coming with their cars and using up the village’s valuable parking spaces.

Fred Hall, the vice president and general manager of the ferry company that sails between the two locations, said that in the earlier parts of the 20th century, Bridgeport was the more “happening” town, but that started to change in the late ʼ60s and early ʼ70s, as Bridgeport’s thriving industries collapsed. 

Currently, well over 200,000 people make the trip from Bridgeport to Port Jeff, Hall said, but much fewer take the trek in the opposite direction. Hall said he blames himself in part for not emphasizing day travel from Port Jeff to Connecticut’s coastal city.

“Quite frankly, I don’t think I have done a good enough job in encouraging people to go to Bridgeport,” he said. “I think there are wonderful things about it.”

Ransome and Hall invited Bishop and other economic and local leaders from Bridgeport to tour Port Jeff July 19 and help get a layout of what Port Jeff offers to day-trippers coming from Connecticut. Ransome and Bishop said plans are for Port Jeff chamber members to visit Bridgeport sometime in September to lay out what possible opportunities they may have. 

After that, Hall said, the next step is to lay out a number of travel and discount packages for people taking day trips to either area when taking the ferry. 

Hall said he already has a tour department within the ferry company that can handle most of those arrangements.

Unlike much of Port Jefferson village, which is suitable to walking, Bridgeport’s attractions  often require transportation. The Beardsley Zoo, for example, is located approximately two miles from the ferry pier. One option is to use shuttle buses, of which Hall said his company already operates two on the Connecticut side. Business leaders might also promote overnight stays between each area.

Overall, Bishop said he finds there is a greater connection between the two towns than many people realize.

“I have gotten to know a lot of people who grew up on Long Island … I have had very similar upbringings and outlooks and way of viewing things as people who grew up on Long Island,” he said. “I think the communities are so closely linked together. It’s almost mindblowing to me.”

 

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File photo
Photo from SCPD

 

Police  are trying to identify and locate a man who allegedly attempted to use a debit card he stole from a Stony Brook business.

A man allegedly stole cash and a debit card from a wallet belonging to an employee at North Country Gas, located at 105 Main Street July 19. Later that day, the man then allegedly attempted to use the debit card to purchase gift cards at Target, located at 255 Pond Path in Setauket, but the purchase was declined.

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.

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August LaRuffa

August J. LaRuffa Jr., a longtime community resident, died June 8. He was 87.

August was born March 26, 1932, in Brooklyn and was the son of Concetta and August LaRuffa.

He was an Air Force veteran of the Korean War but later became an engineer, since retired. He was known as a smart man, a master of the trade who worked on the Apollo moon mission. He also enjoyed doing crosswords.

Left to cherish his memory are his daughter Gina, son Dr. August LaRuffa, four grandchildren and many other family and friends.

Services were held at Bryant Funeral Home June 12. He was afforded full military honors at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online
guest book.

Katherine Dzurney

Katherine Dzurney, a longtime community resident, died June 11. She was 98.

Katherine was born Oct. 12, 1920, in
Perryopolis, PA, and was the daughter of Eva and Michael Zehall.

Katherine was a homemaker, and she enjoyed knitting, sewing, growing a vegetable garden and cooking.

Left to cherish her memory are her son Ray, her grandchild and other family and friends.

She was preceded in death by her husband Stanley.

Services were held at Bryant Funeral Home June 13, and interment followed in the Calverton National Cemetery.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online
guest book.

Frank Russo

Frank A. Russo, of Port Jefferson Station, died May 20. He was 59 years old.

Frank was born May 27, 1959, in Mineola and was the son of Marie and Frank P. Russo.

He was a 23-year veteran school teacher for the Three Village school district, and those that knew him said his qualities included a great spirit, kindness and generosity. Frank’s bright smile and natural warmth made his students, colleagues and friends always feel acknowledged and special. He dedicated his career to working with children and delighted in their successes and accomplishments. He was a bright light and his beautiful singing voice resonates in our memories and hearts. He left an indelible message of caring, joy and compassion, which will forever remain with us.

Left to cherish his memory are his parents Marie and Frank, brother Anthony (Susan) and  other family, friends, colleagues and students.

Services were held at St. Gerard Majella R.C. Church in Port Jefferson Station May 23, and interment followed at St. Charles Cemetery in Farmingdale.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online
guest book.

Majael Gelston

Majael (Mickey) Gelston, of Port Jefferson Station, died May 21. She was 82.

Majael was born May 8, 1937, in Sand Springs, OK, and was the daughter of Florence and Allen Baker.

Majael was a retired executive secretary, and she enjoyed baking, gardening, knitting and sewing.

Left to cherish her memory are her husband Stephen; daughters Kathleen, Jacqueline, Stephanie and Denise; son Kevin; seven grandchildren and many other family and friends.

Services were held at the Bryant Funeral Home May 25, while committal services were held in private.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online
guest book.

Edward Kettell

Edward E. Kettell, of East Setauket, died May 10. He was 90.

Edward was born Dec. 28, 1928, in Brooklyn and was the son of Janet and Joseph Kettell.

He was a retired captain in the New York City Fire Department, and people who knew him described him as family-oriented, hardworking, protective, smart and very generous. He loved the farm in Pennsylvania where the family would go to snowmobile, and he also enjoyed building and fixing computers.

Left to cherish his memory are daughter Janet, sons Edward and Robert, two grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, brother Richard and many other family and friends.

He was preceded in death by his wife Marilyn and his brother Joseph.

Services were held at St. Gerard Majella R.C. Church in Port Jefferson Station May 29, while interment followed at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online
guest book.

Diana Spetta

Diana Spetta, of Stony Brook, died June 15. She was 86.

Diana was born April 13, 1933, in Queens and was the daughter of Lillian and Paul Duttge.

Diana was a retired executive secretary for Stony Brook University, and she was a member of the community garden club. She also enjoyed the piano, traveling, gardening and being with family.

Left to cherish her memory are her sons Glenn and Robert, five grandchildren and other family and friends.

She was preceded in death by her husband Donald and brother Paul.

Services were held at the Bryant Funeral Home June 19, while committal services were held in private.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

Mary Lewis

Mary Jane “Maisie” Lewis, of Port Jefferson, died June 14. She was 101.

Mary was born Sept. 27, 1917, in Northern Ireland and was the daughter of Sarah and Samuel Stevenson.

Mary was a retired bookkeeper, and she loved to read, garden and spend time with family.

Left to cherish her memory are her sons Michael and Harry, two grandchildren, three great- grandchildren and many other family and friends.

She was preceded in death by her husband  Harry.

Services were held at the First Presbyterian Church in Port Jefferson June 20. Interment followed in the Calverton National Cemetery.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of Setauket. People can visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online
guest book.

A ship Orsted plans to use to transport the wind turbines. Photo from SKDKnickerbocker

1,700 megawatts.

That’s enough to power 1 million homes from offshore wind farms to be located off the East End and South Shore of Long Island, or at least that is what New York State officials are hoping for. It’s part of signed contracts with two offshore wind power ventures, looking to set a path toward a statewide carbon-free electricity system in another 20 years.

Port Jefferson could soon become a big part of that.

Announced back in April, one of the wind power projects, whose contract was approved by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) July 18, plans to open a headquarters for their joint venture wind project right in Port Jefferson.

The project, dubbed Sunrise Wind, is being headed up by Denmark-based Ørsted, partnering with Massachusetts-based energy company Eversource. The miles of wind turbines set 30 miles east of Long Island are expected to produce 880 megawatts.

“We will lead the way in developing the largest source of offshore wind power in the nation,” Cuomo said during his speech. “We have committed to building 9,000 megawatts of wind power capacity, and we start today by designating companies to build two offshore wind farms for a combined total of 1,700 megawatts of clean energy.”

The Port Jefferson Power Station was in operation during winter cold periods as well as recent heat waves. Photo by Kyle Barr

Cuomo, also joined on stage in Manhattan by former Vice President Al Gore (D), signed on for miles of ocean off the South Shore to be used by Norway-based Equinor’s project Empire Wind which will provide 816 megawatts. This is to work alongside the Ørsted-Eversource project.

Ørsted and Eversource looked to Port Jefferson’s deep harbor as a means of loading and unloading boats making the long trip off the South Shore to make repairs on the wind turbines.

This would become the nation’s largest offshore wind power agreement in U.S. history, though the state has already awarded approximately 4,700 megawatts in renewable energy contracts since March 2018, according to a release from the governor’s office. Collectively, the combined output of renewable energy resources is expected to power nearly 10 percent of New York state homes by 2025.

What this means for Port Jefferson

When Ørsted and Eversource announced its original bid for the state contracts April 3, representatives of the companies said they expected the hub venture to produce around 100 jobs, plus temporary construction jobs while the project is being built. The headquarters and maintenance facility for the project could be run out of Port Jefferson Harbor.

Port Jefferson village Mayor Margot Garant said when approached back in April, the project managers explained service boats will use the village’s harbor and use the pier owned by National Grid. The 35 employees would come through on a two- to three-week basis, loading materials and provisions onto the vessels which would be the ones to travel out and do repairs on the propellers, staying out in the ocean for weeks at a time.

“I think it strengthens our harbor — it strengthens our site in terms of being a partner with Cuomo’s energy plan,” the mayor said. “Any time you can put your community on the map with the state, that it’s a good thing.”  — Mayor Margot Garant 

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said he has emphasized Port Jefferson’s deep water harbor as a hub for wind energy for years. He sees the Sunrise Wind project as a testbed for Atlantic-based wind energy. Now, he has a grand design in mind, of Port Jeff becoming a model and a wind energy headquarters for the Eastern Seaboard.

“They’re pioneering a project — the first offshore wind project of this scale for the entire Atlantic coast,” he said.

A spokesperson for the Ørsted and Eversource project said the company did not have anything yet to say on specifics relating to Port Jefferson as a hub for the wind farm, and instead referred to existing press releases about the project.

In talks about a land-based location for offices or warehouses, Garant told project managers they may need to look for space close by, but they would be hard pressed to come across thousands of square feet of space like that within village limits.

But with all the talk of green energy, the question of the Port Jefferson power station’s validity remains. The LIPA-owned plant, which recently settled in a tax certiorari agreement with the Town of Brookhaven over its tax assessments, has been running at low percentages for the past several years. It was only 11 percent in 2017, for example. LIPA has said the reduction in taxes may help move the plant toward a clean energy recourse but has not provided more details on what that could entail.

The recently passed state Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act calls for a transition to a carbon-free electric grid for New York by 2040. In response to a query, a LIPA spokesperson said the Port Jefferson power plant will be more than 70 years old by 2030. LIPA has already decommissioned fossil-fuel power plants in Far Rockaway and Glenwood Landing.

“The 880-megawatt Sunrise Wind project will be a key new source of carbon-free electricity for Long Island when it becomes operational in 2024,” said Michael Deering, LIPA director of customer service oversight and stakeholder relations.

Englebright, the chair of the state Assembly’s environmental conservation committee, said that in order to hit milestones of clean energy, plants like Port Jefferson’s will need to be phased out to make way for more renewable energy. He added that LIPA has for now been keepings its options open when it comes to future use of the plant.

“The people in Port Jeff are in need of a respite from fossil fuels and a declining plant,” the assemblyman said.

Garant said she does hope the plant remains viable into the next several years, adding it still sees use, with the stacks flaring up again as people turned on air conditioners during recent heat waves, though she looks forward to what the future may bring.

“As the world changes, things are going to change,” she said.

 

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On Tuesday, July 30, over 100 community members came together at Cedar Beach West to celebrate the lives of three young Mount Sinai natives who perished in a single car crash along Mount Sinai-Coram Road July 9. Photo by Kyle Barr

The heart of Mount Sinai still aches, and for those who attended a vigil at Cedar Beach for the four recent deaths of their community members, tears could be seen behind the dark of sunglasses.

On Tuesday, July 30, well over 100 community members came together at Cedar Beach West to celebrate the lives of three young Mount Sinai natives who perished in a single car crash along Mount Sinai-Coram Road July 9. Dorien Lashea Brown, 23, of Mount Sinai; Rebecca Minunno, 24, of Hampton Bays and Casi Fricker, of Port Jefferson, all died as the SUV they were driving hit a utility pole, which toppled over the vehicle and the electricity caused the car to catch on fire.

“I never pictured this is where we’d be, I would lose my closest friends,” said Gianna Rubino, a friend of the girls. “Everyone’s lives have been flipped upside down.”

On Tuesday, July 30,  over 100 community members came together at Cedar Beach West to celebrate the lives of three young Mount Sinai natives who perished in a single car crash along Mount Sinai-Coram Road July 9. Photo by Kyle Barr

As residents were still trying to come to terms with their deaths, the community experienced another loss. Robert Grable, the principal of the local high school, died unexpectedly while doing his morning routine July 19. He was 49.

Families and friends laid out near the bluff spread a collage of photographs, showing the girls and the principal in the prime of their lives. Friends and close family members came forward to speak, remembering the girls as the youth they were. Brown was often called a “firecracker” who could make a person laugh with just a look. Fricker was called “strong,” willing to make sure her friends were treated well at hair salons and the like, and also having a unique way with animals.

“Casi and Dorien, you were iconic, you were both so bright,” said Nicole Branca. “You had the kind of energy that some of us just could not keep up with, and I think that’s what we loved about you.”

Minunno had become active in the retro model pinup scene with The Luscious Ladies, a group of vintage pinup enthusiasts with chapters across the world.

One of those who spoke, who goes by the name “Dizzy Doll” in the pinup world, said the entire community was mourning her.

“When a pebble is thrown in a lake, the entire lake is affected. Every life has a wider effect in people’s lives then we realize,” she said. “Becca was and still is an inspiration to us.”

Renee Petrola, a retired teacher in Mount Sinai, taught both Brown and Fricker, and read the poems they wrote for a contest in sixth grade, both titled “How did I change?”

The vigil was organized by a small community group dubbed the “angel squad,” which included several community members and best friends of the girls who passed. Opening remarks were made by Donna Murph, the lead planner for the squad who had been guidance counselor to Brown and longtime coworker of Grable.

“Mount Sinai is profoundly saddened by the loss of these four beautiful souls,” Murph said. “May these families feel the support and love of this community and a reminder they are never alone.”

On Tuesday, July 30, over 100 community members came together at Cedar Beach West to celebrate the lives of three young Mount Sinai natives who perished in a single car crash along Mount Sinai-Coram Road July 9. Photo by Kyle Barr

A few stepped forward in the grey twilight and bending over they laid their flowers in the gentle tide of the Sound. First, a little more than five came forward. Then, unbidden, members of the families came forward to the beach’s edge. The Brown family kneeled over, and sank their flowers into the Sound. Their heads low, then rising, they tossed theirs into the water.

The faces turned to the waning sunset and walked forward, first 10, then well over 100. They were largely silent, except for the music in the background and their soft murmurs, muttering memories of the loved ones they lost.

As the sky went dark, the families attempted to light floating lanterns for their deceased though the wind played against them. The Brown family managed to get theirs lit, and the lantern rose 20 feet up, hovering above the surf before gently sinking into the water, the light of the lantern’s fire staying lit for several minutes, even on the black waters of the Sound.

Stepping forward to speak, Joe Caggiano said he had worked with Fricker at the Jamesport Brewery, adding he came to see her as his closest friend at work. The day of July 9 was one they shared with laughs, also having talked on the phone with Minunno, making a joke by saying “hi” to each other, over and over.

“We had a lot of fun on that Monday — she laughed a lot,” he said.

They shared a beer with each other after work, where they spoke about “life, where we wanted to be, what we wanted to do and the people in our lives, and all those things … that was a really special time in getting to sit with her.”

Ciaria Colson, Brown’s cousin, then came up to the mike, and talked of her family member as the pinnacle of what being a friend could be.

“She made a point to have a relationship with each and every one of her friends,” she said. “My little cousin was nine years younger than me, but she inspired me … me and my cousins have a closer bond now because of her.”

Colson asked all her friends to step up and come together. They gathered together, nearly 20 in all. She asked them all to hold each other and to support each other.

“I want you guys in this time, to grab a hold of each other, support each other and develop relationships with each other,” she said. “If you have a close relationship, have a closer relationship … because I know I didn’t live my best life — I didn’t live it, my cousin lived it.”

 

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Port Jefferson Treasurer Don Pearce and Village Clerk Bob Juliano as they tallied the 2015 election results. File photo by Elana Glowatz

The Village of Port Jefferson announced the village clerk of nearly two decades, Bob Juliano, will no longer be in his position effective Aug. 1.

“This is difficult, very difficult,” said Mayor Margot Garant. “We wish him well, and I mean that in every sense of the word.”

The village held an emergency executive meeting July 26 regarding a “personnel matter.” According to Garant, the board voted 5-0 to not reappoint Bob to the position of clerk. She said this decision was made two weeks ago, but it became official July 29.

“It was the same position we were in two weeks ago, but I wanted everybody to take two weeks and make sure that was what we had to do and what was in the best interest of the village,” the mayor said.

Juliano took an unannounced vacation for that period but has since returned to Port Jefferson. He took to Facebook July 30 thanking the community and saying he does not intend to leave Port Jeff.

“I have always tried to conduct myself as a gentleman in all my actions at Village Hall, and hope I succeeded more times than I failed,” he wrote. “To date, I am the longest serving village clerk that Port Jefferson has had, and I appreciate the fact that no one will be able to say that before the year 2038.”

He added he intends to seek employment with another municipality in the near future.

Garant would not speak on the record about why Juliano was being called to retire from his position but said she has appreciated him as a person and a friend.

Juliano has been with the village for just under 19 years, assisting in village elections amongst his many other duties. He was named clerk of the year in 2017 by the New York State Association of City & Village Clerks, and currently serves as Suffolk director for the Long Island Village Clerks and Treasurers Association.

In the interim, assistant to the mayor and Deputy Village Clerk Barbara Sakovich has been filling in as clerk while Juliano was on vacation and now that he is no longer with the village. She said the village will need to perform a lengthy hiring process, and that a new clerk would have to have many skills in administrative work.

“You need someone with very specific credentials, someone specifically from a municipality,” said Sakovich.

She added she is doing her best to get in front of a steep learning curve of the full clerk position, though the process for hiring a new administrator could potentially take some time.

Deputy Mayor Stan Loucks and Garant met with Juliano the morning of Monday, July 29, to agree to his retirement and accept his signature, according to the mayor, who told TBR News Media they would provide him a letter of recommendation for a future job if he needed it.

The mayor said he is retiring with his full sick pay and vacation benefits, and that he is entitled “to the rest of his health care insurance.”

At the same time, Juliano will not be retiring with full retirement benefits. A village employee would require having worked 30 years by the age of 55, or be 62 and retire, to receive those full benefits, according to Sakovich.

Reaction to the news on Facebook ranged from surprise to anger, with many people lauding Juliano for his welcoming personality and his general respectability.

This post has been updated to include quotes from Juliano.

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Shoreham-Wading River school district is considering converting the closed fitness center into a wrestling center. Photo by Kyle Barr Photo by Kyle Barr

Shoreham-Wading River’s ailing fitness center may see a new lease on life, should the puzzle pieces come together.

At a July 8 meeting, Superintendent Gerard Poole presented the idea to the school board that the district could convert the old Joe Ferreira Fitness Center and turn it into a wrestling center, while at the same time taking the auxiliary gym and turning that into a new fitness center.

Though the thought is still up in the air, the plan would require making major renovations to the old fitness center, located just to the east of the main high school building. The fitness center, built in the 1980s, was closed in July last year when an assessment of the building by the school district’s internal engineer showed the flooring was not up to code for constant physical activity. The building would require additional steel supports, toilet renovations to make it ADA compliant, new HVAC, emergency lighting and an upgraded fire alarm system.

Last October, the district said the renovations could cost upward of $200,000.

The district moved exercise equipment into room A101, right next to the cafeteria. Room A102 will also be used for fitness come September.

In a survey sent to students by the district about whether they would use a fitness center within the high school, 75 percent responded yes.

At the July meeting, Poole said the district had originally included the fitness center as part of its 2015 bond project, which is currently in the midst of renovating the high school parking lot. Though the school district could use additional funds left over to remake the fitness center, it won’t know how much funds it has left until the end of August, the superintendent said. There is no current funding in the 2019-20 budget to convert either the auxiliary gym or old fitness center.

Local residents who once extensively used the old fitness center for exercise during non-school hours have said they wished to be allowed to use the machinery, though Poole said they would have to look at hours and access for nonstudents on the off hours.

In addition the district said this change would potentially allow them to use the outside building as a polling place, instead of the usual gym space. School’s being used as polling places has been a sore spot for several North Shore school districts as they continue to look at security concerns.

Poole said, in speaking to the Suffolk County Board of Elections, there is no requirement that the district reuse the same space.

“It’s a matter of looking at the layout seeing where everything can fit,” Poole said.

 

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