Authors Posts by Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr
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EarthCam showing live footage of Port Jefferson Harbor. Photo courtesy of Earthcam

While local residents only have to drive a few minutes to see Port Jefferson Harbor’s quaint waterside sights, now people across the world can watch kids play in Harborfront Park and watch the ferries ship out from the historic dock, all in high definition.

Port Jefferson Village has joined EarthCam, a New Jersey-based company that allows locations from all over the world to showcase live 24/7 broadcasts of locations. The camera is located on the side of the Village Center facing toward the harbor and has been running since the end of November.

“Now, [Port Jefferson] residents, visitors and the world can share in the beauty of our stunning harborfront village,” Mayor Margot Garant said in a statement. “Being a four-season village, we are excited about the many changes of scenery that everyone will be able to see live from any place around the world.”

The village joins other famous sites like Montauk on the East End and Times Square in Manhattan. Kevin Wood, the village’s parking and security camera administrator, said he has been impressed with EarthCam for several years, and while there are other security cameras around the village, this one will be used specifically to promote Port Jefferson.

“It’s for the benefit of everybody worldwide to see the beauty of our harbor,” he said. “Many people, even on Long Island, don’t know what the harbor looks like.”

Wood added that the camera, which cost approximately $1,800, will have the capacity to broadcast sound as well as video starting in 2019.

Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal and Trustee Robert Sweeney listen to parents’ concerns at a board meeting. File photo by Erika Karp

Mount Sinai School District’s $25 million bond failed to pass Dec. 11 with a vote of 664-428.

Members of the school board walked dejectedly through the halls of the elementary school Monday night after learning of the results.

“There was so much misinformation on Facebook,” board Trustee Edward Law said immediately after the votes were tallied. “I feel like we had an open and transparent process.”

Some residents in community Facebook groups said they were concerned about rising taxes in the Mount Sinai area. Others criticized the district’s use of its finances in the past, specifically the June New York State comptroller’s audit which said the district had amassed millions of dollars in its unrestricted fund balance, higher than the legal maximum of 4 percent of the district’s overall budget. 

“I feel like we had an open and transparent process.”

— Trustee Ed Law

District officials said they have made efforts to create a rainy-day fund that could support them in the case of an emergency, but they have said they would be establishing a capital reserve of $750,000 to reduce that fund balance, which could go toward additional capital projects in the future. 

In May, residents voted 787-176 to use $5 million of the district’s capital reserve funds for a project that renovated the high school’s turf football field and track, replaced a portion of the high school’s ailing roof and created new fencing around the perimeter of the school campus.

This new bond would have borrowed $2.1 million to finish repairs for the high school’s roof, which teachers and district officials said was causing water damage in rooms throughout the building. 

“The board has to decide their next step,” said Superintendent Gordon Brosdal.

Trustees said they were unsure if they could propose another, smaller bond.

“This was a bare bones bond,” Law said. “Though this wasn’t a lesser bond, I don’t think we could go any tighter.”

Trustee Peter Van Middelem said while many of the board member’s children are in school, the actual application of the bond would have gone to supporting both the longevity of the school buildings and the children just entering elementary school.

“The irony is this wasn’t about our own kids but the kids in kindergarten,” Middelem said.

Mount Sinai’s next board meeting is Dec. 19 at 8 p.m. in the Middle School Auditorium.

Red ribbons adorned businesses, homes and other public areas in Shoreham to honor Andrew McMorris, a 12-year-old Boy Scout from Troop 161 who was killed by an allegedly drunk driver Sept. 30. Photo by Kyle Barr

In a continuing show of support for a fallen youth in the North Shore community, Shoreham-Wading River High School will play host to the first annual Andrew’s Run Dec. 15 at 9 a.m. to support a local Boy Scout troop after its tragic loss. 

“Andrew was going to do his first run for the cross country team in Shoreham before the tragedy,” said Matthew Yakaboski, the scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 161. The troop experienced the tragic loss of 12-year-old member Andrew McMorris from an alleged drunk driving incident in October. “This is a significant run,” Yakaboski added. “He just started his cross country career. He enjoyed running and just wanted to be part of the team.”

The race is coming together through the efforts of 16-year-old Miller Place student Danelle Rose, who is taking her passion for running and using it to support her neighboring communities.

“I, like many people, was extremely heartbroken by this tragedy,” Rose said. “I really wanted to help them heal the best that I could.”

Andrew, who was a seventh-grader at Albert G. Prodell Middle School in Shoreham, died Oct. 1 after an alleged drunk driver struck him and four of his fellow Scouts in Boy Scout Troop 161 while they were walking along the shoulder of David Terry Road in Manorville during a hike. Only days after the tragedy, community members from Riverhead to Miller Place came out in strong support of the family and troop, posting red ribbons on mailboxes, street signs and outside shops. The McMorris family was adamant that any monetary donations should go to Troop 161, the Shoreham-Wading River School District’s Wildcat Helpers of the Arts and Music and the nonprofit advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

All proceeds from the Dec. 15 run are slated to go toward the construction of a 3,200 square foot Adirondack cabin at Baiting Hollow Scout Camp in Wading River, which will be named McMorris Lodge in honor of Andrew. 

“[Troop 161] is beginning to recover from the event, but the McMorris family still has a long, long road ahead,” Yakaboski said. “Whatever we can do to show the community is behind them is tremendous.”

Rose, who is a member of both the Miller Place High School’s varsity track and cross country teams, said she knew the family through John McMorris, Andrew’s father, who is a guidance counselor in her school district.

“I wanted to help these three communities; Miller Place because Mr. McMorris works there, Shoreham because that’s where Andrew lived and Riverhead because that’s where the troop members were from, too.” 

The 2.5-mile run/walk will start at the high school baseball field, then take participants down the lower lacrosse fields, back up around the upper soccer fields then enter into the trails briefly before exiting out onto the upper soccer fields again before coming back to the finish line.

Jackie Rose, Danelle’s mother, said she is proud of her daughter’s efforts, adding, “She’s just a well-rounded excellent student, and she does what she needs to do.” 

There is a $10 entry fee to sign up, but donations are also accepted. Sign-ups start on the day, Dec. 15, at 8 a.m., but people can register before the race at runsignup.com/race/ny/
shoreham/andrewsrun until Dec. 13.

*This post was amended to restructure Jackie Rose’ biography

Miller Place traveled to Warrior nation and outscored Comsewogue, 72-52, in a nonleague matchup Dec. 10.

Miller Place junior Thomas Cirrito led his team in scoring with eight field goals, eight free throws and two triples for 30 points; Thomas Nealis, the lone senior on the squad, banked 16 along with 14 rebounds; and junior Timothy Hirdt netted 12, rebounding 12.

Atop the scoring chart for Comsewogue were Mike McGuire and Liam Gray with 13 points apiece. Both teams opened league play Dec. 12 where the Panthers hosted Wyandanch and Comsewogue took on visiting Centereach, but results were not available by press time.

Civic leaders Charlie McAteer, Edward Garboski and Sal Pitti discuss local developments. Photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jefferson Station and Terryville residents may be willing to give a proposed apartment complex a tentative thumbs up, but a new potential fast food restaurant is having its feet put to the fire.

Members of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association listened to the developers of several prospective businesses and apartment complexes at a Nov. 27 meeting, one the once-maligned Concern for Independent Living apartment complex off Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station.

The 77-unit complex, slated for north of East Grove Street and south of Washington Avenue across from the Sagamore Hills Condominiums, originally came under fire from residents when Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced May 10 that New York State was setting aside $8.1 million for the project to promote affordable homes, particularly for the homeless.

Sal Pitti, the president of the civic, said after talking with representatives of the apartment’s developers he realized there was much misinformation about the project. “It was a culmination of nonsense,” Pitti said.

The civic leader said Ralph Fasano, the executive director for Concern for Independent Living, has also been extremely forthcoming and attentive to addressing the community’s concerns.

Fasano said 75 units in the complex will be single bedroom, and only two are two-bedroom, one of which is reserved for the apartment manager. Veterans would get preference when applying for these apartments, and the remainder will be available for people making up to 60 percent of the area median income, which is about $40,000 to $60,000 a year according to U.S. Housing and Urban Development guidelines.

A majority of the civic voted to write a letter of conditional support to the Town of Brookhaven, with specific requests for the town to compel the developer to work to obtain a traffic light on Route 112, provide as much fencing as possible between adjacent housing, provide a landscaping screen for the adjacent property and preserve open space.

“They seem to be trying to address [those concerns],” Charlie McAteer, the civic’s corresponding secretary, said.

While the apartment complex received support, a potential Popeyes, to be located on property east of the TD Bank on Nesconset Highway at the corner of Old Town Road, garnered the opposite reaction. The proposal was spurred by residents angry over the amount of existing fast-food restaurants on Route 347 and fears of an increase in traffic.

While the land has not yet been sold,  Jim Tsunis, the CEO of Hauppauge-based The Northwind Group, said preliminary designs  call for a 2,400-square-foot restaurant with access from Route 347. Tsunis said they are seeking a change of zoning application to allow for the restaurant use.

Residents were especially concerned about traffic on a road that has already seen its share of accidents. Tsunis said that he doesn’t expect the project to put any more cars on the road, but rather some drivers would decide to pull into the Popeyes rather than visit other existing restaurants further down the highway.

“It’s a balance, not a give and take,” Tsunis said.

Craig Fazio, a lifelong Port Jeff Station resident, said he disagreed with others about the Popeyes, especially since Tsunis still owned the property. Fazio said Tsunis could push to build a 14,000-square-foot medical office complex in that same spot, which he believes would be even worse for traffic.

“If you put health care there, how many doctors will see patients every 15 minutes versus a much smaller restaurant?” Fazio asked.

Tsunis said that he has considered building medical offices and the property is zoned for a two-story office building. 

“I hope we can work together in the future to mitigate some of these points,” he said.

Jennifer Dzvonar, the president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, asked why  Popeyes wasn’t considering building on Route 112, other vacant land or existing empty retail space.

McAteer said he didn’t believe the civic was totally against Popeyes, but it needs to be located on a better and safer site. “We were not saying, ‘We just hate your restaurant, we just want you out.’ Just put it in an area that could use a little boost,” he said.

The civic’s next meeting will be held at Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station on Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 7 p.m.

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One of six Mount Sinai High School science rooms slated to be renovated with proposed bond. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

kyle@tbrnewsmedia.com

Residents will soon be asked to take the trek down to the Mount Sinai school district campus to vote on a $25 million bond proposal, one that district officials hope will give its buildings long-term stability.

“The campus is the heart of the community, everything happens between these three buildings,” Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said. “You got to fix things otherwise it will become more expensive.”

In May residents voted 787 to 176 to use $5 million of the district’s capital reserve funds for a capital project that renovated the high school turf football field and track, replaced a portion of the high school’s ailing roof and created a new fencing around the perimeter of the school campus. The district is still in the midst of creating new gates at both the entrance on Route 25A and North Country Road that will match the new black iron fencing, and Brosdal said the planned new bleachers, which were slated as part of the capital project, will be installed in summer 2019.

Mount Sinai residents have recently criticized the district both in board meetings and online for its spending practices. In June the New York State comptroller released an audit saying the district had amassed millions of dollars in its unrestricted fund budgeted higher than the legal max of 4 percent of the district’s overall budget. District officials said they have made efforts to create a rainy-day fund that could support them in case of an emergency, but they have said they would be establishing a capital reserve of $750,000 to reduce that fund balance, which could go toward additional capital projects in the future. Brosdal said the new bond is completing work that couldn’t be paid with capital funds.

District officials calculated the tax impact on local residents to be $240.29 more for a house assessed at $3,700 and $370.54 more for a home assessed at $5,700. The district has a calculator on its website where residents can calculate their taxes if the bond passes.

“To give our kids the best opportunity to succeed we need to upgrade our facilities,” high school principal Robert Grable said.

If the bond passes, the district would renovation the air conditioning systems in every school building on the campus as well as adding interior door security modifications and additional security cameras throughout the district. Every building would also see upgrades to their bathrooms.

The bond vote will be hosted Dec. 11 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the elementary school back gym.

There is parking in the front of the building as well as handicapped-accessible parking in the back. Votes will be counted directly after 9 p.m.

High School: $8,415,559

The biggest expense for the high school is finishing the roof renovations that were started with the 2018 capital project. District officials and those who work in the high school said the roof leaks, causing constant damage to ceiling tiles and flooring throughout the building. The next biggest expense is the renovation of six science labs as well as the greenhouse, which Andrew Matthews, the district director of math, science and technology, said they badly need an overhaul of the science desks and sinks which tend to leak as well as a complete restructuring of the layout of some rooms. The bond would repave the parking lot in front of the high school as well as add barriers and fencing to increase security.

Middle School: $7,714,685

The middle school would receive a complete window replacement to restore broken and aging glass for $1.6 milllion. The auditorium would receive upgrades to its lighting, controls and sound as well as giving its ceiling a new coat of paint. The middle school library and interior offices would be renovated to create a STEAM lab and install a new security entrance like those in the elementary and high schools. In addition, the bond would replace the flooring in 47 classrooms as well as the gymnasium.

Elementary School: $3,911,369

The elementary school would receive renovations to its front exterior adding nonballistic darkened glass to the front vestibule and remodeling aging wood, paint and concrete around the front entrance. The bond would also replace windows around the kindergarten rooms and corridors and provide replacements for exterior doors.

Athletics and Grounds: $5,289,885

While the costliest renovation is to the high school locker rooms sitting at about $2.4 million, the most substantial changes to Mount Sinai’s athletics would be the creation of a new synthetic turf multipurpose field at the high school and the creation of a new girls varsity softball turf infield and boys varsity baseball turf infield.

Other amenities include a districtwide phone system for $491,625.

Elaine Gross, Christopher Sellers, Crystal Fleming, Miriam Sarwana and Abena Asare speak about race at ERASE Racism forum. Photo by Kyle Barr

In a politically charged time, race is seen as a third-rail issue, one that if touched leads to political headache in the case of a politician or a rough time around the holiday dinner table for everyday folks.

Which is why Elaine Gross, president of Syosset-based ERASE Racism, which wishes to examine and make meaningful change to race relations in New York, said Long Island was the perfect time and place to start meaningful conversations about race and racism, both in the overt and covert displays of prejudice.

“Even though we are becoming more diverse, that doesn’t mean we have what we want going on in our schools,” Gross said. “Long Island is home to 2.8 million people so we’re not a small place, but tremendously fragmented.”

The nonprofit, which was originally founded in 2001, made its first stop at Hilton Garden Inn, Stony Brook University Nov. 29 during a five-series Long Island-wide tour called How Do We Build a Just Long Island? The mission is to start a dialogue about meaningful change for race relations in both Suffolk and Nassau counties. Four panelists, all professors and graduate students at Stony Brook, spoke to a fully packed room about their own research into the subject and took questions from the audience on how they could affect change in their own communities.

Christopher Sellers, history professor and director of the Center for the Study of Inequalities, Social Justice, and Policy, has studied what he described as “scientific racism,” of people who look at the superiority and inferiority of other races as an objective truth, an idea that was born during the enlightenment and colonial period used to justify conquering nations overseas. It’s a form of understanding identity that lives on in many people, Sellers said.

“It’s as old as western society itself,” he said.

Race is an important issue in a county that is very segregated depending on the town and school district. An image created by the nonprofit and compiled with information from the New York State Department of Education shows a district such as Port Jefferson is made up of 80 percent white students, while in the Brentwood school district 79 percent of students are Latino and 12 percent are black.

Panelists argued that racism exists and is perpetuated through local policy. Abena Asare,
assistant professor of Modern African Affairs and History said that racism currently exists in the segregated schools, in lack of public transportation, zoning laws and other land-use policies created by local governments.

“Many of the policies on our island that insulate and produce structural racism are based on a false narrative on what Long Island was, who it is was for, and the fear of where it is going,” Asare said. “Creating new futures requires that we expose the version of the past that justifies or separates an unequal status quo.”

Crystal Fleming, an associate professor of sociology at Stony Brook, spoke about how historically the idea of white supremacy is ingrained in America’s social consciousness, that lingering ideas of one race’s entitlement to security and citizenship over other races have helped perpetuate racist ideas and policy.

“When we talk about systemic racism, it’s not black supremacy, it’s not Native American supremacy, it’s not Asian supremacy, it’s white supremacy,” Fleming said. “We need to be brave and talk frankly about these matters.”

Miriam Sarwana, a graduate student in psychology at Stony Brook, said after the civil rights movement of the 1960s racism did not simply die, but it became subtle, only used in the safety of the home. This is compounded by the lack of interaction between races on a daily basis.

“These biases are influenced by the social, societal and cultural [elements] in our lives, and can be influenced both directly and indirectly,” Sarwana said. “A white adult has little or no interaction with African-Americans, and then starting childhood this person may be exposed to negative images of African-Americans.”

The panelists said that the extreme segregation in school districts has resulted in an even greater disparity of resources and attention for nonwhite races. The issue, Asare said, after the forum, was that the 125 public school districts on Long Island have remained insular, leading to communities becoming disparate and inclusive. She said the best way to deal with this is to consolidate school districts, even along town lines, which could lead to bigger savings for school districts, more resources to less-served districts and allow for better cross-pollination of races between schools.

“The fact that those types of discussions are not normally occurring here speaks to a larger issue, that segregation works for a lot of people around Long Island,” Asare said.

The final Erase Racism forum in this series will be held Dec. 10 at the Radisson Hotel in Hauppauge at 6 p.m. Visit www.eraseracismny.org for more information or to register for the event.

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Thousands of people were swept up in a wave of holiday cheer as the Port Jefferson Village played host to 23rd annual Charles Dickens Festival from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2.

A score of volunteers, all dressed up in mid-19th century garb including not a small amount of chimney soot, walked around the village shaking hands and singing carols as if straight out of Charles Dickens’ classic novel “A Christmas Carol.” Attendees had the opportunity to view the village’s festival of trees, make cookies and ornaments, participate in a gingerbread house contest, ice skate and watch several live music, theater and dance performances, all while walking through village streets with stores all dressed up in seasonal decorations.

The Heritage Center Trust hosted its 11th annual tree lighting Dec. 2 at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai, drawing a crowd of several hundred who were ready to celebrate the breakout of the Christmas season.

The Mount Sinai Middle School Jazz Choir led the crowd in classic Christmas carols before fire trucks of the Mount Sinai Fire Department drove in with lights flashing, delivering Santa himself to the expectant crowd.

After the tree lighting, attendees were able to eat fresh baked cookies and kids had the opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap and take pictures.

The annual tree lighting at Heritage Park has been a part of the Mount Sinai community since 2007, but Jaime Baldassare, who volunteers for the center trust, said the lighting was a staple in the community before the Heritage Center Trust was established, first being hosted at the post office and later at the Mount Sinai Fire Department building.

Rocky Point High School unveiled its new Alumni Wall of Honor Nov. 16 in recognition of the many graduates of the district who have entered the armed services over the years.

High school students and teachers were joined in an assembly honoring those on the wall by veterans families, local veterans from VFW Post 6249 in Rocky Point with Cmdr. Joe Cognitore, Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and county Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai).

The wall features close to 60 graduates of recent years and those who graduated from many years ago. Also on the wall are bronze plaques emblazoned with the emblem of each branch of the U.S. military.

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