Authors Posts by Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr
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SBU’s Christopher Gobler, with Dick Amper, discusses alarming trends for LI’s water bodies at a Sept. 25, 2018 press conference. Photo by Kyle Barr

Long Island’s water is facing a dangerous threat — not a mythical sea monster, but harmful and poisonous algal blooms. Recently released data showed the problem was more far reaching this summer than years past.

The Long Island Clean Water Partnership, an advocacy collective supported by the Rauch Foundation, that includes members from Stony Brook University and the Long Island Pine Barrens Society headed by Dick Amper, released an annual water status report Sept. 25 that showed new harmful algal blooms in Port Jefferson, Northport and Huntington harbors and in North Shore ponds and lakes.

“Every single water body across Long Island, be it the North Shore or the South Shore, East End, Suffolk County, Nassau County, all had significant water impairments during this time frame,” said Christopher Gobler, endowed chair of Coastal Ecology and Conservation at the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. “We would call this a crisis.”

“We are the nitrogen pollution capital of America.”

— Kevin McDonald

The Island-wide study, which was conducted from May through September, showed Northport Harbor suffered a bloom of Dinophysis, a type of algae that releases a powerful neurotoxin that can affect shellfish. Both Northport and Huntington harbors showed a rash of paralytic shellfish poisoning in other marine life from eating shellfish.

In May, shellfish fishing was temporarily banned in Huntington and Northport harbors by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation because of PSP. The harmful poison began to wane in June, Gobler said, and those bans have since been lifted, according to an automatic message put out by the state DEC.

Stony Brook University’s Roth Pond has been experiencing for years summer blooms of poisonous blue-green algae, a type that is harmful to animals. This past summer the researchers saw the algae spread into neighboring Mill Pond in Stony Brook. In 2017, Suffolk County had more lakes with blue-green algal blooms than any other of the 64 counties in New York, according to the report.

The summer also saw the rise of a rust tide in Port Jeff Harbor and Conscience Bay caused by another poisonous algae, which, while not dangerous to humans, is dangerous to marine life. Gobler said while it did not necessarily lead to fish kills along the North Shore, places like Southampton saw the deaths of tens of thousands of oysters and fish due to rust tide. If the problem persists, Port Jeff might start to see a fish die-off, which could have lasting implications to the local ecology.

The algal blooms and hypoxia were both exacerbated by a particularly warm summer, a trend expected to continue due to climate change. In coming years, Gobler said he expects the number of dangerous algae to spread because of this trend.

“We’re expecting that temperatures will rise 5 or 10 degrees this century, so we need to make changes or things will get significantly worse,” Gobler said.

The prognosis looks grim, with multiple other places across Long Island experiencing harmful algal blooms, but the source is already well known. This year’s study cites heavy loads of nitrogen pollution from sewage and fertilizers as the ultimate source of the algal events, particularly the nitrogen waste from old cesspool systems leaking into local waters.

Suffolk County and several state and local politicians have been advocating for changes, either for creating sewer systems — such as Smithtown’s projects in Kings Park, Smithtown Main Street and St. James — or by creating financing programs for property owners to overhaul waste systems.

In 2014 Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) called nitrogen pollution the county’s “environmental public enemy No. 1.” Since then the county has worked with local scientists and engineers to craft technology that could replace Long Island’s old cesspool and septic tanks, but some of those replacement systems have been very cost prohibitive. Suffolk has made some grant money available to those interested in upgrading.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legislation in April that put $2.5 billion toward clean water protection and improving water infrastructure, including $40 million for the new sewer systems in Smithtown and Kings Park, and adding a rebate program for those upgrading outdated septic systems. Suffolk County and scientists from Stony Brook University are currently working on cheaper nitrogen filtration systems, but commercial availability of those systems could be years away.

“Technology and governmental policies are rapidly changing to address our island’s water crisis, but we need to increase our pace of change.”

— Adrienne Esposito

Kevin McDonald, the conservation project director at The Nature Conservancy, said that there is a strong impetus for all of Long Island to change its waste standards.

“We are the nitrogen pollution capital of America,” McDonald said. “We can’t reverse climate change by ourselves, but with the right support and engagement and leadership we can aggressively respond to this problem at a faster pace than at present.”

Many of these areas now experiencing algal blooms were only encountering hypoxia, or a depletion of dissolved oxygen in water necessary for sea life to survive, in the same report released back in summer 2017. Last year Mount Sinai Harbor was spared from severe hypoxia, but now has seen a decrease in necessary oxygen levels this past summer. Gobler said it wouldn’t be out of the question that Mount Sinai Harbor could experience a potentially dangerous algal bloom next summer.

One thing is for sure, according to Gobler: Long Island will experience more hypoxia and harmful algal blooms until new waste systems can catch up to the amount of nitrogen that’s already in the water.

“Technology and governmental policies are rapidly changing to address our island’s water crisis, but we need to increase our pace of change,” said Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of the environmental advocacy group Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

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By Kyle Barr

Us youngins can still remember when the first “Harry Potter” movie jumped so gracefully from book to the big screen. Those novels, written by J.K Rowling, were already a sensation before the whole thing exploded in popularity with a near decade of new movies.

 

Cate Blanchett, Owen Vaccaro and Jack Black in a scene from the film.

It’s not strange then that Hollywood has since been pushing out more and more films based off young adult literature, from “The Hunger Games,” to “Maze Runner,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” and on and on. It seems we’re at the point that Hollywood is looking back in time to “The House with a Clock in its Walls,” a book by John Bellairs written in 1973. This book is a precursor to all the Harry Potters and Hunger Games that line kids’ bookcases to this day. It must have seemed a cinch to bring it to theaters.

Sad to say it doesn’t work, and not so much because the material is rotten but because the tropes have become stale.

Our movie opens with young Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) taking the Greyhound bus to a new town after his mother and father have died in a car accident. He goes to live with his uncle Jonathan Barnavelt (Jack Black), an eccentric and near-recluse who lives in a house that contains any number of secrets. The elder Barnavelt spends most of his time with fellow eccentric Florence Zimmerman (Cate Blanchett) who quips regularly with Jonathan, though barely concealing a deep friendship.

Of course, not all is as it seems, and Lewis quickly learns that both Jonathan and Zimmerman are Warlock and Witch. Though reluctant, Jonathan agrees to teach young Lewis magic, all the while a clock ticks constantly behind the house’s walls, counting down to something, and both Jonathan and Zimmerman know it can’t be anything good.

Owen Vaccaro in a scene from the film.

Vaccaro does a fine, if standard job as the young kid trying to fit in to the conformities of a new town. Young actors have always had the hardest job, and its rare you’ll find a real exceptional performance, (If you’re curious for one, watch Hailee Steinfeld performance as Mattie Ross in the 2010 remake of “True Grit”.) The big problem is he and other leading kids such as Sunny Suljic, playing the young, athletic Tarby Corrigan, don’t have a good script to work from. Suljic also gets a raw deal as his character flips so suddenly from nice guy to bully right in the middle of the second act. It’s both jarring and confusing.

Black doesn’t seem to be taking the job too seriously either. He can be a fun actor, and he has done some fun jobs in kids flicks before, (just check out 2015’s “Goosebumps.”) It’s a mild performance at best without even Black’s usual blend of expressional and physical comedy.

Jack Black in a scene from the movie.

The jokes are so incredibly flat, and it doesn’t help they keep getting repeated. There is one particular joke about a hedge shaped like a lion, *ahem* expelling rotten leaves and twigs from its rear. Yeah, its crass, but it’s also repeated another three times during the runtime, and another time after the credits are rolling. 

Director Eli Roth is known mostly for his shock horror films like the “Hostel” movies. I think people were more curious than they were interested in seeing what chops Roth might have had for children’s movies. Sure, there are a few creepy scenes, such as with a number of puppets and jack-o-lanterns, but those scenes are marred with some really horrible CG. They’re made all the more apparent because set design, especially of the house, was quite good. The whole place had an off-kilter but intriguing vibe, from the stained-glass window that can change shape to the massive number of clocks that Jonathan uses to drown out the sound of the other clock hidden in the walls. 

Cate Blanchett in a scene from the film.

Blanchett seems to be the only one really trying, and it’s sad, borderline painful, to see her really excel in the role of the straight-backed aging spinster maintaining that edge of deviousness. I would honestly rather see her in the role of Mary Poppins in the upcoming sequel to that beloved Disney musical, but that’s really for a different’ review.

Have we exhausted the young adult fiction gold rush? No, we haven’t, as long as people continue to try. Even as one generation grows out of the right age for these types of stories, it’s a human inevitability that another will grow to take their place. 

Honestly, if you go rewatch the first “Harry Potter,” you realize most of the acting was subpar, and the plot, even when it was taken directly from the book, was really contrived. But that movie remains fondly remembered because it was new, different, and it captured the imagination of a young audience with sweeping shots of a huge castle, of a dining room filled with floating candles and a promise of a much wider world to explore. “The House with a Clock in its Walls,” is missing the wonder, and keeping the cliché.

Rated PG, running time is 1 hour 45 min.

Photos courtesy of Amblin Entertainment

Logo from Facebook

The Rocky Point Sound Beach Chamber of Commerce only established its current form less than a month ago, but in that short time it’s already full steam ahead on a number of ambitious projects.

“It’s gangbusters, and it’s a challenge, but we wanted to get something on the map right away,” said John Tochterman, chamber treasurer and the branch and financial services manager for the Teachers Federal Credit Union in Rocky Point.

The chamber hosted its first meeting in August, but already it is planning several events including multiple festivals, expos and golf tournaments. Gary Pollakusky, the president of the new chamber and managing partner of Media Barrel LLC in Rocky Point, said the hamlets of Rocky Point and Sound Beach need a group to champion not only those on the highly trafficked Route 25A, but the businesses on the roads leading to the North Shore.

“The first piece of what we do is bring business into the area and inspire our merchants to do things that are a bit out of the box,” Pollakusky said. “We have to get customers to our different business districts — to our Sound Beach business district and our Route 25A business district.”

The chamber started to come together in January, when Marie Stewart, the owner of Brooklyn Bagels & Café in Rocky Point began gathering local business owners, slowly building the chamber until it formed a new board in March. In June, the chamber incorporated and attained 501(c)(6) chamber status.

In October 2017, the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce, which covered businesses from Port Jefferson Station to Wading River, dissolved because the time commitment proved too much for volunteers in such a large coverage area. It was then decided the chamber would split up to take on original shapes, which focused on businesses in just a handful of hamlets.

Pollakusky said the North Brookhaven chamber collapsed because it simply couldn’t reach every nook and cranny of businesses in its coverage area. Now more people are stepping up in local communities to fill the void left behind.

Members of the Port Jefferson area created the Port Jefferson/Terryville Chamber of Commerce, people in the Mount Sinai area established the Mount Sinai-Miller Place Chamber Alliance, and the community in the Shoreham area created Wading River Shoreham Chamber of Commerce.

Jeff Davis, owner of the Rocky Point Funeral Home was part of the North Brookhaven Chamber before it dissolved, and he said the new chamber focusing on the local businesses is heading in the right direction.

“They have all the right ideas — I’m hoping they can pull it off,” Davis said. “We’ve talked about [the fall festival] for years. It takes people who want to get involved to do it.”

Already boasting approximately 40 members, according to Pollakusky, chamber leaders are still looking for new people to fill positions on the board. They are asking local business people to fill positions to help welcome owners to the neighborhood, hold ribbon cuttings, drive membership, find sponsorships and plan events, among others.

“The more the merrier,” said Stewart, who now serves as chamber vice president.

Plans are set for the Fall Festival in the Rocky Point business district Oct. 27. The event will include a children’s costume parade, hayrides, local vendors and demonstrations from the Rocky Point Fire District. After hours, the event will also include a late-night adult-only session including live music, a beer garden and costume contest.

Events are being planned into next year. The chamber hopes to establish a spring festival to be set in Sound Beach next year, along with a senior expo and golf tournament fundraiser. Pollakusky said they were still ironing out the full details for those events.

“There’s all kinds of businesses that need our support, it could be our lawyers, our doctors, our nonprofits, it could be our home-based businesses, our brick and mortar craft merchants, our restaurants, there are many categories of business that need our help,” Pollakusky said. “To look at every category and see how we can support them that is the difference maker in this chamber.”

The chamber is looking for more volunteers and vendors for its upcoming Fall Festival. Contact the chamber through its website, www.rpsbchamber.org.

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Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Ginger Gold, no matter which apple catches your fancy, all were available to bite on as the nonprofit group Preservation Long Island, Homestead Arts and Benner’s Farm hosted the 29th annual Long Island Apple Festival Sunday, Sept. 30, at Sherwood-Jayne Farm in East Setauket.

Throughout the day, volunteers showcased how apples were used in colonial times for making applesauce, pies or cider, stuff that a man dressed as Johnny Appleseed said was “so good it will make your tongue slap your eyeballs.”

The event also included live folk music, hayrides, pony rides, games for kids, tours of the historical Sherwood-Jayne House and an apple pie baking contest.

Funds from the event went to Preservation Long Island to continue its efforts to maintain historical places like the Sherwood-Jayne property, among others.

Brookhaven’s current pump-out boats are showing signs of wear and will be replaced. Photo by Kyle Barr

If you’ve ever seen a boat with a built-in toilet, the next question is inevitable: Where does that waste inevitably go?

Either the waste goes straight into the Long Island Sound or surrounding harbors or boaters call the Town of Brookhaven’s pump-out boats, a service provided by the town for free, to suck out the waste, according to Karl Guyer, a senior bay constable for Brookhaven.

At Brookhaven town’s Sept. 13 meeting the board voted unanimously to purchase two new pump-out boats — one for Mount Sinai Harbor and one for Port Jefferson Harbor. The total cost for both boats is $92,500 with $60,000 of that amount coming from state aid in grant funding from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation. The town is supplying $32,500 in matching funds from serial bonds, according to town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point).

The town operates four pump-out boats, including two on the South Shore and two on the North Shore, which are located in Port Jeff and Mount Sinai harbors. All these boats were purchased in 2006, and Guyer said it was time all of them were replaced. The two on the South Shore were replaced this year, and the North Shore boats will be replaced early in 2019, according to Guyer.

“They’ve been in service for quite a number of years and they’re at the end of their life span,” Guyer said.

The pump-out boat in Port Jeff Harbor is showing signs of long use. The paint on the boat’s deck has been worn down by years of work, and there are cracks showing in some of the plastic hatches around the boat. William Demorest, the bay constable for Port Jeff Harbor, said the new boats will be made from aluminum, which should give them a longer life span.

The pump-out boat service is widely used by the boaters in both harbors, and on a busy day town employees operating the boats can service hundreds of boats in a single day. People can call for a pump out by radioing the constable’s office on channel 73.

There is a manual boat waste pump in a barge inside Port Jeff Harbor, though the constable said 75 percent of the over 700 boats that come to port on summer weekends use the pump-out boat service. After the pump-out boats are docked for the winter, all North Shore boaters are required to manually pump out their own waste.

Bonner said these boats do a major service in cleaning out the tanks of many boaters, because dumping the waste into the coastal waters only adds to the islands growing water pollution problem.

“Not only would there be waste in the water but the nitrogen load would be crazy,” Bonner said. “It would take several tides to flush that out.”

All the water from Conscience Bay through Port Jefferson Harbor as well as the entire Long Island Sound is within mandated U.S. Environmental Protection Agency No-Discharge Zones, meaning it is illegal to dump any boat waste into the surrounding waters.

While Demorest said he hasn’t seen people dumping their waste into the water himself, he has heard reports of it being done. He said he believed the vast majority use the free pump-out service.

“If we don’t see it, there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said.

Many areas of the North Shore are experiencing waves of hypoxia, an increase of nitrogen in the water that deprives sea life, both plants and animals, of oxygen. During a press conference Sept. 25, co-director of the Center for Clean Water Technology Christopher Gobler and other researchers from the Long Island Clean Water Partnership concluded there were cases of harmful algae blooms in harbors from Mount Sinai all the way to Huntington, another symptom of excess nitrogen in the water. Most of that nitrogen has come from cesspools and septic tanks from people’s homes slowly leaking into the surrounding waters.

The boats usually operate Friday, Saturday and Sunday mostly by high school and college-aged summer employees, according to Guyer. The pump-out boat service ends on Columbus Day, Oct. 8.

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The space in Smithtown where Chick-fil-A wants to establish a new branch. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Chick-fil-A is finally coming to Hauppauge, though the last store operating where the corporate company intends to build doesn’t see much of a reason to celebrate.

“We knew it was going to happen, but of course it’s very sad because we’ve been there for over 30 years,” said Donna Ahr, matriarch of the family-run Bagel Gallery Inc., locally known as Hot Bagels in Hauppauge and Smithtown.

The bagel shop is the last store that remains open in the doomed shopping plaza.

We knew it was going to happen, but of course it’s very sad because we’ve been there for over 30 years.”

— Donna Ahr

The Town of Smithtown town council conditionally approved the site plan for the restaurant chain to demolish the existing 15,743-square-foot  shopping center at the corner of Route 347 and Route 111 in Hauppauge to make room for a 4,650-square-foot counter-service restaurant.

The round-the-clock open bagel shop has endured in that location since 1980, owned and operated by the Ahr family since 1985. In 2016, local residents got wind that Chick-fil-A was intending to tear down the shopping center where Hot Bagels was located to put in one of its restaurants. In the months that followed, close to 5,000 people signed a Change.org petition to try and keep Hot Bagels around. Though the fast-food chain won its petition for a zoning change two years ago to create a drive-thru, the restaurant’s site plans were only approved this month.

“I got a year and half more out of it than I originally thought I would, so God is good,” Ahr said.

The location houses two shopping centers, both of which are independently owned. Those stores in the building directly opposite the impending Chick-fil-A fear what could happen once construction begins.

It’s going to kill my business, or at least hurt my business with all the construction going on.”

— Tony Barbato

“It’s going to kill my business, or at least hurt my business with all the construction going on,” said Tony Barbato, the owner of Ciro’s Pizza located at 550 Route 347. “I think the chicken shop coming in is the stupidest thing ever. Everybody in that shopping center was pretty successful, but then they threw everybody out so they could send more money to [a national corporation] instead of keeping it local.”

In February 2018, the Ahr family opened up a second location along Hauppauge Road in Smithtown, a little less than two miles from their  original storefront. Even though Ahr and her family appreciate that many of their loyal customers will still be sticking around, their old location is where the family holds many of their fondest memories.

“It will be a very sad thing when the store goes because as much as people love the new location its still not the store that we all grew up in; my customers, me, my kids, my customers kids,” she said.

The approved Chick-fil-A site plans call for a reconfiguration of the parking lot surrounding both current shopping centers to allow for drive- thru access and additional spaces.

“It will be a very sad thing when the store goes because as much as people love the new location its still not the store that we all grew up in.” 

— Donna Ahr

Al Amato, founder of the Garden City-based Amato Law Group, PLLC, who is representing Chick-fil-A, attended the Sept. 20 meeting and said both locations would provide an adequate amount of parking individually, and that the new property would not block access to the other shopping center. Neither Amato nor a representative of Chick-fil-A were available to say when demolition on the old structure and construction of the new restaurant will begin.

In the meantime, Bagel Gallery is the last store in that shopping center that remains open. Ahr said she has been notified a tentative date to move out is Nov.10. She said she hopes to host a going away party for their old shop before they have to close for good.

“When I do have the exact date I want to do [something] special,” Ahr said. “They will tear it down in front of our eyes, and we’re all going to cry.”

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Browns Road homeowner Linda Costa speaks out at the Sept. 20 Smithtown Town Board meeting. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nesconset residents fear construction of a proposed Dunkin’ Donuts on Route 347 could disrupt their neighborhood.

A small group of Nesconset residents spoke out against developer Browns & 347, LLC who has requested a change of zone to the 2.5-acre property on the corner of Route 347 and Browns Road from R-15 Residential Single Family to Whole Sale Service Industry at a Smithtown Town board meeting Sept. 20.

The developer has proposed plans to construct a 12,450-square-foot, two-story office building and a Dunkin’ Donuts on the wooded lot, according to attorney Vincent Trimarco Sr.

The official notice posted regarding the rezoning on the corner of Route 347 and Browns Road in Nesconset. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nesconset residents are decrying the plans saying it will negatively affect property values and increase traffic near Sprofera Park. For Browns Road resident Linda Costa, whose home is adjacent to the proposed project, the developer’s plans are particularly alarming.

The plans for the proposed project will create additional parking spaces on two sides of
her property.

“Now your adding more parking behind my house — I have parking next to my house and across the street from my house,” Costa said. “I feel like I’m living in a parking lot.”

Costa and other residents fear a zone change would hurt their ability to sell their homes in the future, especially if they wished to break away from this new commercial development.

“I would probably try to sell my home before the development goes through, but I would have to be completely honest with that person beforehand that the zoning changed,” Costa said. “It would be much harder to sell.”

The proposed development was previously denied by the town’s planning board in May 2017, due to traffic complaints caused by an entranceway off Browns Road, according to Trimarco. The new site plan would limit access to two driveways on Route 347, and include a 30-foot barrier of greenery along Browns Road to disguise the property from the residential street.

In addition, the applicants have agreed to provide 22 parking spaces along the eastern end of the property to the town for municipal purposes and access to Sprofera Park.

Maureen O’Connor, who lives across from the proposed project, said she feared traffic would increase if cars wanted to come down Browns Road to get to the new Dunkin’ Donuts. The problem is exacerbated with kids crossing the street to get to Sprofera Park and a school bus stop that is situated along Browns Road.

Attorney Vincent Trimarco explains the developers plans for a Dunkin Donuts and office building in Nesconset. Photo by Kyle Barr

“The traffic pattern already around this busy intersection would not only increase, but would increase the disruption in the flow of traffic as cars attempt to enter or exit onto this business on [Route] 347,” O’Connor said.

When residents questioned why developers wouldn’t create more single-family homes on the site, Trimarco said having more homes connected to Browns Road would result in more traffic. He also said that since the development will be shielded from view by that greenery it shouldn’t affect property values.

“We would have to have access through Browns Road, and you would have the same problem the neighbors are concerned about,” Trimarco said.

Nesconset resident Salvatore Vitale, a homeowner on Michael Place overlooking the park, said he fears a new parking lot and a Dunkin’ Donuts could lead to more loitering and vagrancy.

“Every few nights there’s a police car parked [in the Sprofera Park parking lot] to make sure there’s no transients or loitering,” Vitale said. “Now you put a building there, and those parking areas will need three police cars every night.

Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) did not give a date as to when the town will make a decision.

Three young boys battling cancer have long been fascinated with police, and Sept. 19 they got the opportunity to immerse themselves in the lives of law enforcement officers.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Geraldine Hart and Chief of Department Stuart Cameron swore in Zachary Cote, 9, and Jesse Pallas, 11, of Miller Place, and Sean Hughes, 10, from Port Jefferson as SCPD officers for the day during a surprise ceremony at police headquarters in Yaphank. Sean’s brother, Kyle, 8, also joined for the day’s events.

“It’s hard to put into words what our kids go through every day, but when we see a child smiling and this excited, its these things that will stick with them,” said Fariba Pallas, Jesse’s mother.

Each held up their hand as Hart asked them to repeat the words to be sworn in. Once she reached the end, she smiled and said, “Welcome to the department boys.” Already used to repeating what she said, they repeated her again, “Welcome to the department boys,” the young officers said in tandem.

“Just to see the smile on [Sean’s] face, he’s a very happy boy today.”

— Melanie Hughes

The swearing in was a surprise for both the kids and their parents. The adults thought their children would be meeting for a tour of the police department, but instead the kids got to join the ranks of the adults in blue.

Pallas said her son has been in the hospital for nearly half his life after being diagnosed with leukemia in 2011. She said being sworn in as an officer was a big moment for him.

Pallas asked her son who’s his superhero. “Police,” the young man shouted.

“He wants to be a police officer every Halloween,” she said.

The families originally met at an event hosted by the Thomas Scully Foundation in 2017, a nonprofit founded with the mission of brightening the lives of kids fighting cancer, and both the parents and kids bonded over their shared experiences. Melanie Hughes, Sean and Kyle’s mother, said that the kids did not have to talk to each other about their experiences, because they all know without having to say.

“It’s really sad to see kids go through what they have to go through to fight for their lives,” Hughes said. “Just to see the smile on [Sean’s] face, he’s a very happy boy today.”

The idea came about from county police Sergeant Patrick Kelly, who met the kids and their families during the annual Long Island 2-day Breast Cancer Walk in Shirley. The officer was so humbled by their enthusiasm for local police he decided to do whatever he could to make a special day for the kids, he said.

“Once the word got out everyone stepped up to the plate and wanted to be a part of this,” Kelly said. “These kids are unbelievable. They’ve gone through more in their lives than I could even imagine of going through.”

“These kids are unbelievable. They’ve gone through more in their lives than I could even imagine of going through.”

— Patrick Kelly

After the swearing in ceremony, the kids were taken outside to experience a number of police department activities, including working alongside detectives from the Identification Section; meeting with Emergency Service Section officers; and checking out Highway Patrol cars and a police helicopter. The Suffolk County K-9 unit brought out a number of their dogs for the kids to meet. Officer Brendan Gayer, a member of the K-9 unit, had quite a lot of experience with the kids, especially Jesse who has had a long standing passion for the dogs, collecting baseball cards with the names and pictures of the unit’s many hounds.

“I met Jesse years ago, and he approached me, and he was infatuated with my dog,” Gayer said. “He just loves them.”

At the end of the day, the kids were presented with a proclamation followed by a walk-out ceremony usually reserved for retiring high-ranking members of the department.

All three of the young cancer patients have long been enamored with the police department. Zachary’s father Glenn Cote said ever since his child was little he would make “awooga” sounds every time a police car passed by.

“As long as he’s been able to talk he’s looked up to the police department,” Cote said. “This is a really special day for him to be around a bunch of people that he wants to grow up to be.”

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Smithtown town officials plan new parking lot for Kings Park

From left, Marc Mancini, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in the newly reconstructed Bellemeade Avenue Municipal Parking Lot. Photo by Kyle Barr

A newly remade Bellemeade Avenue Municipal Parking Lot in Smithtown has several local business owners excited. They hope it might not only attract more customers, but the floods that have ruined their properties in prior years will be a thing of the past.

“There was a big storm a couple years back and all of our stores got flooded,” Lisa Spica, the owner of Dance ‘N’ Things, said. “I have a lot of stuff on the floor, and merchandise got damaged, equipment got damaged. This new drainage is a beautiful thing.”

The parking lot, located off East Main Street, was once notorious for filling with water, at one point flooding the 13 businesses that it borders, business owners said. After several days of torrential rain earlier this month, Richard Daly, owner of RICHARD Salon, was happy to report he’s seen no hint of flooding.

Now, it’s great. There’s a lot of new parking spots. Clients are happy, and more importantly employees are happy.”

— Richard Daly

“When it flooded, we just got used to it — lived with it,” Daly said. “Now, it’s great. There’s a lot of new parking spots. Clients are happy, and more importantly employees are happy.”

The Town of Smithtown finished its $490,000 reconstruction of the parking lot in August, which increased the total number of parking spaces to 139 while adding new drainage and rustic lighting fixtures. Mike Petrina, the manager at Smithtown Running Company, said that the additional lighting was especially
important to him.

“Before there was hardly any lighting, so the new lighting makes it a lot safer at night,” Petrina said.

Smithtown’s elected officials have municipal parking on their minds. The town board voted unanimously Aug. 14 to enter a contract of sale to purchase two vacant lots off Pulaski Road for a price of $280,0000 from Flushing residents Matthew and Marguerite Lupoli.

“We finally brought the Queens resident to Smithtown — we purchased those lots and we’re going to make a new parking lot, similar to [Bellemeade], but with off-street parking to help the west end businesses that we have in Kings Park,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said.

This parking lot was in disarray for many, many years, and hardly ever used. Certainly, this parking lot will be beneficial to these businesses.”

— Ed Wehrheim

The parking lot was closed for roughly a month before being reopened, according to East Main Street business owners, who said they felt  construction did not affect their businesses too much. Most are now happy to walk to their cars at the end of the day without dealing with flash flooding or worrying about their safety.

“I even have some younger girls working for me and taking out the garbage late at night, sometimes we would just wait until morning because nobody wanted to,” said Erin Kahnis, the owner of DIY artistic signs store AR Workshop. “It’s much better now.”

Wehrheim said the town plans to install additional lighting fixtures and finish landscaping the gardens in the lot’s center island and along its eastern edge during the next six weeks.

“This parking lot was in disarray for many, many years, and hardly ever used,” the supervisor said. “Certainly, this parking lot will be beneficial to these businesses.”

An aerial view of Town of Brookhaven’s Green Stream Recycling plant in Yaphank is surrounded by recyclables in August 2018. Brookhaven has since returned to dual stream recycling. Photo from Town of Smithtown

It’s a rubbish time to be involved in the recycling industry.

The Town of Brookhaven’s recycling plant is grappling with unprecedented mounds of bottles, used paper goods and trash. Ever since China implemented its “National Sword” policy in January banning the import of various nonindustrial plastics, paper and other solid wastes, Brookhaven’s had a hard time selling off collected recyclable materials. As China was one of the top buyers of U.S. recyclables according to NPR, this move has left many Suffolk townships unsure what to do with their residents’ recycled garbage.

To recycle or not: Tips  on handling your trash

By Kyle Barr

Operators of the Brookhaven recycling plant deal with a lot of junk. Not the good kind of junk, however, as many household items that residents assume can be recycled can cause havoc in the machinery.

In the four years since the town invested in single-stream recycling,  Erich Weltsek, a recycling coordination aid for Brookhaven, said there has been increased resident participation in the recycling program. But it has also led to some residents chucking in items that have no business being recycled.

We’ve gotten chunks of concrete, and you even get sports balls — like soccer balls, footballs — constantly,” he said. “A lot of what we call ‘wish cycling,’ where people think they’re doing the right thing and when in doubt they throw it in a recycle bin instead of the right receptacle.”

Weltsek said people have tried to recycle Coleman outdoor stoves and propane tanks, which is extremely dangerous and could result in an explosion at the facility.

The most pervasively disruptive items are plastic bags and other items that Weltsek called “tanglers,” such as Christmas tree lights, pool liners and garden hoses. The recycling facility operates on a number of conveyor belts that first feed into a device called a star screen, a number of rotating cylinders with feet that separate recyclable fibers from other items. These items either wrap around the wheels on the conveyor belt or star screen, either letting fibers through the wrong end or stopping the machine entirely.

Suffolk residents should clean out any plastic bottles or cans before putting them in the recycling. Any low-quality paper products or grease-stained cardboard such as used pizza boxes, should not be recycled because they affect the sellable quality of the entire recycling bundle.

Andrade said all plastic bags should be recycled at a local supermarket, which are mandated by New York State law to have a receptacle for all shopping bags.

The plant often has to turn away other nonrecyclable material, such as plastic utensils, bottle caps and Styrofoam. All of these are considered contaminants, either because they cannot be recycled properly, or they
dilute the quality of the material.

“While it hasn’t stopped it, China’s new policies have significantly slowed down the ability of recyclers to move material to market,” said  Christopher Andrade, commissioner of Brookhaven Town’s waste management department. “There are domestic mills and domestic markets [but] the thing is just finding them, negotiating them and moving the material.”

That is easier said than done, according to Andrade, as many recycling plants across the nation now have fewer options of where to sell their collected goods. China has publicly claimed the decision has to do with the quality of the materials, as low-quality newspaper print or thin PVC plastics are not considered valuable enough for reuse. There’s also the problem of recyclables being mixed with other, nonreusable garbage.

In 2014, Brookhaven moved from dual-stream to single-stream recycling, a system that allows residents to put out all their recyclables in a single can to be sorted out at the town’s facilities instead of bringing out a different material — plastic, papers or metal — every other week. This increased overall participation in the recycling program, Andrade said, but has led to some confusion.

The loss of the Chinese market has severely interrupted the Brookhaven-owned Green Stream Recycling facility’s outflow. Green Stream Recycling LLC, a company that contracts with the town and operates the town’s facility in Yaphank, made good use of China’s market. While the facility continues to operate without a definitive answer to where else the company can move its materials, some of it is now going back into the landfill, according to Andrade.

This crisis is not only affecting the Town of Brookhaven, but other municipalities on Long Island which sell their collected recyclables to Suffolk County’s largest township. In 2014, the Town of Smithtown formed a five-year contract with Brookhaven to send 12,000 tons of garbage to the Green Stream facility,  in return for $180,000 per year. While Brookhaven continues to honor the agreements with its partnered municipalities, the lack of market availability for recyclables has some members of Smithtown Town Board concerned.

At a Sept. 4 work session, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) showed board members a photo taken by a drone in May showing recyclables piled in heaps just outside Brookhaven’s facility. The picture made Wehrheim and other board members question what might become of the town’s current recycling agreement.

“At one point, we’re going to come to some decision what to do with [Brookhaven Town,] Wehrheim said. “It could be a potential problem … in the short term.”

Andrade said that excess dumping on the facility’s land came from the “shock” of China’s National Sword policy being implemented earlier this year, though he said the situation has since been brought under control. Despite these international issues, Andrade said Brookhaven remains committed to recycling.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) “and the board believe very strongly in recycling, and we’ll bounce back from this,” he said.

The markets are being overwhelmed; the people taking the material can be picky on what they accept. We’re going to have to respond by being better at only putting out the things that people can actually reuse.”

— Russell Barnett

Russell Barnett, Smithtown’s environmental protection director in the Department of Environment and Waterways, said he is working on a solution with Brookhaven, including a regional approach comprising Smithtown, Huntington, Southold and several other communities that are partnered with Brookhaven.

Smithtown had its own dual-stream facility that was closed before it started sending its materials to Brookhaven in 2014, though reopening it could be costly.

“We’re assessing our equipment — seeing what’s operational, what’s not, what repairs need to be made and what upgrades need to be made if the occasion comes up that we want to go that route,” Barnett said.

In the meantime, he said residents need to be more discriminating when it comes to deciding what items to recycle. Otherwise, it will be much harder in the future to find a buyer for the world’s recyclable garbage.

“When they talk about the standard, they’re not just talking about nonrecyclable material
but the right kind of recyclable material.” Barnett said. “The markets are being overwhelmed; the people taking the material can be picky on what they accept. We’re going to have to respond by being better at only putting out the things that people can actually reuse.”