Authors Posts by Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr

Kyle Barr
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The Miller Place board of education incumbent Keith Frank is running unopposed to maintain the position he’s held for the last three years.

The trustee has been a Miller Place resident since 2003, and currently works as a labor and employment attorney for the Silverman Acampora law firm based in Jericho. He moved to Miller Place to raise his kids in what he saw as a good school district and kid-friendly area.

Keith Frank is running for his second term. File photo

Two of his three kids are currently enrolled in the district. His oldest child graduated from last year. While his kids matured he coached North Shore Little League soccer, softball and baseball.

When Frank ran in 2015 he said he wanted to meet the needs of his own children as well as the rest of the students in the district.

“I got a lot of fulfillment and satisfaction working on the board,” Frank said. “I want to continue that with the great team we have here.”

He said he believes that the main focus of the board should be offering programs for all students with different interests.

“We’re trying to balance the needs and the wishes of everyone, whether it’s arts, athletics or music — whatever the kids want to do,” Frank said. “Not all kids have the same interests. For example, with my kids, one’s athletic, one is interested in the arts. It’s about making sure we can properly fund those and support any of those activities.”

Frank said that technology, science and math focused courses should be a staple in the school’s curriculum to deal with a developing world.

“Kids should be able to go out and properly tackle the world,” he said.

Board president Johanna Testa said she was happy to see Frank put in an application for a second term.

“We’re looking forward to the next couple of years with him here,” she said. “What I find with our current board is we may not all agree with each other all the time, but we work well together and we work toward the common good of the district. [Keith Frank] is an attorney and he’s had experience dealing with contract negotiations and things of that nature. That’s been a benefit to us and the district.”

Last March Miller Place School District hired one armed security guard for each of the four school buildings in the district.

Frank would not go into detail on continuing those services or putting more effort and funds in new security upgrades, but he said options will be reviewed again going into the next school year.

“We’re taking it one step at a time,” Frank said. “We have approved [the security guards] through the end of this year, then we will take up that issue and review it again.”

Board elections will take place with the budget vote Tuesday, May 15 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the North Country Road Middle School gym, at 191 North Country Rd. in Miller Place.

This version was updated to correctly identify at what time and where the budget and trustee vote will take place.

Trustee Michael Yanucci not seeking a second term

Shoreham-Wading River board of education president Robert Rose, on left, and second-time candidate James Smith, are running for two open trustee seats. File photos

By Kyle Barr

Two trustee seats are up for grabs on Shoreham-Wading River’s board of education, and running for them are a veteran and a newcomer.

Current board President Robert Rose is seeking another term and second-time candidate James Smith is  seeking election to the board following the stepping down of current trustee Michael Yannucci.
Both candidates are running unopposed.

Yannucci said he decided to not run for re-election so he can spend more time with his young children.

“Despite the fact that we have an uncontested board election this year, residents should continue to stay engaged and attend board meetings,” Yannucci said. His advice to the rest of the board upon leaving is that they should look to engage and communicate with district residents. “Even if they don’t have kids in school, their taxes are still affected by our decisions.”

Rose is running for his third three-year term on the board.

“I decided to run for re-election because I think I add a lot to the board with my experience,” Rose said. “I also really enjoy giving back to my community.”

“Despite the fact that we have an uncontested board election this year, residents should continue to stay engaged and attend board meetings.”

— Michael Yanucci

The board president said he knows his way around schools with his more-than 20 years of experience as an educator. He’s been the assistant principal at Smithtown High School East for the past 12.

“I would like to continue to play a role in making Shoreham-Wading River an outstanding district by working collaboratively with the administration and teachers to develop policies and programs that support student learning and help our students become career and college ready,” Rose said.

Smith, who ran last year unsuccessfully, has been a Shoreham resident for the past six years and in that time has not hesitated to get involved in the community. The father of four enrolled in the district, joined the PTA and became its vice president. He has worked with kids as a coach through Sound Beach Soccer Club and Father Joe’s Soccer. Smith said he wants to push for greater psychological and emotional resources for students.

“I just wanted to have greater input in the district,” he said. “I think the district has made great strides over the last couple [of] years, but I definitely want to see more resources dedicated, especially now in
today’s environment, toward the mental and physical well-being of our students.”

Shoreham Wading-River is including a provision in its adopted budget for hiring an additional psychologist to help with the current workload. There is presently one at the high school, one at the middle school and three shared between the two elementary school buildings. 

Smith said he believes there need to be even more psychologists and social workers engaged with students in school.

“I definitely feel the district needs to shift more toward emotional intelligence,” Smith said. “We’re stretched very thin. We need this emphasis on mental health, especially with all the school shootings we’ve seen over the past few years.”

Board elections will take place with the budget vote Tuesday, May 15 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Shoreham-Wading River High School auxiliary gym, located at 250A Route 25A in Shoreham.

This version corrects how many psychologists there are presently at the elementary schools. 

Pushing through the early morning cold and rains on Sunday, Huntington residents raced to support organ and tissue donations.

“I think we did fantastic for a first time run,” said Michele Martines, run organizer and mother of a heart transplant recipient. “For the cause, we’re going to save some lives.”

Roughly 130 runners helped to raise nearly $5,000 for LiveOnNY, a nonprofit association dedicated to recovering organs and tissues for transplants in the New York metropolitan region, at the 5K Race to Save Lives held April 29 at Harborfields High School. The event was sponsored by  Simply Fit Health and Wellness gym, which has locations in Centerport and Huntington,  Huntington Hospital and several Huntington Town officials.

The event recognized two donor recipients including Councilman Mark Cuthbertson’s (D) son, Hunter Cuthbertson, who had to receive a bone marrow transplant in 2017, and Martines’ son, Christian Siems,who celebrated the third year after his heart transplant April 25.

A lot of people don’t know about organ transplants, that or they have misconceptions and they just assume things.”
 Christian Siems

Hunter Cuthbertson was diagnosed with aplastic anemia during a precollege physical in 2016. Aplastic anemia is a failure of the bone marrow to produce the necessary amount of red blood cells. Though the chance of finding a perfect match in bone marrow with a relative is only 25 percent, the younger Cuthbertson found that his brother was a perfect match.

“I was elated when I learned he was a match, I dropped to my knees and I was crying,” he said. “But he’s one of the lucky ones. The other 75 percent need to go the unmatched registry. The larger the registry the larger the chance that someone’s going to get saved.”

He underwent a week of chemotherapy before having a bone marrow transplant performed in March 2017.

Siems learned his heart was beginning to fail before he turned 21. He had an external defibrillator installed and tried to move toward college, but after getting progressively more tired and sick he was airlifted to Westchester Medical Center where he was told he would need a heart transplant. Luckily for Siems in just six months he received a call that they found a donor.

“I’ve known [Siems] since I’ve moved here, and it’s been hard watching Christian go through what he has,” Joe Bertolini, Siems’ neighbor and overall winner of the 5k, said. “He’s come to talk to us at our school about what he’s been through. It’s inspirational.”

Siems has taken up publicly speaking about the need for organ donors to local schools and community organizations.

Only about 32 percent of New Yorkers are registered to be donors, in some states its over 56 percent.”
 Karen Cummings

“A lot of people don’t know about organ transplants, that or they have misconceptions and they just assume things,” he said. “I go out there and talk to kids, the next generation and I educate them on what it is, and not to be scared of it. It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give.”

Despite the two young men’s luck in finding donors, they are not the average case. New York State is currently ranked last in terms of number of residents who are registered as organ donors, according to LiveOnNY’s website. There are currently 9,359 people waiting on organ donations in the state.

“Only about 32 percent of New Yorkers are registered to be donors, in some states its over 56 percent,” Karen Cummings, a public and professional education specialist for LiveOnNY said. “We are the fourth fastest growing registry, but New York is still at the bottom of the list.”

A number of people who raced were the recipients of organ or tissue donations. Huntington resident Hal Strauss, who in August 2017 collapsed as he was doing his regular bike exercise. He was rushed to Huntington Hospital where he learned he needed a new liver.

“You just wait by the phone,” Strauss said. “I was able to get my organ in seven months, but I’m an anomaly. For other people it can take years.”

New York residents can register as organ donors whenever they visit the DMV, register to vote, register for health insurance through the health benefits exchange or
online at LiveOnNY’s website

Rocky Point board of education trustee Ed Caswell, on left, is running for re-election. Newcomer Gregory Amendola, on right, is also running following the step-down of Vice President Scott Reh. File photos

Two candidates are running for two open Rocky Point board of education seats this May.

Following the news of Vice President Scott Reh choosing to step down,incumbent Ed Casswell is choosing to run again, while newcomer Gregory Amendola chose to throw his hat in the ring for the open seat.

Reh, Mount Sinai’s athletic director, said he felt it was time to step down after nine years on the board.

“I did it for three terms, but it was very time consuming,” Reh said. “I think the board’s doing a great job. I think I’m leaving it in very good hands. I was honored and privileged to serve on it. I wish everyone the best of luck.”

Casswell, a 26-year Rocky Point resident, is serving his third year on the board.

“I’m hoping to continue serving to help oversee the operations of the district, specifically our charge to be fiscally responsible, provide opportunities for students — for college and career — and to strengthen safety protocols districtwide,” Casswell said.

“I did it for three terms, but it was very time consuming. I think the board’s doing a great job. I think I’m leaving it in very good hands. I was honored and privileged to serve on it.”

— Scott Reh

The trustee has been a member of the North Shore Little League for 10 years and is currently the principal of Center Moriches High School.

“I feel it is important to be an active member of a community,” he said. “High levels of altruism and service among citizens help create vibrant communities. This has always been my driving force and calling. I believe in these notions and love serving.”

Gregory Amendola is a 13-year resident who said he’s running to try and get the community more involved and informed on how the school district makes decisions.

“I wanted to be a voice for the kids in the district — I want to make sure every kid in the district is spoken for,” Amendola said. “I’m big on communication, and I still feel like there’s people in the dark who don’t even know we have board meetings. I feel the district for the most part is doing well, but I just want people to be more informed about what’s going on.”

Amendola works as a dental ceramist, making prosthetics like crowns, bridges and other implants. He was vice president for the Long Island Sharks football team board, has previously run St. Anthony’s CYO soccer club and has been parent liaison for the junior varsity and varsity Rocky Point Wrestling teams.

“My grandparents lived in Rocky Point before I moved here with my wife, so I always had a connection to the town,” he said. “It still has that small-town feel.”

Amendola said that he’s excited to be working with the rest of the board.

“I don’t have anything that I want to change right out of the gate,” Amendola said. “I want to get involved, find my place, find my rhythm, then as we go further I want to make my voice heard.”

The trustees vote will take place along with the budget vote May 15, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Rocky Point High School gym, located at 82 Rocky Point-Yaphank Road in Rocky Point. In July, at the board’s organizational meeting where the elected members from May will assume their trustee positions, the board will elect a president and vice president.

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The district is hosting a meet the candidates night May 2

Mount Sinai School District's budget and trustee vote is May 15 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Mount Sinai Elementary School, located at 118 North Country Rd. in Mount Sinai. File photo

By Kyle Barr

Two are running for two open seats on Mount Sinai’s board of education this month, with eight-year board veteran and president Lynn Capobianco stepping down.

Capobianco said she will not be seeking re-election, saying she believes it’s time for different community members to lend their voices to the discussion.

Lynn Capobianco. File photo

“All my children are through school, my youngest is now a freshman in college and I think it’s time for new faces and new voices to come in,” she said.

Incumbent trustee Michael Riggio is running for a second term and newcomer Steve Koepper is running first time. Both are running unopposed.

Riggio, the board’s vice president, is a 12-year resident of Mount Sinai finishing out his first three-year term. He has a 12-year-old daughter enrolled in the district.

Riggio is a retired officer of the New York Police Department’s counterterrorism unit who now provides security consulting. He said Mount Sinai’s push toward new security measures is something he has advocated for since he first arrived to the board.

“That’s one of the things I ran on three years ago,” Riggio said. “The new security’s working out, and it’s great to see it finally taking shape.”

Riggio said his focus is on making smart financial decisions to make sure school programs don’t get cut.

“Let’s say for example you have a senior and you have a kid in eighth grade,” Riggio said. “The senior was exposed to all these special programs and had great teachers, then, when the eighth-grader gets here, you want him to have the same things as the senior. You don’t want to tell the eighth-grader, ‘oh, we cut this program,’ and this is all gone because we have fiscal problems.”

Michael Riggio. File photo

Koepper and his family moved into their Mount Sinai home in 2000. He has previously volunteered on the district’s bond committee. The father of two said he understands the financial part of schools well, as he’s currently the superintendent of buildings and grounds for the Sayville school district.

“I have been involved with the community as a firefighter for over 15 years,” Koepper said in an email. “I felt now was a good time to offer more of my volunteer time in service to educational process to help shape the future of Mount Sinai schools. There are problems like declining enrollment that need to be looked at, and I’m here so that we can work together and move forward.”

He also has a 12-year-old daughter and a 3-and-a-half-year-old son in the district. Capobianco endorsed Koepper for the open seat.

“[Koepper] did a great job on the bond committee, so I think he will be a nice fit for school board,” she said.

Mount Sinai School District is hosting a meet the candidates night May 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the Mount Sinai Middle School auditorium. The school is located at 114 North Country Road in Mount Sinai.

Superintendent Marianne Higuera discusses the proposed budget at a school board meeting. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Another end to the school year brings another round of budget votes. Local school districts adopted 2018-19 budgets saw increases with attempts to expand programs, repair infrastructure and increase security measures around campus.

All budget and board elections votes will take place May 15.

Shoreham-Wading River High School. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Shoreham-Wading River

The Shoreham-Wading River board of education adopted a $74,776,072 budget, an increase of $701,500 from the 2017-18 school year.

“The district’s exceptional programs, and the performance of its students academically, artistically and athletically are a great source of pride to our community,” Superintendent Gerard Poole said in an email. “The 2018-19 proposed budget fully maintains all current student programs and includes additional new student offerings.”

Poole said new offerings include high school electives and clubs in elementary and secondary school. The expanded budget also allocates for hiring a new middle school psychologist. The district plans to contract with an outside agency for any problems that go beyond the work of in-house psychologists.

The tax levy, or the money a district raises through property taxes to fund its budget, has dropped half a percent, a $269,775 total decrease from last school year.

In an April 18 presentation on the proposed budget, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Glen Arcuri said that the tax levy decrease is due to an increase of state aid, specifically building aid for renovations.

“The district spent money, successfully completing them as aggressively as the district was able to,” Aruci said. “This allowed the money to be returned back to the taxpayers because the formula requires the district reduce the tax levy by the return of the building aid.”

The budget also expands elementary enrichment clubs, the middle school’s chromebook program, security measures — including an anonymous reporting app — and includes money for maintenance projects and one-time equipment purchases like two new maintenance-work vans.

A budget hearing will take place May 1 at 7 p.m. at Shoreham-Wading River High School. The budget vote will take place May 15 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Shoreham-Wading River High School auxiliary gym, located at 250A Route 25A in Shoreham.

Rocky Point High School. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Rocky Point

The Rocky Point board of education adopted a $86,128,785 budget, an increase of $2,842,439 from the 2017-18 school year.

The largest increases came from teacher benefits and new general education initiatives, like STEM initiatives, new Advanced Placement courses and special education services.

“The proposed budget is one that was developed with an eye toward our district’s mission – to develop each child’s full potential in a nurturing and supportive, student-centered environment in order to provide a foundation for lifelong learning,” Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring said in an email. “Our budget planning process also placed a strong focus on the fiscal health of our district and the commitment we have to taxpayers to operate in the most financially-efficient manner possible.”

The budget includes a 3.1 percent tax levy increase at $1,536,959 from last year. Board officials said that the increase stays within the tax levy increase cap.

“We kept things current,” board Vice President Scott Reh said. “We didn’t cut anything. We kept the programs in place and I think we were very responsible.”

A budget hearing will take place May 1 at 7 p.m. in the High School auditorium. The budget vote will be May 15 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Rocky Point High School gym, located at 82 Rocky Point Yaphank Rd. in Rocky Point.

Miller Place High School. File photo by Kevin Redding

Miller Place

The Miller Place board of education adopted a $72,685,864 budget, an increase of $1,495,189 from the 2017-18 school year.

“The budget increase at 2 percent maintains all current academic programs, clubs and athletics, as well as maintaining our capital project planning, and we’re pleased we’re presenting that within the tax cap,” Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said.

Under the proposed budget the tax levy will see a 2.8 percent increase of $1,261,274 from the previous year. The increase stays within the tax levy increase cap, meaning a cap-piercing vote won’t be necessary.

The proposed budget plan include a $530,000 transfer to capital funds, boasts the inclusion of new initiatives, including new high school courses Chemistry Honors, Virtual Enterprise — a course on learning about global business and enterprise — and Engineering Design using VEX Robotics, which design kits used to design automated devices and robots.

“They’re there to address interest in different programs,” board President Johanna Testa said of the new classes. “Science Technology Engineering and Math is a big interest in our community — robotics falls right into that area. It’s trying to be timely and up-to-date with what’s going on in our world.”

A budget hearing will take place May 8 at 8 p.m. at Miller Place High School. The budget vote will be May 15 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the North Country Road Middle School gym, at 191 North Country Rd. in Miller Place.

Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Mount Sinai

The Mount Sinai board of education adopted a $60,203,745 budget, an increase of $931,220 from the 2017-18 school year.

Earlier projections put the total budget at $60,469,490, but an increase in state aid, as well as a number of retiring Mount Sinai teachers. have brought the total down.

The largest increases in this year’s budget came from security improvements, including finalizing a bid to hire armed guards. One of the top bids is from the Hauppauge-based security firm Pro Protection Security Inc.

“We just feel that it’s important to have anything that’s a deterrent,” Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said. “When they’re not just in the building, but they’re actually checking ID’s at the gate, it gives people a second thought.”

The budget vote will also include two propositions to be voted on. One is a $750,000 increase to the capital reserve, and the other is a $5,000,000 capital project, coming from the unassigned fund balance, to pay for partial renovations to the high school roof, as well as improvements to the turf, track, bleachers, press box, sidewalks, nets and concrete plaza, while also enhancing security features like perimeter fencing and gates around the school property.

There is a tax levy increase of 1.95 percent, an increase of $766,589 from the previous year.

“I am hopeful and optimistic that it will pass,” board President Lynn Capobianco said. “I think it’s a fiscally sound budget.”

Capobianco was concerned that residents voting on the two other propositions would misunderstand what they are voting for.

“The capital project funds do not come out of the budget,” she said. “It will not raise the tax levy.”

A budget hearing is scheduled for May 8 at 8 p.m. at the middle school auditorium. The budget vote will be May 15 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Mount Sinai Elementary School, located at 118 North Country Rd. in Mount Sinai.

This version corrects the time and place of the Mount Sinai School District budget vote.

Shoreham-Wading River quiz bowl teammates Mahdi Rashidzada, Andrew Honold, Timothy Ibrahim and Julia Petreczky. Photo from Ann Gianfalla

The Shoreham-Wading River varsity quiz bowl team Brainstormers showed up this April when they went undefeated all the way through the finals of the Long Island Regional Quiz Bowl.

To the team, consisting of senior captain Timothy Ibrahim and juniors Julia Petreczky, Andrew Honold and Mahdi Rashidzada, competing at such a high level never felt overburdening or stressful.

“It’s funny because we’re not really that competitively minded,” Ibrahim said. “There wasn’t one person who answered the questions, we all answered the questions together, and everybody was really pulling their weight.”

The team finished the season ranked No. 1 in eastern Long Island and No. 5 among all participating Long Island schools. On April 11, the Brainstormers competed in the Quiz Bowl finals at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School. The team won two out of three games in the preliminary rounds but didn’t make it through the quarterfinals. Faculty advisor Ann Gianfalla said that this was the best Shoreham-Wading River had done in years.

“It’s funny because we’re not really that competitively minded. There wasn’t one person who answered the questions, we all answered the questions together, and everybody was really pulling their weight.”

— Timothy Ibrahim

“We always have a good, competitive team, but in the years since I’ve been advising the Brainstormers we’ve only ever got into that sudden death part of the finals one other time,” Gianfalla said. “I think they are all feeling really good about the season. Once you go to the finals the competition gets much deeper very quickly.”

Each contest is broken up into different rounds. The first round includes 15 toss-up questions where there’s no penalty for guessing. Round 2 tasks the team with coming up with answers to five questions. Round 3 is a lightning round to answer 10 questions in 60 seconds. Round 4 penalizes teams for wrong answers.

“I think the great thing is that we had a really diverse team,” Ibrahim said, talking about how each teammate possesses an array of knowledge to help answer questions across the board. “We can all look to this one person, and they got it.”

Ibrahim is currently on the wait-list for Binghamton University, where he hopes to major in history, focusing on the late Bronze Age period. The juniors look forward to returning to the team next year.

The Brainstormers said they believe it’s not so much a matter of buckling down and studying, as questions could be anything from all parts of history, mathematics, culture and so on. The team practiced speed on buzzers and the rules for different rounds, but the main strategy was relying on each team members’ penchant for trivia.

“I was really interested in math and science, Andrew really excels at history — he knows all these crazy facts in wars I couldn’t name off the top of my head — and Julia is really into art, music and pop culture,” Rashidzada said. “Julia and Andrew just dominated in the third round when we had to name all these different bands that I haven’t even heard the names of.”

Gianfalla broke down the team’s strategy with a simple ethos.

“Basically, we just go there with four really smart kids ,” Gianfalla said, “and win.”

Kenneth Kindler, on right, leads hikers through the new Ray Corwin Trail in the Central Pine Barrens. Photo by Kyle Barr

A new Pine Barrens trail bears the name of Ray Corwin, the first director of the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission. Those who remember him said he was as calm, yet grand as the woods he loved so much.

“Ray Corwin was a friend, but he was also an inspiration,” state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said. “This trail is an invitation, [like he did], for people to get involved.”

Ray Corwin was the first and 17-year executive director for the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission. File photo

The Port Jefferson resident passed away suddenly in 2010 at the age of 56. People who knew him said he worked day and night for 17 years to protect the approximately 50,000 acres of the Pine Barrens core, as well as preserve the natural beauty and resources of the area.

In the late 1980’s, Corwin envisioned a trail that would go from Route 25A in Shoreham all the way down to Smith Point County Park in Shirley, according David Reisfield, president of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference. Corwin was also active for more than 25 years in the greenbelt conference, a hiking and preservation group, and was the group’s vice president at the time of his death.

“We are at this point trying to bring his dream to life,” Reisfield said. “Even as we stop at Yaphank now, we will eventually work our way all the way down to Smith’s Point. We’ll bring his dream to fruition.”

Local officials and environmental advocates came together at the Ridge Trailhead to officially open the new 12.1-mile trail from Rocky Point to Yaphank bearing Corwin’s name April 28.

When years of court battles over Suffolk’s pine barrens resulted in a 1993 state law creating Long Island’s 100,000-acre pine barren preserve, environmentalist Richard Amper said there was only one man both sides trusted to oversee the new sanctuary, and that was Corwin.

“I don’t think we would have advanced the Pine Barrens cause as quickly as we did without someone like Ray Corwin.”

— Ken LaValle

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) said the knowledge of the jogger and veteran hiker, the first executive director of the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission, could never be replaced.

“I don’t think we would have advanced the Pine Barrens cause as quickly as we did without someone like Ray Corwin,” LaValle said. “It’s great to recognize such a great man, and even though it took eight years, it’s never too late to recognize someone who gave us so much.”

The Ray Corwin Trail connects to existing trails that start just off Route 25A in Rocky Point. The new walkthrough boasts sights of the glacial erratic boulder known as “Turtle Rock;” the Warbler Woods, which are home to more than 30 species of warblers; a pitch-pine/oak forest; a red maple/black gum swamp; and the colonial-era Longwood Estate.

“We’re a sole source aquifer and it’s so important to protect those lands, because that’s our drinking water,” said John Wernet, forester for the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Reisfield said the project took so long because those working on it had to work with the DEC, local governments and the Town of Brookhaven, much in the way Corwin did when he was alive.

The ribbon-cutting, done by state Sen. Ken LaValle, unveiled the new Ray Corwin Trail. Photo by Kyle Barr

In his past, Corwin was originally responsible for developing a management plan for protecting the 50,000 acres in the pine barrens core, which cannot be built on, and enforcing rules of that plan and state legislation for regulating development in the 47,000-acre compatible growth area. Before taking the helm of the pine barrens commission, he had worked as a computer scientist and mathematician for Grumman Corp.

“This trail epitomizes what Ray tried to accomplish,” said John Pavacic, the current executive director of the Central Pine Barrens Commission. “It’s something that took work across all areas of government, as well as local groups.”

Creating a trail, according to trail advocate Kenneth Kindler, is as much engineering, planning and maintaining as it is using the area’s natural landscape to define the trail’s shape. He said that Corwin brought environmentalists and local officials together to protect the Pine Barrens.

“I remember him telling me once that I was focused too much on ATV’s ruining the trail’s ground,” Kindler said. “He said we couldn’t alienate people — that we needed as many people as we could to get involved. That was just the type of person he was. He was a people person — he could bring people together.”

Co-Director of Stony Brook University's Center for Clean Water Technology Howard Walker demonstrates how sand is used in a prototype of a new Nitrogen Reducing Biofilter at press conference in Shirley April 26. Photo by Kyle Barr

Scientists and engineers from Stony Brook University are planning to use two plentiful Long Island resources to save its coastal waters from nitrogen pollution: sand and wood chips.

Members of the New York State-funded Center for Clean Water Technology at Stony Brook University unveiled their nitrogen-reducing biofilter April 26 at a Suffolk County-owned home in Shirley.

“We have made a huge commitment to protect and preserve our land as we are protecting the groundwater below,” said New York state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). “We are zeroing in on our water, and we are making a major commitment with systems like these.”

“The results that we’ve gained have been very exciting.”

— Howard Walker

Through the system, waste from the home is first pumped into a septic tank. After the septic tank the effluent is moved into a separate system that trickles down by gravity, first going through a sand layer where bacteria turns the nitrogen into nitrite and nitrate. The waste then goes through another layer of sand and wood chips designed to turn the nitrite/nitrate into nitrogen gas that will go into the atmosphere, instead of into the ground and thus Long Island’s water.

The system being built in Shirley is one of three the center is testing as part of Suffolk County’s bid to create a nitrogen reducing home wastewater system.

“We have outstanding professionals who are helping to guide these efforts,” Deputy County Executive Peter Scully said. “We should be able to involve ourselves in the designing of the next generation of this technology, bringing the cost down [and] making the technology more effective.”

One of the biggest problems for Long Island’s coastal waters has been hypoxia, a state caused by excess nitrogen, where the oxygen level in water is below the necessary levels to support life. It affects fish, clams and any underwater plant life. Last year 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 hypoxia in Stony Brook Harbor, Northport Bay, Oyster Bay, Hempstead Bay as well as waters all along both the North and South shores.

In 2015 Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) called nitrogen pollution the county’s “environmental public enemy number one.” 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.

The benchmark for total amount of nitrogen allowed from any of these new systems is 19 milligrams of nitrogen per liter. Co-director at the Center for Clean Water Technology, Howard Walker, said that initial tests of the system have reached well below that threshold.

“We’re seeing less than 10 milligrams per liter of total nitrogen coming from the systems in the prototypes we’ve been testing for the past year and a half,” Walker said. “The results that we’ve gained have been very exciting.”

“We are zeroing in on our water, and we are making a major commitment with systems like these.”

— Ken LaValle

The purpose of the prototypes is to gauge the effectiveness of the system as well as find ways to reduce the price and size of the filter. The center hopes the system will be affordable since all the parts could be bought from plumbing or pool supply stores. Gobler said the system currently costs several tens of thousands of dollars in its prototype stage, but he hopes the cost will come down with more tests.

“This is nonproprietary — all other systems are built off of Long Island and then brought here, this one is using Long Island materials, Long Island labor,” Gobler said. “Ultimately without having to run a company or without having to buy something off the shelf, there’s a promise to make these highly affordable.”

Other nitrogen filters have problems when it comes to people flushing any kind of bleach, pharmaceuticals or other harmful chemicals because they kill off the bacteria that remove the nitrogen from the effluent, according to Gobler. He said the design of SBU’s nitrogen-reducing biofilter will be less prone to failure because the waste is spread over a large area, and because it seeps through the layers of sand at a slower rate the killing effect of chemicals would be reduced.

“One bad flush is not going to upturn the apple cart,” Gobler said. “We’ve tested more than 30 different organic compounds, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, drugs, and in all cases its removing 90
percent of those compounds, sometimes 99 percent. In certain cases, it’s just as good or even better than a sewage treatment plant.”

The Center for Clean Water Technology hopes to have concrete results on its prototypes in a year’s time. After that a provisional phase would take place where the center would install another 20 filters in other parts of Long Island.

Setauket beekeeper Maria Hoffman and members of the Long Island Beekeepers Club recently met with state assemblymen Steve Englebright and Mike Fitzpatrick to discuss ways to save declining honeybee colonies. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

On an April afternoon, Maria Hoffman, beekeeper and chief of staff to state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), strolled unfazed through a swarm of darting honeybees. She never had any fear of them, not even as a child.

The thing that does bother her — that has her and other local beekeepers living in anxiety — is the threat of colony loss.

“We are doing everything, everything to ensure our colonies success, and quite honestly we are losing that battle.”

— Moira Alexander

“I had nine hives going into the winter, I came out with three,” Hoffman, of Setauket, said. “It’s hard because you feel responsible for it. It’s my job to take care of them. But I know other beekeepers had similar losses.”

Colony loss has gotten worse over the last year. Long Island Beekeepers Club, an organization that boasts more than 300 members based mostly in Suffolk County, did an informal survey of 60 of their members with 243 hives between them. They estimated an approximate 50 percent colony loss from April 2017 to April 2018. This is compared to last year which estimated colony loss at approximately 30 percent.

“All of us are working extremely hard to keep our colonies alive on our own dime,” Smithtown beekeeper Moira Alexander said. “We are doing everything, everything to ensure our colonies success, and quite honestly we are losing that battle. We can feed them when there is a time of dearth. We can work on their health issues, we can provide water sources, but the one thing we cannot do is control weather and climate.”

Beekeepers from the club met with Englebright and state Assemblyman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-St. James) April 6 to discuss the many problems that are affecting bees and beekeepers. The club said there were several items the state could help with to curb this hive loss, including the need for more state bee inspectors, protecting and expanding areas of pollen-producing plants and limiting harmful pesticides.

Club members said that there has been a loss of forage of native pollinating plants being destroyed or replaced with nonflowering or non-pollinating plants.

A honeybee feeds on a flower. Flowering and pollinating plants are integral for bees to survive. Photo by Maria Hoffman

“Right now, in most of my yards, I’m down to five colonies in a yard from 10,” said Donal Peterson, vice president of the Long Island Beekeepers Club. “A pound of honey takes about 2 million flower visits. If you are going to put them out in a place, you want them to be able to feed themselves, and then make you a bit of money. With this loss, they can’t do that.”

Beekeepers say flower resources are diminishing, and the number of lawns, or “green deserts,” as beekeeper Grace Mehl calls them, has only expanded.

According to a 2015 study conducted by NASA and several Colorado and Montana state universities, lawns take up over 63,000 square miles of land in the United States. It is the largest single crop in the country.

“That gives you a perspective of how we are affecting our environment,” Mehl said.

The group proposed planting flowers and other pollen producing plants along major highways, and also putting the emphasis on pollen producing trees like linden trees in metropolitan areas.

Beekeepers also complained about the many pesticides and fungicides that affect both bees and other native pollinators, including neonicotinoids, an agricultural insecticide that structurally resembles nicotine.

“Neonicotinoids — which mimics nicotine — I remember when I was a kid my mother used to spread tobacco dust on the plants to keep the bugs off, because nicotine is known to be toxic to insects,” said Huntington beekeeper Rich Blohm. “It’s a systemic pesticide, it has to be put on the plant and the insect has to walk on the plant.”

“I remember when I was a kid my mother used to spread tobacco dust on the plants to keep the bugs off, because nicotine is known to be toxic to insects.”

— Rich Blohm

Club members said that New York State’s bee inspection services are severely limited on Long Island, which means top club members often take the role of inspecting people’s hives for disease, virus or mismanagement onto themselves.

“We are proactive as a club about hive health and inspection and handle all that through our club because of deep cuts to the state’s apiary inspection program,” Alexander said. “So, if there is a health issue with bees here, we immediately inform our membership and set up an inspection.”

Both Fitzpatrick and Englebright were open to the idea of crafting law to protect the bees during the meeting. Fitzpatrick said that beekeepers should spread the word to influence both local politicians and citizens.

“Your customers become a lobby force as well, they’ll need your support,” he said.

Englebright, chair of the assembly’s environmental conservation committee, said he would work across party lines to allocate more money for bee inspections.

“I would like to mention to create a category in law, on state and local land, for pollinator sanctuaries,” the assemblyman said. “I think we should start on Long Island. I think we should do it here first.”

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