Authors Posts by Kevin Redding

Kevin Redding

Kevin Redding
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Hundreds of residents showed off their athleticism and generosity this past weekend in Smithtown during the 12th annual 5K Running of the Bull, which benefits local children in need.

On the grounds of the New York Avenue Smithtown Central School District administrative building, spectators rang mini-cowbells and giant speakers played the “Rocky” theme song as more than 200 runners raced down a 3.1-mile course along Forestwood Park to the finish line during this year’s fundraiser. The competitors ranged in age from 11 to 82. Each finisher was met at the end of the race with cheers from family and friends, food from local eateries and raffle drawings.

Commack resident Stephen Abruzzo, 47, who came in first with a run time of 18 minutes 28 seconds, has been running in the Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce event since it began in 2006.

“It’s all about giving back to the local charity,” Abruzzo said. “This is a great cause and this race is a great reflection of the Smithtown community.”

Dominick Logiudice drove out from Patchogue to take part in the event for the first time.

“I heard it’s a well-run event and the charity angle is unbelievable,” he said. “We all have to do our part.”

All proceeds from the 5K Running of the Bull go to Angela’s House, a Hauppauge-based nonprofit with locations in Smithtown and Stony Brook that assists families caring for children with special health care needs. The funds primarily cover the costs of what insurance companies won’t, like sending a child to a specialty camp or providing expensive mobility equipment such as adaptive strollers.

The race helps the 25-year organization continue to provide special needs families the ‘yes’ after everybody else says ‘no,’ according to Founder and Executive Director Bob Policastro, who also competed.

“When a parent sees an event like this advertised, it’s like, ‘Wow, my town is supporting an agency that’s supporting us,’” Policastro said. “A lot of them feel very alone as their life can be restricted. So when they know a community is rallying around them, it’s like a boost that they need and deserve.”

When Mark Mancini of the Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce first joined the group in 2005, he said he pitched the idea of a 5K run for a charity, which he said was met with lukewarm responses from his fellow board members.

“It was a little shocking to me,” he said. “But that all changed after the first Running of the Bull. The chamber after that wanted to get charities for everything. One event basically kickstarted others.”

Mancini said once he learned about Angela’s House and Bob Policastro, who started the organization after his own daughter died from medical complications in 1990, he was determined to make it the focus of the run. The race has also benefitted other charities over the years, such as the Courtney Sipes Memorial Foundation, a nonprofit founded in memory of a Smithtown student struck and killed by a car on Main Street in 2009.

“This is so important,” Mancini said. “It’s such a positive event and just the thing that we need.”

Barbara Franco, executive director of the chamber, agreed.

“It’s a fabulous day for the community, for families, for children, for pets,” Franco said with a laugh and pointed out a bulldog dressed in an event T-shirt. “If mom is running, dad and the kids cheer her on. If dad’s running, the whole family’s behind him.”

Chamber President Robert Cartelli, who led the 1K fun run for young children and their parents before the main race, said this is among his favorite events in Smithtown.

“I love it,” Cartelli said. “I look at this community as a pulse of Long Island and I’m very happy to be part of this family event. It’s the best.”

A check with funds raised by the event will be presented to Angela’s House during the Chamber’s holiday party in December.

Mother urges a switch back to elementary school

Mount Sinai parents have been asking to move fifth-graders from the middle school back to the elementary school. File photo by Erika Karp

Students in Mount Sinai are expected to grow up a little faster than those in other districts. While a majority of neighboring towns keep their fifth-graders in the elementary school, Mount Sinai, since the early 1990s, moves its 10- and 11-year-olds up to the middle school.

A mother challenged the concept during an Aug. 23 board of education meeting when she asked administrators to consider making fifth grade part of the elementary school again in the future.

The conversation has been ongoing ever since.

Renee Massari, a mother of two elementary school students, proposed the idea last month, saying she didn’t see the academic or social benefit of having fifth-graders learn under the same roof as eighth-graders. In fact, she believed the drastically different environment negatively affected the young students — who occupy their own wing on the second floor of the building.

“I’ve seen it through many of my friends’ children here — many of them don’t excel.”

Renee Massari

“I’ve seen it through many of my friends’ children here — many of them don’t excel,” Massari said during the meeting. “It’s almost like they feel deflated because it’s difficult for them to handle those responsibilities expected of our fifth-graders. Because [realistically], they aren’t middle schoolers.”

Massari explained to the board that, from her understanding, the fifth-graders’ premature graduation to the middle school was prompted solely by a lack of classroom space in the elementary school. She asked if an administrator could evaluate current classroom space, adding the school has seen a declining enrollment rate over the last few years.

“Ideally, I would love for the fifth-graders in this district to have the same transition that 99 percent of the districts on Long Island have,” Massari said. “We can house them in the elementary school, a building they’re familiar with, and keep the same program where they transition from classroom to classroom and get them exposed to that before going to a whole different building.”

Board Trustee Robert Sweeney agreed with Massari and said the decision decades ago to move the students into the next building had nothing to do with education and everything to do with space and misjudgment. He also urged the board to reevaluate the concept.

“It’s a fallacy to have elementary students up there,” Sweeney said. “I think we have to look at it because there’s no educational benefit [to it].”

Superintendent Gordon Brosdal, an admittedly “old school guy” who said he would even like to see the sixth grade in the elementary school, told Massari her proposal would be explored — but classroom space, or lack thereof, in the district’s smallest building remains an issue. He said it will take a lot more than one available classroom to bring back the fifth-graders to the elementary school and expansions on the building would be costly.

Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal and Trustee Robert Sweeney listen to parents’ concerns at a board meeting. The two are in favor of moving fifth-graders back to the elementary school. File photo by Erika Karp

“But in the meantime, what we have to do is make sure the nurturing environment continues in the fifth grade,” Brosdal said.

Teachers, he said, know to treat their students with the same level of care and support elementary school students experience. And although the move up offers a completely new setting, with lockers and classroom changes and multiple teachers during the day, Brosdal sees it as a good transition opportunity.

“Plus, they’re kind of isolated and not mixing with the older grades when they don’t have to,” he said. “At the same time, I understand parents feel their kids are not ready to move up because of maturity and a lot of other reasons, and want them to remain in a nurturing environment.”

In the weeks following the meeting, Brosdal reached out to elementary school principal Rob Catlin, and together they projected six classrooms would be needed in the building to accommodate the roughly 175 students in the current fifth-grade class.

One would be hard-pressed to find three available classrooms, according to Catlin, who is currently in the process of meeting with parents about the issue.

“I’ve heard the same concerns from a couple different people now and I’m reaching out to some parents for some meetings to talk about it,” Catlin said. “As the year goes on, and if the topic continues, I’m more than happy to keep talking. But it’s in an early stage right now.”

Mount Sinai resident Beth Erdmann, whose children are in seventh and 10th grades, said every parent experiences panic in the midst of the elementary and middle school transition but soon realize it’s not a big deal.

“I’ve heard the same concerns from a couple different people now and I’m reaching out to some parents for some meetings to talk about it.”

Rob Catlin

“When it’s your first child, it seems too soon and scary, but they are in their own wing and it’s a nonissue,” Erdmann said. “There were no adverse effects to my children … fifth and sixth grade are still treated as elementary. The location is just in the middle school. I was worried and bothered at the time, [but] my kids were fine.”

Debra Wesolowski agreed, having gone through the transition multiple times with four children.

“Once they were there, I couldn’t imagine them in the elementary school,” Wesolowski said. “Kids are a lot more mature now than years ago … you see how mature and responsible the fourth-graders become as the year goes on [and] by the time they graduate from fourth grade they have outgrown the elementary school and need to advance to the next stage. The middle school does a great job transitioning them.”

But Jennifer Ruger Lazarou, an elementary school teacher, feels the kids are too young.

“I think keeping them in the elementary school one more year is a good idea, and will still make them just as prepared,” Lazarou said. “I teach in a K-through-six building and can’t even imagine the sixth-graders being exposed to middle school any earlier.”

Brosdal said district office and building administrators have begun the exploration of a move.

“It is too early in the process for the board to make a decision one way or another,” Brosdal said. “The expense of such a project would impact the district’s budget and bond proposal.”

The Smithtown school district has not made a decision regarding the sale of its administrative building on New York Avenue. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

By Kevin Redding

The Smithtown school board is not yet sold on a proposal by the town to buy its administration building on New York Avenue and surrounding property to turn them into municipality offices and a central park.

“The Board of Education has made no decision as to what direction it wishes to pursue with respect to the New York Avenue property,” said the Smithtown school board in a statement Sept. 19.

This comes months after the Smithtown Town Board issued an appraisal of the administration building to the school board for its review in order to kick-start a negotiation process as quickly as possible.

Councilman Tom McCarthy (R), who proposed the town purchase the property to help boost its downtown revitalization efforts, said during a Sept. 5 town board meeting the school’s decision to not sell the property or meet with council members to discuss the topic at this time meant the town could not move forward with anything.

He also suggested the board not proceed with its original plans to appraise six buildings — existing satellite-buildings utilized as office space by town departments — which would be vacated if services could be consolidated into one centralized location on the New York Avenue property.

Nesconset resident William Holst disagreed.

“I would strongly recommend looking at getting those appraisals done, looking at those buildings in terms of being consolidated, [and] reducing the number of buildings in the downtown area so you actually can generate some real revitalization in this area,” Holst said during the meeting.

McCarthy responded by calling the $20,000 for appraisals a waste of taxpayer money at this time.

“To spend money when they really aren’t interested at this time [to sell us the building] wouldn’t be prudent,” McCarthy said.

The councilman said that he has reached out to members of the school board in an attempt to try to schedule a future meeting.

“If we can get them to the bargaining table, I’m sure this board would be more than happy to do the appraisals on our outlying buildings,” McCarthy said.

In an interview Sept. 18, McCarthy said, “It’s in limbo right now but I would get moving on it tomorrow if they got back to us, which I hope they do. I think they’re looking at it from a monetary standpoint for themselves and doing their due diligence. They’re a good board.”

Smithtown resident Bob Hughes, a member of the civics New York Avenue Group and Smithtown United, said he has unofficially acted as an intermediary between the two boards since last year to help them find common ground on the matter.

Hughes believes school board members are holding out on a decision until after town elections are over “so they don’t have to deal with two possible town boards.”

“Once we get past November, there probably will be more interaction between the school and town,” Hughes said, holding out hope the project will move forward soon. “It’s about what the community wants. The New York Avenue property could be a focal point of the downtown revitalization and improve efficiency.”

Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) discusses red light cameras during a press conference in Miller Place Sept. 21. Photo by Kevin Redding

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) is calling for an investigation into the county’s annual Red Light Camera Program Report, which he said has purposefully, and illegally, eliminated data on car accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists.

Trotta stood with fellow legislators and colleagues Sept. 21 at the intersection of Route 25A and Miller Place Road in Miller Place to address his ongoing concerns with a lack of available statistics surrounding accidents, injuries and deaths due to the county’s red light camera program, highlighting a conversation he had last month with a traffic engineer of Nelson & Pope, the company that prepares the annual reports.

The traffic engineer, according to Trotta, advised him that the company was instructed not to include the pedestrian and bicyclist-involved accidents at red light camera locations in reports, in order to paint a better picture of the program. The reports are submitted to the state and made available to the public. The most recent report was released in April and highlighted statistics for 2015. While pedestrian and bicycle-involved accidents have been reported in a scattered few reports since the program began in 2010, the data has not been included in the last two years’ reports.

Trotta said the data exclusion is a violation of the state’s motor vehicle and traffic law, which states the mandatory annual report must include the number, type and severity of all accidents reported at these intersections with traffic control devices.

He also said it is not clear who is behind the data exclusion, the county or the company behind the red light camera program, but urged the state attorney general to get involved so the guilty party can be held accountable.

“How can anybody adequately look at the positive or negative features of a program when they’re not getting all the data?” Trotta said during the press conference. The legislator has long been opposed to the program, which he said he believes is the cause of an uptick in accidents throughout the area and is merely a ticket and revenue-generating scam by the county. “There are multiple reasons why this program should be shut down immediately and I’m aghast by the fact that we’re doing nothing and we are lying to the public by not including the pedestrians and the bicyclists. When I found about this, I couldn’t believe it.”

Trotta was joined by Legislators Leslie Kennedy (R-Smithtown) and Tom Muratore (R-Selden), as well as county legislature candidate Gary Pollakusky (R), at the busy intersection where two teenagers have died after being struck by cars, which features red light cameras.

“We lost a child here on a bicycle and a child here as a pedestrian,” Trotta said, referring to 14-year-old Nico Signore who died earlier this year, and 16-year-old John Luke, who died in 2015. “But I guess that doesn’t mean anything to anybody because they’re not even including [those accidents] in the report. I absolutely think there’s cohersion with the county and this company to keep the money stream coming in. This entire program is just a calamity of errors.”

Pollakusky said he supports the suspension of the red light camera program due to its negative impact on public safety.

“The red light camera program is a money grab by [County Executive Steve Bellone] and the Democrats in the Legislature and has been sold to the public as a public safety program — it is anything but safe,” Pollakusky said, stressing that accidents have increased after the red light cameras were installed.

He also took issue with his opponent, Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who initially voted against the program but has since come to agree with its mission of changing poor traffic.

“[She] is famous for saying ‘if it saves one child’s life,’ it’s worth it [but] this program that you and your cohorts support, Mrs. Anker, has hurt innocent drivers, pedestrians and children alike,” Pollakusky said.

Personal injury lawyer David Raimondo, based in Lake Grove, represents the Luke family and pointed to an omission of data, including fatalities of pedestrians in auto accidents, in a presentation before the Suffolk County Legislature in 2014 led to the red light camera program’s renewal.

“It’s up for renewal in 2019 and if we don’t have the proper data before the Legislature, it will continue to be renewed and we cannot let that happen,” Raimondo said. “It’s very important this program come to an end, it be suspended and that the suffering of the taxpayers of Suffolk County — both financially and physically — end.”

Denise Dragiewicz and her husband Marc during a recent visit to Indonesia. Photo from Denise Dragiewicz

By Kevin Redding

“There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’ … for the times they are a-changin.’’

The words and music of Bob Dylan will serve as a fitting soundtrack at Madison Steak House in Hauppauge Sunday, Sept. 24, during a special fundraiser to highlight and benefit the work of Eyes of the World Films — a New Jersey-based documentary company that focuses on the environment and socially relevant issues.

The Complete Unknowns, a Dylan cover band that spans the singer/songwriter’s six-decade catalog, take the stage at 5 p.m. and will rock the house with a mix of Dylan’s popular tunes and deep tracks until the end of the event at 8 p.m. Guests will enjoy a four-course dinner menu, have the opportunity to win raffle prizes that include a variety of Dylan memorabilia, and learn about Eyes of the World’s upcoming projects during the company’s quarterly fundraiser.

“Bob Dylan’s music really speaks to my heart and really opened my eyes as to what’s going on in the world when I was younger,” said Denise Dragiewicz, former Smithtown resident and the president of Eyes of the World Films. She directs and edits the company’s documentaries while her husband, Marc, a biologist, serves as environmental consultant and chooses each film’s subject and locations. “And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do — open people’s eyes to what’s going on with the environment and get people engaged.”

All proceeds from the fundraiser will go toward the production and completion of two new films being developed by the husband-and-wife duo.

“The Burning of Borneo’s Peat Swamp Forest,” which has begun filming in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan, and will be the company’s fifth documentary, explores the degradation of Indonesian forestland in recent decades by way of out-of-control fires brought on by the region’s dry season.

The decimation has also hit the areas surrounding Sabangau National Forest, home to the largest breeding population of orangutans, and, as of now, 80 percent of orangutan habitat has been wiped out — a major focus of the film.

A short version of that documentary, made up of footage shot in Palangka Raya last winter, recently won the YALE e360 Environmental Video Contest, and the duo hopes to use any funds they raise to return to the location and finish production on a feature-length film on the subject. For the larger film, Denise Dragiewicz said, they are concentrating on a young Dayak activist named Emmanuela Shinta, who is attempting to convince the Indonesian government to protect the remaining forest.

“Indonesia has been on the path of environment destruction for many decades,” Dragiewicz said. “Many areas, including Palangka Raya, where we are filming, have had to deal with horrendous fire seasons that last months at a time [and] not only do these fires damage remaining forestland and what is left of the orangutan habit, but the smoke and murky, yellow haze that is the offspring of these blazes have been causing serious health problems.”

“The environmental films produced and put out are generally about the bigger picture of global warming and the storms,” she continued, “but you don’t really see these little community stories and how global warming is hitting people on a smaller level and that’s what we’re trying to show.”

Marc Dragiewicz, who regularly works in environmental conservation with specific expertise and experience in rainforests, said of the film, “This is the largest project we’ve worked on yet and it’s important. It’s a subject that’s really happening right now and affecting a lot of people. It’s kind of a cautionary tale that if we’re not careful, we’re going to lose our wildlife and we’re going to have some really bad air coming up in the future.”

The other film, titled “In the Dark,” is still in preproduction and will be the duo’s first feature narrative, revolving around the sexual violence against women and children in South Africa.

The filmmakers’ documentaries have played at a variety of film festivals around the world and appear on several environmentally friendly websites like Life of Terra and Sustainability TV.

They said an ideal goal from this fundraiser would be $5,000. Of course the films will cost more than that but every little bit helps, Denise Dragiewicz said.

“The more we’re able to raise, the more we’re able to produce these types of documentaries and that’s really important to me,” she said. “The fundraisers are a real celebration of art and passion, and we hope we can not only raise funding but also draw more people into being aware of the importance of preserving our natural habitats.”

Michael Weiskopf, lead singer of The Complete Unknowns — a six-piece band that formed 10 years ago out of a love for Dylan’s music — said when Dragiewicz contacted him to play the fundraiser, he was drawn in by her passion.

“I thought, ‘this is a serious filmmaker and this is a serious subject,’” Weiskopf said of orangutan conservation. “I’m interested in helping living things that can’t speak for themselves … so it’s a good cause to get involved in.”

As a self-professed “unapologetic Bob Dylan devotee,” Weiskopf said he looked forward to the event and attendees should expect to hear a wide variety of Dylan songs, old and new.“When you have 600 plus songs to choose from, it’s always interesting,” he said.

The fundraiser starts at 4 p.m. at Madison Steak House, 670 Motor Parkway in Hauppauge on Sunday, Sept. 24, and will cost $25 for the bar and $50 for dinner and the show. You can buy tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3047480.

Visit www.eyesoftheworldfilms.com and www.michaelweiskopf.com for more information.

A rendering of what the front of the proposed new St. James firehouse would look like. Image from St. James Fire District

Residents within the St. James Fire District voted “no” Sept. 19 to tearing down the Jefferson Avenue firehouse and replacing it with a bigger and better one.

The $12.25 million capital bond proposal sought to knock down the existing 7,404-square-foot firehouse on Jefferson Avenue and build an updated 22,458-square-foot structure in its footprint. The proposal was rejected by voters, with 775 “no” votes and 459 “yes” votes.

The concept of the new firehouse — which would have been more than three times as large as the current building — served to accommodate for modern requirements of firefighters while also taking care of renovations and repairs within the pre-existing infrastructure, which sustained significant damage in an August 2016 storm.

The estimated cost of the proposed facility would have made for an approximate increase of $118 to $198 a year for taxpayers based on their home’s assessed value.

“On behalf of the entire St. James Fire District, we would like to thank those community members who came out to vote today in our bond election,” the district’s board of commissioners said in a statement. “We are disappointed that the proposal was defeated. … As commissioners, we will now regroup and begin discussions of what our next steps might be. We will continue to keep the community informed throughout the process. As always, we will continue to respond to all emergencies in the quickest manner possible, as it is our duty and privilege to protect the residents of St. James.”

Prior to the vote Sept. 19, St. James fire commissioners said they would move forward with selling the Route 25A/Lake Avenue building — which was purchased by the district for $500,000 in 2013 —  regardless of what residents’ decision was.

As they exited the voting booths, residents explained their stance on the proposal.

“I voted ‘no’ because the tax increase is too much and I was disappointed that the only plan that was put forth was a $12 million plan,” a resident who asked to remain anonymous said. “There was no B plan or C plan and I also don’t understand the sale process of the 25A building. If they’re going to sell it, then why don’t they use that money to renovate? It’s silly. Nobody needs more taxes at this point.”

Jerry Ruggieri, a 50-year resident, agreed.

“I voted ‘no,’” Ruggieri said. “I live two blocks down the road and I think it would cause havoc on Jefferson Avenue. They have two facilities that are more than enough to satisfy the town as far as fires and I don’t think we need the expense, in this day and age, creating a new fire department. We don’t need it. We’re fine.”

Victoria Johnston, however, voted “yes”.

“I just feel as though it’s in our town’s best interest to go with this new firehouse so that these guys have the best,” Johnston said. “These are people who wake up at 3 a.m. to go save your family members. They give up time with their families to come out and save yours. For a little bit more, everything could be good for them and be good for so long. I don’t get how you can say no to them.”

This version corrects the amount of “yes” and “no” votes casted.

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Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise in the latest version of ‘IT’

By Kevin Redding

Real-life clowns out there will no doubt have trouble booking gigs after this past weekend. But no matter what permanent damage Pennywise the Dancing Clown, as sinisterly portrayed by Swedish actor/chameleon Bill Skarsgard in the new “IT,” does to the facepaint-and-red nose industry, I believe it will ultimately be this generation of kids who are most struck by the modern horror masterpiece.

Just as the 1990 TV miniseries of “IT,” featuring Tim Curry as the evil child-eating clown, served as a gateway into the genre for many modern horror fans — I vividly recall being a kid transfixed just by the disturbing VHS cover in the forbidden-yet-intoxicating horror section at Blockbuster — this new, and far better, take on Stephen King’s 1,138-page source material might just be the key to that scarier side of storytelling for millennials.

Even during a sold-out showing on Sept. 8, young kids were peppered throughout the theater, many of them with sweatshirts on their laps and at the ready to be used as protective shields against the screen whenever the music turned sour and Pennywise reared its bulbous head. But as the movie went on, more and more of these kids got brave and began to face their fears, just like the film’s protagonists.

And it’s not hard to understand why. This movie, in a word, rules.

Director Andy Muschietti’s first of a two-part adaptation of King’s colossal 1986 novel about a pack of kids who battle various forms of evil floating out of the sewers in their hometown feels like the big-screen equivalent of navigating through a haunted house attraction at a carnival, where clowns with razor sharp teeth serve peanuts and popcorn.

“IT” — an intense and atmospheric barrage of pop-up frights and unsettling images balanced out with some big laughs (especially the big payoff to a running New Kids on the Block joke) and feel-good camaraderie — is a perfect mashing of coming-of-age adventure and ghastly freak show. And that’s what separates this beast from most horror movies these days.

In the hands of a lesser filmmaker and lesser cast, this “IT” would’ve been all about the eponymous monster, and the kid heroes would’ve been an afterthought — or worse, rooted against. But it’s the Losers Club (made up of young teenagers Bill, Ben, Bev, Richie, Eddie, Mike and Stanley), and what I consider the best ensemble of kid actors I’ve ever seen, that ride away with the movie and our hearts.

The book bounces back and forth between kid Losers and adult Losers, but this movie wisely focuses solely on the kids, while an already greenlit-and-ready-to-go Part II will pick up in adulthood.

Set in Derry, Maine, in the summer of 1989, a time of nostalgia for 2017 audiences as the book’s early 1958 setting was for its ’80s readers, Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) is still shaken by the gruesome death of his little brother Georgie a year prior.

In a magnificent opener, little Georgie following a paper boat made by Bill is introduced to Pennywise, (the best and most quiet of Skarsgard’s chilling performances) who lurks in the darkness of a sewer. After brief niceties, Georgie becomes the first of many Pennywise victims when his arm is bitten off and he’s dragged down the storm drain.

Members of the Losers Club band together to fight ‘IT.’

From there, Bill, who believes his brother is still out there somewhere, is joined by his ragtag group of outcast friends to find out just what’s going on in their unsettling town, where the adults turn their backs while kids are bullied, go missing and frequently come face to face with terrifying creatures — such as a Leper, an embodiment of Eddie’s paralyzing fear of disease and a bone-chilling painting of a malformed, flute-wielding woman that comes to life to haunt Stanley.

The young cast give phenomenal performances, with the standouts being “Stranger Things” star Finn Wolfhard as foul-mouthed Richie, Jeremy Ray Taylor as portly-and-sweet new kid Ben Hanscom and Sophia Lillis, who will surely go on to become a huge star, as Beverly Marsh.

I have no doubt that this Halloween there will be a Losers Club in every neighborhood, riding around on bikes bonded together in search of candy and the inevitable dozens of Pennywises prowling the streets.

Speaking of Pennywise, it cannot be stated enough just how menacing, powerful and stress-inducing Skarsgard is in the role, somehow making the iconic character all his own and turning Curry’s clown into something cute and harmless in comparison (similar to what Heath Ledger did with the Joker in “The Dark Knight”). The Pennywise moment that will forever be burned in my head as long as I live involves a fridge. All I’m sayin’.

Muschietti, who previously directed “Mama,” pulled no punches here, offering up a relentless fun house of fear with an unexpected layering of heart and soul that will certainly connect with nonhorror audiences. While there may have been a bit too much reliance on computer-generated imagery and the all-too-familiar jump scares that make for startling movie trailer moments but come off a bit flat in the context of the film, “IT” is scary, thoughtful, funny and everything a horror nut like me wanted.

And it just might lure this new generation into the sewers of horror appreciation.

Rated R for violence/horror, bloody images, and for language, “IT” is now playing in local theaters.

Photos courtesy of Warner Brothers

Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society receives a $145,000 grant that helps the organization reach the $1 million needed to complete foundation repairs. Photo from Pamela Setchell

The future of a historic lighthouse in Huntington Bay is looking bright.

The 105-year-old Huntington Lighthouse will undergo much-needed repairs this fall thanks to preservation efforts by members of the nonprofit Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, which in August secured a $145,000 matching grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.

Kathryn Curran, executive director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, when announcing the grant recipient, highlighted the lighthouse’s “vital role as a cultural entity, enhancing education and preserving heritage in the community.”

The Gardiner grant, which the preservation society applied for in July 2016, will be used to complete what members are calling phase one of restoration efforts to the lighthouse’s exterior foundation.

It will also allow the lighthouse to reopen for tours and educational groups again after two years of dormancy, as well as mark the return of the Lighthouse Music Fest.

Steel sheeting has been placed around the entire base of the structure to ensure more stability for the next 100 years against rough weather conditions. A brand new landing platform will be installed to replace a deteriorating one.

Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society receives a $145,000 grant that helps the organization reach the $1 million needed to complete foundation repairs. Photo from Pamela Setchell

Pamela Setchell, president of the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, said she believes it was her passion for the historic landmark that clinched the highly-competitive grant during the interview process.

“For me, it’s just a dream,” said Setchell, a lifelong Huntington resident who has been exploring the lighthouse since she was young. “Just knowing she is going to be strong for another 100 years and hopefully go on to tell its story to everybody and to children and continue on … it means the world.”

She said without these restoration efforts, the lighthouse would become unstable and rapidly deteriorate, undoing the last 30 years of work the society has done to upkeep its interior. Setchell joined the society upon its formation in 1985 when threats of demolition loomed over the structure.

“We took it over in a deplorable state, put her back together and now she’s actually one of the poster children for offshore lighthouse restoration in the country,” Setchell said.

She pointed to the offshore lighthouse as unique among others on Long Island as it’s one of the few, due to its location, that allows the public to fully experience it. Many other lighthouses on the island are off-limits to visitors due to treacherous waters, she said.

Bernadette Castro, a longtime Huntington resident and former commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, echoed Setchell’s admiration for the lighthouse.

“For 50 years, I have looked out my dining room window and sat on my back terrace and appreciated that magnificent little structure,” Castro said of the lighthouse. “It is part of the landscape of those of us who live nearby.”

The recently acquired $145,000 grant, in addition to the nonprofit’s previously-raised $740,000 to secure a $250,000 New York state matching grant, as well as fundraising efforts among Huntington Bay residents, closes the gap on the $1 million foundation repair.

Incumbent Smithtown town councilmembers Thomas McCarthy (R) and Lynne Nowick (R) have beaten Republican Party-endorsed challengers Robert Doyle and Thomas Lohmann based on the unofficial Sept. 12 primary results. File photos

By Kevin Redding

Smithtown’s incumbents appear to have won the Sept. 12 Republican town board primary, but there are absentee ballots to be counted and the challengers aren’t backing down.

Councilwoman Lynne Nowick (R) has come out on top in the four-candidate race with 2,929 votes while Councilman Tom McCarthy (R) followed with 2,833 votes. Coming in third and fourth were challengers Bob Doyle (R) with 2,575 votes and Thomas Lohmann (R) with 2,543 votes, respectively, according to unofficial Suffolk County Board of Elections results posted Sept. 13.

Bob Doyle. Photo by Nicole Garguilo

“With Nowick and McCarthy, there are a number of absentees out,” said Bill Ellis, the Smithtown Republican Committee chairman. “I think Lynne Nowick will prevail, [but] there’s still an opportunity for Doyle and Lohmann to surpass McCarthy. It’s a bit of a long shot, but it’s a possibility.”

Nick LaLota, Republican commissioner for the county board of elections, said there are 322 absentee ballots as of Sept. 13. He said he expects the county may still receive a few dozen additional ballots over the next week. Absentee ballots must have be postmarked by Sept. 11 and received by the county by Sept. 19 to be valid.

Nowick, who was first elected to the board in 2013 and has served as an elected official for 22 years, has focused her bid for re-election on keeping taxes low, getting sewers into downtown areas like Kings Park and St. James, and maintaining Smithtown’s quality of life including its parks, beaches and roads.

“I, of course, am very happy to have been so successful,” Nowick said, of the town council results. “I think a lot of that success was that Councilman McCarthy and I worked for the town and cared for the town. When you’re here a lot of years and you’ve helped a lot of constituents along the way, make no mistake, constituent services are very important. When you help people for many years, it resonates.”

She said her sights are now set on the Nov. 7 election with plans to utilize the same campaign strategy.

“Look, this is what we’ve accomplished, this is who we are, and that is what we’ll run on in November,” Nowick said.

Tom Lohmann. Photo by Johnny Cirillo

McCarthy, deputy town supervisor who has been on the town board since 1998 and, if re-elected, said he looks forward to continuing his service to Smithtown residents alongside Nowick.

“I’m pleased that the voters saw fit to elect me,” McCarthy said. “It proves that all the hard work we do on a daily basis is appreciated and we appreciate their votes. We’ve had so many good initiatives that I’m happy to have championed over the last four years.”

The councilman has spearheaded multiple projects to revitalize the downtown areas — most recently pushing the infrastructure rebuilding of Lake Avenue in St. James and working to develop sewers with $40 million in state funds.

Doyle, a retired Suffolk homicide detective from Nesconset, and Lohmann, a former New York City police officer from Smithtown, ran on similar agendas to restore the town’s former glory, including its infrastructure, and create a more transparent board.

Despite being disappointed in the results and low-voter turnout, both challengers said they have every intention of continuing to run on the Independent and Conservative party lines in November.

“I am encouraged by the numbers and how well Tom Lohmann and I did against two very powerful incumbents,” Doyle said. “I’m looking forward to Election Day and taking our message to all of the voters in the Town of Smithtown. We truly believe we will be victorious in November. The fight has just begun.”

Lohmann echoed the sentiment.

“I plan to go forward with my quest into the general election and we’ll let the people decide,” Lohmann said. “I’ve never walked away from anything in my life, and I’m not starting now.”

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New Mount Sinai Elementary School Principal Rob Catlin, Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal and Executive Director of Educational Services Deena Timo discuss how to incorporate new reading programs into the school district. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

It’s not as easy as A-B-C for some. That’s why the Mount Sinai school district recently rolled out new reading programs that will help K-8 students who struggle with the subject find success.

Last fall, Superintendent Gordon Brosdal was concerned the elementary school’s standard reading program did not accommodate for the fact that all students learn at different levels. So those challenged by reading tended to fall behind while their classmates soared, he said.

A closer examination of the district’s overall reading results, through assessment programs such as aimsweb, showed plenty of room for improvement to meet the school’s academic standards.

So this year, three widely used and proven effective programs designed to sharpen literacy skills  — the Fountas & Pinnell Leveled Literacy Intervention System, the Sonday System and the Wilson Reading System — were implemented in the elementary and middle school reading and writing curriculum. Training sessions on the ins-and-outs of each program took place over the summer for district educators, including English as a second language and special education teachers.

“We focused on how we could do more to target those students who are not making progress and are stuck at a level or falling behind as they get older, and the work gets more difficult.”

Deena Timo

Throughout the year, new elementary school reading teacher Lindsey Mozes, who has extensive experience with the three programs, will work with students and train teachers to use them.

“We’re increasing our teachers’ toolboxes so they can handle the individual needs of each student better,” Brosdal said. “Kids have more challenges today — the population’s more diverse, some don’t speak English, some speak very little English and some can’t read. We have to address those individual challenges.”

By starting it at the elementary school, Brosdal said the district is building a solid foundation, especially if it wants to maintain its Reward School status, which is given to schools that demonstrate either high academic achievement or most progress with minimal gaps in student achievement between certain populations of students, according to the New York State Education Department.

“We want to remain a Reward School, but we’re not going to have that if kids aren’t being more challenged in reading and writing early on,” Brosdal said.

Deena Timo, Mount Sinai executive director of educational services, worked alongside the superintendent to bring the reading programs to the district.

“We focused on how we could do more to target those students who are not making progress and are stuck at a level or falling behind as they get older, and the work gets more difficult,” Timo said. “We’re looking at the individual student’s needs and adjusting to meet those particular needs.”

She explained the Wilson and Sonday systems are based on the Orton-Gillingham instructional approach, which commonly consists of a one-on-one teacher-student setting and is targeted for those with more severe reading issues, such as students with learning disabilities. The programs focus mostly on word pronunciation and expression, Timo said, while Fountas & Pinnell is more comprehension based.

“As a parent, you don’t want your kid reading books that are too hard or too easy, you want them reading books that are just right, and this makes it really clear.”

Rob Catlin

During a Fountas & Pinnell session, a student simply reads a book with his or her teacher. As he or she reads, the teacher takes note of overall reading ability and then asks questions about the book to gauge understanding of the text, whether it’s a “Clifford the Big Red Dog” or “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” book. If the student understands the book well, that student graduates, moving on to a book with a more challenging reading and comprehension level.

Beyond expanding the student’s literacy understanding, the program allows for teachers to grasp exactly what learning level a students is at — which can then be easily communicated to parents.

“As a parent, you don’t want your kid reading books that are too hard or too easy, you want them reading books that are just right and this makes it really clear,” said Rob Catlin, the district’s new elementary school principal. “It’s helping parents and teachers become a team to help that kid.”

Catlin taught Fountas & Pinnell for years as an educator in New York City before arriving at his new position. He is also well versed in the Columbia Writing Program, which enters its third year in the Mount Sinai school district and has aided in strengthening students’ writing scores on English Language Arts exams.

As a principal, he said his goal is to see students progress throughout the year and believes these reading programs will help with that.

“I want to see that no matter where you were in September, you’re at a different point in June,” Catlin said. “Each kid is getting differentiated instruction based on what they need and we’ll find the right program for them. Maybe they do need Wilson, maybe they don’t. Regardless, we’ll figure out the best approach.”

He said he doesn’t want to see kids continue to fall through the cracks.

“Good instruction is never one-size-fits-all,” he said. “We’re equipping our teachers with options when a student is struggling and making sure they have the skills to address the individual needs of every kid in their room. I feel like this district was on the precipice of doing really great things and I happened to just come in at the perfect time.”

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