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Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan
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Dean Fotis Sotiropoulos, SBU president Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., state Sen. Ken LaValle and state Sen. John Flanagan in front of the current engineering building at the university. Photo from Stony Brook University

Two state senators are doing their part to engineer a better future for Stony Brook University and Long Island.

New York state Sens. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) and Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) joined SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. Aug. 16 to announce the award of $25 million in state funding to the university for the initial phase of developing a new engineering building on campus — one that is estimated to cost $100 million in total. The 100,000 square-foot facility will include industrial-quality labs, active-learning classrooms and prototyping/manufacturing space.

“We have the opportunity to provide funding, sometimes discretionary, and this is a very strong investment.”

— John Flanagan

The official announcement was made at the university’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences building with representatives of local engineering companies in attendance, including VJ Technologies, Inc., Cameron Engineering & Associates, LLP, and H2M Architects & Engineers.

“We have the opportunity to provide funding, sometimes discretionary, and this is a very strong investment,” Flanagan said.

He thanked the owners and board members of the local engineering companies who traveled to Albany a few months ago to discuss the needs of engineering companies as well as the importance of recruiting talent and retaining students on Long Island.

LaValle, chairman of the Senate’s higher education committee, said he believed the new building will attract preeminent students to SBU, and thanked Flanagan for helping to secure the funds during a time when spare money isn’t plentiful

“I think it will go a long way in ensuring that we enhance where we are today in terms of providing students and faculty with an optimum state-of-the-art facility,” LaValle said.

Stanley recognized the senators as visionaries for acknowledging how critical the university is when it comes to building the technology that Long Island needs.

“I think it will go a long way in ensuring that we enhance where we are today in terms of providing students and faculty with an optimum state-of-the-art facility.”

— Ken LaValle

“The demand is tremendous,” Stanley said. “So, we really need to grow this school. We’re turning away qualified applicants from the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences because we don’t have enough space and because we need more faculty to teach.”

Fotis Sotiropoulos, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, said the number of students applying to SBU has grown 60 percent since 2012, and the university has become more selective due to the lack of space. Currently, engineering students need to score at least 1400 on the SATs and to be in the 95th percentile in their class.

The dean said the research conducted at the school, in addition to impacting the economic development on Long Island, also affects the state and nation. The university focuses on engineering-driven medicine, artificial intelligence discoveries and energy systems for sustainability.

“This is where we are going to develop the medicine of the future,” Sotiropoulos said, adding SBU wants to be the hub for the state in artificial intelligence research.

Sotiropoulos said as the university develops the new facility the curriculum will be reconstructed to build learning around projects that start early in a student’s college years and continue all the way to incubating start-up companies. He said one of the goals is to keep students local after graduation.

“We want to grow the size of the engineering workforce for Long Island and the state, but we also want to educate the new kind of engineers,” Sotiropoulos said.

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Setauket Fire Department responded to a fire in Poquott Aug. 16 where half of a rear deck of a house was on fire. Photo by Bob O'Rourk

The Setauket Fire Department was called to a two-story home on Singingwood Lane in the Village of Poquott at 10:31 p.m Aug. 16, according to Setauket Fired Department public information officer Bob O’Rourk.

Half of the rear deck was fully involved and almost spread to the inside of the house, O’Rourk said. Quick action by the fire department kept flames from getting past several rafters and inside of the structure. As a result, any serious damage inside was prevented.

Firefighters checked the deck roof as well as the house roof for any fire extension. Interior walls were also checked to ascertain that no fire damage reached the interior.

The Stony Brook and Terryville fire departments also responded for mutual aid. Town of Brookhaven fire marshals were on scene to determine the cause of the fire. Results of that investigation are pending.

Above, a transmitter and wristband that can be obtained at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department. Photo courtesy of S.C. Sheriff's Dept.

When someone goes missing, it can be a terrifying experience for the person as well as family, friends and neighbors, especially when the individual has an impairment.

The Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department is reminding the public of its Project Lifesaver initiative after John Wile, a Stony Brook man with Alzheimer’s, was found dead Aug. 8 on the Research and Development Park property, also in Stony Brook, after leaving his home to jog two days earlier. The 10-year-old rapid-response program aids clients who may wander due to cognitive impairments or other afflictions, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia and autism.

Deputy Sheriff Sgt. Brian Weinfeld said those enrolled in the sheriff’s program wear a wristband with a transmitter that can be used on the wrist, ankle or as a necklace. The radio frequency transmitter and wristband come with a case, tester and battery. The battery and wristband have to be changed or charged every 30 to 60 days depending on the type.

He said caretakers are informed to call a special line with the Sheriff’s Department and 911 as soon as it’s discovered that someone with the transmitter is missing. The calls are received at the sheriff’s communication bureau and a text message is sent out to all Project Lifesaver responders, which is approximately 15 people within the department who are spread out from Montauk to Amityville. While all may not be working when an emergency occurs, Weinfeld said sometimes a responder will join the search on his or her day off.

Once the responders get a message that someone is missing they turn on their equipment and will receive a signal every one second transmitted from the person’s location device, Weinfeld said. The range of the signal depends on the terrain, and a responder’s antennae can pick up a signal approximately 3 miles on land and 5 in the air. The signal can be picked up by the antenna on a car or from a handheld antenna when searching on the ground. Using radio frequencies has its benefits.

“It’s not susceptible to satellites going down, cloudy weather or being in a basement,” he said. “That signal is going to be strong no matter what. Whereas with a GPS-type of device, you’re going to be relying on satellites and a clear path to the sky and that type of stuff.”

Weinfeld said responders start from where the person went missing and have an estimated range of how far the person could have wandered, which can be about 4 miles an hour. When a man in Brentwood went missing recently, a responder was near the Sagtikos State Parkway and the man was found within three minutes, according to the deputy sheriff sergeant. He said it’s critical when looking for someone who is lost that a caretaker calls the second he or she realizes, even before he or she searches for the person.

“Thankfully most of our searches end before we even get there,” he said. “Which is great. I tell all the clients, ‘Please, don’t hesitate to call us because we’re working, we’re on the road, we’re there. If you think your person is missing, just call us. We can start by sending someone to your area. Five minutes later we’re just pulling in and you found them, no big deal, we’ll just go back to work.’ I don’t want people to think they’re burdening us.”

Weinfeld said there are approximately 108 clients enrolled in the program, with roughly 50 percent being seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The other 50 percent are children and adults with autism. He said there has been a 100 percent success rate out of the 3,000 reported searches in North America.

Those interested in the program can fill out a form with the Sheriff’s Department, and after a home visit and approval, can purchase the kit for approximately $300. Weinfeld said health insurance may cover the expense in some cases and others may be eligible to receive it for free.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, a voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research, one in three seniors die with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, and it’s the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. The association states 5.7 million Americans are currently living with the disease, and it’s projected that number will rise to about 14 million by 2050.

“The use of electronic tracking devices may be an appropriate part of a comprehensive safety plan which offers peace of mind for individuals with the disease and their caregivers,” said Douglas Davidson, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association,  Long Island Chapter.”It should never be used as a replacement for needed supervision, and families should prepare for safety issues throughout the course of the disease.”

For more information on Project Lifesaver, visit www.suffolkcountysheriffsoffice.com/project-lifesaver. Also visit www.alz.org/longisland, for more information about Alzheimer’s and free programs and support available for patients in Suffolk and Nassau counties.

Girl Scout Lauren Reitano, second from right, before installing monofilament recycling receptacles at West Meadow Beach with environmental educator, Nicole Pocchiare; Robyn Reitano and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

A local Girl Scout’s project has been a golden opportunity to help make one beach a little bit cleaner and safer.

Lauren Reitano, a Girl Scout with Troop 2547 in Centereach, installed two monofilament recycling receptacles at West Meadow Beach Aug. 7 for her Gold Award project. The award is the highest a Girl Scout can achieve, and the project challenges high school students to identify and solve a community problem.

Lauren Reitano with one of the receptacles installed at West Meadow Beach. Photo from Lauren Reitano

Reitano, 16, said she knew her undertaking would involve West Meadow Beach. She said she visits the Town of Brookhaven beach frequently and notices people leaving fishing lines behind. She decided to install the durable plastic receptacles made of polyvinyl chloride pipes at the town beach to provide a place for fishers to properly discard their fishing lines.

“A beach cleanup is great, but that’s not going to last,” the soon-to-be senior at Centereach High School said.

Reitano said the receptacles, which are located at the beginning of the nature path when entering from the parking lot, look like candy canes, and fishers can place lines in the top part of it. Every other week she will go to the beach to empty them, and in the future she can pass the project down to a younger Scout.

The Girl Scout said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) stopped by the beach while she was installing them and chatted with her about the project.

“Installing the monofilament receptacles is doing a great service to the environment and protecting the wildlife in and around the water,” Romaine said in a statement. “Fishing line is one of the most frequent and hazardous forms of marine debris, and I thank Lauren for helping to prevent more plastics from getting into our waterways.”

To begin her project, Reitano sat with Brookhaven environmental educator Nicole Pocchiare who walked her through all the steps of the project, which involved working with the town to get approval for placement of the containers. Reitano said while the process with the town took a few months, the actual construction and installing of the receptacles was about a half-hour each. On Aug. 7, she spent approximately two hours at the beach with her mother and Pocchiare finding the ideal spots and measuring for proper placement.

“Installing the monofilament receptacles is doing a great service to the environment and protecting the wildlife in and around the water.”

— Ed Romaine

As they were completing the installation, Reitano said a bicyclist thanked them and told her he witnessed people handling discarded lines and hooks getting cut by the hooks.

“It’s dangerous for people and animals as well because when it gets in the water, it can strangle them,” Reitano said.

Her mother, Robyn, who is a co-leader with Troop 2547, said she was proud of her daughter, who is usually quiet, being persistent enough to get the job done by going through the proper channels with the town for approval and waiting for a response.

“It makes me feel good as a life lesson
because she was able to really see it through,” the mother said.

Lauren Reitano said Girl Scouts should choose something they are interested in when looking to earn a Gold Award because the project can take some time.

“If you really don’t have an interest in what you’re doing, then it’s going to drag on,” she said. “If you have an interest in the topic — like I have an interest in the beach and the environment — it’s going to be super fun.”

Suffolk County police allege that a man caught on camera in a 7-Eleven in Selden hit a pedestrian and fled the scene. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police 6th Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the driver of a vehicle that struck a pedestrian and fled the scene in Selden this month.

Police allege a man driving a black Dodge Ram 1500 hit a pedestrian and fled the scene. Photo from the Suffolk County Police Department

A man was driving a pickup truck when his vehicle struck a pedestrian in the parking lot of 7-Eleven, located at 1316 Middle Country Road, on August 4 at approximately 4:20 a.m. The victim, who lost a tooth as a result of the incident, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was treated for lacerations and a broken foot. The vehicle was described a black Dodge Ram 1500 with black rims and a yellow New York State license plate.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-8477, texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637) or by email at www.tipsubmit.com. All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

Sun, food and fun were on the agenda at West Meadow Beach in Setauket.

The Three Village Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual family barbecue at the town beach Aug. 8. Bagel Express was on hand to serve the food, and the store’s owner Dave Prestia donated all the hamburgers and hot dogs. Attendees had a chance to win a variety of raffle prizes, and the Stony Brook Rotary provided a golf simulator.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) joined residents at the barbecue which has been an annual tradition of the chamber for nearly 20 years.

For more information about the Three Village Chamber of Commerce, visit www.3vchamber.com.

On Aug. 7, Suffolk County Police Department officers, as well as members of the military and local fire departments, took time out to spend an evening with residents in the communities they serve.

National Night Out events took place in various locations in Suffolk County including Centereach Pool Complex in Brookhaven, hosted by the 6th Precinct, and in the Commack Target parking lot, organized by the 4th Precinct. The free events included a chance to meet and chat with law enforcement officers, rescue workers and representatives from the different branches of the military. During the evening, attendees could play games, learn how to perform CPR, sit in an impaired driver simulator device, rock climb and more. The Flashing Fingers Signing Club also performed in Centereach.

“The night is about being able to humanize the people behind the uniform,” said William Zieman, 6th Precinct community liaison officer at the Centereach event. “It’s also about connecting residents with all the positive resources in the community and at the same time having the opportunity to interact with law enforcement in a positive way.”

The Squillance family of Medford attended the event to show support for the 6th Precinct, including officers that came to their rescue recently.

“This Suffolk police are a great group of people,” Steve Squillance said. “They were there when my son had a seizure in our pool at home, and Officer [William] Zieman and Officer [Casey] Berry even came to our house to teach my kids about pool safety.”

Additional reporting by Anthony Petriello

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A Silver Alert for John Wile of Stony Brook was issued Aug. 6. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

After an extensive search, a Stony Brook man was found dead in the woods north of Research and Development Park off of Stony Brook Road, Stony Brook, Aug. 8. There appears to be no criminality, according to police.

The Suffolk County Police Department issued a Silver Alert Aug. 6 for the missing Stony Brook man who suffered from dementia. John Wile, 74, left his home, located at 34 Erland Road, for a jog. He was last seen running on Innovation Road in Stony Brook Aug. 6 at 8:30 a.m.

The online version of this story was last updated Aug. 8 at 5:15 p.m.

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An Aug. 23 volleyball tournament will help raise funds to buy bailout systems for firefighters through the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation. DiBernardo, right, is pictured with his father Joseph DiBernardo Sr., left. File photo

Local firefighters are training to serve up some fun and to help members of firehouses around the country.

On Aug. 23, a 4-on-4 volleyball tournament will be held at the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook with fire departments competing to win and raise money for the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation. The money raised will help to buy “bailout systems” for fire departments who lack the vital equipment. The personal escape kits are used when rescue workers find themselves in fires that are difficult to escape, like when they are a few floors up, a building collapses or there is a backdraft.

Joseph DiBernardo after recovering from shattering both his feet and breaking bones below his waist. File photo

Tanya Lee, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, said she came up with the idea for the fundraiser when DiBernardo’s father, Joseph DiBernardo Sr., stopped by the hotel to book a workshop. Lee, who is a volunteer with the Centereach Fire Department along with her son, said she was looking for a way the hotel could give back to the community and saw DiBernardo’s visit as a sign. She said she discovered while talking to him that many fire departments in the country don’t have the funds to pay for bailout systems and the training required to use them, which together can cost up to $1,000 per firefighter depending on the manufacturer.

“It was kind of like that ‘Aha’ moment,” Lee said. “Like he walked right in when I was looking to do something for the community.”

DiBernardo Jr., who was a volunteer with the Setauket Fire Department, was one of three New York City Fire Department firefighters injured during a tenement fire in the Bronx in 2005. Three firefighters also died in the blaze, and the tragedy was called “Black Sunday.” During the fire, DiBernardo Jr. helped his fellow firefighter Jeff Cool escape the building using a rope and then secured it to a child safety guard to lower himself from a window. The rope broke, and DiBernardo Jr. fell four stories, breaking practically every bone from his waist down and shattering both feet. During his recovery in the hospital, he suffered respiratory arrest and
developed pneumonia. While DiBernardo retired as a firefighter due to his injuries, he traveled the country and assisted in safety trainings for firefighters despite the physical pain he continued to suffer, according to his father. In 2011, the firefighter died from the injuries he sustained in the 2005 Bronx fire. In 2013, the DiBernardo family, members of the Setauket Fire Department and Cool established the foundation.

“We decided to [start] the foundation, so no other firefighter would have to die due to lack of personal safety ropes,” DiBernardo Sr. said.

Lee said the 4-on-4 tournament will consist of eight teams that will compete in a 15-point game until one team is left standing. For teams that are eliminated earlier in the tournament and for spectators, there will be a Cornhole toss, raffles, food and beverages. Attendees who stay overnight at the hotel will also receive a discount on their room.

“I just want them to feel good about helping their brothers, whether they’re a fire department in Schenectady or they’re a fire department here, they’re all brothers,” Lee said.

“I just want them to feel good about helping their brothers, whether they’re a fire department in Schenectady or they’re a fire department here, they’re all brothers.”

— Tanya Lee

So far there are five teams consisting of firefighters set to participate — FDNY, Hicksville, Jericho, Selden and Centereach. Kevin Yoos, fire commissioner with the Setauket Fire District and vice president of the foundation, said volunteers in Setauket are currently organizing a team. Lee said there will also be a team consisting of Gold Coast Bank employees.

The tournament was one that John Tsunis, the owner of Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook, said he was on board from the moment he heard about it. The hotel donated $1,000 to the tournament, and it will be awarded to the winning team, according to the hotel owner. Tsunis, who is also CEO and chairman of Gold Coast Bank, said he believes in giving back to the community the hotel serves.

“We’re not big hotels in Las Vegas or international banks in New York City,” Tsunis said. “We’re neighbors and friends, and we work together, and we live together.”

DiBernardo Sr., who is a retired FDNY firefighter, said his son wanted to fight fires since he was a kid. He would play with fire trucks as a child, and when he was a bit older, would visit his father at work at his station house in Brooklyn.

When he was 18, DiBernardo Jr. became a fire alarm dispatcher on Long Island, and the next year he became a volunteer with the Setauket Fire Department, according to his father. During his tenure with the department, he became a lieutenant and captain. In 1993, DiBernardo Jr. became an FDNY fire alarm dispatcher, and in 1995, his dream of becoming a firefighter in the city was achieved.

“That’s what he always wanted,” the father said. “It’s nice to see your son achieve his dreams.”

The father said he was touched when he heard about the volleyball tournament and the $1,000 donation.

“Someone would care in the community to do something for us like that … it’s fantastic,” he said.

The Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook is located at 3131 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook. Entry donation is $20 for players and spectators and includes food and beverages. For more details about the event, contact Tanya Lee at 631-471-8000. Or visit www.facebook.com/HIExpressSB/ for a link to sign up. For more information on the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation, visit www.joeydfoundation.org.

The Stony Brook Fire District seeks to purchase two Spartan pumpers like the one above. Photo from Spartan Motors

Voters in the Stony Brook Fire District will have a chance to say “yes” to the future.

A special election will take place Aug. 7 in the fire district on a proposition to give the board of fire commissioners authorization to purchase two Spartan pumper trucks with a capacity for 1,250 gallons per minute and related equipment for a cost not exceeding $1.4 million.

Fire district commissioner Brian McAllister said the new pumpers, manufactured by Spartan Motors, will replace two 1994 models currently in use by the district. He said pumpers are emergency vehicles that carry the water tank, firefighting tools and hoses. The volunteers need the trucks for any water work during a fire, while ladder trucks are utilized during rescue efforts such as roof cutting or breaking down doors.

McAllister said typically after 25 years emergency vehicles are pulled out of service. Emergency vehicles experience more wear and tear than the average car, especially on the brakes, according to the fire commissioner.

“It’s not normal driving,” he said. “It’s always emergency response, so that puts excess wear on the vehicles. And the vehicles themselves are already 30- or 40,0000 pounds.”

McAllister said there has been a lot of advances in technology and firefighting standards since the 1994 trucks were made, including with data and digital control centers. He said the pump that operates the water is more advanced and the tanks are made of a more flexible material than in the past, which allows for more storage space in the vehicle. Another advantage is that the new pumpers will require less maintenance than older models and therefore will be on the road more, since vehicles needing maintenance are often taken out of service temporarily while being repaired.

Before putting the proposition up for vote, he said the fire district put together a committee that looked at pumpers from various manufacturers and decided what the firehouses needed. The committee sat with a spec writer, visited neighboring departments to inspect their trucks and searched for manufacturers who could meet their requirements. A public informational meeting was held July 17 to allow residents the opportunity to ask any questions.

McAllister said the process took approximately two years, and if the district gets the go-ahead to buy the pumpers, it will be more than a year before the trucks arrive.

“It’s not a fast process but done correctly, spec’d correctly and paying attention to detail, we can try to generate or create a vehicle, in partnership with the manufacturer, for one that will be maintenance-free or at least low maintenance and that will also suit our needs,” McAllister said.

Voters in the Stony Brook Fire District, who were registered with the Suffolk County Board of Elections on or before July 15, can vote in the special election, Tuesday, Aug. 7, between 2 to 9 p.m.

Polls are located at 147 Main St., Stony Brook, for those north of the railroad tracks and at 1402 Stony Brook Road for voters residing south of the railroad tracks.

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