Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan
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Lucia Buscemi, first row, second from left, traveled to Malawi last summer to help build a school. Photo from WMbuildOn

While guests enjoyed a soup cook-off at The Bates House in Setauket Feb. 3, they were doing more than savoring good food: They were helping members of the Global Ambassadors Club at Ward Melville raise funds to build a school in Malawi, East Africa.

Malawi students stand outside of a school built by the nonprofit buildOn. Photo from WMbuildOn.

This academic year is the second in a row that high school seniors Lucia Buscemi and Rebecca Holt have spearheaded a fundraising drive for the nonprofit buildOn, which helps students raise funds to build schools in impoverished countries. The Ward Melville seniors discovered buildOn before their junior year after researching fundraising ideas and were impressed with its projects where students and village residents work together to build a school.

In an interview with The Village Times Herald last year, Buscemi said she believes providing children with an education is vital.

“It’s not about a bunch of kids going down there to build a school to get community service hours,” Buscemi said. “They’re making sure that it’s something sustainable and will last for generations to come.”

Last summer the student was able to travel to central Malawi with her mother, younger sister and fellow student Madeline Immerman after the community team WMbuildOn raised $12,000 for the cause. Buscemi said in a recent phone interview the Ward Melville group teamed up with two other schools from the United States to help carry water and lay bricks for a school’s foundation. The structure WMbuildOn fundraised for was an additional block to a school buildOn built in 2016 for first- and second-graders. The new section created classrooms for third- and fourth-graders to study in.

More students were interested in going on the 2018 trip, according to Buscemi, but a few parents were concerned about safety. Holt said she had hoped to travel to Malawi last summer but was unable to due to a trip to Paris and an internship. After hearing about Buscemi’s experience, she said she can’t wait to attend this summer. So far, eight people have signed up for the journey that will take place July 7 through July 15.

Holt and Buscemi said WMbuildOn is off to a good start in 2019, collecting more than $10,000 toward its $30,000 goal. The girls said the group raised some $2,300 at the Feb. 3 event where nearly 100 people attended.

Schools built by buildOn have two classrooms that can house 100 students throughout the day. Photo from WMbuildOn.

To raise money, team members have individual fundraising activities in addition to club events. Holt said one example is friends and family members have pledged a certain amount for every mile she runs each week to help her raise money for the project.

The students said they hope to organize a community concert similar to one the team hosted in 2018 featuring local musical groups. The girls said Three Village residents were a big help last year, and they hope they will join them in their fundraising pursuits once again.

“Last year one of the reasons that we were able to raise so much with so few people [on our team] is that the community was very involved,” Holt said. “So many people reached out, whether it be teachers or people who came out to the concert and started to get involved. It was so helpful in getting that amount of money.”

Lucas Turner, community engagement manager of the East Coast for buildOn, said the organization is proud of Buscemi and Holt for taking on the goal of building another school so soon. He said the structures have two classrooms that can house approximately 100 students throughout the day.

“Often, we have teams build another school after their first, but it is typically not as soon as they are doing it, so they are really taking the initiative, and we are very proud of their dedication,” Turner said.

For more information about WMbuildOn, visit act.buildon.org/wm19 or follow progress on Instagram@wmbuildon.

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Jane and Rob Taylor: Maria and George Hoffman; and Gretchen and Herb Mones are familiar to many in the Three Village community. Photos from Jane Taylor, Maria Hoffman and Herb Mones.

The Three Village area is filled with movers and shakers, so it’s no surprise that many of them are married to each other. Recently, three of the area’s community-minded couples took time out of their busy schedules to talk about their relationships and balancing their active lifestyles.

George and Maria Hoffman

“We make time to balance all the busyness. So, I think that is part of keeping things alive.”

— Maria Hoffman

George Hoffman, of East Setauket, is a familiar face in the Three Village area. He is first vice president of the Three Village Civic Association and co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force. Maria Hoffman is chief of staff for state Assemblyman Steven Englebright (D-Setauket), a local beekeeper and a volunteer with the harbor task force.

The Hoffmans married in 2009 in Frank Melville Memorial Park, and they said it’s the second time around for both of them. A couple of years before they tied the knot, the two met through Englebright’s office. George Hoffman, who has worked in the political field for 35 years, was living on the South Shore working with a former county legislator, Wayne Prospect, when he first met Englebright. One day when he saw Maria at the office, she asked him to take a walk in the park and soon after they started dating.

The husband said with both being community activists they understand each other’s schedule, like when she’s under deadline or he has a night meeting, and they don’t get as stressed as some couples might. George Hoffman said it also helps that their interests overlap, and they have easygoing temperaments.

“I think we are respectful of each other’s responsibilities,” he said. “We have separate spheres that overlap a little bit in terms of the environment and community. She’s involved more in government, and then it overlaps into environment and community.”

The husband, who said his wife is the first one he goes to for editing his work, added the two are good for each other especially making sure the other doesn’t procrastinate. Maria Hoffman said they also work on ideas together.

The wife said it’s important for busy couples to spend time alone with each other too, calling the time “regeneration periods.”

“We also make time for things that are important, whether it’s walking or in the summertime boating — being on a sailboat,” Maria Hoffman said. “We make time to balance all the busyness. So, I think that is part of keeping things alive.”

Herb and Gretchen Mones

Herb and Gretchen Mones, from Stony Brook, have been married for 28 years and have three grown sons. The two met while teaching at Centereach High School where she was an English teacher and he was a social studies teacher.

“Gretchen has such an integrity to do the work she does correctly and immaculately, and with a degree of professionalism, that it becomes a model to attain to.”

— Herb Mones

Gretchen Mones is the first vice president at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium, an organization where she has been an active board member for 15 years, and has chaired the education and exhibits committee for more than a dozen years.

Herb Mones has been a board member of the Three Village Civic Association for almost 30 years. A past president of the civic, he currently serves as the organization’s land use chair. In addition to his work with the civic association, he is a board member of the Three Village Community Trust, which works to preserve and protect buildings and properties in the community. He co-chaired the civic’s task force for more than a decade which eventually resulted in the construction of the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail. Herb is a past chair of the Greening of 25A and was active in the movement to restore the West Meadow peninsula. He currently serves on a Town of Brookhaven West Meadow Beach steering committee.

Herb Mones said his wife’s commitment to everything she does inspires him to do things to the best of his ability. It’s something he noticed when they both taught at Centereach High School.

“Gretchen has such an integrity to do the work she does correctly and immaculately, and with a degree of professionalism, that it becomes a model to attain to,” Herb Mones said.

Gretchen Mones said her husband has never met a project he couldn’t conquer and has the energy of four of five people. He is up early every morning and walks the Greenway trail, where he cleans up any graffiti he sees.

“He’s just so capable and optimistic — dedicated,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a short term or long term. Once he starts, he’s in it until he finishes it. It’s really incredible. I don’t know how he does it. All my friends tell me how lucky I am and how lucky the community is, and I have to agree with them. He’s an incredible person.”

Gretchen Mones said sharing calendars helps them manage their schedules and attending each other’s social functions, especially fundraisers and annual events, is important.

Herb Mones said volunteer work helps with one’s personal growth as well as a relationship, even when a husband and wife may be involved in different community activities.

“You have a greater understanding not only of what you’re doing but what the other person is doing,” he said.

Jane and Rob Taylor

Jane and Rob Taylor, who have been married for 47 years, were introduced by a friend at a Doors concert. Three Village residents know Jane Taylor from her various roles with The Stony Brook School during her 44-year career. Her husband graduated from the private school in 1967 and worked in the school’s business office for a time after college.

“Blending all the parts of your life together is never easy and it’s never going to go smoothly, and there are going to be bumps. And you have to accept that fact that it’s going to be bumpy. Some seasons are going to be a little harder than others.”

— Jane Taylor

Last summer Jane Taylor stepped down from her role as assistant head of school and is currently the executive director of The Three Village Chamber of Commerce. Rob Taylor, a CPA and a former partner in the Manhattan office of CapinCrouse, still provides virtual chief financial officer services for local organizations.

Successful careers haven’t kept the couple from being involved in the community. Jane Taylor serves on a West Meadow advisory committee, co-chaired the Route 25A Corridor Citizens Advisory Committee, is a long-term member of the Walk for Beauty Committee, among others. Over the years, Rob Taylor has served as an elder of a local church, is a founding president of Leadership Huntington, and is on the boards of The Jazz Loft and Citygate, which works with the homeless. He is also a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

The couple said a wife and husband don’t have to be involved in similar activities, and sometimes one’s community work not only helps them each to become a better person but improves relationships. The two have also learned from each other.

While Jane Taylor admires her husband’s knack for writing, she also appreciates his energy. Rob Taylor said he takes joy in seeing how his wife works with people from many different perspectives. He also credits her for bringing order to his life.

Jane Taylor said a shared calendar is helpful to keep their schedules in sync, even though she admitted sometimes they forget to tell one another about an activity here and there.

“Blending all the parts of your life together is never easy and it’s never going to go smoothly, and there are going to be bumps,” she said. “And you have to accept that fact that it’s going to be bumpy. Some seasons are going to be a little harder than others.”

Rob Taylor, who together with Jane has two grown children, said commitment helps with balancing, too.

“I think some of it is a matter of just, from a philosophical and practical standpoint, knowing that you want to be involved in community and to make a commitment to business and family at the same time and just working together to make it work,” he said.

Know someone in the Three Village area who is mover and shaker? If so, send an email to rita@tbrnewsmedia.com, and you may see his or her story in a future edition of The Village Times Herald.

Elected officials, scientists and environmentalists filled the legislative auditorium of the William H. Rogers Building last year to provide testimony against offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. Photo by Maria Hoffman

State legislators are trying to ensure the federal government doesn’t murk up New York’s coastal waters.

Both the New York State Assembly and Senate passed legislation Feb. 4 and Feb. 5 to prohibit oil and natural gas drilling in New York’s coastal areas. The legislative action comes a year after hundreds of Long Island residents attended a public hearing at the William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Smithtown to voice concerns relating to discussions on the federal level over potential drilling in the Atlantic Ocean.

The bill now awaits the signature of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D).

Assemblyman Steve Englebright addresses the crowd before a hearing last year concerning the proposal of offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), the Assembly environmental conservation committee chair, was one of the legislators who hosted last year’s Smithtown hearing. The assemblyman said in a statement those who attended the hearing unanimously condemned the federal government’s proposal to drill for oil and gas in open waters.

“This legislation will safeguard our water and shores from the dangers of fossil fuel exploration and drilling, and will support our efforts to move our state toward cleaner and renewable energy sources,” Englebright said.

The legislation would prohibit the use of state-owned underwater coastal lands for oil and natural gas drilling; prevent the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Office of General Services from authorizing leases which would increase oil or natural gas production from federal waters; and prohibit the development of infrastructure associated with exploration, development or production of oil or natural gas from New York’s coastal waters, according to a press release from Englebright’s office.

The new legislation will reaffirm the state’s coastal management practices to ensure the protection of endangered and threatened species, along with tourism and recreational and commercial fishing industries, according to Englebright.

“Our largest industry in New York, and especially in coastal New York, is tourism,” Englebright said. “Oil and gas exploration is incompatible with tourism. We’ve seen the kinds of mistakes that have occurred in other parts of the world where oil and gas exploration near recreation areas and near active fisheries has occurred. We don’t want those kinds of chaos to descend upon our economy or our state.”

“We’ve seen the kinds of mistakes that have occurred in other parts of the world where oil and gas exploration near recreation areas and near active fisheries has occurred. We don’t want those kinds of chaos to descend upon our economy or our state.”

— Steve Englebright

The legislation updates New York State laws that are decades old, according to a press release from state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport).

“Offshore drilling is the single largest threat to the sustainability of Long Island’s environment,” Gaughran said in a statement. “I am proud that under [Senate] Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins [D-Yonkers], New York State is moving toward protecting our natural resources and banning senseless proposals to drill off our beautiful coast.”

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), who was the original lead sponsor of the legislation in the state Senate, said he urges the governor to sign the bill.

“We have painstakingly worked to preserve and protect our pristine waters, and we certainly do not want to imperil all of our efforts to maintain clean water by allowing drilling off our shoreline,” LaValle said.

Kevin McAllister, founding president of Sag Harbor-based nonprofit Defend H2O, said restricting oil and gas exploration off the coast is important as the drilling for fossil fuels negatively impacts the environment. He said it’s critical for states along the entire Eastern Seaboard to follow suit, and he urges Cuomo to enlist coastal solidarity.

“If rising seas, ocean acidification, killer floods aren’t sobering enough, don’t overlook a legacy of regret with oil extraction and transport,” he said. “Santa Barbara oil spill, Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon all inflicted massive damages to the marine and the coastal environment over thousands of square miles. In the oil industry, accidents happen. The best way to prevent another catastrophe is to close the door on further exploration.”

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Rabbi Joseph Topek, second from right, with Chelsea Katz , Stony Brook University Class of 2015, second from left, and her parents Melanie Tanzman Katz and Jan Katz, both from the Class of 1983, who like their daughter, had Topek as their Hillel director. Photo from Rabbi Joseph Topek

As a new semester begins at Stony Brook University, one Setauket resident has retirement on his mind.

Rabbi Joseph Topek, bottom row, second from right, at Hillel’s 50th anniversary in 2017 that included students and other members of the Hillel staff. Photo from Rabbi Joseph Topek

Rabbi Joseph Topek, 64, director of the university’s Hillel, announced he will be stepping down as director in July after 37 years of serving in the position. The rabbi, who specializes in American Jewish history, specifically Jewish-American military history, said he is working on a few research projects, including one about the 2023 centennial of the Hillel Movement, and he thought the time had come for someone else to lead the Stony Brook Hillel.

After a stint in Virginia Commonwealth University, Topek said he arrived at SBU looking for a different setting and new challenges, and he wasn’t expecting to stay more than a few years.

“This has been in many ways a uniquely satisfying and fulfilling career because universities are unique institutions,” he said.

Topek said Hillels are centers for Jewish life on college campuses. At Stony Brook, students can try out different expressions of the faith such as experimenting with how to celebrate holidays or the Sabbath. He said the group also explores and discusses aspects of Jewish life that other institutions within the faith may be hesitant to touch, such as Israel and gender identity in the community.

The rabbi said he felt it was a privilege to have the responsibility and opportunity to provide students with an adult foundation that incorporated their heritage and religious teachings.

“We’re part of the Jewish community that says here are people that are on the cusp of adulthood, who are young adults and who are looking for ways in which to live their lives as Jews in a meaningful way while they are in this big institution of higher education,” he said.

Robert Presser, a graduate student at SBU, met Topek when he was just a freshman.

“One of the things I admire most about the rabbi is that he is so knowledgeable about so many different things,” Presser said, adding he admires the rabbi’s expertise on Jewish-American history.

The grad student said he regularly asks Topek questions at the weekly Shabbat meal the organization holds, and he’s glad he’ll be graduating the same time Topek is retiring.

“I don’t have to live in a world where I’m going to be involved in the Hillel and won’t have the rabbi to go to,” he said.

Rachel Chabin, an SBU undergraduate, said among her favorite memories at Stony Brook were the annual Sukkot holiday dinners with student leaders from the Jewish Student Association that Topek and his wife host in their home, something she said is in line with his character as he is always generous with his time.

He’s a fierce advocate for students, and personally ensures that no one faces discrimination or penalty for things like missing class for a Jewish holiday.”

— Rachel Chabin

“As an observant Jew, holidays like Sukkot can feel lonely on campus, with most students going about their day like usual,” Chabin said. “Rabbi Joe’s dinner always made me feel better about staying on campus for the holiday, because he offered us a good meal and good company.”

Chabin said she’ll miss the rabbi, who she met with once a week where they would choose a topic or section of the Torah or Talmud to study and discuss.

“He’s a fierce advocate for students, and personally ensures that no one faces discrimination or penalty for things like missing class for a Jewish holiday,” Chabin said. “He makes sure that everyone can access a kosher meal plan or a Sabbath-friendly dormitory.”

In addition to being director of the Hillel, the rabbi said he’s been honored to be part of the Interfaith Center at SBU where he currently serves as chairperson. He said he feels the center, which represents various faiths, is an important entity on campus serving as an example of the university’s focus on diversity and cooperation.

“In many ways, I’m proud of what our center has become, and also because it puts students from very different backgrounds together,” Topek said. “They do community programming, they do community service projects together, they learn about one another’s faith but, most of all, it’s relationship based.”

Sister Sanaa Nadim, a chaplain, has been working with Topek for 25 years at the interfaith center and called him a brother-in-arms. She said she considers him a civil servant on campus who is there for all students while constantly rallying for human rights. She said he has helped them navigate difficult times such as the Muslim ban two years ago, where the rabbi spearheaded a rally to support students detained at the airport.

“He has been a very monumental figure in the interfaith center and the success of the institution for our chapter,” she said.

Nadim said he has also been there to help  students navigate world events, including a tsunami in Japan and an earthquake in Haiti.

“He led by heart and by example,” she said.

Topek said after retiring from the academic side of SBU, he will remain a chaplain with the Long Island State Veterans Home. Between serving as chaplain and living in the Three Village area with his wife Susan, he said he will be in touch with his colleagues and the students after retiring.

“I don’t see myself as really leaving the academic community,” he said.

In the fall, OLLI classes were contained in the Social & Behavioral Sciences building, the Charles B. Wang Center, above, and Student Activities Center this fall. Photo from Stony Brook University

Despite a rocky start to the past fall semester, members of an adult continuing education program persist in improving their lot with Stony Brook University.

“We are confident that as we move into next year, we will see an increase in new members and with returning members.”

— Diane Perillo

In January, SBU administrators invited members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, a program that offers workshops, lectures and activities to retired and semiretired individuals, to participate in focus groups to provide feedback on changes SBU implemented to the program during the fall semester of 2018. The changes included OLLI classes on campus being held only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays instead of every day; class duration changing from 75 minutes to 60; and OLLI students using metered parking lots on campus instead of parking in a designated area.

While members received hang tags so they wouldn’t have to put coins in the meters, they were charged an additional $75 in OLLI fees per semester for the new parking agreement. The changes led to approximately 400 past members declining to enroll in the fall of 2018.

Diane Perillo, director of finance and administration for the School of Professional Development, which oversees OLLI, said during the January focus groups, SBU administrators received positive feedback from OLLI members about the previous semester that she described as a pilot plan, and she is confident the program will grow. The School of Professional Development also surveyed members to gather their thoughts about the changes, and the director said the current program members helped provide insight on how to move forward.

“Overall members were happy with the parking that was made available to them,” Perillo said. “Membership meetings have been extremely positive, the new leadership within the School of Professional Development has been sharing information with members and, when possible, acting on requests and communicating changes to the membership.”

Perillo said there was a decline in enrollment in the fall, which was expected, and the 400 members who did not return were also surveyed. She said some did not return for workshops due to illness or having a loved one who was sick. Others reported they only attended Tuesday and Thursday in the past.

“I have already run into some people who said they are coming back.”

— John Gobler

Peter Stubberfield, in an email to The Village Times Herald, said he was one of the 400 who didn’t return to the OLLI workshops this fall due to the parking fee and reduction of class time, and he said he didn’t receive a survey from the university asking him why he didn’t continue with the program.

Perillo said new and past members have the option to sign up for OLLI workshops in the spring for $162.50 with a parking fee of $75, which is half of the yearly rate. As a rule, OLLI does not offer prorated memberships. She said spring workshops would once again be 75 minutes, and the break between classes will be reduced. While workshops are only held on campus Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the director said there are off-campus classes held Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“We have seen a slight increase in membership this spring,” she said. “We are confident that as we move into next year, we will see an increase in new members and with returning members.”

John Gobler, one of the workshop leaders, said he attended one of the focus groups, and he was pleased that SBU’s administration acknowledged the drop in membership. He added that while the fall semester was rocky, he is positive about the future of OLLI.

“I know there are people coming back,” he said. “I have already run into some people who said they are coming back,” adding they told him they heard from others the program was getting better.

Sue Parlatore, a member of OLLI’s advisory board, said at first members who signed up for the fall were worried about the changes, especially parking; however, she said the university accommodated them. She said she and others found the hour between classes was too much time and were happy to hear the time has been reduced to 30 minutes.

“The university, in my opinion, they really do seem to be trying their best to make it work for us,” Parlatore said, adding that she feels the rumor that SBU does not welcome them is unfounded.

She said those who didn’t enroll again in the fall should consider coming back.

“I would encourage anybody to try it,” she said. “I think they would be very pleasantly surprised.”

Perillo is also optimistic.

“I am confident that as a community we will be able to work out a plan for fall 2019 and spring 2020 that we will re-inspire members to return and bring back their workshops,” she said. “If members choose not to return, I am confident that our current and new members will offer engaging, community-based noncredit workshops that will enable Stony Brook University’s OLLI program to continue to flourish.”

Amber Ferrari. Photo by Rich Balter

By Rita J. Egan

Music lovers who enjoy taking a trip down memory lane will be in for a treat Feb. 9 at Theatre Three. Long Island performer Amber Ferrari returns to the Port Jefferson venue with “Joplin’s Pearl Featuring Amber Ferrari,” a production that celebrates singer Janis Joplin’s musical legacy.

The show is described on the theater’s website as a two-act musical explosion. While the second act is jam-packed with the music of Joplin including “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Piece of My Heart,” the show opens with a mixture of hits from various artists. 

Amber Ferrari. Photo by Rich Balter

Reached by phone, Ferrari said she will be singing musical hits from legends throughout the decades, including Pat Benatar, Linda Ronstadt, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Queen, Led Zeppelin and Carole King. The singer said she also plans on performing one of her own songs.

Ferrari’s artistic relationship with Theatre Three began in 2005 when she performed in the venue’s “Woodstock-mania: Woodstock in Concert,” a show that inspired her to create “Joplin’s Pearl.” The singer said through the years she has performed the Joplin musical performance many times at the Port Jeff venue and also debuted her shows dedicated to Pat Benatar and Madonna there. Last summer, she once again participated in “Woodstock-Mania.”

“That’s my home theater, that’s my heart and soul,” said Ferrari. 

Douglas Quattrock, Theatre Three’s artistic associate and director of development, said he is looking forward to Ferrari returning to the theater with the show.

“I am thrilled to have Amber back at Theatre Three,” Quattrock said. “Her show is always filled with an incredible amount of energy, and her audiences always get a first-rate performance.”

The February performance follows a busy few months for Ferrari who presented her “Material Girl Featuring Amber Ferrari” at 89 North Music Venue in Patchogue last month and Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub in Smithtown last October as well as her Joplin show at Riverhead’s Suffolk Theater back in November.

On the night of Feb. 9, in addition to paying tribute to Joplin, the singer said she is looking forward to performing a Queen number. Ferrari said she feels the show has something for everyone and hopes audience members will enjoy how she and her band interpret the music of all the artists she is featuring.

“I’m hoping the people who don’t like a specific artist will just enjoy the way we do it because I don’t try to imitate anyone,” Ferrari said.

The singer said at the Feb. 9 performance bass player Michael Chiusano, guitarist Chris Ferrari, keyboardist Chris Cuvier, drummer Gary Gonzalez and percussionist Jim Carroll will join her on stage. She will also perform with a horn section that includes Lenny La Pinta on alto/tenor sax, Jonathan Holford playing baritone sax, Dan Yeager on trumpet and trombonist Tim Cassera.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present ‘Joplin’s Pearl Featuring Amber Ferrari’ on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $39. For more information or to order, visit www.theatrethree.com or call 631-928-9100. 

For more information on Amber Ferrari, visit www.amberferrari.com.

On Feb. 2, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization kicked off its 80th anniversary year with a Chinese New Year Celebration. The event was just the start of the many culturally-diverse activities the organization has planned for its milestone year, including a St. Patrick’s Day Celebration scheduled for March 3.

The day included Authentic Shaolin Kung Fu school performing a lion dance in traditional costumes, and after, demonstrating martial arts moves. The Long Island Chinese Dance Group performed dances symbolizing different regions of China, and Vivian Ye from Seiskaya Ballet Academy presented a solo dance called “Flying Apsaras.”

Singers JoJo Feng and Alice Huang were also on hand, and Manhattan Taiko shared the tradition of Taiko drumming, which includes the beats of drums ranging in size from 1 foot to 6 feet in diameter.

Video by David Ackerman

 

 

Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and 6th Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate two people who allegedly stole merchandise from a Selden store in January.

A man and woman allegedly stole assorted products from Vapor Nation, located at 978 Middle Country Road,  Jan. 3 at approximately 4:30 p.m.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 1-800-220-TIPS, 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.

A stormwater retention pond on Route 25A created by the state continues to cause problems for residents, including those living in the Village of Poquott. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Village of Poquott officials are keeping a close eye on a Route 25A stormwater retention pond directly outside of the hamlet.

Richard Parrish, Poquott’s stormwater management officer, sent a letter last month to New York State Department of Transportation calling for the state to fix persistent problems with the stormwater retention pond slightly east of Route 25A and Van Brunt Manor Road on the south side of the roadway.

Poquott residents complained that the retention pond creates unsafe and unsanitary conditions, according to Parrish’s letter. The unfenced structure is constructed of earthen walls and an earthen base, and residents are concerned about stabilization issues, where the sidewalls can collapse and cause a person or animal to fall or become trapped. Parrish said after a heavy rainfall the structure can fill with up to 4 feet of water.

It is the second letter in a year that Parrish, president and CEO of environmental consulting company Impact Environmental, has sent to Margaret Conklin, DOT’s acting transportation maintenance engineer.

“It’s not working because it’s always full of water, and it’s supposed to drain.”

— George Hoffman

After the first letter Parrish wrote in June 2018, the state sent DOT workers to the site July 10 to investigate the reported issues, but village residents still see it as a nuisance and have not seen any improvements.

Residents are worried that the standing water has attracted rats and mosquitoes; the structure has no controls when it overflows for capturing sediment and preventing the distribution of sediments; contaminants such as nitrates, chlorides and pathogens can possibly run into the road and village; and runoff might go directly to the water table and cause possible contamination.

“While we are aware that the department is exempt from certain environmental regulations with respect to road maintenance, we believe it is your requirement to operate within the intent of these regulations,” Parrish said in the December letter.

George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said placing a filter system at the location was an opportunity for the state to create a rain garden that usually has vegetation that thrives on the nitrogen in the water, with rocks and stones to improve drainage.

By comparison, he said the current structure looks like a big pit with an asphalt strip to drain water.

“It’s not working because it’s always full of water, and it’s supposed to drain,” he said, adding he’s heard stories of animals getting trapped in it.

Maria Hoffman, a volunteer with the task force, said the particular stretch of Route 25A on the south side is known for clay under the surface, which causes poor drainage.

Stephen Canzoneri, a DOT spokesman, said the agency is aware of the situation and continues to investigate options for a more permanent solution.

During the Jan. 10 Village of Poquott work session, the board of trustees decided to table a decision as to how to proceed about the matter until its next meeting Feb. 11 and allow the state additional time to respond to Parrish’s December letter.

Dr. David Fiorella and Eric Niegelberg. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

As American Heart Month kicks off in February, Stony Brook Medicine is finalizing plans to provide speedy help to stroke victims in Suffolk County.

“When a blood vessel supplying the brain is blocked, it is estimated that nearly two million brain cells are lost for each minute that passes, making stroke the most time sensitive diagnosis we have in medicine.”

— Dr. David Fiorella

The Stony Brook Cerebrovascular and Comprehensive Stroke Center and the Stony Brook Renaissance School of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine will launch Long Island’s first mobile stroke unit program in March. The program will include specially equipped ambulances that will be strategically based along the length of the Long Island Expressway, taking calls within 10 miles of their bases.

The hope is to ensure response times of 20 minutes or less.

“When a blood vessel supplying the brain is blocked, it is estimated that nearly two million brain cells are lost for each minute that passes, making stroke the most time sensitive diagnosis we have in medicine,” said Dr. David Fiorella, director of the stroke center and professor of neurological surgery and radiology at the Renaissance School of Medicine. “The faster we can restore blood flow to the brain the more likely that the patient will have a full recovery.”

The units will be available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., which is the window of time when most stroke calls are received.

Eric Niegelberg, associate director of Operations for Emergency Services and Internal Medicine, said an evaluation was completed to choose what time frame the mobile units would be available.

“We evaluated 911 ambulance call volume by area in the county and combined that data with what we felt was a reasonable response distance and time.”

— Eric Niegelberg,

“We looked at actual data for five years and historically the highest percentage of stroke calls come in during that time frame,” he said, adding once the program begins Stony Brook Medicine will continue to evaluate data and modify the hours based upon current call volume.

While the first unit will be deployed at Exit 57 on the LIE sometime between mid-to-late March, the second will not be in use until April and will be set up at Exit 68.

“The locations were chosen based upon call volume,” Niegelberg said. “We evaluated 911 ambulance call volume by area in the county and combined that data with what we felt was a reasonable response distance and time. Based upon this analysis the two locations were chosen. We did want locations that would provide easy North-South and East-West access.”

The units will include an in-ambulance care team, telemedicine system that enables emergency physicians and neurologists to see the patient via audio/visual conferencing, CT scanner for a standard scan and CT scan angiogram, which allows doctors to check for bleeding in the brain immediately.

Robert Simpson, district manager of Medford Volunteer Ambulance, said the mobile stroke units would be valuable to emergency response workers.

“As an EMS provider, we are always looking for ways to enhance treatment to patients,” Simpson said. “I think that it will definitely be an asset to us, especially for patients with strokes. As they say, ‘Saving time, saves the brain.’ Minutes count when someone is having a stroke as far as being able to enhance their chances of survival.”

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, killing about 140,000 Americans each year.

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