Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Kadam Holly McGregor speaks to attendees of the MLK Peace & Unity Multi-Faith Prayer Service Jan. 20. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Two events during the past three-day holiday weekend drew residents from the Three Village community as well as surrounding areas to Setauket to remember Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the civil rights activist. 

Guest speakers Liz Gannon-Graydon, founder of What BETTER Looks Like, and environmental activist Saad Amer, founder of Plus1Vote, conduct a workshop Jan. 18. Photo from Building Bridges in Brookhaven

On Jan. 18, despite snow in the forecast, more than 100 people attended the 4th annual Martin Luther King Unity Festival at Setauket Presbyterian Church organized by the civic group Building Bridges In Brookhaven.

The day included music, workshops and a panel discussion on the theme of Building the Beloved Community Across Generations.Approximately 20 nonprofit groups were also on hand for the Be the Change volunteer fair. The event provided an opportunity for attendees to discuss the life, legacy and vision of King, according to Susan Perretti of Building Bridges.

Tom Lyon, also of the group, said the event provided “a lot of very valuable networking and planning for future collaborations.”

Among those participating Jan. 18 was Community Growth Center of Port Jefferson Station, which held its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Peace & Unity Multi-Faith Prayer Service and Concert two days later at The Bates House in Setauket. On Jan. 20, a standing-room only crowd filled the venue to hear speakers and enjoy music. Participants were also encouraged to bring donations for Pax Christi’s men’s shelter.

Among those speaking at the event was Father Francis Pizzarelli from Hope House Ministries and Kadam Holly McGregor from Kadampa Meditation Center of Long Island. Before leading a meditation, McGregor told the attendees that everyone can become like King if they work on themselves.

The H.I.M.S. from Hope House Ministries, Vinny Posillico from Singing Bowls-Sound Healing and Stuart Markus, a folk singer of Gathering Time, entertained the crowd.

Perretti said she and others from Building Bridges attended the Jan. 20 event to support the center and was reminded at both events of King’s dream of building the “beloved community,” a society based on justice, equal opportunity and love of one’s fellow human beings.

“It was wonderful to be part of a gathering focusing on unity and what we have in common,” she said. “There were faith leaders from the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist traditions. It feels more important than ever for us to come together and respect our differences.” 

Michael Hoffner, executive director of Community Growth Center, was inspired by the turnout, and said the annual event at The Bates House aims to bring people and religious leaders together from different faiths to spark a change of heart and create changes from the inside out. He said he believes that the answer to our country’s “current problems require a deep spiritual solution.”

“We as a community and a country need to awaken to a deeper sense of love, peace and unity that can only come from a transformation of the heart,” he said. “We can’t expect peace to come from laws and policies alone — peace in our world can only come from peace in our heart. Peace on the inside leads to peace on the outside.”

By Rita J. Egan

The folks at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport have brought back the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll in its latest offering, “Million Dollar Quartet.” The show, which debuted on Jan. 16, celebrates four iconic musical legends with a sensational cast masterfully directed by Keith Andrews.

With book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, the production is inspired by the music of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and that historic day of Dec. 4, 1956, when a series of events created the stuff dreams are made of for many music lovers. 

Recognized as one of the greatest improv jam sessions ever, it was on that fateful day that Perkins and Lewis were recording at Sun Studio in Memphis when Cash stopped by to break the news to owner Sam Phillips that he was leaving the studio’s record label. If that wasn’t enough, Presley stopped by on the way to his mother’s house with his girlfriend Dyanne on his arm.

On Broadway from April 2010 until June 2011, “Million Dollar Quartet” was nominated for three Tony Awards in 2010. That year Levi Kreis won the Best Featured Actor in a Musical award for his portrayal of Jerry Lee Lewis.

Right from the opening number of “Blue Suede Shoes” sung by Sam Sherwood (Carl Perkins), Sky Seals (Johnny Cash), Noel Carey (Jerry Lee Lewis) and Sean Michael Buckley (Elvis Presley), the audience knows they are in for a real treat. With classic rock songs such as the opening number, “That’s All Right,” “I Walk the Line” and “Great Balls of Fire,” it’s hard to choose a favorite. Each of the talented actors recognizes just how important it is to bring the spirits of these musicians to the stage, and they were spot-on during every number.

During last Saturday’s performance the foursome sounded especially beautiful when they sang “Down by the Riverside.” Sarah Ellis as Dyanne also served up steamy versions of “Fever” and “I Hear You Knockin,” and provides a refreshing female presence with her friendly portrayal of one of very few people, Marilyn Evans, who witnesses the recording.

Luke Darnell as Phillips is charming as he also serves as narrator, filling the audience in on Dec. 4, 1956, and how he met each of the singers and recognized their unique talents. He also portrays the character with a sense of integrity that leaves the sentiment that the Sun Records and studio owner truly cared about the music and not just the money.

Sherwood plays Carl Perkins with a good amount of cockiness, which is appropriate considering Perkins wrote and first recorded “Blue Suede Shoes” before Elvis Presley became known for the tune after performing it on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Buckley as Presley has all the right moves that the King was known for and also captures how down-to-earth the singer was.

In the role of Jerry Lee Lewis, Carey performs the eccentric singer from Louisiana to the hilt, which garnered plenty of laughs from the audience and captures the wild and controversial side of the musician perfectly. Seals’ Johnny Cash is stoic and gentlemanly and also has a knack for holding the guitar high like Cash did when playing the instrument.

David Sonneborn and Corey Kaiser as musicians Fluke and Brother Jay, respectively, round out the cast perfectly. Both are “Million Dollar Quartet” veterans as Kaiser played Brother Jay on Broadway and was part of Off-Broadway, national and regional productions, and Sonneborn is an original cast member of the national tour.

As the story ends, the entire cast, including Darnell on harmonica, puts on a performance that feels as if the audience was transported to a concert back in time. On press opening night, Buckley was adorable, flirting with an audience member like Elvis would do during “Hound Dog.” Those in attendance also couldn’t help singing along to “Ghostriders in the Sky,” “See You Later Alligator” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.”

Jordan Janota has cleverly crafted a set that seamlessly transitions from the interior of Sun Studio to the exterior, and costume designer Dustin Cross has chosen outfits that capture the personality of each singer, and the costumes during the last few songs are absolutely fabulous, especially Ellis’ dress.

“Million Dollar Quartet” at the Engeman is the ideal choice for a night out on the town and also shares an interesting peek into life in the mid-50s. Woven into the story of the legends’ lives is a bit of American history with mentions of the cost of living at the time and the influence of gospel music on rock ‘n’ roll musicians.

Phillips tells Dyanne that Sun Studio “is where the soul of a man never dies” toward the end of the musical. At the Engeman, the extraordinarily talented cast has celebrated and honored the souls of all of these legends — both living and passed — wonderfully.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, presents “Million Dollar Quartet” through March 1. Tickets are $80 on Saturday evenings and $75 all other performances. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

Stony Brook University Interim President Michael Bernstein during the school’s State of the University address in October 2019. Photo from Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University interim president Michael Bernstein has officially withdrawn his name for consideration in the search for the next SBU president.

Bernstein made the difficult decision “after considerable reflection,” according to an email statement from SBU.

“As he considered his future career options, he felt he needed the freedom to pursue external professional opportunities, without the complication of being an internal candidate at Stony Brook,” the statement read. “Michael has stated that he has been enormously impressed with, and inspired by the excellence of the faculty, staff, and students throughout Stony Brook’s campuses. It is his and the cabinet’s expectation that we will continue to work together as a team over the course of this next semester to move forward on all of our key goals.”

The interim president took over the reins at the university after former SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. exited the position Aug. 1, 2019. In May of 2019, it was announced that Stanley would take on the role of president at Michigan State University in August that year.

In June of 2019, the State University of New York Board of Trustees approved Bernstein as interim president. Previously, Bernstein had served as provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs as well as professor of business, economics and history at SBU since 2016.

During an exclusive interview with TBR News Media in August, Bernstein said he had been originally planning to step down as provost and move to San Diego. When Stanley announced he was leaving, he was asked if he would consider the interim role. During the interview, when questioned if he would consider staying permanently, Bernstein said he had an open mind.

“Let’s see if I like the job and more importantly let’s see if the job likes me and we’ll go from there,” Bernstein said at the time.

The news came as a surprise to members of the Three Village Civic Association, who were aiming to create a stronger relationship with the university, and TVCA 1st Vice President George Hoffman said the group was disappointed.

“Michael Bernstein was an affable and outgoing person,” he said. “The first thing he did when appointed interim president was to reach out to all of the community organizations and invite us for breakfast to discuss how we can improve the relationship between the university and the community.”

Hoffman said the civic association “had great hopes for future relationships under Bernstein.” It was something they felt like they didn’t have with the previous administration.

“It is our hope that the search committee will select a candidate that has the same understanding of the importance of community partnership as Michael Bernstein,” he said.

In September, SUNY announced a search committee that includes faculty, staff, Stony Brook Foundation members, students, administration, alumni and Stony Brook Council members. To aid the search, the committee set up the email address for comments and suggestions to be submitted.

Former WALK/97.5FM radio host Mark Daniels is recording a podcast from his East Setauket home. Photo from Daniels

Despite a recent setback, mornings still look bright for one East Setauket resident.

A familiar voice on Long Island radio for more than 30 years, Mark Daniels was notified he was being let go as co-host of WALK/97.5FM’s “Mark and Jamie Mornings” right before Thanksgiving. 

But with the start of a new year, the radio host embarked on a new adventure Jan. 2, launching the podcast, “Breakfast with Mark Daniels,” right from his East Setauket home.

Daniels said the 10-minute installments will be Long Island focused and told in a storytelling format. Subjects will range from pizza to the railroad.

“I always try to relate something to Long Islanders that Long Islanders call their own, and I think keeping it that way and keeping it local provides that relatability that folks in Nassau and Suffolk have to one another and to living here,” Daniels said.

A recent podcast featured the radio host’s recent adventure into the city on a day when the Ronkonkoma Branch railroad line was undergoing construction. He said he and his family headed to the Babylon station, “but so did the rest of the planet east of Babylon.” Fortunately, they were able to get a parking spot.

The idea of a podcast came about when some friends suggested he reinvent himself. In the future, Daniels said he hopes to build a big enough base to attract advertisers.

“It’s evolving every day,” he said.

An East Setauket resident for 21 years, Daniels and his wife Marianne have three children, Mark, Brian and Allison, who have grown up in the Three Village school district.

The radio host originally commuted to Patchogue for his on-air duties for WALK, and then after Connecticut-based Connoisseur Media purchased the station, he traveled to their Farmingdale studios.

While the commute may have been longer for Daniels once the studio was moved to Farmingdale, it was a job he always enjoyed.

“It is a lot of fun to be on the air and to talk to your co-host about topics, and the immediate listener response is just incredible,” he said. “It’s just so much fun. It was like a playdate every time I was on the air. I’m trying to keep that going on the podcast.”

He said among his favorite memories is collecting donations for the food bank Long Island Cares, where listeners would often contribute so much there was no room to store the contributions at the station. He also loves appearing in The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Walk for Beauty in October. He said the community’s response to such causes is overwhelming.

“To me, that’s what radio is really about,” the broadcaster said. “It’s about people. When you put out a call to attend and support, people show up, and people show up in large numbers.”

While Daniels said he is not at liberty to comment on his exit from WALK/FM, he added he wasn’t surprised when he heard at the end of the year that WALK would broadcast the same morning show as Star 99.9, “The Anna & Raven Show,” which is broadcast from Connecticut. 

“It’s a business decision and that’s what they chose to do, and that’s what I have to live with, and I have to pick up and move on,” he said.

This week Connoisseur Media also announced Daniels’ most recent co-host, Jamie Morris, will now head K-JOY’s morning show.

Daniels said he couldn’t believe the amount of support he received on social media after the news of his dismissal was announced, and he admitted it gave him goose bumps.

“I really only think of myself as just a guy that goes in, does a job and has a lot of fun with it and enjoys it, and then I’m home,” he said.

The radio host said his podcasts can be found every weekday on the “Breakfast with Mark Daniels” Facebook and Instagram pages, Spotify, Apple podcast and

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File photo

As his former office sits empty on North Country Road in Setauket, former investment adviser Steven Pagartanis will be spending time in jail.

The 60-year-old East Setauket resident appeared in Central Islip’s federal court Jan. 9 where U.S. District Judge Joan Azrack sentenced Pagartanis to 14 years in prison and also ordered him to pay more than $6.5 million in restitution, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. The former investment adviser was arrested May 30, 2018, and in December of the same year, pleaded guilty to charges of mail and wire fraud for orchestrating a securities fraud scheme for 18 years.

“Today’s sentence is a well-deserved reckoning for Pagartanis, who preyed on elderly investors, many of whom trusted him with their life savings, for nearly two decades,” said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue. “Protecting investors, especially those that are vulnerable, from white-collar criminals is a priority of this office and the Department of Justice.” 

According to the press release, from January 2000 to March 2018, Pagartanis targeted elderly women to invest in two publicly traded companies. He requested the victims write checks payable to an entity he secretly controlled. After laundering the investments using a series of bank accounts, he used the money to pay for personal expenses. He also funded failed business ventures that included his wife’s pet store. 

The defendant’s victims invested more than $13 million and sustained losses of over $9 million, according to the EDNY office.

Pagartanis’ attorney Kevin Keating, of Garden City, declined to comment.

Frank Napolitano’s mother, Roseanne Maggio, of Middle Island, lost nearly $70,000 in the scam. Since Maggio died in 2018, Napolitano attended the sentencing along with other victims.

He said he was satisfied with the sentencing and was surprised that the judge ordered Pagartanis to prison immediately. While to his knowledge his mother’s $70,000 is the smallest amount lost by a victim, he said money is relative to everybody.

“Seventy thousand to one person is $3 million to another person,” he said. “It’s really kind of all my mother had in terms of investing.” 

Napolitano said it was crazy to hear of all the luxury items Pagartanis purchased with the money, including vacations and luxury cars, especially since he targeted elderly women, most of whom had recently suffered an illness or death of a family member.

“It breaks your heart,’” he said.

Despite her passing, Maggio’s family will still see some restitution. Her son said his mother had hoped to leave money to her four grandchildren.

“They’re able to see a little something of grandma’s investment so it helps a little bit,” he said.

While tensions may have lessened slightly between the U.S. and Iran after the assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, many Americans are still bracing for the possibility of conflict.

Protesters took to the streets around the nation Jan. 9 to oppose the escalation of war with the Middle Eastern country during what was coined as No War With Iran: Day of Action. At the intersection of routes 347 and 112 in Port Jefferson Station, which has been dubbed as Resistance Corner, two dozen protesters took part in a rally organized by North Country Peace Group, a local activist organization.

Myrna Gordon, a member of NCPG, said Americans need to say enough is enough when it comes to war and aim to stop being consumed by war and militarization. She suggested that people read the poem “Suicide in the Trenches” by Siegfried Sassoon reflecting the tragedies of World War I.

“This is not a glorification when we see the military and the militarization of what’s happening in our country,” Gordon said. “Listen, I support the veterans. We are very supportive of them, but we’re not supportive of war, and this is what the North Country Peace Group is about. That’s what our main goal is, to say, ‘End this absolutely foolish nonsense that we’re engaged in.’ This is a horrific thing for our future, for our young children, for everything.”

She suggested investments should be made into items that promote peace such as the Peace Pole installed in Rocketship Park in Port Jefferson village, which reads “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in 10 different languages, including the motions for sign language and braille.

“We have to get back to so many things that promote peace,” Gordon said.

Nancy Goroff, Democrat primary candidate for Congressional District 1, participated in the Jan. 9 rally

“I think it’s important, especially in today’s politics, for people to make their voices heard,” she said. “Government needs to be responsive to the will of the people, and far too often that’s just not happening. From anti-war rallies to the women’s marches, times when people stand up and speak are good for our democracy.”

She expressed her concern over the current situation with Iran.

“With Iran, the real question is whether eliminating Suleimani leaves America safer, and that’s still an open question,” Goroff said. “The stakes could not be higher, but time and again we have seen President Trump [R] making critical military and foreign policy decisions based on his own political goals, rather than what will actually help this country.”

Also among those protesting in Port Jefferson Station Jan. 9 were two members of the Long Island Chapter of Veterans for Peace, Camillo Mac Bica, of Smithtown, and Ray Zbikowski, of Huntington Station. Both veterans fought in Vietnam, and Bica is an author and philosophy teacher at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Veterans of Peace includes vets and nonveterans working to raise awareness about the horrors of war. Zbikowski said there is a misconception about those who fought overseas in a war.

“The myth is if you’re a veteran, you are supportive [of war],” he said. 

“War has been so glorified with mythologies that we have come to know the myth without the reality,” Bica said.

Zbikowski agreed.

“It’s important to educate the public, even if they’re passing by, make them aware of what’s going on in this country as well as overseas,” he said.

People driving by either honked their horns in support or shouted at the protesters from their open windows.

Bica said when one opposes a rally such as the Jan. 9 event, it’s because they don’t realize the potential horror of war.

“People pass by and they yell things but they’re not the ones going,” he said. “Their kids aren’t the ones that are going. If they had skin in the game, the cost-benefit proportion would be different. They might not say, ‘Let’s go to war.’”

The veterans added that while every community in the U.S. was impacted by the Vietnam War due to most people knowing someone who went off to fight, with less than 3 percent of Americans knowing anyone who’s in the military today, many have not come in contact with a recent veteran. 

Bica said it creates a separation between what’s going on in the military and the average citizen’s life.

“The killing and the dying that’s going on is going on in our names, while we look the other way, and we think we’re untouched by it,” he said. “There’s blood on all of our hands.”

Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police 6th Precinct Crime Section officers are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the man who allegedly stole merchandise from a South Setauket store this month.

A man stole a Dyson vacuum from Target, located at 265 Pond Path,  Jan. 3 at approximately 12:20 p.m. The vacuum was valued at approximately $300.

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, utilizing a mobile app which can be downloaded through the App Store or Google Play by searching P3 Tips or online at All calls, text messages and emails will be kept confidential.

A feline relaxes in the cat room at A Kitten Kadoodle Coffee Cafe. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Adopting a pet can be a challenging undertaking, where soon-to-be pet owners are potentially committing to years of caring for a furry friend.

When it comes to adopting a cat, animal rescuer Jennifer Rose Sinz is working to make the experience a little easier. Sinz and her husband, Bill, are the owners of A Kitten Kadoodle Coffee Cafe in Selden. The cafe has been open since July 2019 and has been a dream that Sinz has been working on for a few years.

Young Sylvester was recently adopted from A Kitten Kadoodle Coffee Cafe. Photo from Lauren Sharp

Sinz said it was 2015 when she first heard of a cat cafe in Japan. She mentioned the idea to a rescue organization she was working with at the time, but the organizers weren’t too keen on the idea. So, she started researching on her own.

She described the Selden cat cafe as different from others that have popped up on Long Island. In addition to beverages and snacks being served, visitors can also order cold and hot meals. It is also the first cat cafe to serve vegetarian options.

With a glass wall between the cafe and the cats’ quarters, guests can see the animals relaxing in their temporary home filled with couches, chairs and toys while they eat. For a fee of $5, visitors can go into the cat room for an unlimited time and socialize with the felines. The fee is good all day, so prospective pet owners can take some time out and come back later.

As an animal rescuer who has owned pets her whole life, Sinz, who also runs All About Pets Rescue, said it’s important for people to have ample time with an animal before adopting. Limiting that time, like other businesses or shelters may do, doesn’t make sense to her.

“How are you supposed to get to know a pet if you’re interested in adopting,” she said. “I want them to get to know the personality.”

Her advice is simple.

“Sit down, relax, get to know the personality of the animal before making a commitment of 15 to 20 years,” she said.

At the cafe, Sinz offers children workshops and yoga classes. She said the workshops and classes give people a chance to spend time with the cats, even if they have a family member who is allergic.

Visitors to the establishment can find cats of all ages who have been in various situations, including being abandoned and abused. Sinz said she prefers to take in older cats so they will have a second chance at life. She also never turns down senior adoptees who may be interested in a cat as she said owning an animal is therapeutic and keeps people energetic.

Her husband, Bill Sinz, thought it was an interesting concept when she first brought it up to him, and considers her saving the cats a “noble fight.”

“Her love for the animals is amazing,” the husband said. “I hope other people appreciate what she’s doing and come here and share it with her.”

Lauren Sharp is one of those who have appreciated Sinz’s work. One day, during a stressful day at her job in Selden, she stopped by the cafe during lunch to pet the felines. That visit led her to stop by often and eventually to adopt a 1½-year-old cat she named Sylvester, due to his similarities to the Looney Tunes character. Even though she grew up with a dog and birds in her family’s home, Sylvester was the first pet she adopted on her own.

Sharp said she loved the chance to get to know the personalities of the animals. Allergic to cats when she was younger, she didn’t have much experience with them. She said she had checked out another cat cafe in Sayville, but Sylvester stuck with her because he was so relaxed when she and a friend would come to visit.

When it came to the adoption process, Sharp said it was smooth from start to finish, and Sinz had all of Sylvester’s medical records ready to go.

“It’s a great place,” Sharp said. “I think Jennifer is very sweet and really cares for all the cats.”

Cat lovers can find the cafe at 600 Middle Country Road, Suite C&D, Selden. For more information, call 631-846-7389.

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Ned Puchner stands in Gallery North’s gift shop. Photo by Rita J. Egan

For 2020, Setauket’s Gallery North trustees have set their sights on featuring more Long Island artists and making art appreciation even more accessible to the community. They plan to forge ahead with these resolutions with a new executive director.

With more than 20 years of experience in the arts as curator, manager and administrator for galleries, nonprofits and museums, Ned Puchner took over the role of executive director of Gallery North Dec. 1. The position was previously held by Judith Levy, who recently retired.

“He’s got the whole package, and we’re really excited to have him on board.”

— Nancy Goroff

Nancy Goroff, president of Gallery North’s board of trustees, said a search committee was formed to find a new executive director and dozens of applicants were narrowed down to three for the board to choose from.

She said Puchner had what the board was looking for, with experience producing high-quality art exhibitions and an understanding of running the business of a nonprofit. She described him as personable and community minded, which she believes will help to strengthen connections in the area.

“He’s got the whole package, and we’re really excited to have him on board,” she said.

Puchner said he discovered the nonprofit while job searching online and saw Gallery North possesses some of the same elements as his last place of employment, the Greenville Museum of Art in North Carolina. He said while the staff there was smaller, like the Setauket gallery they would organize various fundraisers throughout the year and worked with the local art community. The North Carolina museum also has other similarities to Gallery North as it has been around since the 1960s and has a university in town.

“It’s really uncanny how I came across Gallery North,” he said. “There were so many various similarities between what I saw in Greenville and what I see in Setauket and the Three Village area.”

Once he visited Gallery North, the new executive director said he was impressed with how casual it was inside with a community feel among the staff and people who visit, where everyone seems to know each other. He added it’s an ideal place to present art in a nonintimidating way as an educational and fun-based gallery.

“I don’t want people to be scared away from the notion of being in an art gallery,” he said.

Puchner said a bonus was that he heard how wonderful the Three Village community was and his research confirmed that. A few weeks after his arrival, his wife, Nancy, and two children, aged 4 and 6, joined him in their new home in Stony Brook. Another plus with moving to New York, he said, is being closer to his family that lives in Piermont, Rockland County. He said his children were excited to hear they would live closer to their cousins and grandparents. His wife, who teaches art history at UNC Pembroke, has been able to continue working for the school by transitioning to online teaching until the end of this year.

As for his first few weeks in the Three Village area, Puchner said he’s been busy helping with Gallery North’s holiday pop-up store and lining up exhibits for the new year. The first exhibit he has helped with is for Paton Miller, an artist from Southampton, which will run from Jan. 17 to Feb. 23. The gallery will host an opening reception for Miller’s exhibit Jan. 16 at 6-8 p.m.

“I don’t want people to be scared away from the notion of being in an art gallery.”

— Ned Puchner

In the future, he hopes to organize a committee to help review work that is submitted to Gallery North. He has been putting together the suggestions of board members and others about artists so that he can review the list and see if the gallery can present the work and if the exhibits will be equitable.

He respects the gallery’s reputation for featuring local artists, and Puchner said he hopes to broaden its vision to also show artists from the East End, Brooklyn and Long Island at large.

“One of the great things about Gallery North is that it’s so rooted in the local area, it’s so community based, it has a very strong history with that and with the artists that it has shown and promoted over the years, and I certainly want to continue that dynamic to something to be really nourished, because there’s a lot of great talent in this region,” the director said.

In addition to his work in Greenville, Puchner earlier in his career worked at the former Luise Ross Gallery in SoHo, where they also trained artists. His interests include folk/self-taught/outsider art, and he said his experience at Luise Ross was one of the things that inspired him to focus on the community-oriented aspect of folk art and self-taught artists.

Goroff said after talking to the president of the board of the Greenville museum, she was impressed to hear about different ways Puchner got the community more involved by reaching out to artists in the area. To complement the museum’s permanent collection, he brought in the work of local artists who produced work that was related to the permanent collection.

“It was something he chose to do when there were other ways that he could have enlivened his exhibitions down there, but he chose to do it by reaching out to the members of the art community so that really spoke to how committed he is to that and how much he values it,” she said. 

Puchner has spent much of his first weeks here by visiting local art centers such as the Wang and Staller centers at Stony Brook University as well as the Reboli Center and Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. He is looking forward to visiting The Brick Clay Studio & Gallery and The Atelier at Flowerfield, both in St. James, in the near future and working with all of them “to try to build on some of the work that all these organizations are doing to create a really vital
and important art community here.”

“I think that’s something that is really vital to helping to create a very family oriented community,” he said. “I want to play a role because I have a family of my own so I want to do what I can to nourish that art community here in the Three Village area.”

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Erica Lathan was reported missing from a Stony Brook group home in September. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are seeking the public’s help to locate a teenager who was reported missing in September.

Erica Lathan voluntarily left a group home, located at 1413 Stony Brook Road, Sept. 3, 2019, at approximately 8:50 p.m. She left the home with another female resident and could possibly be in New York City.

Lathan, 17, is black, 5 feet 5 inches tall, approximately 165 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on Lathan’s location to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652 or 911.