Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan
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Youthire.org provides an easy way for Stony Brook University students to find odd jobs in the surrounding areas. Photo from Thomas Cerna

An established job resource website will now enable young adults in the Three Villages to make some extra cash, proving the adage “There’s an app for that” to be eminently true.

More than three years ago, Thomas Cerna created Youthire America to provide more opportunities for young people between 16 and 26 years old to earn cash while gaining work experience. The entrepreneur set up the website www.youthire.org where Sea Cliff, Glen Head, Glenwood Landing and Glen Cove students could connect with homeowners and business owners. Now the nonprofit organization is extending the same opportunities to Stony Brook University students and residents in the surrounding areas.

“It’s a really great way to connect kids with adults in the neighborhood, and they’re making money doing odd jobs,” Cerna said.

Although a mobile app doesn’t yet exist, the website serves as a hub offering work opportunities in four separate categories — internships, volunteer projects, traditional employment and odd jobs.

Cerna said he got the idea to partner with the university when he noticed a homeowner from Setauket posted a request. He reached out to the poster and discovered they were informed about the site by Joanna Durso, senior career counselor with the university’s career center, who lives near Cerna and was familiar with Youthire.

Brian and Travis Danoski clean out a shed after finding the odd job on www.youthire.org. Photo from Thomas Cerna

Durso said the site makes it easier for the career center to help residents who need help, especially since the school is unable to promote jobs that need to be done inside private homes on its website.

“In addition to offering SBU students another source of job listings, Youthire is helpful for us when we hear from local residents who want to hire students for household work, baby-sitting, and so on,” Durso said.

Students set up profiles on the site and are notified by email when jobs within five miles are posted. If a student is interested in a task, the homeowner receives an email and can check the student’s profile page, which includes a photograph, narrative and past work history, before contacting them.
Everyone using the site goes through a background check and screening for misdemeanors and felonies.

Cerna said he decided to start the nonprofit after
remembering the odd jobs he worked while growing up in Mamaroneck. His high school had a career services center where students could sign up for odd jobs.

The founder said he believes working at a young age
creates personal responsibility and a good work ethic, and in a society where drug use has skyrocketed, he said he feels it can keep kids out of trouble.

“It’s something that could steer a kid in the right direction for a kid going in the wrong direction,” Cerna said.

Kevin McDonagh, of Glen Head, said he used Youthire to clean out his shed. He said with his own children in college, he needed help with the big job and remembered making signs for Cerna at the sign shop where he works.

“It was a really satisfying experience,” McDonagh said. “They came in, they did the job. Not only did the job, but they were proactive in the work. I didn’t have to direct them every step of the way.”

One of the students who worked on his shed was Brian Danoski. The senior at Stony Brook University, who is studying to be an entrepreneur, said he discovered the site on his own a few years ago.

“It’s building my experience and desire for learning new things,” Danoski said.

The college student said he likes that the site easily connects him with those who need help and allows flexibility, especially with the demands of his class schedule. He said the site is also perfect for high schoolers.

“[Cerna’s] really passionate about it,” Danoski said. “That’s why it’s going to succeed because he wants the youth to get out there and do more and learn about the world.”

For more information, visit www.youthire.org.

By Rita J. Egan

That jolly, happy soul has returned to Northport. The family musical “Frosty” opened Nov. 18 at the John W. Engeman Theater and families filled the theater eager for the annual holiday treat.

The cast of ‘Frosty’ after last Saturday morning’s performance. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Directed by Richard T. Dolce, the production is a delightful twist on the story “Frosty the Snowman.” On the Northport stage, the snowman comes to life with the help of a scarf that is magical due to love instead of a magician’s hat and quickly becomes best friends with a little girl named Jenny.

When Jenny’s mother, who is also the mayor of Chillsville, is tricked into signing a contract with the evil Ethel Pierpot to build a machine to get rid of all the snow in Chillsville, Jenny must find a way to keep Frosty from melting.

Kevin Burns as the narrator opens the show, and it’s clear from the beginning that the audience will be part of the story. Burns easily interacts with the children and gets them involved. He also draws the most laughs as he goes from being bundled up for winter to wearing less and less each time he makes an appearance on stage to demonstrate how warm Chillsville is getting.

Kate Keating as Jenny is endearing as the sweet young girl who has no friends but possesses a warm heart. With touching vocals during “No Friends,” the audience connects with her at once.

Kate Keating and Matthew Rafanelli in a scene from ‘Frosty’

TracyLynn Conner played Ethel Pierpot on opening day and alternates the role with Cristina Hall. Conner portrays her character with the perfect mix of evilness and silliness reminiscent of Cruella Deville from “101 Dalmatians.” Children knew she was up to no good on opening day but weren’t afraid of her, which was apparent as they chatted with the actress during the autograph session after the show.

Matthew Rafanelli delivers Frosty perfectly with a sweet, friendly speaking and singing voice. He and Keating sound great together when they sing “One Friend Is Better Than No Friends.”

Ashley Brooke rounds out the cast beautifully, playing a loving, nurturing mother and mayor who realizes Chillsville is perfect the way it is no matter what Ethel Pierpot says.

The musical ends on the right note with the whole cast singing the Frosty theme song after doing an excellent job on the ensemble number “Thanks for You.”

Young audience members were delighted with the many opportunities when the actors encouraged them to participate. An especially cute part of the production is when the narrator asks the children in the audience for ideas to solve Frosty and Jenny’s dilemma at the end of the first act. After intermission, those ideas are shared with the characters. “Frosty” also provides a few fun opportunities for the actors to come into the audience, and the show contains many magical moments.

This time of year is perfect to create special memories, and the Engeman’s production of “Frosty” is guaranteed to add magic to any family’s holiday season. While the story is geared toward younger audiences, older siblings, parents and grandparents will find plenty to enjoy in the show, too.

Theatergoers can meet Frosty and friends in the lobby for photos and autographs after the show. An autograph page is located towards the back of the program.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present “Frosty” through Dec. 31. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

By Rita J. Egan

The folks at the Three Village Historical Society are busy getting ready for a holiday favorite, their annual Candlelight House Tour scheduled for Dec. 1 and 2. This year the theme will be Visions of East Setauket: Then & Now, and the tours will include five homes on Shore Road in East Setauket and Poquott as well as a stop at the St. James R.C. Church Parish Center. The event provides the opportunity for participants to explore historic homes and properties and enjoy stunning holiday décor.

Steve Healy, president of the historical society, said this will be the 39th year the society is hosting the event, and he looks forward to it every year. “We get a great response, the houses are all different, and it’s a very festive occasion,” he said.

This year’s tour is the sixth one organized by co-chairs Patty Cain, historical society vice president, and Patty Yantz, a former president. Yantz said when it came to this year’s theme the pair were inspired by the book published by the organization, “Then & Now: The Three Villages,” which includes photos of various locations in the area as they looked in the past and how they appear now.

“We always like to highlight our archives and what we’re about,” Yantz said. “We like to take historic areas and look at how it’s developed.”

The tour has been filled with historic homes since its beginnings when decorator Eva Glaser and Mary Lou Mills came up with a way to raise funds for the Setauket Neighborhood House, which was in disrepair at the time. The structure, located at 95 Main Street, was the original home of the Three Village Historical Society’s headquarters.

The major fundraiser for the society, both Cain and Yantz said over the years more and more homeowners have offered their houses to be put on display. While decorators work on each home, many homeowners contribute input when it comes to the decorating.

Cain said she is always looking for homes to include, and when residents offer up their houses for the event, she takes into consideration its historical importance and what other structures are already included. The co-chairs and decorators work for months to prepare for the weekend, and Cain said they always worry if they did enough and if there are an adequate number of volunteers. However, every year the first night proves all the hard work was worth it.

“When it’s 6 o’clock Friday night, and the candles are lit in the houses, and the first guests come in, to me that’s the best part,” Cain said.

For many who participate in the tour, it’s an event that kicks off the holiday season; something Yantz agrees with. “I’m always amazed at how beautifully decorated the homes are,” she said. “That to me is why I just can’t wait to see them. For me personally, it just sets off the whole holiday feeling and brings back childhood memories. It’s inspiring to me,” she said.

Cain said they try to mix older and newer homes on the tour; however, the newer ones must be on historic properties to be included.

Among the homes decorated for this year’s tour will be one on the land known as Tinker Bluff, which is named after the first homeowner Henry Champlin Tinker, who built a summer home overlooking Port Jefferson Harbor in the late 19th century. Another home’s west end is its original mid-1800s structure, while one house sits on a land parcel where its dock attracted Joseph Elberson, proprietor of the once local rubber factory, to buy the property to use it for a transportation line.

“There’s a lot of history here,” Cain said. “The land is history, so you may have new homes on historic land that was once a huge farm or huge shipbuilding company. It’s historic in that respect, and we’re able to bring that history to people that might not know about it.”

Visitors to St. James R.C. Church Parish Center on Route 25A will discover the church’s presepio, a tableau of life in Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth. A unique Italian art form, the scene goes beyond the traditional nativity and fills an entire room.

The Dec. 1 tour includes wine and hors d’oeuvres at each home from 6 to 9 p.m. and ends with a buffet and wine reception at the parish center catered by Express Catering — a branch of Setauket’s Bagel Express — from 9 to 11 p.m. Saturday includes two options of an early breakfast at the Old Field Club in East Setauket and tour or tour only. The Saturday tour ends at 4 p.m.

Tickets for Friday night and the breakfast and tour are sold out, but plenty were available for the Saturday tour at press time. Ticket prices range from $45 to $110 per person. For more information, call 631-751-3730, email info@tvhs.org or visit www.tvhs.org. Tickets may be picked up at the Three Village Historical Society, which is located at 93 North Country Road, Setauket.

Members of the Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336 of the Jewish War Veterans Robert Sandberg, Leon Margolies, Stan Feltman, Marty Kupferberg and Ed Brandes after participating in the East Setauket Memorial Day Parade in May. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The oldest war veterans organization in the country is still going strong on the North Shore.

Membership in the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America Post 336 may have decreased over the decades — the name even changed this year from Three Village to Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336 — but nothing has changed when it comes to the members’ mission of supporting their fellow veterans.

Stan Feltman, a member of the post, sells poppies to raise funds for veterans regularly outside the Middle Island Walmart or the 7-Eleven on Route 112 just south of Route 83. Recently he helped raise $5,000 for the Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University along with his fellow post members. The World War II veteran said he brings photos from wartime with him on his fundraising excursions to show those who donate.

“Once they see some of these pictures, instead of giving me a buck, they give me five dollars,” Feltman said.

Stan Feltman was a B-29 tail gunner in the United States Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1945. Photo from Stan Feltman

The 91-year-old was a B-29 tail gunner in the United States Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1945. Besides selling poppies, he participates in lectures at schools and senior groups. Recently he was interviewed for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, an initiative established to collect and preserve firsthand remembrances of wartime veterans. Feltman said he and members of Post 336 believe it’s important to educate others about their service.

“I think the kids don’t realize what we went through,” he said. “That’s why every once in a while I will go and talk to them.”

The Coram resident said he has been a member of Post 336 for a few years. The organization welcomes Jewish service men and women from the Three Village community and surrounding areas who served during a wartime period.

Among the members is Arthur Golnick of Stony Brook, who served from 1951 to 1952 in the Cold War as a private first class in the United States Army. He joined the post 35 years ago when the members would meet at North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station. Through the decades, he said he has participated with his fellow local veterans in countless parades and ceremonies.

“We want people to know the history of past events,” Golnick said.

He said overall he’s most proud of the post’s main function of helping their fellow veterans, especially those at the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook and Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Stony Brook resident Robert Sandberg, a member of the post for 30 years, said Civil War soldiers who fought on the Union side founded the Jewish War Veterans in 1896. Sandberg said it was started after stories, propagated by author Mark Twain, circulated that Jewish men didn’t serve in the Civil War.

Robert Sandberg, a retired United States Air Force lieutenant colonel, at a recent Post 336 event. Photo from Alan Golnick

Sandberg served for 25 years in the United States Air Force and retired in 1982 as a lieutenant colonel. He said while he was in Vietnam, he didn’t see battle. His son Scott followed in his military footsteps and became a tanker pilot in the Air Force and recently retired as a colonel.

While Sandberg continued to work after leaving the military, including for Suffolk County and Huntington, he said he hasn’t done anything nearly as interesting or challenging as his time in the military.

The post members have the opportunity to share stories of their days in the military during meetings held once a month in the New Village Recreation Center on Wireless Road in Centereach.

Golnick said he was stationed in Germany for a while. He said he has fond memories of being an umpire for the regiment’s softball team, but doses of reality were never too far away. He said the barracks were just walking distance from a former concentration camp.

“You could tell by the smell,” he said.

Feltman, who grew up in Brooklyn, said it was during his stint in boot camp that he first encountered anti-Semitism. He said one of his fellow soldiers kept giving him a hard time about his religion.

“I was flabbergasted,” he said. “I got along with all of the other soldiers that were in that barrack.”

One day after calisthenics class and another verbal altercation, he said the dispute turned physical. Instead of facing punishment, the commanding officers asked him to box for his section — considering at 5 feet 9 inches tall and 136 pounds he had just sent a 6 feet 2 inches tall soldier weighing 220 pounds to the hospital. In 1944, Feltman won a boxing championship in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Arthur Golnick, of Stony Brook, served from 1951 to 1952 in the Cold War as a private first class in the United States Army. Photo from Alan Golnick

Despite the bond among the veterans, membership continues to decline, and out of the approximately 50 official members of Post 336, about 20 are active.

“The challenge for our organization, like all veterans organizations, is that the younger generations aren’t interested in joining,” Sandberg said, adding that the number of Jewish War Veterans members doesn’t accurately represent Jewish people serving in the military over the years. During World War II, 500,000 Jewish soldiers served, and 11,000 were killed.

As for the post name change this year from Three Village to Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336, Sandberg said while Marcus wasn’t a Long Island resident, he was an admirable Jewish veteran. A United States Army colonel, Marcus went on to assist Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War and became the country’s first modern general. He was killed by friendly fire and is buried at West Point Cemetery.

Sandberg said sharing time with others who have served is vital for veterans, and he encourages them to join organizations to share their unique experiences. 

“Other vets will understand instantly when you start talking to them,” Sandberg said. “You sense an understanding. It’s maybe like a subconscious language or something because of the common experience that you had. When you meet other vets, and you hang around with them, you get this tremendous feeling. It’s not quite camaraderie, but it’s a bond; it’s a meeting of people that have the same experience that others don’t. So that’s a special thing that you get from being in a veterans organization.”

For more information, visit the website www.jwvpost336.blogspot.com.

Dr. R. Trevor Marshall, right, consults with a New York Presbyterian Hospital nurse while assisting patients at a coliseum in Manati. Photo by Alejandro Granadillo

Many in Puerto Rico still reeling from the devastation of Hurricane Maria recently received much-needed medical care from a local Long Island hospital.

There were 23 staff members from Stony Brook Medicine stationed on the island from Oct. 24 to Nov. 8 as part of a 78-member relief team consisting of professionals from New York metropolitan hospitals. Three physicians, two nurse practitioners, nine nurses, four paramedics, four nursing assistants and one pharmacist from Stony Brook put their skills to use to help those with physical aliments and relieve overloaded hospitals in Puerto Rico.

The Coliseo Juan Aubin Cruz  Abreu “Bincito” in Manati, Puerto Rico, was the temporary workplace of 19 from Stony Brook, while four others assisted at Hospital HIMA San Pablo-Fajardo for a week, followed by another seven days on the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, which is docked in Old San Juan.

Dr. R. Trevor Marshall, emergency physician and director of Emergency Medical Services at Stony Brook, said he and 18 others worked with the Disaster Medical Assistance Teams — part of the National Disaster Medical System — Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Army at the coliseum in Manati.

“It was a nice way to be able to provide additional resources down there to help the local community,” he said.

The grateful husband of a patient wears a Stony Brook Medicine hat while serenading the medical staff. Photo by Alejandro Granadillo

The physician said the staff members treated patients with diarrhea, conjunctivitis, abscesses, severe cuts and broken bones. Marshall said the patients were appreciative, and the staff was grateful for local high school and college students who volunteered their time to translate. The South Setauket resident said it was his first medical relief trip, and he’s open to volunteering for another one in the future due to his positive experience in Puerto Rico.

“This was an outstanding opportunity,” Marshall said.

Dr. Richard Scriven, associate professor of surgery and pediatrics at Stony Brook University, was one of the doctors working alongside Marshall at the coliseum. While driving from the airport to the arena he said he could see half of the homes were covered with the tarps that the Federal Emergency Management Agency provided to protect the houses that lost roofs during the Category 5 hurricane.

He said the staff would alternate working 12-hour shifts, slept on cots in the mezzanine section and bathed in outdoor showers. Scriven said food was provided from the local veterans agency, nearby residents and appreciative patients who bought them pizzas.

The physicians said DMAT tents were set up outside the arena, where many patients were treated for minor ailments. Inside were 50 to 70 inpatients who were frail and on ventilators and mostly relocated from nursing homes.

Scriven, who lives in Stony Brook, said he and others would walk to the nearest Walgreens, and while Manati didn’t have as much damage as other areas, many were still without power and he didn’t witness any utility crews working on restoring it.

“Yet the people were so nice, so appreciative and really amazing,” Scriven said.

Many areas in Puerto Rico still have downed power lines after Hurricane Maria. Photo by Ralph Rodriguez

Emergency Medical Specialist Dr. Rolando Valenzuela, a St. James resident, was one of the team members who spent time in Fajardo and on the USNS Comfort. He said the hospital in Fajardo needed help with its emergency room, and the New York medical professionals assisted with ambulatory patients and mostly dealt with benign medical complaints. He said a number of people were in distress because they were unable to get treatment for diabetes or use medical equipment such as nebulizers and oxygen concentrators without electricity. Others were experiencing health problems as a result of a lack of water or medications.

Valenzuela said many hospitals on the island are low on supplies and are operating on generators. Any kind of extensive imaging or lab work wasn’t available on site; however, the staff had basic medications, antibiotics, IV fluids and EKG machines on hand.

“The medical infrastructure is ground down to a halt,” Valenzuela said.

Patients with more serious problems in Fajardo were transported to San Juan or to the USNS Comfort. The ship was staffed by Navy personnel and DMAT tents were set up outside for ambulatory patients. Valenzuela said medical professionals from around the country working in the tents saw 500 to 600 patients a day. Patients with serious conditions were transferred to the Comfort.

“I can’t say enough about how amazing the Navy personnel was,” Valenzuela said. “These guys had been on board for over a month before they were allowed off the ship. They were getting a few hours of sleep here and there but their main focus was on treating patients.”

Valenzuela visited Puerto Rico in the past and remembered how friendly the people were, and said despite the devastation on the island, the residents were in good spirits.

“The people were extremely enthusiastic to have us there,” he said. “They were so grateful for any kind of assistance. They just wanted to make sure that they weren’t being forgotten, and we did our best to provide them with the standard of care that would be acceptable on Long Island. I think we were successful.”

County Legislator Kara Hahn and Stony Brook resident Cindy Smith at a Nov. 10 press conference to propose a county initiative for Flowerfield in St. James. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Local legislators are paying attention when it comes to the concerns of Stony Brook residents regarding the proposed development of a land parcel in St. James.

At a Nov. 10 press conference held on the steps of Smithtown Town Hall, it was announced that Suffolk County Legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) introduced a bill in the Legislature asking the county to begin the process of purchasing more than 40 acres of property currently owned by Gyrodyne LLC. The first step is an appraisal of the land, which runs along Route 25A and borders Stony Brook Road and Mill Pond Road. The goal is to preserve the open space, known locally as Flowerfield, while continuing to lease the few older buildings to small businesses and artists currently renting.

The announcement was made a few days before a public hearing regarding the Gyrodyne subdivision proposal at the Smithtown Town Planning Board’s Nov. 15 meeting. On Nov. 13, the bill was approved during the county Legislature’s Environment, Planning & Agriculture committee meeting and will be voted on in the general meeting Nov. 21.

“We are for smart, sustainable development, and this isn’t sustainable in the area it happens to be in.”

— Cindy Smith

Cindy Smith, founder of the Greater Stony Brook Action Coalition, thanked Hahn, Trotta, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) for their support. Smith founded the coalition after the Suffolk County Planning Commission approved the conceptual subdivision of the 62 acres of land owned by Gyrodyne at an Aug. 2 meeting. The proposed plan includes a 150-room hotel, two medical office buildings and two assisted living facilities. There is also the possibility of opening a street behind University Heights Drive that would lead to Stony Brook Road.

“We know already what it’s like when development is done and things happen in your backyard,” Smith said of why she was hosting the press conference. “All of a sudden there’s a tremendous amount of traffic.”

The Stony Brook resident said she doesn’t want to see the same thing  occur in Smithtown, or see things get worse in her area. Due to increased traffic over the years from Stony Brook University and the Wireless Center, which borders the Gyrodyne property, she said residents along Stony Brook Road, where she lives, have witnessed 18-wheelers using the street, drivers littering and historical characteristics in the area disappearing. During rush hour, Smith said emergency vehicles have difficulty traveling down the street.

The coalition founder said no traffic studies or environmental assessments have been conducted by the county and there has been no estimate of the impact on the local infrastructure.

“We’re not against development,” Smith said. “We are for smart, sustainable development, and this isn’t sustainable in the area it happens to be in.”

“This is not the proper use of this parcel, and we would like to see it preserved.”

— Kara Hahn

Hahn, chairwoman of the Environment, Planning & Agriculture Committee, said if the land is developed it could harm local bays and waterways, and agreed it would overburden roads and increase the dangers of traveling in the area. The hazards of 25A and Stony Brook Road are something she is acutely aware of after being involved in a head-on collision at the intersection in April 2001.

“This is not the proper use of this parcel, and we would like to see it preserved,” Hahn said, adding that she asked Trotta if she could take the lead on the bill because she felt it was critical to her district.

Cartright, who was in attendance to represent the Town of Brookhaven and spearheaded 25A-visioning meetings in the Three Village area during the last year and a half, said the main concern of Stony Brook residents was traffic congestion in the area, especially at the juncture of 25A and Stony Brook Road.

“Today there is an alternative that is being presented by our county Legislature and that is to preserve this vital open space,” she said. “And we stand in support of the preservation of this land.”

Englebright said he wrote a letter to the New York State Department of Transportation asking it to deny any application for curb cuts on 25A. He said the town needs to change the zoning in Smithtown. While it made sense for the property to be zoned for business when Gyrodyne tested helicopter blades, the assemblyman said it should no longer apply to the residential area.

“If this proposal is allowed to go forward it will paralyze the communities of Stony Brook and St. James,” Englebright said, adding it would bring mid-Manhattan-style traffic to the area. “It will be like driving a stake into the heart of St. James.”

Gyrodyne could not be reached for comments by press time.

Peace group now focuses attention on proposed renaming of school of medicine to include Renaissance

Members of the North Country Peace Group plan to continue organizing demonstrations at Renaissance Technologies in E. Setauket despite the announcement that co-CEO Robert Mercer is stepping down. File photo by Rita J. Egan

The end of a co-CEO’s reign won’t stop an activist group from demonstrating outside of his hedge fund’s East Setauket office, especially after members heard a local university school of medicine may be renamed to include the company name.

Robert Mercer, of Renaissance Technologies, announced in a Nov. 2 letter to investors that he will be stepping down as co-CEO and resigning from the firm’s board of directors as of Jan. 1. In the letter, he stated he would remain a member of the technical staff and be involved in research work.

For nearly two years, the North Country Peace Group, a local peace and social justice organization, has often held demonstrations in front of the entrance of Renaissance Technologies. Most recently, the group held an August rally protesting the alleged contributions of millions of dollars to alt-right causes by Mercer and his daughter Rebekah, and the pair’s alignment with the ultraconservative online media company Breitbart News.

“We were shocked [when we heard the news], because we immediately thought look what we’ve accomplished,” said Bill McNulty, a member of the North County Peace Group.

An activist at an Aug. 23 rally in E. Setauket. File photo by Rita J. Egan

He said the sense of accomplishment was short-lived after news reports of companies pulling their investments from the hedge fund, and he said he believes this was the determining factor for Mercer stepping down and not the group’s demonstrations.

“I don’t feel he’s really stepping down,” said Myrna Gordon, a member of the activist group. “In his statement, he said he was still going to be involved with Renaissance, that he would still be doing work there. The only thing that was changed was the word co-CEO. He’s still there. So, we feel that he’s still entrenched in the company.”

Members of North Country Peace Group were alerted to an Oct. 2 Stony Brook Council meeting where it was proposed to rename the Stony Brook School of Medicine to the Renaissance School of Medicine. The council serves as an advisory body to the campus and Stony Brook University’s president and senior officers. In the webcast of the meeting available on SBU’s website, council chairman Kevin Law said a resolution regarding the renaming was approved electronically a few weeks prior and needed to be ratified by the council members at the Oct. 2 meeting.

Dexter Bailey, senior vice president for advancement and executive director of the Stony Brook Foundation, said during a presentation Oct. 2 the reason for the renaming was due to the generosity of 111 of the 300 Renaissance employees over the last few decades. The university received its first donation of $750 from one of the firm’s employees in 1982, and through the years Renaissance employees have donated $508 million to the university. In 2011, Renaissance Technologies founder and former CEO Jim Simons and his wife Marilyn donated a historic $150 million.

“These are individuals who have graduated from the top schools around the world — a lot of Ivy League grads — and to be able to have them adopt Stony Brook as one of their philanthropic priorities has really been a pleasure,” Bailey said.

He said many of the donors like to keep their contributions private, and the university looked for something that the employees could reflect on and take pride in.

Members of the North Country Peace Group will now keep an eye on developments for renaming the Stony Brook School of Medicine to Renaissance School of Medicine. File photo by Rita J. Egan

“We feel that naming the school of medicine will not only recognize the 35 years of history, but it actually sets the stage for future giving.” Bailey said.

During voting for the resolution, only one council member, Karen Wishnia, who represents the graduate student body, opposed the proposal. Wishnia said in a phone interview after the meeting, that even though she recognizes the generosity of the Renaissance employees and Simons, she “couldn’t in good conscience vote yes for this” largely because of the association with Mercer.

The next step for the resolution is for the university to obtain approval from the State University of New York chancellor and board of trustees.

McNulty and Gordon said members of the North County Peace Group strongly believe a state school of medicine doesn’t need to be renamed after a company, even if its employees are generous. They said the group has struggled in the past with how to separate the employees of Renaissance from the CEO.

“It puts the employees in a strange spot,” McNulty said, adding it’s understandable how those making good salaries with the company may be reluctant to admit Renaissance may be involved in negative activities. “We have had people come out of the company’s office who have been supportive of the information that we’ve imparted, and we’ve had others who have given us the [middle] finger.”

The two said the North Country Peace Group plans to continue demonstrations in front of Renaissance and educate the community about the renaming of the medical school. Gordon said when she watched the video of the Stony Brook Council meeting she was surprised there was no discussion after the vote was taken, and she wonders why the university hasn’t been more transparent about the proposal that involves a state school of medicine paid for by taxpayers.

“I would be pleased and honored to have the Stony Brook School of Medicine right up there in the forefront, and once big money corporations start buying landmarks, arenas, stadiums, you’re dealing with a whole other type of situation,” Gordon said. “We should be proud that it’s the State University of New York at Stony Brook. We should be proud that it’s the Stony Brook medical center.”

A Renaissance representative did not respond to requests for comments by press time.

Incumbent Donna Lent and challenger Cindy Morris are running for Brookhaven Town clerk Nov. 7. Photos from candidates

During two separate phone interviews, Brookhaven Town Clerk incumbent Donna Lent (I) and Democrat challenger Cindy Morris spoke of efficiency and transparency.

Morris said before last year’s presidential race, which awakened her politically, she didn’t vote in local elections. It’s what motivated her to run for a position in town government.

“We cannot do anything on a national level if we’re not doing it on a local level,” Morris said.

The candidate said she has been a consultant for nearly a decade, working with organizations. She looks at them strategically to help build more sustainable plans to serve their end users in the best way possible while sticking to a budget. It’s something she said needs to be brought to town government by finding creative and smart plans. Morris’ goals are to save taxpayers money while creating a town clerk’s office that is more efficient, and a local government that is transparent.

“We cannot do anything on a national level if we’re not doing it on a local level.”

— Cindy Morris

Lent, who is running for her second term, managed a lawyer’s office before beginning public service in 2001, when she became former state Assemblywoman Patricia Eddington’s chief of staff. When Eddington became Brookhaven Town Clerk, Lent joined her as deputy town clerk.

Lent said some of the responsibilities of the clerk’s office include serving as the Freedom of Information Law appeals officer; recording births, marriages and deaths; attending town board meetings to record the minutes; and being the custodian of town records, which include the management of both active and inactive records. Lent said she is hands-on in an office where 200 or more people can come with requests in one day.

“It’s helpful to build a repertoire with constituents so that they feel that they’ve been heard, that you’re about to assist them in taking care of problems,” Lent said.

Morris said she believes things can run more efficiently at the office, and if elected, she plans to analyze what the peak times are at the office and see where hours can be extended or if weekend hours can be offered. She also suggests offering additional services such as a curbside program for those who may come in for a handicapped parking sticker instead of them needing to mail a form or come down in person. She said she would look for ways to increase services while keeping costs down.

“Every service needs to be thought of in how it affects the constituents who use it,” Morris said.

Lent said she has brought more efficiency to the office. Among her accomplishments she lists the management of an archives scanning project for the majority of town departments and the implementation of a moving forward process for the digitization of records. She has created an online death certificate ordering process for funeral directors, and in the future, she hopes to implement an online process for residents to obtain and renew dog licenses. She said most services are available online except for obtaining a marriage or hunting and fishing license.

“Any time you can save time in government, you’re saving money.”

— Donna Lent

Lent said the scanning of records and offering of online processes have streamlined many requests.

“Any time you can save time in government, you’re saving money,” Lent said.

Morris said she would like to create more transparency in government by holding town board meetings later in the evening instead of 5 p.m. so those who commute to and from work can attend them. Another one of her suggestions is to use Facebook Live for meetings.

“It takes what’s being done and brings it to a new level, and it brings it to a new level by using technology that has become for many people simple technology,” she said.

Lent pointed out how town hall meetings are already livestreamed on the town’s website, and she said she wouldn’t want the council people to become distracted by comments on Facebook.

“If you can get onto Facebook, you can get on the town’s system to watch it,” Lent said.

Morris said she doesn’t suggest the legislators look at their phones during meetings; however, she said aides can monitor the messages and alert the council person if anything is urgent, or suggested comments be read after the meeting.

“The intention is to hold a light to what it is happening in our town council meetings,” Morris said. “That’s the goal.”

As a newcomer, Morris said she has been studying the proposed budget for 2018 and has been attending civic meetings throughout the town because she realizes needs differ from area to area.

Lent said she knows many women have been encouraged to become more involved in politics, and she believes Morris is one of them.

“I say good for her,” Lent said.  “I’d love to see more women involved in the process.”

Lawyer Edward Flood is challenging incumbent Kara Hahn for the county legislator seat in the 5th district. Photos by Desiree Keegan.

By Rita J. Egan

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) is seeking re-election for her fourth term Nov. 7. Challenging her is Republican Edward Flood of South Setauket. A lawyer with offices in Smithtown and Port Jefferson, he is the chief of staff for state Assemblyman Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue).

Hahn and Flood sat down at the Times Beacon Record News Media office in October to discuss their stances on various issues, with the county’s growing debt and poor credit rating serving as a backdrop.

Hahn, chairwoman of the Environment, Planning & Agriculture Committee, said she has worked on a water quality program that helps homeowners obtain grants up to $11,000 to replace their outdated septic systems or cesspools with advanced wastewater technologies, which are designed to significantly reduce nitrogen pollution. Hahn said older septic systems create nitrogen issues in local waterways since they don’t remove the chemical and can leave between 55 and 80 parts of nitrogen per million — drinking water is acceptable at 10 parts per million.

“We need to come to the table and we need to put a more appropriate budget out there and work to solve some of these crises.”

— Edward Flood

“It degrades our resilience — coastal resiliency — by degrading our marshlands, the nitrogen in the water actually hurts the grasses that grow and protect us and as an island that’s important,” Hahn said.

She said the county secured grants for $6 million over three years for which homeowners can apply.

“I’m fully supportive of that project; it’s just that we have to find ways to pay for it ourselves,” Flood said.

He pointed out the county borrowed $30 million against the sewer stabilization fund and will have to start paying the money back. He said the county needs to work with other levels of government, especially federal, to come up with more money for projects in the future.

Both candidates discussed providing more affordable housing options. Hahn said she is in favor of increasing the percentage of inexpensive options available, which is now 15 to 20 percent, and working with developers to ensure that buildings include more one-bedroom and studio apartments.

Flood said he supports programs where first-time homeowners receive assistance with down payments. He also suggested mandate relief to bring property taxes down by having every organization that receives tax benefits go through their budgets and find state mandates that may not be regionally appropriate.

Flood said to stimulate the county’s economy new businesses need to be attracted to the area. He is supportive of the group Long Island Needs a Drag Strip building a strip in Suffolk County. He said it is estimated it could bring in $40 million in tax revenues due to concessions, ticket sales and businesses that open around tracks such as high-end motor vehicle parts stores and hotels.

“We faced a $500 million deficit when I took office, and we have cut that down significantly by making very difficult cuts to staffs, combining departments.”

— Kara Hahn

Hahn said she believes a convention center near MacArthur airport, Suffolk County Community College in Brentwood or Kings Park would be a boon to the economy because it would bring in off-season visitors.

Flood said the high cost of living and poor economic outlook is his top concern as he has watched friends leave the island for better opportunities. He said the county needs to stem the tide on taxes.

“We need to come to the table and we need to put a more appropriate budget out there and work to solve some of these crises,” Flood said.

The legislator-hopeful pointed to Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy’s (R) auditing receipts, which led him to discover overpayments to one emergency homeless shelter.

“We have a lot of money that we waste, and not just the way we grant and the way we give out grants, and we’re finding [this] out as we audit,” he said.

Hahn said she feels the county legislators have been responsible budget managers.

“We faced a $500 million deficit when I took office, and we have cut that down significantly by making very difficult cuts to staffs, combining departments,” Hahn said. “We have done fiscally responsible things to get a handle on it, and when you have a budget of $3 billion and have a structural imbalance over three years of a $150 million, give or take, it’s reasonable,” Hahn said.

Republican Larry Zacarese and Democrat Errol Toulon are vying for the Suffolk County sheriff position. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Rita J. Egan

Both candidates for Suffolk County sheriff will bring more than two decades of public service experience to the position if elected. The race does not feature an incumbent, as current Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco announced in May he wouldn’t seek re-election after 12 years in the position. On Oct. 13, Republican candidate for sheriff Larry Zacarese and Democrat Errol Toulon visited the TBR News Media office to discuss their experiences and how they would handle the position if elected.

Zacarese, assistant chief of police and director of the office of emergency management at Stony Brook University since 2009, who is also an attorney, has been a New York City police officer and is currently a volunteer paramedic.

Toulon began serving as a correctional officer at Rikers Island in 1982 and retired as a captain in 2004. For two years he was assistant deputy county executive for public safety in Suffolk and in 2014 he was named deputy commissioner of operations for the New York City  Department of Corrections.

“I’ve been able to learn a lot on various levels inside of a correctional agency, and while that’s not the entire makeup of the sheriff’s department, it is a good portion of it.”

— Errol Toulon

Toulon said he feels from day one he would be able to manage the sheriff’s office effectively and will attempt to save taxpayers’ dollars through technology training and equipment.

“I’ve been able to learn a lot on various levels inside of a correctional agency, and while that’s not the entire makeup of the sheriff’s department, it is a good portion of it,” Toulon said.

Zacarese said he believes his experience would be an asset, especially with a need for capital planning, budgeting and managing grants in today’s tough economic climate, he said.

“My role as an emergency manager at Stony Brook is really broad based,” Zacarese said. “Not only am I involved in the day-to-day operations, planning, mitigation and response and recovery, but I oversee an office that handles all the electronic physical security, design, installation and maintenance for the entire campus, which is over 250 buildings.”

Both cited combating gang activities on Long Island as a priority for the next sheriff.

Toulon said his team at Rikers would gather intelligence from inside the jail as far as calls, visits and social media interactions before incarceration and then would work with law enforcement agencies to gather and disseminate the information. According to him, his team’s work brought down 37 members of the Bloods gang. He said using a database to collect intelligence gathered and sharing it with other agencies is vital in rounding up gang members, and he said he thought his experiences could translate seamlessly to the Suffolk position.

Zacarese is also familiar with combating gang problems. A case he worked on while at a precinct in Jackson Heights involved the investigation of narcotics trafficking by members of the Latin Kings. He said the county lost critical ground in the fight against gangs when the FBI removed two Suffolk County police detectives assigned to the bureau’s joint Long Island Gang Task Force by James Burke, former police department chief, who was found guilty of beating up a suspect and trying to cover it up.

“I have already had conversations and meetings with Homeland Security investigations, with people on the U.S. Marshals’ task force and making sure we have enough people on those task forces,” Zacarese said.

Toulon agreed with Zacarese that in addition to disseminating information, manpower is important.

“Task forces are very important, and keeping our members on these task forces is extremely important,” Toulon said.

“I have already had conversations and meetings with Homeland Security investigations, with people on the U.S. Marshals’ task force and making sure we have enough people on those task forces.”

— Larry Zacarese

The candidates touched on the subject of cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Both said while the sheriff’s office doesn’t get involved with immigration issues, it’s important to cooperate with the federal agency. Zacarese said many illegal immigrants are held in jails due to being violent predicate felons and people who return to the country illegally after being deported. The two also agreed it’s important for law enforcement agencies to increase communication with immigrant communities to ensure law abiding citizens do not fear deportation from ICE agents, which makes building cases against gang members more difficult.

Both candidates said they want to work on getting more help for those with substance abuse problems while incarcerated, which may decrease the chances of being arrested again.

“There are people who are leaving the correctional facility without so much as a business card for a social worker or any outreach programs [now],” Zacarese said.

Toulon said while substance abusers are seen by a medical staff to be treated, he agreed when prisoners leave the jail, they need assistance with finding housing and jobs.

“What I propose is creating a resource map so in each particular town we would know where those particular resources are for an individual so when we give them a card or give them the information they would be able to connect and have someone in the sheriff’s they can call and be that conduit,” Toulon said.

Both agreed that combating the drug problem, especially opioid overdoses, needs to be a priority in the county. Better tracking of overdoses; where they are happening, how they’re happening and deaths due to overdoses to identify where people need help, were areas each candidate brought up as meaningful first steps. Zacarese said he believes in enforcing the laws on the books and “strict enforcement for the suppliers, help for the people who are there in the middle and giving them long-term treatment options.”

Toulon pointed out that increasing monitoring of physicians who dispense pain management is also needed and fostering communication with communities “to actually acknowledge the problem that our family and friends are having so that we can get the correct treatment for them.”

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