Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan
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Rain may have postponed some fun Aug. 7, but the next day, more than 400 attendees at the Three Village Chamber of Commerce Community Family BBQ made up for it on the Aug. 8 rain date.

It was the chamber’s 19th barbecue held at West Meadow Beach where members and residents played games, had the chance to win raffle prizes donated by local businesses and enjoyed music as well as catering from David Prestia of Bagel Express. Children also had the chance to get their face painted. All proceeds from the raffle tickets sold at the barbecue went to Ronald McDonald House at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

Michael Ardolino, president emeritus, said the barbecue ended with a beautiful sunset that was created by a storm coming over the Sound as the sun was going down. Fortunately, the barbecue was over before another rain event hit the area.

Elected officials were on hand for a ribbon-cutting at Old Field Farm. The event marked the official opening of a nearly half-mile trail that can be used for walking, running, hiking and biking. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Elected officials have made it easier for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy a county property in East Setauket.

At a press conference Aug. 12, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), employees from the county’s parks department and residents were on hand for a ribbon-cutting at Old  Field Farm. The event marked the official opening of a nearly half-mile trail that can be used for walking, running, hiking and biking.

Bellone credited Hahn’s persistence for making the trail happen. The legislator secured $100,000 from the county’s 2018 Capital Budget and Program to fund the path. The trail starts at a pedestrian entrance on West Meadow Road on the eastern side of the farm, runs around the perimeter of the farm and ends on Trustees Road right before visitors enter the Town of Brookhaven’s West Meadow Beach pathway.

“What a wonderful gem this park is for our community and for the county, and what an incredible addition this is for people,” Bellone said. “You think, well is a path that significant, and the answer is yes. It literally changes the whole environment for people.”

Hahn said she knows that trails such as the Old Field Farm are important to the community, because it allows people to be physically active, while enjoying the outdoors without sharing the road with vehicles. 

The nearly half-mile trail can be used for walking, running, hiking and biking. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“I’m a runner, and I run often on West Meadow Road here,” she said. “There are some blind curves. And, this will also function to get people — walkers, runners, bikers — off the dangerous road and on to our public space. Having people have access to these public places is so important for us as elected officials to make sure that these spaces that we invest in — that we spend money to maintain — that people use them and appreciate them, and this is a way that many more people can take advantage.”

Hahn thanked community leaders for their support, including county parks department employees, Herb Mones of the Three Village Civic Association’s land use committee, Larry Swanson from Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and Englebright, who secured the land for Suffolk in 1985 when he was a county legislator. She also thanked Sally Lynch, president of Old Field Farm, Ltd., who she called an advocate and steward of the property. Hahn said the nonprofit organization has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through the years. The funds, in conjunction with county grants, have helped to restore and maintain the historic structures on the property. The farm is also home to horse shows, and the trail will be closed during those shows to avoid spooking the horses.

Old Field Farm consists of 13 acres that adjoin the 88 acres of protected wetlands and overlooks the Long Island Sound and West Meadow Creek. Long Island philanthropist Ward Melville built Old Field Farm in 1931, and it was initially called North Shore Horse Show Grounds. Melville commissioned architect Richard Haviland Smythe to create the equestrian facility, which includes a main barn and courtyard, freestanding stables and a wooden grandstand.

“This property is exquisite, spectacular as you can see,” Hahn said.

Englebright said the property could have been sold to a developer to build a waterfront housing development in 1985. The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, who owned it at the time, decided to sell it to the county. The land acquisition was an important one, he said, because it is located right next to West Meadow Beach. The assemblyman described the area as a mosaic of public lands forming a protective encirclement around West Meadow Creek. He called the addition of the trail extraordinary.

“With the access now of this trail, when you add this trail to Trustees Road, you have more than a mile of waterfront-exclusive, non-motorized access,” he said.

In the past, Hahn has spearheaded initiatives for a parking lot and walking path at Forsythe Meadow Woods County Park in Stony Brook and a parking lot at McAllister County Park in Belle Terre.

 

File photo.

Suffolk County Police arrested a Selden teenager Aug. 11 following two car crashes, one which seriously injured a pedestrian. The teen was allegedly driving while intoxicated and left the scene of an accident.

Christina Burns, 17, slept at the home of Francis Rogalle, located on Ashford Drive in Bohemia, after attending a party at his residence the evening of Aug. 10. She left the home at approximately 6:50 a.m. Aug. 11 driving a 2005 Nissan Altima and, while traveling on Ashford Drive, left the roadway, struck a mailbox and drove across a lawn before allegedly striking Che Yeung, 80, of Bohemia, who was walking in the street. Burns fled the scene in her vehicle.

Approximately half an hour later, Burns was allegedly involved in a second crash at the intersection of Route 347 and Route 25 in Nesconset. SCPD 4th Precinct officers charged her with driving while intoxicated.

An investigation by 4th Precinct officers revealed that Burns’ vehicle had more damage than sustained in the Nesconset crash. Fifth Squad detectives were notified, and she was linked to the earlier incident. Burns was subsequently charged with leaving the scene of an accident with serious physical injury.

Yeung was transported to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore where she is in critical condition.

Rogalle, 50, was charged with violating Suffolk County’s Social Host Law. Burns was held overnight at the 4th Precinct and is scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip Aug. 12.

Burns’ Nissan was impounded as evidence.

Members of the Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336 of the Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A. in October 2017 presented the Long Island Veterans Home at Stony Brook University with a check for $5,000. Photo from Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336

Members of one veterans post are not letting diminishing membership stand in their way when it comes to helping former soldiers.

Marty Kupferberg and Stan Feltman outside the Middle Island Walmart selling poppies. Photo from the Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336

The Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336 of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America regularly collects donations to help veterans. In the last few months, the group raised money to sponsor three barbecues at the Long Island Veterans Home — one in August and two in September — along with a September golf outing for the home. Norman Weitz, post commander, said many of the members volunteer at the veterans home, and while the post has contributed funds in the past, including a $5,000 donation in 2017, this is the first time they are sponsoring events.

Fred Sganga, executive director of the Long Island Veterans Home at Stony Brook University, said the post’s contributions are valued.

“Their generosity has a direct impact on the quality of life of those veteran residents we are so honored to serve each and every day,” he said.

Since October 2017, the vets have contributed approximately $16,000 to causes dedicated to helping U.S. veterans, according to Weitz. In addition to the veterans home, the Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336, which meets in Centereach, has donated to various organizations including Paws of War, the Suffolk County United Veterans, and Operation Remember, a campaign spearheaded by county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) to update memorials in Setauket, Stony Brook and Port Jefferson to include those who served in the Gulf wars.

When it comes to donation dollars, Weitz and Barry Kopeloff, junior vice commander and chaplain, credit member Stan Feltman, 93, for enabling the group to donate as much as they do.

“He’s an amazing individual,” Weitz said.

Feltman can be seen every day outside the Middle Island Walmart selling poppies to raise money for his fellow veterans. Weitz said Feltman, at times, has collected up to $1,800 a month, and while many give a single dollar or two to the veteran, others sometimes give more.

“Their generosity has a direct impact on the quality of life of those veteran residents we are so honored to serve each and every day.”

— Fred Sganga

“One lady said here’s an extra $30 just for you, and Stan is independent, so he just throws that money back in the pot,” Weitz said.

Kopeloff said when it comes time to donate money, post members suggest organizations and then the group votes on whether or not to do so.

While many have heard of the Veterans of Foreign Wars or the American Legion, there are those who are unfamiliar with the Jewish War Veterans.

“We’d like people to understand what we do for the veterans, what we do for the community,” said Weitz.

Members of the post, which was originally called the Three Village Post 336, meet at the New Village Community Center in Centereach once a month. While there are more than 100 members who live in various areas in Brookhaven and even outside the town, Weitz said they may get around 20 members who can show up.

The post is always looking for new members, and like similar veterans groups, have no younger members who served after the Vietnam War.

“After Vietnam, it’s hard to get them because they’re young, and they’re working,” said Kopeloff, who is also on the Jewish Committee on Scouting.

Kopeloff said during Scout Sabbaths, when Eagle Scouts visit synagogues, he will ask if anyone in the congregation is interested in the post. Weitz and Kopeloff said members can be anyone from the Jewish faith that have served with any of the military branches of the United States or any allied nations. He said everyone has something important to contribute.

“The veterans that are coming home today from the Gulf War, from Afghanistan, are more attuned to helping veterans, and I think this would be a great plus,” Weitz said.

To help the Col. Mickey Marcus Post with its fundraising goals or for more information on the post contact: Col. Mickey Marcus Post 336, Jewish War Veterans of the U.S.A., P.O. Box 583, Centereach, NY 11720-2716.

Legislators, police officers, local business representatives and residents enjoyed some playtime Aug. 6 on a perfect summer’s night.

Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden), the Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct and the Middle Country Public Library hosted the annual National Night Out at the Town of Brookhaven’s Centereach Pool Complex. The free event promotes police-community relationships and neighborhood camaraderie.

This year more than 1,000 residents came out to swim in the pool, play games and interact with first responders and military personnel as well as community vendors.

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Volunteers remove a telephone pole from Stony Brook Creek. Photo by Thomas Crawford

Residents and legislators gathering in front of the Hercules Pavilion across from Stony Brook Village Center had more on their minds than shopping the morning of Aug. 6.

Workers cut away at the phragmites along Stony Brook Creek. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, announced at a press conference that Suffolk County awarded the organization a $10,750 grant. The funds will be used for a pilot program to remove 12,000 square feet of phragmites from the shoreline of Stony Brook Creek.

Phragmites, an invasive species plant, has been known to choke many waterways on Long Island. In Stony Brook Creek, the debris caused by the phragmites has created silt buildup, which in turn has caused flooding along the creek.

According to Rocchio, county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) secured the grant, and WMHO and Avalon Park & Preserve matched it. The total cost of the project is $21,500.

Rocchio said the problems caused by the phragmites have been going on for years. The town line between Smithtown and Brookhaven goes straight down the creek, and the estuary is owned partially by the two towns, Suffolk County, private residents and not-for-profits, all of which made it challenging to determine who was responsible for it in the past.

WMHO’s president said water goes into and out of the creek twice a day

“There are over 300 acres of land that have runoff on it that empty into this 5-acre creek,” she said.

When the banks of the creek overflow, she said, the water goes into the Stony Brook Grist Mill, which was built in 1751 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Rocchio said the water that continually flows through the mill every day has destroyed lower parts of the structure as well as its mechanisms.

“We can’t lose this beautiful heritage we have here,” Rocchio said.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, center, is given a demonstration of phragmites removal before the Aug. 6 press conference. Photo from Ward Melville Heritage Organization

She added that residents’ yards have also been flooded and one homeowner had to pull up the level of her bulkhead because the water comes in regularly.

The day before the press conference, workers from North Shore Tree & Landscaping and Usher Plant Care began eliminating the phragmites using a hand cutting process, which involves no chemicals or mechanical equipment. Dr. Richard Rugen, WMHO chairman, explained the procedure.

“The process includes hand cutting of the stalk in a certain way and coming back in two weeks to do a second cutting,” he said. “It’s usually completed within 21 days, weather permitting.”

In addition to the legislators and residents on hand at the press conference, owners and employees of local businesses including Lessing’s Hospitality Group, People’s United Bank, Stony Brook Marine Services, Stony Brook Harbor Kayak & Paddleboard Rentals and Stony Brookside Bed & Bike Inn were in attendance to help remove pilings that floated into the creek and logs from fallen trees to stop further silt buildup.

Michael Lessing, president and chief operating officer of Lessing’s, which owns Stony Brook’s Three Village Inn, said the company’s employees are part of a program called Do Good and have participated in fall beach cleanups at Gilgo Beach, along with other areas on the South Shore. He said when Rocchio heard of their program, she asked for their help to clean up the creek.

“Dan Laffitte and his crew from the Three Village Inn is really what brings us together today,” he said.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) also spoke at the press conference and said the two-part cleanup project was just the beginning.

The Stony Brook Creek Stormwater Mitigation Project, she said, is set to be voted on by the Suffolk County Legislature this month, adding the county’s Water Quality and Land Stewardship Initiative Committee had recommended the project. Suffolk will contribute $251,526 in funding, while the Town of Brookhaven will match the other $251,526.

Cartright said the project would involve four discharge pipes that carry stormwater from the Stony Brook community directly to the creek, which will be disconnected. A new drainage structure will be installed where pipes will lead to bioretention and water quality units. The goal is to minimize the direct discharge of pollutant-laden stormwater in the creek, she said.

“We have taken a number of steps collectively to make sure we save our Stony Brook Creek and our Stony Brook Harbor,” Cartright said. “As we know they are very special and important to our community.”

It may have started in front of their Stony Brook home, but now the Mastrianos’ lemonade stand is a community event raising thousands each year for a good cause.

The 7th annual Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand was back at R.C. Murphy Junior High School for the third year Aug. 5. The event, founded by siblings Maddie and Joseph Mastriano, had the help of dozens of student volunteers from the Three Village Central School District.

More than 500 attended to buy 50-cent cups of lemonade and other treats. There were games to be played, music from School of Rock students and Stony Brook University athletes visiting.

Sales from the lemonade stand benefit Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. The goal of $40,000 was exceeded by the end of the day.

For more information or to make an online donation, visit www.threevillagekidslemonadestand.com.

Teenagers across the North Shore have been seen playing chicken with motorists by cycling into oncoming traffic, popping wheelies in the middle of the road and more. Photo from SCPD

Motorists are discovering a new trend and distraction on local roads. Across the North Shore, teenagers on bicycles have been playing chicken with cars — pedaling into oncoming traffic, swerving their bikes close to vehicles and popping wheelies in the middle of the road. Sometimes they are in pairs and other times in groups of up to a couple dozen.

Children playing chicken with cars has become a hot topic in various Facebook community and parents groups. Members of the Smithtown Moms Facebook group have witnessed 20 children on bikes spreading out across Meadow Road in Kings Park, doing wheelies. In the Three Village area, junior high schoolers were seen cutting off cars at Bennetts Road and Route 25A and laughing about it.

Photo from SCPD

What police officers are doing about it

When it comes to the incidents, Suffolk County Police Department’s 4th Precinct is hoping to get ahead of potential injuries and fatalities in its community as well as the whole of Suffolk County. Officers have compiled a video with clips of teens creating havoc on streets such as Meadow Road in Kings Park, Commack Road near the entrance to Northern State Parkway in Commack and Lake Shore Drive in Lake Ronkonkoma. While the video includes clips from Smithtown, 4th Precinct officers said the cases can be used as examples at any precinct.

The purpose is to use the video to educate parents after officers stop a youth for reckless bicycling. In these circumstances, the law enforcers confiscate bikes and bring the teenagers to the precinct. Parents are then called, according to Deputy Inspector Mark Fisher. He said many ask why the police department is putting so much effort into the trend.

“The realities are it’s a tremendous danger,” Fisher said. “I would say it is as deadly as heroin. In some ways, on a particular day and time, because you are going in front of cars, and you are risking people-on-the-road’s lives. In a lot of ways, it’s a tremendously big deal, because if one 14-year-old gets killed or his life changes dramatically because he’s crippled for life. We want to avoid that.”

Commanding Officer Michael Romagnoli said it’s not a new problem, but the number of incidents has increased over recent months. The police department does not want to dissuade people from riding their bikes, he said, they just want them to do it safely.

“They’re going in front of traffic, trucks, cars. It’s like the thrill of being in that unsafe position that they’re looking for.”

— Captain Karen Kolsch

“We’re not against them riding their bikes,” Romagnoli said. “Bicycling is actually a great sport. I’m not even opposed to the stunts provided that they are not doing it in the middle of a highway or a road. It’s not the location to do that. They are subject to vehicle and traffic regulations.”

Romagnoli said many teenagers might not realize how dangerous it is.

“The control of the bicycle is the steering, the handlebars,” Romagnoli said. “Right now, they are relying on balance, and they are relying on a motorist not to hit them when they are doing that swerve. Because they can’t predict how the motorist is going to react to their actions.”

Captain Karen Kolsch agreed.

“They are not doing the stunts on the side of the road to see how long they can do a wheelie,” Kolsch said. “They’re going in front of traffic, trucks, cars. It’s like the thrill of being in that unsafe position that they’re looking for.”

The officers said the intent of the 4th Precinct’s video, compiled by Officer Kelly Neeb, is to provide an opportunity to educate parents on how dangerous the situations are instead of punishing the riders. In turn, they are hoping the video will create a conversation between parents and teenagers.

Just like many teens take to social media to post their stunts, Neeb takes to the same resources to see what the bicyclists are doing on roads and how parents are reacting to the tricks in Facebook groups. The officer even found one bicyclist post a flyer that was circulating on social media warning children and parents about the dangers. On the Instagram account 631vinny, the user posted about the flyer, “That’s funny. I can honestly care less.”

“To them, it’s a big joke,” Neeb said.

Recently, after the Meadow Road incident where the officers brought the group of bicyclists to the 4th Precinct, parents were upset at the officers when they first arrived to pick up their sons. Fisher said once they explained what the teenagers were doing on the roads, and they showed the parents the video, their anger subsided.

“The last thing we want to do is go to a home and tell their parents that your child was struck by a vehicle.”

— Commanding Officer Michael Romagnoli

 

What parents can do

The officers said parents need to sit down with their children and ask who they are spending time with and discuss the rules of the road. Bicycles are treated as vehicles, and their handlers must follow the same laws as cars and trucks.

“The last thing we want to do is go to a home and tell their parents that your child was struck by a vehicle,” Romagnoli said, adding an accident between a car and bicycle would be a tragedy to the motorist too.

Romagnoli said as the sun goes down it becomes difficult for drivers to see with little to no adequate lighting on many roads. Due to this, bicyclists need to have lights or reflectors on their bikes, so they can be seen. The commanding officer added that to compound the problem, many riders are not wearing helmets.

Fisher said parents should be aware that most rides start out harmless.

“A lot of this starts as a bike ride, and then it progresses to the stunts,” Fisher said. “They want to outdo each other. They have some games where they get points for certain stunts.”

Neeb also suggested that parents check their children’s social media activity from time to time since some post videos of their stunts or invitations to meet up. She said even conducting general research online can help parents educate themselves as to what is going on with young bicyclists. One YouTube account 631.BikeLife shows some of the stunts.

Kolsch said it’s understandable that parents are glad to see their teens outside doing something physical and may not realize what they are up to.

“A lot of this starts as a bike ride, and then it progresses to the stunts.”

— Deputy Inspector Mark Fisher

“They’re thinking they’re not sitting inside with the Xbox all day and so happy to see them doing something they think is good,” she said.

How motorists can be vigilant

The first step is for motorists to be aware that this is happening on local roadways, and the officers said drivers should treat reckless bicyclists as they would any other hazard in the road. Slow down, stop if you have to and let the hazard pass. They also said to call 911 and to be as descriptive as possible, including descriptions of bikers and bicycles, location, number of riders, if they were swerving, crossing double lines, standing on their bikes or anything else that will help officers.

Romagnoli suggested treating an incident with a reckless bicyclist the same as “following behind someone who may be an intoxicated driver.”

If pedestrians encounter problems with a bicyclist on a sidewalk or while they are crossing a road, they also should call 911.

Motorists should avoid altercations with the bicyclists, and if an accident occurs, especially when a rider has been hit, Kolsch said drivers involved should not leave the scene and make sure to get all witnesses’ contact information.

Anyone with information about such incidents also can call 631-852-COPS.

Spreading the word

In addition to the 4th Precinct officers open to sharing the video with other precincts, Fisher said they also are reaching out to school districts to see if they can show the video in schools to let parents know this is happening.

The officers said while there can be incidents where bicyclists can be brought up on charges or parents can be fined, depending on what transpired and the age of the teenager, they’re hoping to avoid such a situation with the educational video.

“We’re not looking to arrest people,” Kolsch said. “We’re looking to keep people safe.”

Firefighters from all over Suffolk County, as well as New York City, took to the courts at a special volleyball tournament at the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook July 25. The second annual tournament at the hotel was organized to raise funds for the Lt. Joseph P. DiBernardo Memorial Foundation.

The foundation is named after Joseph P. DiBernardo Jr., who was a volunteer with the Setauket Fire Department and one of three New York City Fire Department firefighters injured during a tenement fire in the Bronx in 2005. In 2011, DiBernardo died from the injuries he sustained in the fire, and in 2013, the DiBernardo family, members of the Setauket Fire Department and Jeff Cool, who DiBernardo helped saved during the fire, established the foundation.

On July 25 firefighters from Farmingville, Centereach, Mount Sinai, Coram, Terryville, Setauket, Selden and FDNY Ladder 120, along with a team from Gold Coast Bank including CEO and Chairman John Tsunis, competed. At the end of the matches, the Farmingville firefighters were the champions and donated their $1,000 winnings back to the foundation.

Members of Three Village Community Trust and residents enjoyed the 6th annual Chicken Hill Barbecue July 27.

Approximately 80 attendees gathered near the Setauket Rubber Factory Houses, once part of the Chicken Hill community, now being preserved on the property of TVCT’s Bruce House headquarters. Historian Frank Turano gave an entertaining and informative talk on the history of Chicken Hill, and everyone enjoyed chicken, ribs, and all the fixings provided by Bagel Express. Participants also had the opportunity to visit two of the Rubber Factory Houses.

The TVCT’s next event, its 15th Annual Celebration, will be held Nov. 13 at the Old Field Club. For more information, visit www.threevillagecommunitytrust.org.

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