Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan
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By Rita J. Egan

On April 19, residents joined Stony Brook Village Center President Gloria Rocchio, Chairman Dr. Richard Rugen, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Three Village Chamber of Commerce President Andrew Polan in welcoming five new businesses to the center.

The grand opening and ribbon cutting stroll included gift and clothing store Madison’s Niche, Camera Concepts & Telescope Solutions, interior design business Cervo Design, Village Florist and Events and Sweet Mama’s Family Restaurant. Before and after the ribbon cuttings, attendees had the opportunity to stroll through each establishment, and enjoyed refreshments at Cervo Design and Sweet Mama’s.

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Poquott’s preliminary budget was approved by its board of trustees April 12. File photo

By Rita J. Egan

As the Village of Poquott board of trustees budgets for the upcoming fiscal year, the cost of a proposed dock is still at the forefront of a few residents’ minds.

At an April 12 village public hearing, board members approved the 2018-19 preliminary budget. The village plans to spend $533,839 in the upcoming fiscal year, about a $34,000 increase over the last period. The preliminary budget stays under the tax levy increase cap, with an anticipated tax rate of $15.41 per $100 of assessed property value.

Treasurer Ron Pulito said it is estimated about $34,000 of the budget will be to pay the first installment of a five-year note for the village’s proposed dock. This amount would be taken from the village’s fund balance. The dock was originally estimated at $150,000 but the board opened bids at the beginning of the April meeting and the proposals were higher than anticipated.

“We have a good budget next year with question marks next to what happens with the dock, and we’re staying under the cap.”

— Ron Pulito

Pulito said there will be an estimated $47,000 deficit the current fiscal year, which would leave approximately $55,000 in the village fund balance. He said he does not expect much change in costs like snow plowing and garbage collection, and he said not much would be needed from the fund balance in the future for those items. He said while the budget includes funding for the dock it didn’t include any work on village hall.

“We have a good budget next year with question marks next to what happens with the dock, and we’re staying under the cap,” Pulito said.

Resident Felicia Chillak said she was concerned that the fund balance isn’t as high as past years and asked what would happen if there was a microburst storm like the one that hit the village a few years ago. She said the first day of cleanup after the storm cost the village $30,000.

“I personally feel [it’s better] to leave the fund balance and raise the taxes a little bit, if that’s going to keep us on the safer side,” Chillak said.

If the board decides not to go ahead with building the dock, the treasurer said the budget would break even. Pulito said if the board does go forward with the construction and more funds are needed, the village may be able to apply for a loan with a longer payment period.

“If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it,” resident Cindy Davis said. “You don’t go ahead. You don’t bust your budget for something like this.”

A decision on dock bids was tabled until May. The board will vote on the final 2018-19 budget in an upcoming meeting.

The Bates House in Setauket will host Camp Kesem at Stony Brook University's fundraising event. File photo

Camp Kesem at Stony Brook University is planning its annual fundraising gala, Make the Magic. The event will be held at The Bates House in Setauket April 21 starting at 5 p.m.

The gala will include a cocktail hour, dinner, silent auction, paddle raise, prizes and more. Tickets are $65 per person or $500 for a table of eight.

Vacation prizes include a Zulu reserve trip to Africa for two, Royal Caribbean International cruise for two, a Florida trip to the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront for four and a Martha Clara Vineyards wine trip for six.

Camp Kesem is a nonprofit organization run by college students who are committed to providing programs and free summer camp to support children in the Long Island community who are impacted by a parent’s cancer.

For more information, contact Camp Kesem members at 631-716-5173 or email stonybrook.mtm@campkesem.org. To learn more about Camp Kesem, visit www.campkesem.org/stonybrook. 99The Bates House is located at 1 Bates Road in Setauket.

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Volunteers at last year's spring cleanup at the Stony Brook railroad station. Photo from Kara Hahn's office

The Greening of 25A Committee and Setauket Harbor Task Force are looking for volunteers.

The Greening of 25A Committee

On April 21, The Greening of 25A Committee will hold its annul spring cleanup at the Stony Brook railroad station. The event is scheduled from 8 to 11 a.m. and will be held rain or shine.

The committee needs volunteers to trim bushes, pick up trash, rake leaves, weed, spread mulch, plant flowers and sweep salt, sand and dirt. Bagels and coffee will be provided by Bagel Express.

For more information, call Legislator Kara Hahn’s (D-Setauket) office at 631-854-1650.

Setauket Harbor Task Force

The Setauket Harbor Task Force is looking for volunteers to help the organization collect water quality data.

Twice each month from May to October, the task force will head out from Port Jefferson Harbor at sunrise to collect data at 10 sites in Port Jefferson Harbor, Setauket Harbor and the Narrows near Conscience Bay.

Each monitoring trip will run about three hours, and volunteers can participate at whatever level they are comfortable. Training and equipment will be provided.

For more information, contact George Hoffman at 631-786-6699 or email the task force at setauketharbortaskforce@gmail.com.

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All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook will host a poetry reading April 14. Photo from All Souls Episcopal Church

Two familiar faces in the Three Village area are ready to share their creative sides with their fellow residents.

Former Suffolk County Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher and Emma S. Clark Memorial Library’s librarian Carolyn Emerson will be the featured poets at All Souls Episcopal Church’s Second Saturdays Poetry Reading April 14 in Stony Brook.

Former Suffolk County Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher is one of the featured poet readers at the Second Saturdays Poetry Reading at All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook April 14. Photo from All Souls Episcopal Church

While politics and poetry may seem part of two different worlds, Viloria-Fisher said she believes reading fiction of any kind helps a person develop empathy, something she feels is essential for an elected official to have.

“Literature is an avenue to receive and to give, and that’s what art does,” she said. “It expresses what you’re feeling, and I think that you’re able to express that when you have empathy for the feelings of others.”

Viloria-Fisher served six full terms as Suffolk County legislator and was deputy presiding officer for six years. She currently is campaigning to be on the ticket for the Democratic primary for the 1st Congressional District. Before embarking on a political career, she taught English and Spanish in local schools, including Advanced Placement Spanish in the Three Village Central School District. She later went on to become chair of the district’s foreign language department.

Despite two busy careers, she said poetry has been part of her life for as long as she can remember, writing for herself and special events.

“I love to capture moments and feeling in poetry,” Viloria-Fisher said, adding that she prefers her poems to rhyme, and she feels imagery, metaphors, cadence and similes are important in the genre.

The former legislator said she hopes attendees at the April 14 reading will appreciate seeing a different side of her.

“I think people see me a little bit more in terms of social justice and science, and I want them to see the artist in me as well,” she said.

For Emerson, her job allows her to show a bit more creativity on a regular basis, she said. She is involved with poetry readings, literary programs and writing workshops at the library. The librarian said she’s a lifelong lover of literature and has been writing poetry since fifth grade.

“I love the compact form of poetry,” Emerson said. “My parents were members of a poetry group in Miami, which I occasionally attended, and my father sometimes recited lines of poetry at the dinner table, so I grew up having a lot of exposure to poetry.”

Emerson, who has been a featured reader at Suffolk County Community College, said her poetry tends to be nature oriented.

Librarian Carolyn Emerson is one of the featured poet readers at the Second Saturdays Poetry Reading at All Souls Episcopal Church in Stony Brook April 14. Photo from All Souls Episcopal Church

“I like to observe nature, and I feel that I can use it as a metaphor,” she said.

The librarian’s poems have appeared in several publications, including Long Island Quarterly and Long Island Botanical Society Newsletter. Emerson is the founder of the Euterpe Poetry Group, and in 2007, she was a semifinalist for The Paumanok Poetry Award. She is currently working on a manuscript about her experiences searching for her birth mother.

The librarian said she has attended the Second Saturdays Poetry Readings at the church in the past and has read a few of her pieces during the open reading portion.

“It’s a wonderful space for poetry,” Emerson said. “It’s intimate and just a lovely, serene space to listen to poetry.”

All Souls Episcopal Church is located at 61 Main St., Stony Brook. The Second Saturdays Poetry Reading will be held Saturday, April 14, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is hosted by Suffolk County Poet Laureate Gladys Henderson. An open reading will follow the intermission, and all are welcome to read their own work or that of another. For more details, call 631-655-7798.

Owners of the Shell gas station on the northwest corner of Route 25A and Jones Street have submitted variances to the Town of Brookhaven's board of zoning appeals to construct a gas canopy and install a 72-square-foot lighted sign. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The Three Village Civic Association is taking action to prevent a gas station from “changing the scenery” in the area.

Magid Setauket Associates LLC, owner of Shell gas station on Route 25A and Jones Street, applied for variances to the Town of Brookhaven Board of Zoning Appeals in the beginning of March. The company submitted proposed plans to construct a large canopy and a lighted electric sign at the gas station.

Members of the civic association have expressed concerns over the proposed plans to build the fuel canopy, which would measure 79 feet in length, 26 feet in width and approximately 25 feet in height, setback 14 1/2 feet from 25A, which is less than the distance required by the town. The company has proposed plans to install a 72-square-foot freestanding ground sign that exceeds the 24 square feet permitted by Brookhaven, with a maximum illuminance that also surpasses the town’s requirements.

“The large canopy proposed by the Shell station is unusual and out of place in our historic downtown Setauket.”

— Herb Mones

After receiving news of the proposed variances, the civic association informed its members via email and stated that between a seven-mile stretch along 25A, from St. James to Port Jefferson, there are no gas station canopies.

“This canopy and the associated digital sign would make this a precedent-setting project which would open the door for all the other stations along 25A to do the same,” the email read.

Representatives from Magid Setauket Associates were originally scheduled to
appear before the board March 21, but due to inclement weather, the meeting was postponed until March 28. The company’s
petition was then scheduled as a holdover for the board’s April 18 meeting.

Herb Mones, chair of the civic’s land use committee, said he is hopeful the postponement may mean the applicant is rethinking their proposals. He said state Assemblyman Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) and town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) wrote letters to the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals to oppose the station’s request for variances.

“The large canopy proposed by the Shell station is unusual and out of place in our historic downtown Setauket,” Mones said. “Simply put — it overwhelms the sense of place we have worked so hard to preserve and protect in the Three Villages. The electronic sign, positioned close to the roadway, may be well suited for a four-lane highway, not for our historic Main Street.”

The civic association was one of the key organizations involved in the Route 25A resident visioning meetings that were spearheaded by Cartright in 2017, and its officers have discussed changes at the Shell station with Magid Setauket Associates in the past, including the addition of a convenience store, according to George Hoffman, the civic’s first vice president.

“As far as our position on this, we’re basically about how it affects our community, how it affects our children, how it affects the traffic.”

— Omar Ishtiaque

“We opposed the plan, citing the location and limited parking space on the property,” Hoffman said. “The civic association hopes the current plan is not a way to gain approval by seeking several variances from the ZBA and, once in hand, seeking the final approval for the convenience store.”

Omar Ishtiaque, who owns Cupeez Drive-Thru less than a quarter of a mile west from the Shell station, said he and a few of his customers also have concerns. The business owner said he has seen many changes along the roadways since his family opened the store 35 years ago. He said he feels the historical aspect of the village is something that draws people in and makes residents appreciate their surroundings.

“As far as our position on this, we’re basically about how it affects our community, how it affects our children, how it affects the traffic,” he said.

Ishtiaque said while he’s not against development, a sense of place is important to him, and with his own business, he has taken down signage that was near the roadway and has tried to keep the store as traditional looking as possible.

“When a lot of the newer changes come in with corporations funding these type of businesses, yes, it’s great in a lot of ways, but at the same time I think it takes away a piece of our community,” he said.

A representative for Magid Setauket Associates did not respond to inquiries for comments.

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Charlotte Plagainos, center, receives a check for $100 from Gold Coast Bank Chairman and CEO John Tsunis, second from right, after finding the oldest penny among Three Village students. Charlotte’s mother Rebecca, fourth from left, administrators from the bank and the school district were on hand for the presentation. Photo from Rebecca Photo from Rebecca Plagainos

A Three Village kindergartner recently turned a penny into $100.

The East Setauket branch of Gold Coast Bank announced Charlotte Plagainos was the first prize winner of its Oldest Penny Search after she found an 1802 penny. Bank representatives awarded her $100 for her discovery during a March 23 ceremony at Arrowhead Elementary School.

The 1802 penny that Charlotte Plagainos found while going through her great-grandfather’s coin jar. Photo from Rebecca Plagainos

The kindergartner said she found the winning penny while going through her great-grandfather’s jar of change on a rainy day with her mother, Rebecca Plagainos. Charlotte, who just turned 6 years old, said when she found the penny she had a feeling it was old enough to win the contest.

“I was really excited,” she said, adding that she noticed the head of the coin featured a Native American and not President Abraham Lincoln.

Her mother said when Charlotte received the news that she won from Gold Coast Bank, the family was screaming, and the kindergartner did her happy dance.

“I started to jump up and down, up and down,” Charlotte said.

John Tsunis, Gold Coast Bank chairman and CEO, said he was surprised a student found such an old penny.

“I thought we would get something maybe somewhere in the early 1900s, but not in the 1800s,” Tsunis said. “That’s awesome.”

Rebecca Plagainos said the win turned into a counting lesson for Charlotte, who can count up to 1,000.

“We took it out all in [dollar bills], so it was super exciting because it was a huge stack of bills,” Plagainos said. “We could lay it all out and count them.”

After winning the contest, Charlotte’s parents treated her and her sister, Daphne, to a celebratory dinner at Slurp Ramen and then to Roger’s Frigate in Port Jefferson for ice cream. Charlotte said at the Frigate she bought herself and her sister stuffed animals — a parrot for her and a bunny for Daphne.

“I thought we would get something maybe somewhere in the early 1900s, but not in the 1800s. That’s awesome.”

— John Tsunis

Tsunis said the contest kicked off during an assembly at Arrowhead Elementary School Feb. 12 during the school’s spirit week, where bank representatives challenged students to find the oldest penny in the Three Village area. They chose the penny due to the event falling on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The prizes offered were $100 for first prize, $50 for second, and the winner’s school’s PTA would receive $500.

“We were looking for a way that we could communicate with the young kids in the Three Village community,” Tsunis said.

The chairman said each student received a piggybank and shiny new penny. He and other bank representatives met with the student council to introduce the contest and discussed the importance of establishing a pattern of savings. Tsunis said savers would be surprised with their results with compound interest.

“No matter how small you save, save that amount on a regular basis,” Tsunis said. “Get something that’s comfortable, whether it’s 10 cents, 50 cents, a dollar.”

It’s advice Charlotte is taking to heart. She is saving the remaining prize money for something special in the future, according to her mother.

At the March 23 ceremony, James-Henry Parkinson, a fourth-grader who found a penny dated 1847, was named runner-up and received $50. As arranged, Arrowhead’s PTA was the recipient of the $500 prize.

Attorney Ted Rosenberg defeated incumbent Ron LaVita for the village justice seat in Old Field. Photo from candidates

A contentious campaign has led to change in the Village of Old Field.

Attorney Ted Rosenberg won a run-off election against incumbent Ron LaVita for village justice April 3. Rosenberg defeated LaVita 189 to 146, according to village court clerk Marianne Feller. Out of the 335 votes, 65 were absentee ballots — 39 for Rosenberg and 26 for LaVita.

LaVita has held the unpaid position for 20 years, and in previous elections ran unchallenged. The run-off was held after the two candidates tied 114 each in the March 20 general election.

Rosenberg said he’s glad the campaign is over and is looking forward to serving the village for the next four years.

“[Residents] can expect me to impartially adjudicate cases and treat everyone fairly, treat everyone the same,” Rosenberg said.

Despite their differences during the campaign, he said he respects LaVita.

“My opponent campaigned very hard, very tenaciously, and I admire that,” he said.

LaVita said he was disappointed with the results.

“I am also disappointed in, and do not think I deserve, what in my opinion were the scurrilous attacks and rhetoric made against me,” LaVita said. “This is not Washington politics, and the ends do not always justify the means.”

During the campaign for village justice, allegations were hurled by both candidates. Rosenberg alleged during his campaign that LaVita did not have a certificate of occupancy for his home since making renovations 15 years ago. In spring 2017, LaVita said he paid the requested permit fees in anticipation of obtaining a CO. In July of that year, he was granted an extension, which expires in July 2018.

Among allegations made by LaVita, he said Rosenberg, who served as village associate justice, represented an accident client who sued the Village of Old Field and the constable. Rosenberg confirmed he represented a client against Old Field and said he checked with the mayor first, who said there was no conflict of interest created for taking on the case.

Despite the loss, LaVita said he’s grateful for the time he served as village justice.

“I want to thank all my friends and supporters in the village for allowing me to proudly serve them for the past 20 years and for supporting me throughout a very hard-fought election,” LaVita said.

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Runner Kevin Long with son Timmy before leaving for Run for 3.21 in Washington, D.C. Photo from Kevin Long

A father’s love for his son has inspired him to raise money and awareness for charities dedicated to the developmentally disabled — by running.

Since 2014, Kevin Long has run five marathons that have benefited nonprofits, including Autism Speaks, Inc. and Developmental Disabilities Institute, Inc. Over the years the Setauket resident has raised $120,000 and calls his supporters Timmy’s Team, named after his 16-year-old son who has both Down syndrome and autism.

Kevin Long celebrates in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo from Kevin Long

Long recently raised $10,223 of that $120,000 by participating in a three-day run March 19-21, which took him and other participants on a journey from the U. S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., to the United Nations headquarters in New York City.

The fundraising event, called Run for 3.21, featured a team of athletes who worked together as a relay team to raise money from sponsors for the National Down Syndrome Society, a human rights organization for individuals with Down syndrome. NDSS organized the fundraiser this year in recognition of World Down Syndrome Day March 21. The numbers three and 21 are symbolic because Down syndrome is the result of the triplication of the 21st chromosome.

“The Run for 3.21 team represents an amazing cross-section of advocates, athletes and allies from the entire community,” said Michelle Ray, NDSS director of national inclusive health & sports programs, in a statement. “Today, people with Down syndrome are living longer, healthier, fulfilling lives, and our Run for 3.21 and companion program, Racing for 3.21 on World Down Syndrome Day, aim to celebrate their accomplishments and help foster a world of greater possibilities for all those with Down syndrome.”

Long said he and his running partner Amy Brown ran six legs of the 250-mile relay race for a total of 36 miles. The longest leg was eight miles, when he and Brown ran from the George Washington Bridge to the United Nations building. He said the relay race featured 20 runners, including a young man with Down syndrome, who were divided into pairs.

“So, we had this common shared bond, if you will, of raising a child with special needs. It kind of made it that much cooler.”

— Kevin Long

Two vans accompanied the group along the trek. One van was for participants who were not currently running so they could get something to eat, take bathroom breaks or rest. The other was on hand in case those who were running encountered a medical problem.

While he has participated in other fundraising marathons, Long said the 3.21 relay was the most memorable for him.

“Just the fact that you can say you ran from D. C. to NY is cool enough,” he said. “But almost all of the other runners were like myself — had a child with Down syndrome. So, we had this common shared bond, if you will, of raising a child with special needs. It kind of made it that much cooler.”

Long said the runners shared stories about their experience raising a child with Down syndrome along the way. In the father’s case, Timmy was born with Down syndrome and diagnosed with autism 18 months later, requiring round-the-clock supervision.

While they passed through some areas he likened to running along Route 347, Long said he saw some interesting sites, including Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Another special moment for him was racing through Manhattan on the day of a nor‘easter. He said it was snowing when the group arrived in the city and the traffic was a bit lighter than usual. Brown, from South Carolina, had never visited New York before and was almost in tears running in Central Park. Long said it was special for him too, because he’d also never ran in the city before.

Kevin Long and running partner Amy Brown finish the Run for 3.21 in the snow. Photo from Kevin Long

The runner said the group was lucky the storm didn’t hit earlier because the vans may not have been able to navigate the streets in heavy snow.

When the race ended, his wife Anne Marie, Timmy and daughter Abigail were there to greet him. The other runners were also welcomed by their families who were thrilled to see them.

Long’s wife said she supported her husband fully when he decided to take on the event.

“His personal running journey, along with his teammates, brought attention to a wonderful organization that advocates tirelessly for people with Down syndrome,” she said. “I am so proud of the way he puts himself out there to raise awareness and fundraise for Timmy’s Team and others like our son.”

Long said while Timmy has difficulty speaking, he gave his father a big hug after the journey.

“That’s why I do this,” Long said. “The whole reason I keep with the running is because of him.”

For more information on Timmy’s Team and NDSS visit www.classy.org/fundraiser/1228281.

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The Easter bunny left behind thousands of eggs in Setauket this weekend to the delight of North Shore children.

Benner’s Farm held its annual Easter egg hunts March 31 and April 1. The farm hosted three hunts each day, and the Easter Bunny was on hand to greet children. After the hunts, families explored the farm and visited its animals including bunnies, chicks and baby goats.

On April 1, St. James R.C. Church in Setauket held its annual egg hunt after the 9:30 a.m. Mass. Dressed in their Sunday best, children ran around the church’s lawn hoping to fill their baskets to the brim with colorful plastic eggs filled with goodies.

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