Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan
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Three Village residents have the opportunity to vote on the proposed Emma S. Clark Memorial Library 2018 budget Sept. 27. Photo from Emma S. Clark Memorial Library

By Rita J. Egan

Three Village residents voting on the proposed Emma S. Clark Memorial Library 2018 budget will be voting “yes” or “no” on a slight increase over last year’s budget.

The proposed $5,235,398 budget for the library is $36,037 more than 2017 and would increase the tax levy by 0.69 percent.

President of the library board of trustees Linda Josephs credits Director Ted Gutmann and the library staff with keeping costs down for the Sept. 27 vote.

“We are able to consistently fulfill this responsibility due to the tireless efforts of our dedicated, professional director and staff,” Josephs said in an email. “Our very small budget increases over the past several years without any decrease in services is a result of their performance.”

The library provides an educational and cultural resource for all ages in the Three Village area. Photo from Emma S. Clark Memorial Library

Gutmann said the relatively low increase is due to a few factors, including the library no longer seeing an increase in their bills from the New York State & Local Retirement System as they did for several years. Approximately two-thirds of the staff is hourly or part-time, which reduces benefits costs. He said participating in the Partnership of Automated Libraries in Suffolk, a shared catalog/circulation system for Suffolk County libraries, has led to a savings of more than $20,000 a year. The library installed a new, energy-efficient boiler and HVAC units, which reduce utility costs, according to the director, and in the future lighting will be converted to LED, another cost saver.

Gutmann said contributions have also helped to offset operating budget costs. Donations in the last few years have included money left in 2014 by deceased Three Village social studies teacher and author Philip Groia to build the Global Studies collection, and late patron Helen Stein Shack’s family establishing an endowment used to fund an annual book award for teenagers.

The library recently received aid from state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), which has allowed the library to create a new technology center, also install a new carbon-monoxide detection and alarm system.

Gutmann said in addition to the library offering paper books and e-books, it provides classes, one-on-one technology training and programs, and volunteer opportunities. There are also senior bus and social programs for older residents.

The director said he believes it’s important for residents to vote and have a say in library decisions.

“The library is one of the few places left for the community to come together,” Gutmann said. “We are a place where our patrons can enhance their lives through books, programs, museum passes and online services. We are a unique educational and cultural resource that serves all ages in the Three Village community.”

The library budget vote will be held Wednesday, Sept. 27 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. in the Periodicals Room in the historic section of the building. The library is located at 120 Main St. in Setauket. For detailed budget information, visit www.emmaclark.org.

The Se-Port Delicatessen, located at 301 Main St. in East Setauket, will be featured on Travel Channel's 'Food Paradise.' Photo by Rita J. Egan

When a television show narrator fondly remembers his favorite hometown delicatessen, it turns into an opportunity of a lifetime for the deli’s owner to showcase his signature sandwiches.

The Se-port Delicatessen, located at 301 Main St. in East Setauket, will be featured in the Sept. 17 episode of Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise” in an episode titled “Bun-Believable.” Owned by Wisam Dakwar, the deli is a favorite of many in the area, including former resident Jesse Blaze Snider. The oldest son of Twisted Sister front man, Dee Snider, and 2001 Ward Melville High School graduate is the narrator of “Food Paradise.” When he was younger, Jesse Snider was a frequent visitor to Se-Port.

Jason Levine, co-executive producer of the show, said the deli was a perfect choice.

“Our host Jesse Snider grew up going to Se-Port Deli with his family,” Levine said. “There’s a sandwich called ‘The Snider’ on the menu, and he’s been going there for approximately 20 years at this point. And, anytime we can incorporate that much love from our host into a childhood favorite we’re going to go for it.”

Wisam Dakwar, owner of Se-Port Delicatessen, during filming of ‘Food Paradise.’ Photo from Se-Port Delicatessen

While Dakwar and Levine couldn’t discuss the sandwiches featured on the Sept. 17 episode taped earlier this summer, Dakwar said years ago the television narrator created his namesake sandwich that includes honey mustard, bacon, chicken salad, and melted mozzarella on a toasted garlic roll.

Dakwar said it was great seeing Snider again, and he was honored he appeared on screen to eat the sandwich. According to the deli owner, Snider usually only provides the voice-over and doesn’t appear on screen.

“I’ve known Jesse since high school, and his dad,” Dakwar said. “The whole family, they grew up here.”

The deli features specialty sandwiches bearing the names of other well-known residents — especially sports figures — including Mets pitcher Steven Matz, a 2009 graduate of Ward Melville. Dakwar said recently he received a call from Matz to deliver 35 sandwiches and Se-Port’s iced tea to his teammates at Citi Field in Queens.

For many, television appearances and recognition from sports figures may equal the American Dream. Dakwar has achieved the dream through hard work and long hours. He said when he emigrated from Israel to the United States in 1991 he worked at his cousin’s deli in Islip every day and played violin at Middle Eastern clubs in New York City at night to earn additional cash in order to save up for his own deli.

“I always wanted to own my own business,” Dakwar said. “I’m a workaholic. I’m not scared of working and nothing comes easy, I know that.”

Dakwar bought the Se-Port Deli and the building it occupies in the late 1990s and renovated it. Originally the delicatessen was approximately a quarter of the size it is now until he expanded when a TrueValue hardware store next to the deli closed. The Old Field resident, who only takes off Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, still works days and nights.

Dakwar said while working with his cousin he gained the knowledge to run a deli business, and he also improved his English language skills by interacting with customers. He knew very little English before moving to the United States, because being of Palestinian descent and living in Israel, he grew up speaking Arabic and Hebrew.

The single 40-year-old, who became a U.S. citizen in the late ’90s, said his parents still live in Israel and visit him once a year for a few months at a time. Dakwar said his parents are proud of the success he has achieved while living here.

Jesse Snider, Food Paradise’s narrator, with his namesake sandwich at Se-Port Delicatessen. Photo from Jesse Snider

“I’m thankful because I do a lot of business,” the deli owner said. “A lot of people come here.”

Lately, Dakwar has been busy creating a gyro sandwich, which offers a different taste than the average one by using various meats and ranch dressing. He has plans to install an additional counter where he can offer a wider variety of foods including Mexican favorites.

Dakwar said the day of the taping the restaurant was filled with cameras and the television crew, and he appreciated the customers’ patience. Abdul Mustafa who has worked behind the counter for four and half years said it was a good day for the deli.

“The place was packed with people on the day of the taping,” Mustafa said.

Mustafa said he and the other deli employees are looking forward to seeing themselves on television. However, Dakwar said he isn’t organizing a big screening of the show, because he said he would like to view it in private.

“I’m nervous because I’m not a camera guy,” he said. 

The deli owner said he’s grateful for his regular customers, and he’s looking forward to the exposure the show will give his business.

“I’m always looking forward to seeing new people, new customers from the area,” Dakwar said.

The Travel Channel will air the “Bun-Believable” episode of “Food Paradise” Sept. 17 at 9 p.m.

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Audrey Hirschmann, pictured in 2000, has been a friendly staple at Emma Clark library’s circulation desk since 1977. Photo from Emma S. Clark Memorial Library

By Rita J. Egan

A warm, familiar face at the circulation desk has greeted patrons of Emma S. Clark Memorial Library for decades. Audrey Hirschmann’s co-workers and members of the library’s board of trustees surprised her with a party Sept. 7 at Emma Clark to celebrate her 40th anniversary as an employee of the library.

Hirschmann, 88, said she has seen a lot of changes at the library since she started in 1977, including two expansions — one in the 1970s and one in the 1990s. The circulation clerk said she has worked with three directors and several supervisors at the library through the decades.

“A lot has gone on, and it just went so fast,” she said. “I can’t believe it went so fast.”

She began working at Emma Clark at 48, when her children Leslie Baffa, who was in attendance for the recent get-together, and Nancy, were teenagers. Baffa, of Stony Brook, said she was 15 when her mother started working at the library, and remembers walking there from P.J. Gelinas Junior High School. She said she’s proud of her mother for celebrating such a milestone.

“I think it’s great for her,” Baffa said. “She loves it here. It’s such a nice place to work; it’s such a nice place for the community. She really likes helping people at her job, so I think it’s great.”

Hirschmann said when she began working at the library she didn’t have any training in the field, and learned as the years went by. She said through the decades it’s been a pleasure working with her fellow employees and interacting with the patrons, especially her regulars. The library clerk said besides experiencing expansions and staff changes, she has shared life events with her fellow employees, including the passing of her husband, William, three years ago.   

Head of circulation Aileen Clark and library director Ted Gutmann were on hand for a party held at the library to commemorate Hirschmann’s 40 years as an employee Sept. 7. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“We had sadness, we had happiness,” she said.

The circulation clerk said in recent years people will often tell her to sit down and take it easy, but she loves keeping busy.

“In a lot of the ways it’s routine, which is good,” Hirschmann said. “I do certain things during the day, plus be at the desk. It’s pleasant. It’s nice work; it’s easy work, really. A lot of standing on the feet but it’s the whole atmosphere, it’s very forthcoming.”

Library director Ted Gutmann, who has worked with Hirschmann for 18 years, said he has always found her to be warm and personable.

“She’s always been great to have on the staff and at the circulation desk,” he said. “And everyone knows her here in the community, and she knows everybody.”

Library board of trustees president Linda Josephs echoed Gutmann’s sentiments.

“It’s amazing that she’s been here this long,” Josephs said. “Everybody in the community knows her. She’s always a pleasure to see at the desk.”

Aileen Clark, head of circulation, said she admires Hirschmann’s commitment to the job.

“We’re very proud of Emma Clark library, and she’s one of the reasons why,” Clark said.

Carolyn Emerson who has worked with Hirschmann for 32 years, said she’s inspired to reach the same milestone and has enjoyed her time working with her fellow employee. She said when she forgets a name, Hirschmann remembers it, and is knowledgeable about the community.

“She was the mainstay of circulation when I came, and she is always so cheerful and welcoming to people,” Emerson said.

When it comes to achieving such a work anniversary, Hirschmann has advice for those who are approaching retirement age.

“If you like what you’re doing, keep working because it’s your saving grace,” she said. “Are you going to hang around the house and be a couch potato?”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine held a press conference Sept. 8 to address the issue of illegal off-campus housing. Photo by Alex Petroski

Off-campus housing riddled with town code violations and unsafe conditions for Stony Brook University students has plagued Three Village residents for years. In 2013, the situation inspired community residents Bruce Sander and Anthony DeRosa to start the nonprofit organization Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners.

Coordinated with the start of a new school year, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) delivered a clear message to landlords who rent to university students within his jurisdiction during a press conference Sept. 8: follow town building and fire safety codes or face consequences. The town and university presented a united front from Stony Brook Fire Department Sub Station 2 and stated their intentions to ensure students who reside in off-campus housing are safe in homes that meet town and state codes.

“We have codes for a reason — to protect health and safety,” Romaine said. “We are going to protect the health and safety of the students.”

The supervisor said many of the illegal rooming houses where students live have been subdivided into as many as 10 bedrooms, and a home on Christian Avenue, which he called the “showpiece” of illegal homes, had at least 16 occupants. Romaine said the house is now in foreclosure.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said it is important that renters in the town know their rights when dealing with landlords, and she said town officials are available to assist renters who feel they are in an unsafe situation.

“The supervisor and I cosponsored a number of resolutions over the years to improve the quality of life of residents and to improve the safety of the residents renting here in the Town of Brookhaven,” she said. “Over the past two years or so we have a had a number of roundtable discussions with Stony Brook University, the supervisor’s office, Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, and of course, our law department and planning department, to make sure we are addressing this issue, as it is a very important issue in our community.”

Bruce Sander of Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners thanked Brookhaven Town and SBU for their efforts in curbing illegal rentals. Photo by Alex Petroski

Deputy Town Attorney Dave Moran said there has been an increase in foreclosures in the community not due to financial reasons but due to the enforcement of building codes.

“We have broken [landlords’] business models in some circumstances, where it is no longer profitable for them to own their second and third house and collect those thousands in rents, by enforcing the statutes that we’ve put in place, by monitoring the rental permits and complaints that come in,” Moran said.

Moran said the town has collected $211,000 in fines over the last month for building violations, compared to only $300,000 collected for the entire year in 2008.

He said partnering with the university, which has educated students on their rights, has helped in uncovering issues as more students are contacting the town to report violations by their landlords.

Judith Greiman, chief deputy to the president of Stony Brook University and senior vice president for government and community relations, said the university has the most beds of any SUNY campus and are second among all universities in the state. The university added 759 new beds this past year with the opening of Chavez and Tubman residence halls and an additional 173 new beds will be available in the fall of 2018.

The chief deputy said the university has taken great steps to ensure students’ safety thanks to the input received from the community and support Romaine, Cartright, Brookhaven Town code inspectors and others have provided.

Among measures the university has undertaken since March 2013 are prohibiting advertisements of off-campus rentals on SBU’s website, unless the landlord can provide a Brookhaven Town rental permit, and prohibiting posting on campus bulletin boards. The university also holds tenants’ rights workshops to help students understand what to look for when renting.

Sander was on hand for the conference representing the Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners organization, and he commended the town and the university for their efforts.

“Unfortunately there will always be those landlords who still believe in the secret method of evading the laws and endangering the students and their community,” Sander said. “I’d like to send a message to the housing landlords: obey the laws.”

The organization founder said there should be no more than four people in a home. He said landlords can also do their part by maintaining their property, mowing grass weekly and providing garbage cans and enough parking space in driveways for tenants.

When it comes to circumventing the law, Romaine had a warning for landlords.

“Don’t do it, we’re coming for you,” he said.

Additional reporting by Alex Petroski

Stony Brook University students show their support for those protected by DACA. Photo from Stony Brook University

As President Donald Trump (R) proposed to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Stony Brook University community members and students voiced their support for the DREAMers — the name given to the approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants that were brought to the United States as children.

University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. stated his and the institution’s continued support of DACA in a Sept. 5 email sent to the campus community.

“We have seen how the recipients of DACA have a positive impact on our campus and broader community,” Stanley said. “Diversity of perspectives, thought and understanding serves as a foundation of Stony Brook’s academic enterprise and helps our students become global citizens. Let’s do what’s right, and unite to support our ‘dreamers’ together.”

Two days later, more than 200 students, faculty members and administrators united in the March for DREAMers rally to show undocumented students at the university their support. In addition, the marchers presented a letter to administrators listing further actions they hope the university will take.

Marchers show signs they brought to the March for DREAMers rally at Stony Brook University Sept. 7. Photo from College Democrats

Members of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, an equality advocacy group, were among the rally’s organizers. The group’s Vice-President David Clark felt it was important to stand up for classmates who may feel vulnerable now.

“I wanted to, first of all, raise awareness of the concerns of DACA recipients and DREAMers on campus and also to show support of them on campus,” he said.

Clark said participants were thankful for the institution’s support of undocumented students and appreciated the university’s current stance on DACA, and Stanley’s statement that the campus should be considered a sensitive location by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Clark said the marchers were joined by representatives of non-campus groups including the Islandia-based SEPA Mujer, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the empowerment of Latina immigrant women.

The college junior said administrators cooperated in securing a ballroom in the student activity center where participants gathered for speeches after walking around a circle and congregating in the main academic mall’s plaza. He said chants included,

“Say it loud. Say it clear. Dreamers are welcomed here.” Marchers held signs with messages that included, “Undocumented and unafraid” and “Sin DACA, Sin Miedo,” which in Spanish means, “Without DACA, without fear.”

Clark was satisfied with the turnout of the peaceful protest.

“I was really happy that so many Stony Brook students care about their fellow classmates, friends who are undocumented, who are getting through a very hard time right now, a time of uncertainty for them,” he said.

In their letter, marchers asked the university to ensure SBU would not provide information to ICE about any undocumented students or their families, not allow ICE to take students into custody without a judicial warrant, and to let students know if ICE is on campus through the university’s alert systems. The organizers also asked that a list be available on the website of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships to notify those who are not citizens where private scholarships may be available to them.

Stanley said in his Sept. 5 email that the university does not request or require immigration status as part of the admissions process. He added that immigration status is not a factor in student housing decisions, and the university does not share private information.

The Setauket Fire District’s 9/11 Memorial Park includes a monument with all the victims’ names.

The Setauket Fire District will hold its annual 9/11 remembrance ceremony Monday, Sept. 11 at 7:30 p.m. The event will take place at the district’s 9/11 Memorial Park, adjacent to the firehouse located at 394 Nicolls Road in Stony Brook.

All are welcome to join the members of the Setauket and Stony Brook fire districts, local legislators and Boy Scout troops at the event.

The park was described as a “solemn park made by mortals to remember angels” during a speech given by Department Chief William Rohr last year. It features two trees planted in 2016 that were seeded from the 9/11 survivor tree located at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center. The park also includes a stone monument inscribed with the names of those lost on 9/11 and a patriotic water display.

Among those who will be remembered are Thomas Dennis of Setauket, who worked for Cantor Fitzgerald; New York City firefighters Frank Bonomo and John Tipping both from Port Jefferson; Patrick Lyons of Setauket; and New York City firefighter Captain Thomas Moody of Stony Brook.

He-Bird, She-Bird (from left, Terri Hall, Todd Evans and Christine Kellar) will be one of the headliners at the festival this year. Photo by Erin Pelkey
Music tradition continues at Benner’s Farm

By Rita J. Egan

The air will be filled with the sounds of bluegrass, blues and folk music in Setauket on Sept. 10 when Benner’s Farm hosts its sixth annual Fiddle & Folk Festival.

The farm’s owner Bob Benner said last year nearly 300 music lovers attended the festival where they explored the organic, solar-powered working farm and visited the animals while listening to music. “It’s an old-fashioned festival,” Benner said. “It’s pretty much held all over the farm.”

Miles to Dayton performs for a large crowd at Benner’s Farm during a previous Fiddle & Folk Festival. Photo by Bob Benner

Charlie Backfish, host of the long-running, weekly WUSB radio program “Sunday Street,” said the festival’s location sets it apart from others. “There aren’t too many [festivals] that actually take place on a working farm,” Backfish said. “The locale is terrific, and the performers we have are top-notch performers; so it’s a nice combination.”

Emceed by Long Island guitarist and singer Bob Westcott, the festival will feature headliners Daisycutter, The End of America and He-Bird, She-Bird.

Backfish said he’s familiar with the groups and looks forward to their performances. He said the group Daisycutter, from upstate New York, features fiddler Sara Milonovich. The End of America comes from Philadelphia and consists of three singers with incredible harmonies, and they’ve been compared to the early days of Crosby, Stills and Nash, according to the radio disc jockey. He-Bird, She-Bird, a trio from Long Island who sing both originals and covers, Backfish said, perform a roots music type of sound.

“I think we have three interesting acts there,” Backfish said. “They’ll all be on the main stage, and then there’s a second stage at the festival — a meet-the-performers stage. That’s the one that I’ll be hosting, where the audience has a chance to ask questions of the musicians and hear them do some songs that they’re not doing on the main stage.”

A scene from last year’s Fiddle & Folk Festival. Photo from Bob Benner

Benner said the stage to meet the performers is the solar-powered Shady Grove Stage close to the woods. There will also be a Fiddle Workshop in Jam Hollow where attendees can bring their own instruments to join in on the musical fun.

Amy Tuttle, program director of Greater Port Jefferson-North Brookhaven Arts Council, said the Stony Brook Roots Ensemble will be on hand for a special performance. The local music group is comprised of classically trained musicians who share a love of American roots music.

“They are terrific,” Tuttle said. “I’ve found that many outstanding young bluegrass musicians across the country are classically trained, and I’m delighted that we have such a talented homegrown group to present at the Fiddle & Folk Festival.”

For those who aren’t musically inclined, they can participate in contra dancing with a live band led by Rusty Ford, and children can enjoy stories and create artwork in the Kids Corner.

Children can get creative at the Kids Corner. Photo by Bob Benner

Backfish said for WUSB there is a personal connection to the festival. The station’s radio programmer Gerry Reimer, who died in 2012, was in talks with Benner to bring back the Fiddle & Folk Festival, which was formerly held on the property of The Long Island Museum. “I think she would very much like what has happened and how this festival continues,” Backfish said

Tuttle said the members of the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council enjoy a variety of musical genres and have enjoyed the performers at past festivals at Benner’s. “They are also very supportive of independent artists,” she said. “The same audience that loves the artistry, lovely surroundings and feeling of community at the Sunset Concerts in Port Jeff also enjoys those same aspects at the Fiddle & Folk Festival.”

Benner said he is looking forward to the event and music lovers coming together as they have the last few years on the farm. “It’s a day to come out and leave the world’s problems behind for a few hours and enjoy some music and community,” he said.

Presented by Homestead Arts, Benner’s Farm, the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, TBR News Media and WUSB Radio, the music festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., rain or shine. Benner’s Farm is located at 56 Gnarled Hollow Road in East Setauket. Admission to the festival is $18 for adults, and $13 for children and seniors at the door. Please bring seating. For more information, call 631-689-8172 or visit www.fiddleandfolk.com.

Under sunny skies, children filed off buses at Setauket Elementary School Sept. 5 ready to start a new school year. Many children could be seen smiling as they greeted friends and teachers they hadn’t seen all summer, and a few younger students were teary-eyed as they took in their new surroundings.

The air of excitement extended throughout the Three Village Central School District as students anticipated embarking on new adventures.

“I’m looking forward to seeing all my friends who I didn’t see over the summer, and meeting my new teacher,” said Jordyn Zezelic, a fifth-grader at Nassakeag Elementary School.

Allie Konsevitch, a seventh-grader at R.C. Murphy Junior High School, said she was happy about starting her first year at the intermediate school and changing classes.

Sophia Kornreich, an eighth-grader at Murphy who tested out of Spanish I, said she was looking forward to the challenge of Spanish II.

“I love Murphy because something about the building is very warm, and it feels like one really big family,” Sophia said.

Her sister Athena, who goes to Nassakeag, said she was excited about starting sixth grade, meeting her new teacher Ms. Safranek and taking part in upcoming activities.

“I’m very eager for the Halloween dance, car wash, buddies [program] and graduation,” Athena said. “I am thrilled to move on to sixth grade.”

A week before the beginning of the school year, the district conducted orientation programs for incoming seventh- and 10th-grade students of Ward Melville High School and R.C. Murphy and P.J. Gelinas junior high schools. Students were able to ask questions of administration members and upperclassmen were in attendance to help new students locate their lockers and classrooms.

Rachael Catalano, a sophomore at Ward Melville, said she is excited about “making many new friends and seeing the multiple opportunities that the high school has to offer to get involved in.”

By Rita J. Egan

Community members are banding together to raise funds for an accomplished musician and music teacher known throughout the Three Village area.

Richard Rabatin’s friends and fellow musicians knew they had to do something when medical bills started piling up for the owner and teacher at the Stony Brook School of Music in Setauket. In June, 67-year-old Rabatin was diagnosed with giant cell myocarditis, a rare cardiovascular disorder that can be fatal. He was put on a transplant list for a new heart, and an operation was performed to implant two heart pumps. A few weeks ago, the teacher received a transplant and is currently recuperating at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, while his wife Mary Emerson has taken an extended leave from her job as a nurse at Stony Brook University Hospital to care for him.

Richard Rabatin plays guitar with his band the Whiskey Rebellion at the Country Corner bar. Photo by Greg Catalano

A GoFundMe page, which has raised nearly $40,000, was set up, and friends including Alan Jones, Richard Wiederman and Jack Licitra began planning a benefit concert for Sept. 9 to help the husband and father of 8-year-old Thomas manage his expenses. Wiederman said Rabatin, a Port Jefferson Station resident, has been running the Stony Brook School of Music for 35 years, and plays guitar in the Whiskey Rebellion, a blues-jazz band that performs regularly at the Country Corner bar, located below the music school.

Wiederman, who plays trumpet with the Whiskey Rebellion, said Rabatin does all the arrangements for the band — which is currently on hiatus until the guitar player recuperates. The trumpet player said he’s been performing with Rabatin for 17 years and first met him in 1979.

“He’s just had such a profound impact on so many people,” Wiederman said.

The two met when Wiederman, who now teaches music at Setauket Elementary School, was attending college. He said Rabatin was a great help to him while he was studying music and would send him jazz transcriptions. When Wiederman would show them to his professors, he said they were so impressed because they had never seen such detail before.

Jones considers Rabatin his best friend and said he’s like a brother to him. He met Rabatin when they were freshmen at Suffolk County Community College in 1968, and they began performing together a year later.

“He’s an extremely intelligent, kind and generous man,” Jones said. “A wonderful father, husband, teacher and friend.”

In addition to his musical talents, Rabatin is a licensed attorney who holds multiple degrees, and is a contributing author to a number of scholarly works on English writer G. K. Chesterton and other notable figures, according to Jones. He said the teacher has been a mentor to many local musicians.

The “A Change of Heart for Richard” benefit will be held Sept. 9. Photo by Steven Ayles

“It’s been said that the difference between Richard and the other fine guitar and music instructors in Suffolk is that the rest of them have been Richard’s students,” Jones said.

Licitra, who owns a music school in Sayville, said he began teaching because of Rabatin. After touring with various musicians in his 20s, Licitra said he wanted to marry and settle down and thought about going back to college. It was then that Rabatin called and asked if he would like to teach piano at the Stony Brook School of Music.

“He taught me how to teach and convinced me that all my experiences as a performer would be really useful to young people,” Licitra said.

Licitra has played piano with Rabatin’s Whiskey Rebellion and said the guitar player is an expert at transcribing and analyzing music and then showing on paper to his students what is going on in the music and why a song can be emotional. 

“He probably taught all of the better known players [in the area] who went on to be professionals,” Licitra said. “He  either had a hand or influence in a lot of guys understanding and ability to play music.”

Wiederman said Rabatin has been recovering well but will be unable to attend the event, and he plans to live stream it for him and anyone who is unable to attend.   

The benefit concert “A Change of Heart for Richard” will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 380 Nicolls Road, East Setauket, Sept. 9 from 5:30 to 10 p.m.

Tickets cost $40 per person and include food and beverages. The evening will feature performances by Andrew Fortier, Emma Rae Borrie, Norman Vincent, Claudia Jacobs Band, jazz guitarist Matt Marshak and his band, and The Whiskey Rebellion which will feature  guest player Teddy Kumpel, a member of Joe Jackson’s touring band, sitting in on guitar and Licitra on keyboards. Payments can be made by cash or check made payable to Mary Emerson. For more information, call 631-744-9556.

Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., Stony Brook University president, helps a student move into a residence hall Aug. 25. Photo from Stony Brook University

By Rita J. Egan

Stony Brook University has been doing its part to make campus life feel more like home for most students, by offering gender-inclusive housing.

For a decade, the option has allowed students to share a room with friends or siblings no matter what their gender, or choose housing based on the gender they identify with. The only requirements are that students have to be 18 or older and sign a contract stating they will respect everyone in their residence hall.

On Aug. 25, move-in day for freshmen and transfer students, resident assistant Derrick Wegner, who is transgender, was on hand to greet newcomers. The senior psychology major said he was happy to have the option when he came to Stony Brook. Wegner, who lives in Wurtsboro,  said college is a great opportunity for a fresh start, especially for young people looking to transition. 

Derrick Wegner stands in the gender-inclusive room he shares with his best friend Sydney. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Wegner said the gender-inclusive housing option at Stony Brook creates a happy and safe environment, and he feels being happy and healthy plays a big part in being a successful student.

“You’re of value, and you belong here,” he said.

This year the senior is thrilled to be sharing a dorm with his best friend Sydney Monroe Gaglio, who he met early on in college through mutual friends.

“She’s my best friend, and I’m her best friend,” he said. “Just having somebody that I know I can go home to, and [say] this happened, and she’s like ‘I’m sorry.’ She just gets it.”

Ian Rose, who majors in engineering chemistry and applied mathematics and statistics, was thrilled when he heard of the gender-inclusive option. The junior said last year he made friends with Daniel Mahoney, Brandon O’Rourke, Bianca Mugone and Brittany Voboril, and they all became great friends. They lived in the same residence hall — the males in one room on one floor and the girls in their own room on another floor. Many nights last year they would find themselves in each other’s rooms studying or talking and decided to live together.

“We’re friends just hanging out,” Rose said.

This academic year the five are living in a suite with three bedrooms and one bathroom. Rose said at first his only concern was how things would work out in the bathroom, but so far things are going smoothly.

“I just want this to show everyone that guys and girls living together isn’t weird or uncomfortable,” Rose said. “You’re living with your friends; friends are friends. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or girl or different skin tone. It doesn’t matter; we’re all the same.”

Ian Rose, right, and friends settle in their three-bedroom suite after a long day. Photo from Ian Rose

Catherine-Mary Rivera, director of residential programs at SBU, said the program began as a small pilot initiative at the university 10 years ago, and grew slowly through the years. In 2016, approximately 40 students took advantage of the housing option, while this year more than 200 students — out of 10,683 living on campus — chose gender-inclusive residences across the campus.

She said the university wants to ensure that all students feel safe and welcome because it’s their home, and they have received plenty of positive feedback regarding the housing.

“The fact that it has grown from 42 to 200 has shown us students feel that they have a place here, and that they don’t have to either feel not comfortable being themselves or feel that Stony Brook doesn’t have a place for them, or they have to remain quiet about who they are or how they express themselves,” Rivera said. “That freedom has come through very clearly that this is a place they can thrive and be their true selves and live with their friends.”

The housing option also allows couples to live together; however, the university does recommend romantic partners think twice before making that decision.

“We want you to branch out and build a stronger community and have healthy relationships, and it may not be best to live with your significant other at this point,” Rivera said.

In addition to gender-inclusive housing, she said SBU offers all-gender, multi-stall bathrooms throughout campus and on the main floors of residence halls, in addition to all-men and all-women restrooms. Software updates have also been made to the school’s system allowing students and faculty members to choose their preferred names and pronoun if they would prefer to be addressed by something other than their legal name. The change means that identification cards and email addresses now show the name a person uses on a regular basis instead of their legal name.

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