Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan
504 POSTS 0 COMMENTS

by -
0 181
File photo by Rita J. Egan

On Tuesday, Dec. 10, Setauket Fire District residents will choose between two candidates for a five-year term as fire commissioner, incumbent Kevin Yoos and challenger Billy Williams.

The race began with four candidates, but two petitions from volunteer firefighters Tom Gulbransen and Fred Leute were disqualified by the district. Gulbransen initially planned to continue to run as a write-in candidate but later said he has pulled out of the race entirely.

In the Setauket Fire District, the addition of three paid firefighters in 2018 has weighed heavily on many volunteers’ minds, and both candidates are looking to work to boost morale while recruiting and retaining volunteers.

Meet the candidates

Kevin Yoos

Incumbent Kevin Yoos

Fire commissioner Kevin Yoos, 49, has served one partial and one full-term and has been a volunteer firefighter for the Setauket Fire Department for 31 years.

The lifelong Three Village resident and his wife, Lisa, have two daughters in college. He recently retired after 24 years as a lieutenant of Squad Company 270 with the New York City Fire Department, which he joined after a short stint with the New York Police Department. His firehouse in South Queens responds to some 300 fires a year. He is a risk control consultant for fire department insurance and teaches at the Suffolk County Fire Academy of Yaphank as well as the New York State Academy of Fire Science.

He became involved in the Setauket Fire Department 31 years ago after watching his father, who joined in 1973 and was a former commissioner, respond to emergency calls. Yoos was 14 when he joined the junior fire company, and in 1988, at the age of 18, he joined as a full member. He has served as lieutenant captain, assistant chief and chief of department twice.

He said with a lot on his plate, he came close to not running again, but when he decided to retire, he had a conversation with his wife who agreed that with him now having more free time on his hands, he should run again.

“It’s in my blood,” he said. “It’s never going to go away.”

Challenger Billy Williams

Billy Williams

Billy Williams, 52, is a State Farm Agent in Setauket. He and his wife Denise have four children — three in college and one in ninth grade. Williams moved to Stony Brook in 1998.

Watching his grandfather and uncles in the Southold department, he said he always wanted to be just like them. Having grown up in Syosset, he applied to FDNY but it took a few years before he was accepted, and by that time he was married in Florida with a business and was unable to join. When he moved back to New York, his office was in White Plains for more than 10 years, and when he moved his office to Setauket, closer to home, the first thing he did was sign up to volunteer.

A six-year volunteer with the department, Williams said he wants to get spending under control and manage the assets they have as well as raise morale while working on recruitment and retention. He added that being a fireman has nothing to do with being a fire commissioner, who helps to run the business side of things.

“The chiefs and the department take care of the day-to-day operations of putting out the fires and getting the ambulance,” Williams said. “The commissioners do what’s in the best interest of the taxpayers.”

Finances

Williams said there is a need for leadership to run the business end and bring the departments and the district back together, adding he feels with running a business since 1994 and managing employees and balancing budgets, he would be an asset to the district. In addition to his work in the insurance industry, he is the president of the Three Village Kiwanis Club and on the board of the local chamber of commerce. He said he also helped to bring back annual events, including the Three Village Electric Holiday Parade which was on hiatus for a year.

“I just think I know what the community needs and what the department needs,” he said. “So, I’m the guy.”

Williams said the district spent $4.8 million net in 2015 and $8.1 million net in 2019 and there will be a $300,000 increase in 2020. He said with construction on the Main Street firehouse and the purchase of new fire trucks and brand new radios he doesn’t know how commissioners can say it will not affect residents.

“I don’t know what they’re doing, but you don’t increase your spending by about 70  percent and say that taxes are going to stay the same and that there’s going to be no cost,” Williams said.

Yoos said there was an increase in taxes a few years back after residents approved the bond for the new headquarters building on Main Street. In addition, new portable radios, radio infrastructure, air packs, stretchers for the ambulances, added law-mandated cancer insurance for the volunteers and other items were purchased.

“The equipment replaced was costing a lot to try to maintain and becoming less reliable and unsafe for members to operate,” Yoos said.

He added that the public referendum vote for a municipal lease/purchase agreement for new fire trucks will be supplemented by funds that were put in the reserve account.

“Purchasing these vehicles in bulk in this manner is saving the community approximately $400,000,” he said. “Since the money is already allocated for the reserve account for vehicles the payments for the new engines will come out of this line item. So there will be no increase to taxes for the purchase.”

When it comes to fire services, Yoos said he and other commissioners do a lot of reading and research when it comes to trends and statistics. And at times, revisit decisions.

“As we continue to pay off the bond, we will continually revisit the budget requirements, and it is very likely we will be able to reduce taxes while maintaining the same level of service,” Yoos said.

Paid firefighters

Last year the Setauket Fire District changed paid fire coordinator positions into paid firefighters, a move that many, including Williams, said has hurt the morale in the departments.

He said while he believes the hybrid that exists right now is a good mix, he doesn’t want to see it become all paid, which he believes the current leadership wants, because he said he feels there’s no need for it with Setauket responding to more EMT calls than fires.

“We’re spending money that we don’t need to spend, in my opinion,” he said.

Yoos said it’s not true that the board wants a paid department.

“If we can handle this 100 percent as volunteers, we’re all in,” Yoos said. “The problem is our volunteers are dwindling, and we need to rebuild that somehow.”

Yoos said he hopes to make a better environment for the volunteers but going forward with the few paid firefighters was something they had to do at the time. The number of volunteers has dwindled while the amount of alarms continue to increase, he said. When he started in 1988, there were 180 members with a waiting list for those who wanted to be volunteers, and most members were firefighters with only a few members as EMTs. Today there are 59 interior firefighters, out of 109 active members, that can go inside a structure and put a fire out, whereas others can only assist outside.

“I love the volunteer fire service,” Yoos said. “We want to promote it more. We want more volunteers, but everybody is busy.”

He said the addition of paid firefighters was around $20 to $30 a year per household.

Williams said the district needs to put in some work to boost morale.

“Once they know that we’re not fast forwarding to becoming a fully paid department is one way,” he said, adding that more recruitment and retention efforts would help.

The election for one fire commissioner for a five-year term in the Setauket Fire District will take place Tuesday, Dec. 10, between 2 p.m. and 9 p.m. Residents can vote at the 394 Nicolls Road firehouse.

by -
0 157
Alexa Siragusa learns how to salsa at the first fundraiser in 2017. Photo from Liz Kotseas

Many parts of Puerto Rico are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Maria more than two years after the storm, and North Shore residents are lending a helping hand.

“I felt like we could gather a great group of people to support Puerto Rico.”

— Liz Kotseas

A salsa-dancing fundraiser will be held at The Bates House in East Setauket Dec. 8 to raise funds for The Ocean Foundation. The nonprofit works to support, strengthen and promote organizations dedicated to reversing the destruction of ocean environments.

“We’re helping to restore their natural barrier which has been devastated,” said Liz Kotseas, one of the event’s hosts and organizers.

Jason Donofrio, external relations officer of The Ocean Foundation, said the organization focuses on nature-based solutions, and all the proceeds from the event will go toward its sea grass growth program, which will help plant sea grass and restore mangrove forests in Jobos Bay, a federally protected estuary in Puerto Rico.

“They are sort of the island’s first line of defense,” he said.

Former Stony Brook University student Danny Rodriguez, who will also be hosting the event in part Dec. 8, inspired the idea when he organized a fundraiser at Stony Brook University’s Student Activities Center to raise money for Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico back in Nov. 2017. The initial fundraiser, like the Dec. 8 one, included salsa-dancing lessons and music.

Rodriguez, who lives in Mount Sinai and teaches Spanish at Longwood High School, said in 2017 that he wanted to travel to Puerto Rico, but his studies made it difficult to travel there.

“That’s what my heart really wanted to do,” he said.

With experience with fundraisers in the breakdancing world, and a dancer himself, he approached Aurelie Vialette, an associate professor and director of graduate studies at SBU, who helped him organize the 2017 SBU event. He said the only date available was right before Thanksgiving when many students were already leaving to go home for the holiday, but despite the bad timing, about three dozen attended and around $300 was raised.

“Everything came together on very short notice and all worked out pretty well,” he said.

“I think how we respond to a community that is part of the U.S., that is in our own backyard, says a lot about us as Americans and what it’s like to live in the U.S.”

— Jason Donofrio

Kotseas, a Setauket resident and a member of SBU’s Department of Linguistics, said she heard about the 2017 event through a flyer at the university and decided to bring her niece, Alexa Siragusa. The cause is personal for Kotseas as she has family in San Juan and Caguas, Puerto Rico. She said there are still many residents who haven’t fully recovered, including some who still have tarps on their roofs.

At the 2017 event, she approached Rodriquez about holding one at a bigger venue in the future.

“I had the Three Villages in my mind,” Kotseas said. “I felt like we could gather a great group of people to support Puerto Rico.”

Rodriguez said he was glad Kotseas recommended the Three Village area after his dance students from On the Edge Performance Center in Port Jefferson, where he teaches, performed this summer at the Three Village Kids Lemonade Stand event, which raises money for Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Rodriguez said he was impressed with the students’ success.

“I feel like this has the same type of potential to bring that same community together,” he said.

Donofrio said this was the first time someone has raised money for the foundation with a salsa dance fundraiser, adding that oftentimes people forget that Puerto Rico is part of the U.S.

“This is not some war-torn country or some developing nation far across the world, this is U.S. territory,” he said. “So, I think how we respond to a community that is part of the U.S., that is in our own backyard, says a lot about us as Americans and what’s it like to live in the U.S.”

Rodriquez credits Kotseas and Tammy Colletti, who will also host the fundraiser, for doing most of the work. Kotseas added that the Copiague-based Promise of Hope Foundation, which Colletti is co-founder of, made the event possible by sponsoring it. She said so far Pentimento Restaurant, Waverly Liquors and Olde Towne Gardens have provided food, cheer and services, respectively.

“The support from local businesses has been wonderful and really shows the generous spirit of our community,” Kotseas said.

Tickets for the salsa fundraiser are $75 each. The event will include food, wine, beer and other refreshments as well as dance lessons and entertainment. Those interested can email Kotseas at lizkdinaz@gmail.com. The Bates House is located at 1 Bates Road in Setauket.

by -
0 222
Ernest Behnke

A longtime Three Village resident is running unopposed Dec. 10 for his fourth five-year term as Stony Brook fire commissioner.

Ernest Behnke, 62, has been serving as a fire commissioner in Stony Brook for 15 years and began volunteering with the department in 1999. The 33-year resident of Stony Brook, who has lived in the Three Village area since 1966, said he originally wanted to volunteer sooner but didn’t have the time. However, when he began to work closer to home in Smithtown as its Highway Department’s general foreman, he finally was able to volunteer. In addition to his job and fire district duties, Behnke and his wife, Lisa, have seven children, with the two youngest attending Ward Melville High School.

“Like most volunteers, I joined to help serve the community as I had seen firsthand the caring and dedication of strangers helping strangers,” he said in an email, adding he also joined shortly after his father’s passing.

Behnke said he decided to run again this year to see through programs he has been part of with his fellow commissioners over the last few years, a board he said has a good working relationship.

“We had entered into the real world of the new volunteer service — 24/7 paid EMT ambulance crews,” he said. “A decision that was not an easy one, but we must serve the public with the best means possible. We are still evolving the program to assure that we can provide coverage and also keep the costs reasonable.”

He said the board tries “to balance between members and the taxpaying public.” The past year, in addition to hiring EMTs and advanced life support providers, the district has commissioned two new pumpers, updated its communications system, purchased a new chief’s car, upgraded its sprinkler system and renovated its meeting room at Station 2.

“We fell within the 2 percent tax cap, and we were able to return to the taxpayers a reduction of $100,000 out of our operating budget resulting in a zero increase,” he said.

The commissioner said the district is unique in that Stony Brook University and other institutions such as churches and schools, which together make up 50 percent of the assessed valuation that is off the tax rolls, fall within its perimeters.

“That leaves a burden to the residents, that we receive no compensation from the state,” he said. “A large area that we have to protect.

When it comes to the role of commissioner, Behnke said the district is not only using tax money to pay the bills, but also to “provide the community with the best firefighting and rescue equipment.”

He added that commissioners are involved with making policies and hiring personnel, including the chief of the department. They also ensure funds for the Length of Service Award Program, also known as LOSAP, a pensionlike program for volunteers, are available without being a burden to taxpayers.

One of the things Behnke said he is proud of during his 15 years as commissioner is being involved in implementing the Explorer program in Stony Brook.

“I was able to change the district’s by-laws by lowering the age that you can join at 17 after they complete the program,” he said. “We have had great success as many have joined and are a great asset to the department.”

Registered voters who live in the Stony Brook Fire District can vote Dec. 10 from 2 to 9 p.m. for fire commissioner for a five-year term that will begin Jan. 1. Those in the district who live north of the railroad right of way can vote at the firehouse located at 147 Main St. Those south of the railroad right of way can vote at the firehouse located at 1402 Stony Brook Road.

by -
0 152
From left, Mia Cottone, Caroline Woo and Abbi Sasson hold a few wreaths that they made. Photo from Troop 551

Three local Girl Scouts have turned their Silver Award project into a continuous act of giving.

The girls install birdhouses at Stony Brook Cancer Center. Photo from Lise Sasson

Caroline Woo, Mia Cottone and Abbi Sasson, all from Troop 551, decided for their Silver Award project that they would build birdhouses for the patients at Stony Brook Cancer Center. Because the project was involved, and would take some time, the girls decided while their project was in the works they would lift patients’ spirits with handmade wreaths.

The group learned the craft from Carmen Tornos, a professor with the Renaissance School of Medicine, and the completed decorations were hung in the common patient areas. After a few months, the hospital raffled the wreaths to the cancer center staff to show appreciation.

The three said they enjoyed designing the wreaths so much that they decided to continue making them to raise money for the nonprofit Room4Love based in East Setauket, which provides bedroom makeovers for children with cancer.

The girls, who are all ninth-graders at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, said the Silver Award project, where each Scout must create something that can have a lasting impact, requires Scouts to put in 50 hours of service. In addition to the birdhouses and wreaths, the girls put together goody bags for the patients and handed out birdseed for them to go outside, feed the birds and get some fresh air. The three said they chose the cancer center to help older patients, who are sometimes overlooked.

“We really learned that just little things can make a lasting impact on people’s lives,” Abbi said.

The other girls agreed.

“Even the small things that you don’t think matter to anyone, they do matter to a lot of people,” Caroline said.

The Girls Scouts said their parents have been a big help in providing materials for the wreaths, which they have been making all year round for every season. When it comes to Room4Love, the girls have been making the decorations for the nonprofit to raffle off, or they create them for family and friends who in turn donate to the organization. Mia was already familiar with Room4Love, which was started by her cousins, Maggie and Bella Diehl, eight years ago.

“It’s a good organization, and it helps a lot of kids,” Mia said.

Girl Scout Leader Sonya Cottone, Mia’s mother, said that she and co-leader Anne Hansen-Crowley are proud of the girls, who are willing to help out as much as they can.

“It makes us really proud, and we feel lucky to have a great group of kids,” she said.

The Girl Scouts work on wreaths.

Lucy Diehl, from Room4Love, said her daughters Maggie and Bella, despite being away at college, are still actively running the nonprofit, and she said all of them are humbled and grateful for all the support those in the Three Village area have given.

She added she’s not surprised that young people like the Girl Scouts are helping out.

“We live in a really good community that is always looking to give and looking to help, and certainly these kids, by making these wreaths, are doing just that,” Diehl said.

Eydie Woo, Caroline’s mother, said she credits the Girl Scouts for laying down good values for her daughter and friends. She said while the girls didn’t work directly with the patients, they did tour the hospital and saw the pediatric side, as well as the adult side, which had an impact on them.

“They’ve realized how fortunate they are, and that they’re able to do things like that and give back because there are kids who are really sick and they want to help them,” she said.

As for a large project such as the Silver Award, the girls had some advice to share.

“Even if it seems like getting started is hard, once you get in, you see just how rewarding and how almost eye-opening it is to realize the impact of what you can have on the world,” Abbi said.

For more information about Room4Love, visit www.room4love.org.

A buck spotted on a lawn in Port Jefferson. Photo by Phil Shiavone

Drivers are regularly reminded that deer populations along the North Shore of Long Island are increasing as many of the animals graze alongside or dart across roadways. Some of these encounters unfortunately end in collisions. With deer and people on the move during the busy holiday season, TBR News Media is taking a look at issues to hopefully curb the impact.

Deer are spotted all over the North Shore. The one above is seen near Old Homestead Road in Belle Terre, Port Jefferson. Photo by Phil Schiavone

Destruction of vegetation

Christina Maffia, who has lived in Old Field South for 18 years, said she sees deer on her property every day, sometimes a lone buck and other times two or three animals. She described her property as “once lush, green, temperate forest that has been reduced to bare limbs below 5 feet.” She said her perennials don’t grow back due to being continuously eaten.

The appearance of depleted vegetation coincided with the arrival of the deer a few years ago. She said her neighborhood had been planted back when Frank Melville established the neighborhood in 1929. The grounds in Old Field South were designed by the landscape architecture firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, which also designed Central Park.

“These plantings are considered historical,” she said. “It’s such a shame that the historical part of this area that made it so beautiful is now being compromised.”

Maffia has sprayed her plants with a product called Deer Off, which incorporates rotten eggs in the ingredients. It deters deer, she said, but her experience has been that whenever it rains or she runs the sprinklers, she needs to reapply the product which she uses around the perimeter of her property.

The Village of Old Field recently sent an email to residents encouraging them to use deer repellent on their properties. Village officials reminded homeowners that a new generation of deer will establish their own feeding trails this time of the year. Because of these new trails, “it is a good time of year to use repellents to redirect these trails before they become solidly developed,” the village said.

According to the village email, deer repellent means less plant damage during fall and winter, and fewer deer in the village.

Kathy Schiavone, of Port Jefferson, said she and her husband also have problems with their landscaping due to the deer.

“We had tried the various remedies that have been suggested and have come to the conclusion that we will no longer buy and plant flowers to ornament our yard,” she said. “We did replace a number of yews with Japanese plum yews, which the deer do not bother. We had done this about five years ago. So far, so good.”

According to the DEC’s website, among the food deer prefer are cedar, sassafras, wintergreen, yew, mountain maple, flowering dogwood and more. A list of other vegetation they feed on can be found at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7195.html.

There is evidence that deer are also altering forests across New York, according to the DEC. This can reduce diversity in the forest understory, enable invasive species to outcompete natives and prevent seedlings of many species from growing into the next generation of trees.

A couple of deer spotted on a lawn in Belle Terre, below. Photo by Jean Thomas

Lyme disease

Maffia and Schiavone said they are concerned about deer ticks and contracting Lyme disease due to the increased population of deer. Both have friends and neighbors who have suffered from the tick-borne disease. Schiavone said she also knows four people who have contracted babesiosis, three of whom had to be hospitalized. Maffia said she had one neighbor with Lyme disease who later got Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Another was hospitalized with a severe inflammation around his heart caused by Lyme disease.

“It’s not just aesthetics anymore,” Maffia said. “It’s people being impacted by the deer.”

Nancy Irvolino has lived near Brooksite Drive in Smithtown for more than 40 years and has noticed an increase of the animals in the area.

“Sometimes they are on the side [of Brooksite], but a lot of times they run out at night in front of my car and I slam the brakes,” she said.

While Blydenburgh County Park abuts the lane she lives on, she said it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that she started seeing deer walking down her street and eating plants. Recently, she has seen them every night near her house.

Irvolino said she worries about herself and her dogs contracting Lyme disease and doesn’t even walk in the park due to it.

According to the DEC website, deer are the primary food source for adult female ticks and reduction of deer populations to very low levels may reduce tick densities and infection rates.

The Village of Old Field email to residents claimed that deer over time can carry thousands of ticks.

Solutions

Villages across the North Shore are debating the best way to cull the herds.

“My hope is that our elected officials will realize the overabundance of deer is an important enough public issue to take action against,” Schiavone said.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) is currently working to present a townwide forum on deer with the DEC in the near future, according to her office.

Belle Terre allows bow hunting, and Head of the Harbor last year joined Avalon Park & Preserve in Stony Brook with a contraceptive vaccine experiment to help with deer management. The DEC supports the use of sharpshooters, who aim for an instant kill, so the animal doesn’t suffer and also advocates donating the meat to food banks.

“I am not a fan of hunting just for the sake of demonstrating one’s prowess in killing any animal,” Schiavone said. “I have been convinced by information I have gotten that culling is the answer.”

Maffia, who has been a vegetarian for 30 years, agreed.

“At this point, because there are no natural predators, they’re attacking so many things people wouldn’t think of.”

— Christina Maffia

“At this point, because there are no natural predators, they’re attacking so many things people wouldn’t think of,” she said.

Maffia said she and her wife, Donna Crinnian, have been able to decrease the amount of bird seed they buy in the winter as nesting birds have disappeared since the deer have eaten the ground covering where the birds would nest.

“They’re impacting the ecosystem,” she said.

In the Village of Port Jefferson, where hunting is prohibited, residents are asked to call 631-774-0066 if they see a deceased deer on the road and 631-744-2507 if they see a wounded deer on their property. Those who spot hunter tree stands on private property can call Kathy Grady, DEC officer, at 631-744-2507 so the location can be checked to see if it qualifies as legal hunting ground.

Brookhaven residents can call the Animal Shelter at 631-451-6950 to report deceased deer on the road. In Smithtown, people can call the Animal Shelter at 631-360-7575 about dead or injured wildlife.

When it comes to roadways, the Department of Motor Vehicles advises drivers to be extra cautious during both dawn and dusk when deer are most active, especially in the autumn months.

Insurance company State Farm recently released its animal collision study from claims data from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, which estimated 1.9 million animal collision claims industrywide nationally, the large majority being with deer. During the same period, it was estimated there were 1.5 million deer claims.

“Remember, animals are unpredictable, especially when faced with glaring headlights, blowing horns and fast-moving vehicles,” said Billy Williams, Setauket State Farm agent. “They often dart into traffic.”

He added that drivers should remember that deer move in herds, so if one is seen on a roadway there may be more following.

by -
0 306
File photo

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a four-vehicle crash that killed a man in Selden today.

Nathaniel Davis was driving a 2005 Ford Taurus at a high rate of speed in the center turning lane of westbound Route 25 when his vehicle stuck a 2016 Ford pickup that was in the left lane of eastbound Route 25 at Dare Road at 8:30 a.m., according to Suffolk County police. The Taurus then struck a 2014 Chevrolet sedan that was eastbound in the center turning lane. Debris from the impact then struck a westbound box truck.

Davis, 42, of 20 Park Lane, Middle Island, was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene by a physician assistant from the Office of the Suffolk County Medical Examiner. The driver of the Chevrolet, Jeanette Papadakis, 59, of Selden, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of minor injuries. The driver of the Ford pickup, Luis Rivas, 47, of Central Islip, was not injured.

Motor Carrier Safety Section officers inspected the box truck and Ford pickup truck at the scene. The Ford Taurus and Chevrolet sedan were impounded for a safety check.

Detectives are asking anyone with information on this crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

by -
0 311
Stock Photo

The Three Village Central School District is standing up to New York State regarding a proposal to mandate one vaccine in New York.

District officials sent a letter dated Nov. 18 to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), as well as state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport). The letter, signed by Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich and board of ed President William Connors, stated the board was opposing the proposed amendment to Section 2164 of the public health law. The amendment will require that all students born after 2009 receive the human papillomavirus vaccine as part of the state’s mandated school immunization program.

“While we recognize that changes in the health law are often necessary in order to protect the public at large against health crises or to mitigate exposure to a communicable disease in open spaces, we are clinically opposed to adding the HPV vaccine to the required vaccination program for myriad reasons,” Pedisich and Connors said in the letter.

The school officials went on to say other required vaccines “aim to safeguard children against diseases that are easily contracted in a public school setting.” The letter cited diseases such as measles and pertussis, which can be spread through poor personal hygiene or airborne respiratory droplets. This differs from HPV, which according to the American Cancer Society, is passed from one person to another by skin-to-skin contact associated with sexual activity and not from toilet seats, casual contact and recreational items such as swimming pools and hot tubs.

The district added that data from independent health news site MedShadow, which focuses on the side effects of medicines, shows “post-marketing safety and surveillance data indicate that Gardasil 9 is well tolerated and safe, still many physicians have hesitated to recommend it based on its potential side effects.”

The school officials said in their letter students don’t engage in activities that spread the disease.

“As our public schools are not places where students would engage in the activities found to make one susceptible to contracting or spreading HPV, why then should it be mandatory that students be inoculated with the vaccine in order to attend school?” officials wrote.

Before the letter was posted on the district’s website, members of the Facebook page Three Village Moms began to chatter about the district’s proposed message.

Three Village parent Jenna Lorandini reached out to TBR News Media when she heard the board was taking the stance and said she was disappointed.

“I view the mandate as a necessary public health initiative whose purpose is to protect our children from a communicable disease as adults,” she said in an email. “If the advancements in science and medicine are available to us, mandating the vaccine would create widespread protection. The easiest way to do that is in the public school sector as timing of the vaccine is pertinent to the prevention of a cancer-causing virus. This doesn’t infringe upon my parental rights when its intent is to preserve life before a child can consent to that protection.”

Nichole Gladky, another Three Village parent, said she felt the district was moving too quickly and reacting to “the loud and staunch voices of those who partake in the Anti-Vaxx movement.” She said she will do what her pediatrician recommends.

“I wish the vaccination was available to me at the time,” she said. “There is a lot of easily consumable media of misinformation available on the Internet, social media, TV, etc. Everyone needs a proper dose of education on this vaccine — and disease control in general — and it could start with the school district before any action is taken.”

Dayna Whaley, whose daughter is unable to attend kindergarten at Arrowhead Elementary School due to not having vaccinations that New York State made a requirement earlier this year, said she thinks the letter is a good idea, even though she wishes the school would do more to oppose mandate vaccinations. She and her husband chose not to get vaccinations for their daughter on religious basis and after watching her suffer a spinal tap at four days old after getting the vitamin K shot.

“Requiring vaccines for sexually transmitted diseases as a requirement for school attendance as with hepatitis B and now Gardasil is just plain wrong,” she said.

In the case of requiring Gardasil to attend school, Whaley said that she feels even pro vaccinating parents will be willing to pull their children from public school.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is estimated to cause nearly 35,000 cases of cancer in men and women every year in the U.S.

File photo

Suffolk County Police 6th Squad detectives are investigating a three-vehicle crash that seriously injured a woman in Stony Brook Nov. 20.

Mariana Debbe was driving a 2003 Honda Civic westbound on Route 347 when she attempted to make a left-hand turn onto southbound Nicolls Road at approximately 1:30 p.m. The Honda was struck by a 2005 Mercury Mountaineer being driven northbound on Nicolls Road by Deanna Lee Hermida. The Honda then struck a 2015 Toyota being driven by Jose Salas that was heading eastbound on Route 347 and making a left-turn to head northbound on Nicolls Road.

Debbe, 26, of Miller Place, was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for treatment of serious injuries. Hermida, 23, of Ridge, was transported to the same hospital with minor injuries. Salas, 63, of Brentwood, was not injured.

All three vehicles were impounded for safety checks. Detectives are asking anyone with information on the crash to call the 6th Squad at 631-854-8652.

By Rita J. Egan

“Matilda the Musical” opened at the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport Nov. 14 with all the spunk of a Broadway production.

Inspired by the 1988 book by Roald Dahl, the musical introduces audience members to the real and imaginary worlds of 5-year-old Matilda Wormwood, who is misunderstood by her dim-witted family. While the Wormwoods make life difficult at home by making fun of her passion for reading and her smarts, the days become even more troublesome when she begins school with the dastardly Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress of Crunchem Hall. However, with her love of reading, a magical imagination and caring teacher Miss Honey on her side, Matilda finds her happy ending.

The musical, with book by Dennis Kelly, music and lyrics by Tim Minchin and orchestrations and additional music by Chris Nightingale, debuted in England in 2010 and opened on Broadway in 2013. While the show closed on the Great White Way in January of 2017, “Matilda the Musical” is still running at the Cambridge Theater in London. It was also released as a movie in 1996 starring Danny DeVito and Rhea Pearlman as the Wormwoods and Mara Wilson as Matilda.

Igor Goldin has directed a superb cast in the Engeman version, which includes many talented children actors. AnnaBelle Deaner and Elsa Dees alternate in the role of Matilda. On the night of Nov. 15 when I reviewed the musical, AnnaBelle played the part. The actress is darling in the role and portrays Matilda perfectly as the brave and precocious girl she is. She hits every note during her solos and her version of “Quiet” is beautiful and touching.

AnnaBelle along with her fellow youth actors stole many scenes. During one depicting the first day of school, they along with the ensemble performed a sensational “School Song” where everyone involved was strong in both vocals and dance moves. The company also delivers a fantastic “When I Grow Up,” the signature song from the musical.

Sara Gallo as Mrs. Wormwood and Michael Perrie Jr. as Mr. Wormwood are hilarious. While the two characters aren’t the best at parenting, Gallo and Perrie are pros at garnering laughs from the audience. Gallo plays her character to the hilt during the song “Loud” as she and Al Lockhart as Rudolpho, her dancing partner, show off some fantastic dance moves. And Perrie’s vocals are strong on “All I Know,” known as “Telly” in the Broadway and London versions. He also does a wonderful job interacting with the audience toward the end of intermission. Richard Westfahl as Michael Wormwood is also funny as Matilda’s dim-witted brother.

Dane Agostinis as Miss Trunchbull, the Olympic Hammer-Throwing Champion headmistress who believes children are maggots, plays the antagonist role perfectly. Agostinis can deliver her songs smoothly without breaking character despite the funny lines and laughs from the audience. Kate Fahrner as Miss Honey is simply endearing and sings a beautiful “My House” in the second act.

Emily Kelly as The Acrobat and Alex Herrera as The Escapologist are delightful, especially when Herrara joins Matilda on the song “I’m Here.” Nicole Powell was a charming Ms. Phelps, the librarian who looks forward to Matilda’s stories. Jamie Colburn as the Doctor and Sergei rounds out the cast perfectly.

On the night that I attended the show, I was fortunate to have with me 15-year-old Jonathan Guttenberg, who has seen countless productions, including “Matilda the Musical” on Broadway and London. Jonathan said “School Song” and “Revolting” were his favorite numbers in the Engeman production because they were both powerful and thought the theater did a phenomenal job.

Scenic designer Nate Bertone has put together a fun and colorful set with clever oversized books that fold out one way to serve as the Wormwood’s living room and another to provide the backdrop for the library. Mara Newbery Greer also has choreographed several energetic dance numbers, which the actors have mastered, including the youngest members of the youth ensemble, with special mention to Lily Tamburo. 

With the chilly weather settling in along the North Shore, “Matilda the Musical” has arrived just in time with its funny, heart-warming story and will be a hit with local theatergoers of all ages. 

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, presents “Matilda the Musical” until Dec. 29. Performances are Thursdays at 8 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $75 and $80 with free valet parking. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

by -
0 297
Carolyn and Rich Mora stand inside Mora’s Fine Wine & Spirits. Rich Mora holds a bottle of bourbon made specially for the store’s 30th anniversary. Photo by Rita J. Egan

What started as an interest in wine has led to a store that has become a staple in the Three Village area.

On Nov. 30, Rich Mora will celebrate 30 years as owner of Mora’s Fine Wine & Spirits. His wife of 16 years Carolyn, a retired children’s librarian who helps her husband run the store, credits its success to Mora’s passion for locating smaller production wines and different spirits customers tell him about. She said patrons, many of whom find the store through its website, come from all over including a gentleman recently all the way from Tennessee.

“We have great customers, but basically it’s Rich’s passion for fine wine and for staying his course and not selling out to big companies,” she said. “I’m very proud of him. Thirty years is a big thing. It’s all about community here.”

The exterior of Mora’s Fine Wine & Spirits

Mora’s Fine Wine & Spirits continues the legacy of a liquor store at the location of 280 Route 25A in East Setauket. Mora said in 1989 he bought the building from Robert Eikov, who was in his 80s at the time and also ran a liquor store. The Eikov family lived in the area for decades, and elder Eikov originally opened a cut-to-order butcher shop at the location. Three Village Historical Society historian Beverly Tyler said Eikov, along with his wife Blanche, constructed the building shortly after they were married sometime in the 1930s, and lived in an apartment at the rear of the store. Decades later, Eikov reopened his business as a liquor store.

“Robert Eikov told me that he was having trouble cutting meat due to the cold temperature and because his hands were not as flexible as in his youth, so he had to give up the butcher shop,” Tyler said.

Today the building looks pretty much the same as it did when Eikov owned it, Mora said, even including a green awning and a neon liquor sign that has been there since 1965.

The store owner said he didn’t set out thinking he would own a wine store, even though he always felt like he would work for himself. Born in Central America, he grew up in Larchmont in Westchester County, and after going to college for a while in Oregon he decided to study at Stony Brook University. He holds an undergraduate degree in physics, but while studying at SBU, he decided to take a formal wine class and became interested in the art of fine wines. He started teaching after college but the wine tasting classes stuck with him, and he began researching how to acquire a liquor license and setting up the business itself before he bought the building he is in today.

While he was studying at SBU, Mora said the area reminded him a lot of Larchmont, where he lived near the Long Island Sound. He added he always loved the water, beaches and boating.

“It felt a lot like home here,” he said.

When it comes to running a successful business, Mora said a store owner needs to constantly reinvent the business as rules, shipping laws and the business world are constantly changing.

Through the years, Mora has offered events, such as tastings, for his customers as he said the universe of wine keeps expanding, and with the increased number of spirits brands out there, interest has grown.

“This community is very responsive to that,” he said. “They like to discover exciting new wines. They like our events. They like the people from the wine business that we introduce them to.”

To celebrate the store’s milestone, the Moras recently had a bourbon whiskey specially made by Garrison Brothers Distillery in Texas. The couple tasted samples to choose what they felt best represented the store. Rich Mora described it as “a honey barrel,” and bottles are available at the shop for purchase for a limited time.