Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan
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Businessman Greg Fischer (D) is challenging Sen. Ken LaValle (R) for his seat in New York State’s 1st District. Photos by Kyle Barr

It’s déjà vu in New York State’s 1st Senate District.

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) finds himself once again being challenged by Democrat Greg Fischer to retain his seat representing the district. The two squared off in 2016 when LaValle won with more than 67 percent of the vote.

“We’ve created literally a generation of homeless people.”

— Greg Fischer

Fischer, a Calverton resident and businessman who specializes in strategizing and consulting, said during a debate featuring the candidates at the TBR News Media office in Setauket he is concerned that no one on either side of the political aisle is doing anything to increase personal incomes in the state. He said this lack of progress is leading to a brain drain on Long Island where residents pay the overhead to educate the youth but get none of the benefits when they move on for better opportunities.

“We’ve created literally a generation of homeless people,” Fischer said. “Those are people that can’t leave their houses and have their own homes. But they’re not necessarily on the streets — they’re on the couches or they’re still in their childhood bedrooms.”

When it comes to strengthening the economy, LaValle said he sees potential in places like the Research and Development Park at Stony Brook University and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory as economic centers on Long Island. He said he supports more high-tech parks being constructed along the expressway to connect to these centers.

“We cannot afford one system for all.”

— Ken LaValle

The two had differing opinions on how to improve transportation for Long Islanders. While LaValle is looking locally, Fisher is thinking more statewide.

Fischer is proposing a bond-funded transportation system which would produce jobs statewide to connect New York City and Long Island to places like Quebec in Canada and Buffalo, and everywhere in between. He said the system would use subterranean vehicles able to go 150 mph on tracks that curve and 600 mph on straight tracks.

“It creates tens of thousands of jobs,” Fischer said, adding the use of bonds to fund such a project would see immediate payback.

The incumbent said he has led the charge in getting a state investment of $150,000 to conduct a feasibility study of electrifying the northern Long Island Rail Road line between Huntington and Port Jefferson, something he said people have talked about since before he took office 42 years ago.

“I believe, especially considering the economics of our day, that health care becomes a right.”

— Greg Fischer

“It’s something that I think that we’re finally, with money that I put in, that we’re going to get some attention,” the incumbent said.

Fischer criticized the idea of committing funds to invest in what he called “outdated technology.”

“No matter how much money we spend on horses and buggies it’s not going to help us,” Fischer said.

Both candidates said they believe better health care should be accessible to all.

“I believe, especially considering the economics of our day, that health care becomes a right,” Fischer said.

LaValle said the goal of the senate is to ensure access to health care for all. However, there are obstacles.

“We cannot afford one system for all,” LaValle said. “We tried. We looked at Obamacare and other types of things. I think we need to tweak what we have and make sure that no person goes without health care.”

“Waste, fraud and abuse cannot be tolerated at any time.”

— Ken LaValle

When it comes to education, Fischer said he believes there should be an inspector general assigned to NYS Education Department to investigate departmental waste, as its expenses are more than 50 percent of the state budget. He said currently any waste and mismanagement falls to the attorney general while other departments have inspector generals. Fischer, who has done audits of school districts, said he has found a lot of waste including not using best-value contracting.

LaValle said he has no problem looking into an inspector general for education.

“Waste, fraud and abuse cannot be tolerated at any time,” LaValle said.

Both candidates agreed more could be done for those suffering from drug addiction, especially in schools and colleges, including organizing public forums.

“Young people growing up today have lots of pressures, and it’s starting to show in so many ways, opioids being one of them,” LaValle said.

Fischer said he believes addiction comes from helplessness many young people feel from not being able to make a decent living and afford their own homes.

“As you become less and less of a stakeholder in the future, you destroy yourself,” Fischer said.

 

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D). Photo by Kyle Barr

In the race to represent New York State’s 4th Assembly District, incumbent Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) is up against Republican newcomer Christian Kalinowski, a 25-year-old who works as a trainer at an animal shelter and lives in Port Jefferson. Traditionally both candidates sit down for a debate at the TBR News Media office in Setauket, and while both were invited, Kalinowski declined to attend or answer questions about the race via phone or email.

“The way that the environment has been treated by this administration in Washington has been savage.”

— Steve Englebright

The assemblyman, as he does whenever he runs, cited the environment as a key issue for his candidacy.

“The way that the environment has been treated by this administration in Washington has been savage,” he said.

Earlier in the year Englebright, who is the chair of the Assembly Committee on Environmental Conservation, held hearings in Hauppauge regarding the possibility of offshore oil and gas drilling along the Atlantic coast after the U.S. Department of the Interior proposed plans for expansion of natural gas and oil drilling along coastal waters.

He said he was disappointed legislation passed in the Assembly and supported by the governor to stop drilling off the Atlantic coast did not get passed in the state Senate.

The assemblyman is proud of the $2.5 billion he advocated for in last year’s state budget slated for water protection. He has also advocated for having waterways defined as infrastructure which can lead to increased protections of watersheds and reservoirs.

Safety is also on the assemblyman’s mind. When it comes to gun regulation, Englebright is a proponent of the microstamping of firing pins. A microscope is needed to see the
microstamp, but when it hits a shell casing while ejecting, it prints a number onto the shell, theoretically leaving a trace for investigators when necessary.

“We have the ability with lasers where we can cut little numbers into the firing pin, and then the firing pin — without changing the mechanism, without doing anything to take away gun rights — there is at least forensic evidence that if the gun is used in another crime, you can join the two crimes together through the forensic evidence,” Englebright said.

“I’m generally cautious about bringing hardware like that into public spaces of any kind.”

— Steve Englebright

He said some challengers say the cost for microstamping would be felt by the consumer in that it would cost several hundred dollars more for a handgun, which he said he believes is holding up the legislation, though he disputed the cost would be prohibitive.

The assemblyman said he doesn’t agree with teachers having guns on school campuses, but he would consider retired police officers working as guards if needed. He said it would be better to have more efficient lockdowns and safer designed entrances before bringing guns into schools.

“I’m generally cautious about bringing hardware like that into public spaces of any kind,” Englebright said.

The incumbent also reiterated his support to advance electrification of the Long Island Rail Road between Huntington and Port Jefferson, an idea he has supported for years and is now gaining momentum, as state funds have been put toward studying the possibility. The study will examine the possible benefits and ramifications of electrification for communities along the line. He said state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) succeeded in appropriating state funds toward the plan.

“I think it’s a game changer, and I think we’re at the moment when it can happen,”
Englebright said.

Princesses, superheroes, ghosts, zombies and more filled Stony Brook Village Center Oct. 31 to take part in a day of trick-or-treating.

Store owners and employees handed out treats to the hundreds of costumed children who were accompanied by parents and four-legged friends — some in disguises themselves. In between trick-or-treating, children had the opportunity to take part in some Halloween-themed games and crafts.

 

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The Ward Melville Heritage Organization presented its 25th Walk for Beauty at the Stony Brook Village Center Oct. 21. The 4k/6k Walk and the Hercules on the Harbor 10k Run drew hundreds of participants.

In addition to the walk and run, the day included a pet costume contest, live music, raffles, speeches from WMHO President Gloria Rocchio and county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and more.

Proceeds from the event go directly to a targeted research fund at Stony Brook Medicine for breast cancer research and the WMHO Unique Boutique for prostheses and wigs.

 

The Three Village Historical Society presented its 24th Spirits Cemetery Tour, titled The Fickle Finger of Fate, Oct. 20.

Approximately 20 attendees at a time were led on walks through the Setauket Presbyterian and Caroline Church cemeteries as actors portrayed former Setauket and Stony Brook residents, some of whom knocked on death’s door too soon.

Ticket holders learned about William Sidney Mount and his interest in seances; the sickly Mary Swift Jones who accompanied her husband on a voyage to China where he brought a coffin on board in preparation of her death; Adelaide Sells, a gospel singer who won Amateur Night at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre; Alice Parsons who went missing in Stony Brook in 1939 and more. 

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Stop & Shop is planning to paint the East Setauket store gray and change the bottle redemption center from the front to the back. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

A supermarket chain’s requests of the Town of Brookhaven Planning Board are creating concerns in East Setauket from a historical and environmental perspective.

“We’re really concerned that this kind of dark color is going to contrast with the historic district, and it won’t be in conformity with a lot of the architecture of the other buildings.”

— George Hoffman

Peggy Kelly, of Kelly’s Expediting Corp., representing Stop & Shop, attended the Oct. 15 planning board meeting asking for a facade color change to three Stop & Shop stores in Brookhaven — Medford, Farmingville and East Setauket — and switching the location of the East Setauket bottle redemption area from the front of the store to the back.

The color change would mean the facade of the Route 25A store in East Setauket would go from sandstone to gray. Kelly said the facade will change at eight Brookhaven stores, and it has already been altered in 21 locations in Suffolk County.

“Currently Stop & Shop is going through a refreshing,” Kelly said. “What they’re trying to do is develop an image which to the customer — the consumer — is going to [be] more fresh, green and a more healthy look.”

George Hoffman, first vice president of the Three Village Civic Association, was on hand for the planning board meeting and said the civic was opposed to the new color scheme that would be painted over the current beige sandstone for the majority of the building. He said the gray the representatives from the civic group were shown seemed to be a dark slate and not a light shade and would stand out. The applicant is also applying to paint the rest of the shopping center gray.

“We’re really concerned that this kind of dark color is going to contrast with the historic district, and it won’t be in conformity with a lot of the architecture of the other buildings,” Hoffman said.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) submitted a letter to the planning board stating that the proposed color change would be contrary to the historic character of the community.

“A dark gray facade would stand out in our retail area and draw attention in a manner that would work against architectural cohesion and continuity,” Englebright wrote.

Hoffman said the civic also had an issue with the changing of the bottle redemption center location since it will be harder to get to.

“A dark gray facade would stand out in our retail area and draw attention in a manner that would work against architectural cohesion and continuity.”

— Steve Englebright

“There’s a small little alleyway — well driveway — that leads to the back,” Hoffman said. “You have to pass by the truck loading zone and the trash compactor and now they’re going to put it in the back parking lot. At a time when we should be encouraging recycling you don’t want to make it harder for people to bring back their bottles.”

Englebright in his letter said the current bottle return location in the front of the store is in an ideal spot as it’s convenient and accessible to customers walking from the parking lot. He wrote that he believes changing the location to the rear of the store would lead to a reduction in recycling since Stop & Shop is the only supermarket in the Setauket/East Setauket area.

Kelly said the bottle redemption center being moved to the back would give customers a larger space and prevent congestion in front of the store. She said if the board didn’t agree to the change, the location could remain in the front.

Kelly added East Setauket was the only location with a question about the color change. All other Brookhaven civic associations or council members who have reached out to their communities have approved the new color scheme.

The board tabled the decision until the next planning board meeting Nov. 5 and asked that Stop & Shop representatives meet with the Three Village Civic Association.

Both the chain and civic are open to the suggestion, and Hoffman said they will meet before the end of the month.

“We are aware of civic concerns regarding a possible color change and bottle deposit relocation at our Setauket store,” said Steve Kienzle, senior vice president of market operations and sales for Stop & Shop. “We are reviewing all options so that we can bring the situation to a resolution.”

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Charles B. Wang, right, stands with Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. after receiving an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the school in 2015. Photo from Stony Brook University

Charles B. Wang, minority owner of the New York Islanders hockey team and founder of the software company CA Technologies, died Oct. 21 at the age of 74 in Oyster Bay, according to a statement from his attorney John McEntee of Farrell Fritz P.C. in Uniondale.

Charles B. Wang. Photo from CA Technologies

Wang was born in Shanghai, China, Aug. 19, 1944, and moved to the United States with his family when he was 8 years old. He attended Brooklyn Technical High School and graduated from Queens College with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and physics.

Wang donated $52 million to Stony Brook University, which led to the opening of the Charles B. Wang Center, in 2002, an Asian and Asian-American cultural center. At the time, it was the largest individual donation in State University of New York history, according to SBU’s website.

“I am deeply saddened to have learned about the passing of Charles Wang and extend my deepest sympathies to his family on behalf of myself and Stony Brook University,” SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said in a statement. “Charles’ legacy will live on at Stony Brook University in the iconic and vibrant Charles B. Wang Center, opened in 2002 as an international hub bringing Asians and Americans into a common space, a marketplace of cultural awakenings and ideas for the 21st century.”

Stanley said in the statement the center offers a respite for students.

“It is a proverbial bridge between cultures, and a welcome home to all students of every nationality, every race and religion,” he said. “It is a monument to his vision and will continue to be for generations to come. The world needs more like Charles Wang.”

In 2015, Wang received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from the university. During his acceptance speech he stated his beliefs in four points: “1. You can make a difference; 2. Integrity and loyalty are only words until tested; 3. Love life to the fullest; and 4. Have fun.”

In 1976, Wang co-founded Computer Associates International, now known as CA Technologies, serving as chairman and chief executive officer, according to his attorney.

“I am deeply saddened to have learned about the passing of Charles Wang and extend my deepest sympathies to his family on behalf of myself and Stony Brook University.”

— Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr.

In 2000 Wang was asked to purchase the Islanders, for which he remained majority owner until 2016 when he sold his majority stake. The entrepreneur had only attended one hockey game in life before ownership, and the new role led to him creating Project Hope, an international program in China to develop education through ice hockey.

Another philanthropic venture of Wang’s was Smile Train, of which he was the founding member in 1999 and chairman of the board. The nonprofit provides free surgery to children in developing countries who have cleft lip and palate.

“Charles was the driving force behind Smile Train and the reason why so many deserving children continue to receive the care they so desperately need,” Smile Train posted on its website. “His unwavering passion, commitment and dedication to children with clefts was unmatched. Our Smile Train family will miss him beyond words, yet we take comfort in knowing his legacy will live on forever in the smiles of the faces of the children we help and in the hearts of everyone who was fortunate enough to know him.”

In 1998, Wang endowed the Charles B. Wang International Foundation, and, in 2001, he established the New York Islanders Children’s Foundation, dedicated to supporting children and youth organizations, according to McEntee’s statement.

Wang was also chairman of the board of NeuLion, a digital video technology company, from 2008 to 2016 and is the author of “TechnoVision: The Executive’s Survival Guide to Understanding and Managing Information Technology” and “Wok Like a Man,” a cookbook of his favorite Chinese food recipes.

Wang leaves behind his wife Nancy Li; children Kimberly (Chris), Jasmine and Cameron; grandchildren, Charles, Kingsley and Kendall; mother, Mary; brothers Anthony (Lulu) and Francis (Laura), and his nieces and nephew. He was preceded in death by his father, Kenneth. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Smile Train or the New York Islanders Children’s Foundation.

 

Deer rutting season means more of the animals running out on local roads. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Love is in the air, which can cause troubles on the roads.

It’s deer rutting season — the time of year they breed — which means the animals are prone to run out on local roadways, causing potential dangers for drivers. While it’s advisable to drive carefully and be vigilant at any time of day, especially near wooded areas, peak time for rutting occurs between dusk and dawn requiring extra caution during those hours, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Lori Ketcham, a rehabilitator with Middle Island-based Save the Animals Rescue Foundation, said the rutting season begins approximately in the middle of October and lasts until the end of November, sometimes longer. She said her main advice during the season is for motorists to drive carefully because the deer don’t think.

“The boys only have one thing on their mind,” Ketcham said. “They’re following the scent so they’re just running. They smell a girl down the street. They run, and they don’t care if there are roads in the way.”

She said if two bucks are fighting, something that would most likely happen in wooded areas and not near the road, to steer clear of them. She said it’s important when seeing a deer run across the street to remember there is a chance another one will follow, whether it’s a buck in heat or a fawn following its mother.

“They are a herd animal,” she said. “If one runs across the road, assume there are more coming.”

Ketcham said it’s important for drivers to keep their eyes not only on the road but the sides of the streets. She said sometimes deer are not hit by a car but run into the side of it, breaking their jaws or necks.

The rehabilitator said it’s important for drivers who hit a deer to check to see if they are dead or not, and not to approach or move an injured deer. Whenever a motorist hits an animal, even smaller ones like squirrels and raccoons, Ketcham advises people to call the police department, adding a person won’t get in trouble for hitting an animal with a car.

“Have someone come out and not have the animal out there suffering,” she said.

Drivers are also cautioned to slow down when approaching deer near a roadside, according to the DEC. While they may look inactive, they can quickly bolt in front of a car.

Stony Brook University Hospital. File photo

Most people only think about Lyme disease when taking a hike in a park, but for many doctors, the condition weighs heavily on their minds every day.

Dr. Benjamin Luft, director and principal investigator of Stony Brook WTC Wellness Program, is one of those doctors. He is currently working on two clinical studies examining the disease. One involves those who continue to present symptoms after being treated, and the other study involves Latinos on Long Island who work in the landscaping and agricultural fields.

In a recent phone interview, Luft said the clinical study involving Latinos is a straightforward one, where the aim is to help a population that has been underserved and understudied due to their work schedules. The other study is more involved.

After being bitten by a tick infected with a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, many people with a bull’s eye rash or flulike symptoms may receive treatment and feel better; but there are those who will continue to suffer for a prolonged period, even years, with a variety of complaints like aches, pains and brain fogginess. Luft said at times there may be no clear signs of the disease in the body, but doctors may find evidence of it after thorough neuropsychological exams that can detect subtle abnormalities.

Dr. Benjamin Luft is one of the doctors at Stony Brook Medicine looking for answers when it comes to those who continue to suffer from Lyme disease after treatment. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

“This study is really geared toward diagnosing and to find ways to be able to monitor the disease,” Luft said, adding in the future his hope is to conduct studies testing new ways to treat Lyme disease.

The doctor said it’s essential to receive a diagnosis because if Lyme disease is left untreated, it can lead to joint swelling, arthritis, neuropathies, meningitis or cardiac problems.

When Stony Brook University recently began making a more significant investment in its imagining facilities, Luft said he saw a chance to find an answer for those with chronic symptoms.

“I thought this is the opportunity to see what is going on in the brain of these patients with using X-ray techniques and radiological techniques which may give us some insight,” he said.

He said with cutting-edge neuroimaging studies researchers can look for evidence of inflammation in the brain which may be a reaction to the infection.

“That would be an important thing to do because it may give us another target for therapy,” Luft said. “A lot of the therapy that we now use is really just geared toward the organism itself, but it’s not really geared toward the body’s reaction to the organism which may also have to be treated in order to alleviate some of these symptoms.”

The doctor has studied Lyme disease for more than 30 years. When he arrived at SBU from Stanford University Hospital, he was involved in work with AIDs and age-related diseases, but he said at the university’s clinic in the 1980s many people complained of Lyme disease problems and there were no effective therapies at the time. Many of the first therapies and treatments used today were developed at SBU, he said, but there have always been people who haven’t responded well to those treatments.

“So that’s been something that’s been bothering me for many years as to why that is,” Luft said.

He said he will present initial data, which is promising, from the clinical imagining study at a conference in Barcelona, Spain, later this month and hopes to get more patients for the clinical study. Those who are interested can call 631-601-5615. Subjects must meet stringent criteria including not having any other disease, having serological evidence of Lyme disease and a clear history that they had the rash.

In addition to Luft’s studies, Dr. Christy Beneri, assistant professor of pediatrics at SBU, and her team are working on a pilot study to look at newer diagnostic tools to establish a better way to diagnose early Lyme disease.

“We also will be doing work on understanding tick epidemiology in our area and working with the local health department to understand potential new tick-borne pathogens,” Beneri said.

Stony Brook Lyme Disease Laboratory has been performing Lyme disease testing on clinical specimens since 1984. Both inpatients and outpatients can have a Lyme ELISA screening test and Western blots confirmatory test at Stony Brook Medicine. Almost 10,000 screenings were done in 2017 at the hospital, which has been actively working with state senators for funding for Lyme disease outreach and research, according to Beneri.

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Louise Wasilevitch turns 107 Oct.29. Photo from Alice Anderson

One Stony Brook resident has more than a century to celebrate at the end of the month.

Louise Wasilevitch in a photo taken circa 1914. Photo from Alice Anderson

While she may not be the oldest resident in the Three Village area, Louise Wasilevitch has more life experience than most. On Oct. 29, she will celebrate her 107th birthday.

Wasilevitch said to enjoy a long life one should have a lot of interests — advice she has followed. In her lifetime, she has belonged to many clubs, made textiles with a floor loom, golfed, sang with a church choir, played the violin, led a Girl Scout troop, painted and enjoyed handcrafts.

Before her husband Julius passed in 1995, the couple traveled around the world to places like Japan, England and Scotland. Now, she enjoys visiting family and friends, watching golf, listening to classical music, rooting for the New York Yankees and traveling to New Hampshire on vacation with her daughter and son-in-law — Alice and Chuck Anderson.

She moved to Stony Brook in 2009 to live with her daughter and son-in-law, after living for nine years in East Northport and decades in Greenlawn, according to her daughter. Born in New Jersey in 1911, Alice Anderson said her mother, who grew up in Brooklyn, spent three years in Russia as a young girl when her father traveled back to the country to live with family due to health concerns and financial difficulties. Anderson said it’s interesting to hear the stories of living on a farm in Russia in the early 1920s when her mother would sleep in an alcove dug out of a chimney over the fireplace to stay warm.

She also worked during a time when many companies didn’t accept married women working. Wasilevitch was employed with an insurance firm called London & Lancashire on Wall Street, but when it was discovered she was married, she was asked to leave, according to her daughter.

With all the interesting things she has experienced in life, Wasilevitch said she finds the internet the most impressive thing she has seen. Her daughter said she loves that they can look up information whenever they have a question and write to relatives in Czechoslovakia.

Anderson, who is 78, said she always admired her mother’s knack with people.

“She just inspires me — I’ve always told her that — by just the kind of person she is,” Anderson said. “She likes everybody. She looks for the best in everybody and is always ready to help, whether it’s advice or money. She just loves everyone in the family, and I can’t think of anybody that she ever met that she hates.”

Anderson said when it comes to her mother’s upcoming birthday get-together, even her own friends want to be part of it, and Wasilevitch said it’s nice to feel wanted.

“I just like people,” Wasilevitch said. “I never met anybody I didn’t like. I really haven’t.”

Wasilevitch will have two big celebrations before the end of the year. In addition to her upcoming birthday party, her grandchildren, Heather, Jennifer and Emily will be home to spend Christmas with her along with their grandmother’s eight great-grandchildren.

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