Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan
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On May 24, more than 7,500 graduates, ranging between the ages of 18 and 72, joined the nearly 200,000 Seawolves worldwide as Stony Brook University celebrated its 59th commencement.

Award-winning actor Alan Alda, a 2016 TBR News Media person of the year, received an honorary degree at the ceremony.  The polymath is the inspiration behind the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. He is best known for his role as Hawkeye Pierce in the TV show “M*A*S*H.”

Alda talked about the importance of connection during his address.

“It takes work,” he said. “But here’s the thing — if you dig down under the surface to bring to the surface your own dream, your own thing that motivates you, that makes you want to help other people that is born from your sense of generosity. The work you do to accomplish that dream won’t seem like work. It’ll seem like fun. That’s how it’s been for me. And you may find, as I’ve found, that the dream you start out with can morph into some other dream and another dream after that.”

Greg Marshall, SBU class of 1988, also received an honorary degree. He is the inventor of Crittercam and a Stony Brook University Marine Sciences master’s program alumnus. Crittercam a video/audio system that allows humans to study wildlife behavior by experiencing the world through an animal’s perspective on land or in the sea.

 

By Rita J. Egan

On Saturday, May 18, the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts debuted “Les Misérables School Edition,” and its only flaw is the title. With exceptionally talented teenagers and preteens, the production resembles that of a main-stage musical.

Luke Ferrari and Leah Kelly

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, with book by Alain Boublil, music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and Boublil, the musical digs into the depths of human nature. A myriad of emotions is explored from despair, fear and loathe to love, hope and forgiveness. The young actors in the Smithtown production have the skill and talent to take on the complex characters, and they seem to understand what drives them, which is essential when it comes to a classical musical such as this one.

“Les Misérables” opened in New York City in 1987 and ran until 2003, making it the fifth-longest show on Broadway. Two revivals on the Great White Way followed, one from 2006 to 2008 and another from 2014 to 2016.

Aubrey Alvino and Zak Ketchum

Set in the early 19th century in France, “Les Misérables” follows Jean Valjean who is released from prison after serving 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. While Valjean at first feels hopeless for a second chance, the kindness of a bishop inspires him to break his parole and live a new life. While continually avoiding the wrath of police inspector Javert, Valjean goes on to become a successful factory owner, who grants the dying wish of Fantine by giving her daughter Cosette a better life. In later years, Valjean becomes a protective father who resists letting his daughter go as she falls in love with Marius, a young idealist and revolutionist.

In the Smithtown production, directed by Cara Brown, Luke Ferrari is outstanding as Valjean. He captures the former prisoner’s despair and anger earlier in the show and later in the play begins to soften as a more mature and paternal Valjean. His singing is flawless in every song, especially during “Bring Him Home” in the second act when he appeals to God to keep Marius safe.

Angelina Mercurio, center, as Fantine

Hunter Pszybylski is the perfect choice for Javert as he seems to portray the stern character with ease. The actor’s voice is mature beyond his years, and he knows how to command the spotlight, which is his during his solos “Stars” and “Soliloquy (Javert’s Suicide).”

Angelina Mercurio is wonderful as Fantine and delivers a heartbreaking solo with “I Dreamed a Dream,” and she and Ferrari sound incredible during “Come to Me (Fantine’s Death).” Zak Ketcham makes for a handsome Marius, and he proves to be another strong vocalist on all his songs including “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables” where he beautifully captures the heartbreak of surviving the tragedy of losing his friends at the barricades.

Aubrey Alvino also captures the heartbreak of Eponine’s experience as she yearns for Marius who only has eyes for Cosette. Her solo “On My Own” during the May 19 show was a tearjerker, and her duo with Ketcham “A Little Fall of Rain” was just as lovely.

Leah Kelly is the naive Cosette, and her vocals are sweet and delightful, especially during “A Heart Full of Love.” Gabby Blum, who plays a young Cosette, performs a perfect “Castle on a Cloud.” Luke Hampson, as Thénardier, and Alexa Adler, as Madame Thénardier, are delightful as the greedy and crafty innkeeper and his wife. The pair play an essential role in the musical to provide some comedic relief, and both actors know how to garner a good number of chuckles from the audience.

All of the cast members provide superb vocals and exceptional performances, which are front and center during numbers such as “At the End of the Day,” “ABC Cafe/Red and Black,” “Lovely Ladies,” “Drink With Me” and “Do You Hear the People Sing.” Everyone on stage and behind the scenes of “Les Misérables School Edition” should be proud of the production, and with this kind of young, local talent, the future looks bright for regional theater.

With only six performances left, the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown will present “Les Misérables School Edition” through June 2. All tickets are $20. For more information, visit www.smithtownpac.org or call 631-724-3700.

All photos by Courtney Braun

Steve Chassman, executive director of Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, speaks at a May 21 press conference. Photo from Suffolk County

Legislators are asking high school athletic coaches to help combat substance abuse in Suffolk County and are looking to give them the training needed to do so.

“This program will help save lives. I have no doubt about that.”

— Steve Bellone

On May 21, at a press conference held at Ward Melville High School in East Setauket, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) announced a partnership with the nonprofit Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Bellone said a new, county-funded program will provide athletic coaches and trainers in middle and high schools with a 75-minute training course designed to combat substance abuse among student-athletes. Ward Melville coaches have already been through the awareness training that now will be offered to all county secondary schools.

“This program will help save lives,” Bellone said. “I have no doubt about that.”

Krista Bertschi, who lost her son Anthony Mazzella to drug addiction, attended the press conference, holding a photo of her son, to show support for the training.

Mazzella passed away Jan. 22, 2017, from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. Bertschi said her son was a boxer who was clean for two years when he dislocated his shoulder before Thanksgiving of 2016. While he refused pain medication at first, as the pain lingered, he decided to take them.

The program, developed with LICADD and Stony Brook University, will look to provide coaches with the knowledge of the warning signs of drug and alcohol abuse in student-athletes and how to engage and intervene with team members suspected of abusing addictive substances. Bellone said a coach’s knowledge of an injury may be especially critical in that they may be able to link subtle changes in a player’s behavior to the treatment they are receiving as many times opioids are prescribed for pain.

Hahn had piloted the program with several local school districts, working alongside LICADD and SBU to develop the training. The county will be providing $100,000 to LICADD to aid in developing the program.

Hahn, a graduate of Ward Melville High School, said she was pleased to launch the program at her alma mater. As a former student-athlete and the mother of a recent Ward Melville cheerleader and current Three Village athlete, Hahn said she recognizes how influential a coach’s role can be in a student’s life both on and off the field. She added that the training course was customized to address the various scenarios coaches may encounter, from an injured teenager being prescribed opioids to a marijuana bag falling out of a backpack to team members talking about a big party coming up.

“It’s a unique place in a player’s life that is provided by the coach with an unparalleled opportunity to understand the circumstances the athlete is facing.”

— Kara Hahn

“It’s a unique place in a player’s life that is provided by the coach with an unparalleled opportunity to understand the circumstances the athlete is facing,” she said.

Hahn said social workers are still needed when a problem is identified but coaches can be the first line of defense.

“They can play an important role in the fight against student drug abuse, and through this training, we have invited them to be among the traditional stakeholders working to save lives,” she said.

Steve Chassman, executive director of LICADD, said the seeds of drug disorders usually start in high school, and he thanked the legislators and coaches for their help in solving what he called a public health crisis.

“We are encouraging the coaches to create a culture where people can work together and come forward not just from a disciplinary standpoint but from a public health standpoint,” he said.

Peter Melore, executive director of health, physical education, recreation and athletics for the Three Village Central School District, said during training the district coaches had numerous questions, including how to approach a student, and what to say if they were approached first.

“It’s been a privilege and an honor to be the first to do this,” he said. “I would be remiss if I did not thank our coaches for their engagement in the workshops.”

Bertschi said she believes the program will foster essential communication between coaches and parents if an issue is identified. She will continue to support awareness and prevention programs such as the coach training course, she said, “In memory of my beautiful son and all of the other angels gone too soon to this horrific disease so that no other parent has to walk in the ugly shoes that I walk in every day.”

Districts interested in participating in the program can reach out to LICADD at 631-979-1700 to schedule a training session.

Centereach High School

Middle Country Central School District residents passed the district’s $257,435,446 budget, 1,513 to 545.

The 2019-20 budget stays under the tax levy and is a more than $7 million increase from last year’s budget.

The tax levy increase is 2.47 percent, and according to the board, there will be no reduction of programs or services and includes a multiyear contract for transportation.

Part of the proposed budget includes $189,419,536 for salaries and benefits, $19,514,657 for BOCES, $18,377,310 for debt service and $24,446,737 for contractual items, tuition and transfers.

In an uncontested board of education trustee election, Robert Feeney, Kristopher Oliva and Dawn Sharrock won their seats back, with 1,501, 1,424 and 1,463 votes, respectively.

Superintendent of Schools Roberta Gerold commented on the results in an email.

“Thank you to the entire Middle Country community for supporting the district’s 2019-2020 budget and the ever-expanding opportunities we are able to offer our students,” Gerold said. “The district’s board, central administration, teachers and staff members will continue to provide students with an educational experience — based on the principle of empowering the problem solvers of tomorrow — from the moment they enter pre-K to the day of their high school graduation.

“This is all made possible by the community’s continued support and years of thoughtful financial planning and sound decision making — allowing for a budget that was below the district’s tax levy cap while still offering our expansive programs and services. The district looks forward to many more years of playing a role in helping your children reach their goals and preparing them for a promising future,” she added.

Three Village budget vote is May 21. File photo by Greg Catalano

When Three Village residents vote for the school budget next week, they will see a familiar name on the ballot for board of education trustee.

Vinny Vizzo

Vinny Vizzo, a 34-year veteran of the Three Village Central School District, is running for the first time for trustee alongside current board member Jonathan Kornreich. They are running unopposed for two three-year seats. Vizzo is vying for the seat left empty by Angelique Ragolia who decided not to run this year.

Vizzo, the recently retired R.C. Murphy Junior High School principal, said that running for school board is an opportunity to give back as a member of “the community that I’ve loved for so many years, that gave so much to my children and to me. This is my home.”

The 65-year-old father of two Ward Melville graduates and his wife of 41 years moved to the Three Village area in 1988.

“What we have in Three Village is very unique,” Vizzo said during a phone interview.

As a teacher and an administrator in the district, he said he valued the “excellent working relationship” between administrators, teachers and the school board whose number one goal was to provide the best education to Three Village students.

Now assistant superintendent for the Diocese of Rockville Centre department of education, Vizzo hopes to add an educator’s perspective to the Three Village school board and serve as another resource to clarify and answer questions about mandates, school programs, language study or testing, he said.

While many in the community know Vizzo in his most recent role at Murphy, he started in the district in 1985 as a Spanish teacher at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, where he built its theater program. He went on to serve as foreign language chair at both junior highs before becoming Murphy’s assistant principal and then principal.

A longtime Spanish teacher at Suffolk County Community College, Vizzo has also held positions as the president of the local administrators’ union and vice president of the Nassau and Suffolk County Administrators Association.

Jonathan Kornreich

Kornreich, 49, who is running to retain his seat, first joined the board in 2008. He is chair of the audit committee and has also served as board vice president.

“It’s been gratifying to serve alongside a cohesive group of men and women,” Kornreich wrote in an email.

He pointed to the development of district security protocols as an important example of fruitful collaboration between the board and the administration. In his coming term, he hopes to continue to investigate the possibility of later start times for secondary schools, continue the development of the district’s business and entrepreneurial training and see foreign language instruction begin in earlier grades.

Kornreich runs a property management and investment company and sits on the corporate board of a biotech device manufacturer.  He is president of the Three Village Civic Association and was also vice president of the Suffolk County Boys and Girls Club. Kornreich and his family have lived in the Three Village area since 2005. His two daughters attend Three Village schools.

2019-20 Budget

The district has proposed a $215 million budget for the 2019-20 school year. This is a 2.51 percent increase over last year’s budget — the result of contractual salary increases, utilities and a 2 percent hike in insurance costs, Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, said last month.

Even so, the budget stays within the 2.53 percent cap on the tax levy increase without cuts to programs. State aid to the district increased by about 0.8 percent, or $287,729, for a total package of $34.7 million, Carlson said.

New initiatives for the fall include the addition of a sixth-grade guidance counselor to be shared at the five elementary schools and a musical theater class at Ward Melville.

Three Village will also introduce a fee-based, prekindergarten enrichment program, Patriots PLUS, to supplement the district’s free half-day prekindergarten curriculum. The tuition for the self-sustaining enrichment program is $500 a month. The prekindergarten curriculum, currently offered at Nassakeag, and the Patriots PLUS enrichment program will be available at each of the elementary schools in the fall.

An additional source of revenue comes in the form of tuition for the district’s special education programs. Due to declining enrollment, Three Village has been able to offer empty seats in special education classrooms and at the Three Village Academy to students from other districts. These districts pay tuition — about $80,000 per student, an amount set by the state — to Three Village. In the 2019-20 school year, the district will see about $3 million in revenue from prekindergarten enrichment and non-resident tuition, Carlson said.

The budget vote will take place at the district’s three secondary schools Tuesday, May 21, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Residents zoned for Arrowhead, Minnesauke and Nassakeag elementaries will vote at Ward Melville High School; residents zoned for W.S. Mount will vote at Murphy Junior High and those zoned for Setauket will vote at Gelinas Junior High.

Minnesauke principal

The board approved the appointment of Nancy Pickford, current Nassakeag Elementary School assistant principal and prekindergarten coordinator, to the post of Minnesauke Elementary School principal. Pickford, who joined the district in 2016, will take over for Brian Biscari, who will be the new principal at Murphy Junior High. Both begin their positions on July 1.

By Rita J. Egan

Stand back, theatergoers, “Evita” is in town. On Saturday, May 11, the award-winning musical opened at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts.

“Evita” revolves around the controversial life of María Eva Duarte de Perón, who went from poverty to a success as an Argentine film and radio star. Her marriage to Juan Perón, a military leader who became the country’s president in 1946, thrust her further in the spotlight until her death at 33 in 1952.

When the audience first meets Evita, she is an ambitious teenager in 1934 who wants to leave the small city of Junin to travel to Buenos Aires with Agustin Magaldi, a tango singer. Soon after her arrival in the big city, she leaves Magaldi and sleeps her way to the top before meeting Col. Perón at a charity concert. While not accepted by the upper class after her marriage to Perón, Evita sees herself as the champion of the “descamisados,” the working class.

The musical, which features lyrics by Tim Rice and music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, first premiered on Broadway in 1979 with Patti LuPone as Evita and Mandy Patinkin as Che. It went on to win seven Tony Awards, including best musical in 1980. The production inspired the 1996 movie starring Madonna (Evita), Antonio Banderas (Che) and Jonathan Pryce (Perón) and was revived on Broadway in 2012 with Argentine actress Elena Roger and singer Ricky Martin as Che.

In the Smithtown production, Laura Laureano plays Evita, and the young actress possesses the poise and maturity needed to handle the role of the strong woman. Her vocals are powerful on all of the musical’s memorable favorites including “Buenos Aires,” “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and “Rainbow High.” Her performance of “Lament” at the end of Act II is an emotional one that will have audience members reaching for their tissues.

Dylan Bivings plays a suave Che. The character serves as the musical’s narrator, and Bivings proves to be a strong lead on various numbers. He shines during “And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out)” and his duet with Laureano, “High Flying Adored.” Dennis Creighton was perfect as Perón, delivering the role with the right amount of tenderness that helps audience members understand just how much this man loved Eva. Creighton’s tenor singing voice is ideal for his solos.

Anthony Arpino as Magaldi also shined vocally during “On This Night of a Thousand Stars.” During the number “Santa Evita” on opening night, Zoe Avery played the child who approaches Evita, and Avery’s singing was delightful as she hit every note sweetly and perfectly. The actress alternates the role with Dori Ahlgrim.

Lauren Tirado, as the mistress, delivered a standout performance of “Another Suitcase in Another Hall.” The scene is a heartbreaking moment in the life of a character that the audience only meets once, and it’s essential that a vocalist digs deep when performing this song, so it can be understood that Evita will stop at nothing and will even throw another woman out on the streets. Tirado’s superb vocals proved she has the talent to deliver such an emotional number.

All of the ensemble members also deserve a round of applause for their outstanding vocals and impressive dancing. Ronald Green III has masterfully directed a cast that proves a musical lover doesn’t need to head into the city to take in a Broadway-quality show. Green has also outdone himself with the period costumes, especially with Laureano’s gown during the balcony scene when she sings “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.”

Adding to the Broadway-like magic were the talented musicians led by conductor Melissa Coyle and scenic and video designer Tim Golebiewski. The set designed by Golebiewski and constructed by TJ Construction, Russ Bakunus and Clark Services is simple yet elegant and incorporates five small screens that display pictures of Eva and Perón through the years that complement the musical perfectly without being distracting.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown will present “Evita” through June 23. Performances are 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets range from $25 to $38. For more information, visit www.smithtownpac.org or call 631-724-3700.

All photos by Courtney Braun/ Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts

On May 10 Stony Brook University students gathered at the campus’ Roth Pond to participate in the Roth Pond Regatta. The annual event, hosted by Undergraduate Student Government, is held to help students blow off some steam before finals as they take to the 200-yard pond in handmade cardboard boats. This year marked the event’s 30th anniversary and featured the Dr. Seuss and All Things Seussical theme. 

Dr. Frank S. Darras presents a signed baseball from the Stony Brook Medicine kidney transplant program to the 1969 World Champion Miracle Mets player Edward Kranepool. Photo from Stony Brook University

Ed Kranepool has proven once again that miracles do happen, especially when one is part of a team.

The former baseball player, who was a member of the Miracle Mets in 1969, received a new kidney last week at Stony Brook University Hospital thanks to a kidney paired exchange. Kranepool said before the transplant he had two teams — his family, and the Mets organization.

Dr. Frank S. Darras, medical director of Transplantation Services, back row left, and Dr. Wayne Waltzer, director of Kidney Transplantation Program, back row right, discuss four life-changing kidney swap surgeries in one day May 10. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

“Now I have an extended team,” he said. “I have our donors here today who certainly without them this program doesn’t exist, and you have to be forever grateful to them.”

Kranepool, 74, received a kidney from Deborah Barbieri, who was hoping to donate a kidney to her husband, but it turned out she wasn’t a match for him due to their different blood types. However, it turned out she was a match with Kranepool. Her husband Al Barbieri received a kidney the same day donated from Port Authority police officer Brian Cooney.

At a May 10 press conference at the hospital, three days after Kranepool, the Barbieris and Cooney underwent their procedures, they joined Dr. Frank Darras, medical director of Transplantation Services, and Dr. Wayne Waltzer, director of Kidney Transplantation Program, to discuss their experiences.

Darras said many with a need for a new kidney are on a waiting list for months or even years. More than 113,000 Americans are waiting for a transplant of some kind, and 80,000 are waiting for a kidney transplant. Out of those 80,000, 8,000 of them live in New York state.

He said many times a family member or friend wants to help a patient, but their blood types don’t match, like in the case of the Barbieris, or the potential donor has health problems of their own. Because of those long odds, he called the donors heroes.

“They do this to help somebody else,” Darras said.

He said Cooney’s altruistic call to the program set the paired exchange chain in motion.

“With that came the reality that we can do a paired exchange, because when he was tested the highest person of his blood type, blood type A, was Mr. Barbieri,” Darras said. “So, then we looked at his wife, who had been a willing donor for a couple of months as blood type AB, which is the most uncommon blood type, and we ran the AB blood list, and Mr. Kranepool was the highest on the AB list with the longest waiting time. So that’s what triggered us to get to this point today.”

The doctor said after the surgery, the remaining kidney of Cooney and Deborah Barbieri would grow and compensate to do 75-80 percent of the work, and there is no significant decrease in life expectancy or increase in kidney failure. He said patients have lived entire lives with a sole kidney, and those who receive one before undergoing dialysis treatments tend to do better. Kranepool was not at the point where he needed dialysis, and Darras said it would have been difficult for him due to high blood pressure and diabetes. A patient on dialysis can gain another five to seven years, while one who receives a new kidney can live another 15 years or more.

Waltzer added there is a discrepancy between those who need a kidney and those who donate. In 2018 there were only 1,619 living donor transplants in the state of New York and 1,047 deceased organ donors. He said the national visibility that Kranepool has given the cause could benefit everyone in need of an organ.

Cooney, 45, a former NYPD officer, said when he responded to Ground Zero after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, he witnessed devastation and, in the years that followed, more tragedy as first responders died from 9/11-related diseases. He said he realized how fortunate he is.

“I’d have a blessed life and a blessed career,” Cooney said. “I have very few problems to speak of and nothing to complain about.”

“It’s very difficult to see when you sit there with people who are next to you one day in the chair, and the next day they’re not there.”

— Al Barbieri

It was a few months ago he placed a call to the transplant center, and he said a few days after a visit to the hospital for a general checkup and consultation, he received the call that he was a match for someone.

“Sure enough I was able to set a chain in motion,” he said.

Al Barbieri, a volunteer firefighter in Glenwood Landing since 1982, said he was grateful for all the help in him getting his new kidney. He was placed on dialysis in 2016, four hours at a time, and he has seen many fellow patients lose their battles against kidney disease.

“It’s very difficult to see when you sit there with people who are next to you one day in the chair, and the next day they’re not there,” he said.

At the brink of crying, the organ recipient said he felt fortunate that he could now see his children graduate and be able to go to their weddings and meet his future grandchildren one day.

“Police officers are here in the world today, so firefighters can have heroes too,” he said.

Deborah Barbieri said that dialysis had made it difficult for the couple to go places, especially on vacation, something both of them are looking forward to doing once again.

“I decided to take a shot and go on the list, and it’s the best thing I ever did,” she said.

Kranepool said he felt fortunate to have Deborah Barbieri and Cooney step forward, and he wants to see the same happen for others by continuing to raise awareness. Last year, the former Mets player held press conferences around Long Island to urge residents to sign organ donation forms, and he said he plans to continue spreading the word about the importance of organ donations.

“You get that call,” he said. “I mean, they saved your life.”

This summer, Kranepool said he’s looking forward to spending time in the Hamptons with his wife, and also celebrating in the 50th anniversary of the Miracle Mets in June.

On the day he received the call that there was a donor for him, Kranepool said he had just finished telling his wife to stay positive about his situation. Then 10 minutes later the phone rang.

“It was like magic,” he said. “Something really happened right there.”

A rundown building on Gnarled Hollow Road and Route 25A may be demolished and the property turned into a passive park. Photo by Rita J. Egan

A familiar corner in East Setauket may get a permanent makeover.

On May 2, Town of Brookhaven council members and Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) unanimously approved a resolution to allow Suffolk County to begin the process of purchasing land parcels containing the old derelict building that sits across from East Setauket Pond Park on the southeast corner of Gnarled Hollow Road and Route 25A. The county is buying the land under the Suffolk County Drinking Water Protection program.

The resolution also authorizes the town to demolish the buildings on the property and maintain and manage the parcel as an open space passive park.

The passage of the town resolution follows a county resolution introduced by Suffolk County legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) that was approved in March. The county legislators determined the land parcel meets the criteria for acquisition under the drinking water program due to the land containing wetlands. The approval of the county resolution also allows Suffolk to appraise the property for possible purchase. Concrete Condor, LLC and Marine Midland Tinker National Bank are listed as the current owners of the buildings on the site.

Hahn said the spot has been recognized as an eyesore for years and is an environmentally sensitive area due to a stream flowing under the property and into waterways such as Setauket Harbor and East Setauket Pond Park. The building’s basement was known to constantly flood because of this running water.

She said the first step is an appraisal of the land parcel, and then the owner will be made an offer. If the offer is accepted, the county and town can move forward with plans for a passive park. She said the municipalities would also look for community input, and they have already consulted with town historian Barbara Russell to see if there is anything of historical value that needs to be preserved.

“It’s exciting that there is real opportunity there,” Hahn said.

Town councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said in an email the town is committed to preserving open space and creating it when possible.

“In this case, the property on Gnarled Hollow is in an environmentally sensitive wetlands area,” she said. “We think it is important to restore this location to its natural state or as close to natural as possible. This parcel was part of ongoing discussion among the elected officials including myself, [state]Assemblyman [Steve] Englebright, Legislator Hahn and Supervisor Romaine.”

Before the May 2 town council vote, George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, spoke in support of the resolution.

“We call it the Chippendale’s building because of the unique architecture on the top,” Hoffman said. “But it’s derelict, and it’s been boarded up now for seven or eight years.”

Hoffman described Setauket Harbor as an impaired waterway, and he said protecting the stream on the land parcel and the wetlands would help with the task force’s work to improve the waterway. He added a passive park also would be ideal in the location because it is located near where Roe Tavern once stood on Route 25A. Historians believe that General George Washington slept in the establishment in 1790 and traveled along the 25A corridor.

“It’s important for us as a community because it’s an eyesore,” he said.  “It’s helpful to us in terms of changing the ecology of the harbor, and it’s also important to us because of our historic highway.”

Michael Kaufman, of the Suffolk County Planning Commission and a task force member, said he scaled the fence one day to look at the property and described the wetlands as pristine.

He said the task force has partnered with the town to work in cleaning up and maintaining the park next to Se-Port Delicatessen across the street from the property. New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) secured a $1 million grant from the state for the Town of Brookhaven in 2016 to be used to improve water quality in Setauket Harbor. The grant was also allocated to help clean out the pond slightly west of Se-Port and fix the dock on Shore Road. The contract period began Oct. 1, 2018. Kaufman said the future open space would complement the current park across the street.

“There is a chance to really make something spectacular which we otherwise would not really have there on both sides of the street,” Kaufman said. “There’s an excellent entryway into the area and an excellent exit.”

Singer Billy Joel, bottom right, joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo and local legislators in the signing of the bill. Photo from Steve Englebright's office

Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law legislation sponsored by state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), while Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced that police would be cracking down harder on those who violate the Move Over law. And with temperatures rising, county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) challenges residents to get out and enjoy their local parks.

Governor signs Englebright’s legislation banning offshore oil and gas drilling

With singer Billy Joel on hand, Cuomo signed legislation sponsored by Englebright and state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) into law April 30.

The legislation will prohibit the use of state-owned underwater coastal lands for oil and natural gas drilling, and prevent state agencies from authorizing leases that would facilitate the development and production of oil or natural gas. It also prohibits the development of pipelines and other infrastructure associated with exploration, development or production of oil or natural gas from New York’s coastal waters.

“This legislation takes aggressive action to protect New York’s marine environment by prohibiting offshore drilling,” Englebright said in a statement. “This law will protect and defend our waters, keeping them safe for recreation, fishing and wildlife.”

Despite the Atlantic Coast being off limits for drilling for decades, in 2017, the federal government proposed a new National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program which would open more than 90 percent of the nation’s offshore waters to oil and gas drilling.

Englebright said the legislation will ensure the protection of endangered and threatened species as well as the state’s tourism and recreational and commercial fishing industries.

Bellone announces new campaign to crack down on Move Over state law violators

Suffolk County is cracking down on Move Over law violators with a multipronged awareness and enforcement campaign.

Bellone announced the campaign April 25 at a press conference in the hopes of increasing roadway safety for law enforcement personnel, emergency vehicles and road workers.

“Move Over is enforced for a reason — to ensure the safety of law enforcement, first responders and highway personnel,” Bellone said. “This public awareness effort is intended to protect our roads while protecting those whose job it is to enforce the rules of the road.”

Under New York State law, drivers traveling in the same direction must reduce speed and move from an adjacent lane to avoid colliding with a vehicle parked, stopped or standing on the shoulder or any portion of the highway when the vehicle is an authorized emergency response, tow truck or maintenance vehicle with its lights flashing.

The original legislation was signed into law by New York Gov. David Paterson (D) and took effect from Jan. 1, 2011. Cuomo expanded enforcement in 2012 to include maintenance and tow truck workers, and again in 2017 to include volunteer firefighters and volunteer EMTs.

Drivers who violate these laws are subject to fines of up to $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second offense within 18 months and $450 for a third offense within 18 months.

Public service announcements, including a 30-second television ad and a one-minute social media version, will educate residents on the importance of the law and how it helps keep the roads safe for police officers, emergency services personnel and roadway workers.

On April 25, the Suffolk County Police Department began using both unmarked and marked cars to crack down on violators. The department partnered with Maryland-based Rekor Recognition Systems earlier in the year to conduct a two-week study of compliance in the county.

The number of citations for the Move Over law has increased over the last five years with nearly 800 summonses issued in 2018, and since 2013 the SCPD has issued more than 2,600 summonses for Move Over law violations, according to SCPD.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn announces the A Park a Day in May challenge. Photo from Kara Hahn’s office

Hahn kicks off annual park challenge

County Legislator Hahn is encouraging Long Islanders to get out and explore once again.

On May 1, Hahn held a press conference at Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket to announce her fourth A Park a Day in May challenge. The location was the first of 31 parks that will be featured in the social media event.

For every day in May, participants will find a description with photos of a different park through Facebook. Participants are then invited to take and post a picture of themselves with the hashtags #APADIM and #aparkaday. Daily A Park a Day in May posts will be added to www.facebook.com/karahahnld5.

“The May sun has always been a beacon, drawing me back out after the biting cold of winter,” Hahn said. “With life returning to nature, my intention was to find a way to return life back into our parks.”

Linda Sanders, Frank Melville Memorial Foundation trustee, said she hopes residents will enjoy the challenge and thanked Hahn for including the park.

“I grew up visiting parks, beaches and open spaces in my youth in Southern California,” Sanders said. “My family’s trips and times together spent outside in nature are some of my fondest memories.”

Hahn’s office will also once again have Park Passport booklets available. Children can collect badges by traveling to any of 24 local parks contained in the booklet. At each park, participants search for a hidden sign and check in by either scanning a QR code or entering the web address listed on the sign, which then loads a printable logo page that the child cuts and pastes into his or her passport. Residents can call 631-854-1650 for more information.

— compiled by Rita J. Egan

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