Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Poquott residents are protesting the village board trustees approving a 5-year bond for a community dock. File photo

Poquott’s village hall is finally back in business a month after the June 20 election for two board trustees.

Debbie Stevens, one of the five candidates for the position, dropped a lawsuit against the village before a July 19 hearing. Stevens came in third with 178 votes, while New York City firefighter John Richardson won one seat with 195 votes and incumbent Jeff Koppelson the other with 180 votes.

Debbie Stevens

Stevens had disputed the discarding of the rule that voters must be registered 10 days before an election. She also had an issue with voters with dual residency being able to vote, and Mayor Dee Parrish’s son being an election inspector. Due to her challenging the election results, the Suffolk County Board of Election recanvassed ballots June 29.

Attorney Scott Middleton of Campolo, Middleton & McCormick, LLP represented the village in the case. He said before the election Poquott’s village attorney called the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials and asked about residents who registered less than 10 days before the election and was under the impression that if a person was generally qualified to vote, taking into consideration that they were a U.S. citizen and met the age requirements, they could vote.

“It’s a village election,” Middleton said. “People aren’t thinking about an election in June, everybody thinks about November. Village elections are held in March or June. By the time [residents] are starting to think about it, and they want to exercise their right, if they just moved into the village, it may not be within that 10-day window. That’s why I think that the advisory opinion of NYCOM is that they can be permitted to vote as long as they qualify.”

Middleton said an elementary error in the lawsuit was that Stevens only named the village even though she was required to name all four candidates in it to proceed. Stevens said this was something she didn’t want to do, especially when it came to Richardson, who she ran with on the Peace Party ticket. If she won the lawsuit, a new election would need to take place.

“The corruption continues and that was really why I did this,” Stevens said. “It wasn’t to overturn the election.

I didn’t want that.”

Another factor in her decision to drop the case was the village cancelling meetings since the lawsuit was filed. The owner of Smoothe Laser Center and Medi Spa in East Setauket said she felt dropping the lawsuit was what’s best for the village.

“I’d rather opt for peace than justice,” Stevens said.

Richardson was sworn in as trustee July 12, while Koppelson took his oath July 19 after the lawsuit was dismissed. In an email, Koppelson said the board members accomplished a good amount at their July 20 meeting after not assembling for a few weeks.

“I have to say that the best thing about this meeting was that there seemed to be a desire among everyone to cooperate and stay task-oriented,” Koppelson said. “There were few if any contentious issues. I am optimistic that we can all work together, and if that happens, there will be little blowback from the residents who have been consistently oppositional, angry and disruptive.”

Stevens said she plans to continue attending village hall meetings, and hopes she can play her part in creating better communication between residents and the board members. For the last three years she feels residents have been extremely divided in Poquott.

Stevens said she has been thinking about next year’s election for two trustees and mayor.

“I’m not even sure of that answer,” she said when asked about running again. “I’m doing a lot of thinking. I know in my heart of hearts that I want what’s best for the village.”

Parade participants this year on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, France. Photo by Michael Shurkin

By Edna Ayme-Yahil

When I was 11 years old, I was confronted with what would appear to be a simple decision. I received a letter from R. C. Murphy Junior High requesting that I choose which language to study. Little did I realize that by ticking off the box in front of French rather than Spanish, German or Latin,  was sealing my future fate. Thirty years later, I’d find myself married to a François rather than a Francisco or a Frank, living in Paris instead of Madrid, Santiago or Vienna, and reflecting on what it means to be an American in Paris on July 14, a day steeped in symbolism when a U.S. president that I didn’t vote for came to visit a French president for whom I would have voted had I been allowed.

Le Quatorze Juillet

The French celebrate Le Quatorze Juillet to commemorate the storming of the Bastille (July 14, 1789) and the Fête de la Fédération (July 14, 1790). In 1880, July 14 was proclaimed a national holiday and has been celebrated ever since with a military parade in Paris.

Since the end of World War I — except for the period of German Occupation from 1940-44 — the French President and hundreds of thousands of citizens gather on the Champs -Élysées to watch the military parade. The President of the Republic often uses the occasion of the 14 Juillet to make political statements. For example, in 2007, troops from the other 26 European Union member states marched to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome; the parade in 2014 commemorated the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I with representatives of the 80 nations that participated in the war invited to the ceremony.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, Americans love to celebrate Bastille Day, as the holiday is called in the Anglophone world, with viewings of “The Triplets of Belleville”, wine tastings and parades. From New York City to New Orleans to Philadelphia to Milwaukee, Americans fete the occasion with a passion and friendship that belies a relationship  with France that can best be described as love-hate despite the fact that France has consistently been a staunch ally of the U.S. since the Revolutionary War — think Lafayette and both World Wars versus “freedom fries,” the Iraq War,  and “cheese eating surrender monkeys”.

Edna Ayme-Yahil graduated from Ward Melville High School and currently lives in Paris, France. Photo from Edna Ayme-Yahil

14 July 2017

Late last month, Emmanuel Macron invited Donald Trump to be his guest of honor this 14 Juillet with a dinner at a chic restaurant located inside the Eiffel Tower followed by the place of honor at the military parade — which also included American troops this year to celebrate 100 years of the entry of the U.S. into WWI. This is despite the fact that Trump supported Macron’s opponent, the far-right populist Marine Le Pen, in France’s recent elections, the two men are at opposite sides of the climate change debate, and as recently as a month ago, Trump declared that he “was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

The irony of Trump’s visit to France and his new-found bromance with Macron lies in the symbolism of this day, which represents overcoming the despotism of monarchy and the oppression of people who spoke up as well as the reality of these two modern leaders. Over the course of one year, between 14 Juillet 1789 and 1790, France had abolished feudalism and adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizen, a document that intended to protect French citizens’ equality, freedom of speech, and political representation. America’s Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence grew out of this same Enlightenment philosophy. How does this jive with the train wreck that is Trump’s presidency as well as Macron’s channeling of the Sun King at Versailles?

Luckily, both French and Americans could choose how to celebrate the occasion this year. Those who wanted to support the festivities made their way to the Champs early Friday morning. For those who hate Trump, there was a No Trump Zone party in the Place de la République on the evening of the 13th and a “Don’t Let Your Guard Down Against Trump” march on the 14th that started from the Place de Clichy. I know where I was. And if the recent Pew Research study is correct, 86 percent of the French population joined me there, at least in spirit.

Edna Ayme-Yahil is head of communications for EIT Digital and on the Board of the European Association of Communication Directors. She graduated from Ward Melville High School in Setauket and currently lives in Paris with her French husband and 10-year-old bi-cultural daughter.

Alyssa Iryami, left, and Audrey Shine, right, stand by their SuperSilk presentation at the July 14 Clean Tech Contest. Photo from Corbett Public Relations

Stony Brook University was bursting with “clean” and “green” alternatives July 14 thanks to high school students competing in the international Spellman High Voltage Electronics Clean Tech Contest, a competition geared to challenging teenagers to identify and create solutions to environmental and green building problems.

Now in its sixth year, July 14 was the first time the international competition took place on Long Island. It was hosted by the Center for Science Teaching and Learning of Rockville Centre, which encourages children to learn about science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The nine teams on hand — which included seven from the United States, one from Singapore and another from the Philippines — competed for the top prize of $10,000. The teams earned their spots in the finals after beating out 230 other teams from around the globe in previous competitions.

This year’s theme was Creating a Greener Future, and the contestants outlined their findings for solutions in topics such as sustainability, green building, “sick” building syndrome and energy efficiency.

In the end, two Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School students, Alyssa Iryami, 15, and Audrey Shine, 16, emerged the winners with their SuperSilk project. Feeding silkworms graphene, an allotrope of carbon, the girls were able to create strong, natural silk to construct low-cost water purification filters.

After the competition Alyssa and Audrey were ecstatic about their win.

“It’s been such a journey,” Audrey said in a statement. “It’s been a long day. It’s been a long year really because we started this in September, and now that we got this far I can’t believe it.”

Audrey said that both of their grandfathers had experience working with silkworms — hers in China and Alyssa’s in Iran.

The girls said it’s important for young people to get involved in creating green solutions. Alyssa said the sooner such solutions are applied the more people can do to protect the future of the planet to prevent “devastation and destruction.”

Loren Skeist, president of Spellman High Voltage Electronics, back row right, and finalists in the July 14 Clean Tech Contest. Photo from Corbett Public Relations

“Right now the world needs more environmentally friendly options considering that there’s a lot of pollution and water levels rising,” Alyssa said.

Loren Skeist, president of Spellman High Voltage Electronics, a Hauppauge-based company that sponsored the event, said in a statement the company became involved because the competition touches on important issues and topics that are of interest to the business, plus other aspects were attractive to them.

“The manner in which it’s done both in terms of focusing on practical applications that can have a meaningful impact on one of the central issues of our time, and working as teams and then providing the contestants with an opportunity to interact with teams and high schools from other areas around the world, it’s just a wonderful concept,” he said.

Skeist was not a judge at the event, which he said enabled him to interact with the teams more so than the judges were able to. He said he appreciated the students’ enthusiasm, energy and creativity, and the winners’ concept was extraordinary. He said he hoped the competition will encourage the contestants to continue with innovative green projects and support similar activities by others. 

“I learned from their presentations,” he said. “And it gets me excited about the opportunities to use technology to address important issues. They made me maybe more aware of issues that I hadn’t even been fully aware of [before], and some that I had been aware of but was not aware that there was this kind of approach to solve.”

Ray Ann Havasy, director of the Center for Science Teaching and Learning of Rockville Centre and Long Island administrator of the competition, said all the team members possessed creativity, which she said most people don’t realize is a big part of science. She said she was pleased with this year’s venue.

“This place has such a reputation for science and technology,” she said in a statement about Stony Brook.

The administrator of the competition said she was impressed by the winners’ enthusiasm.

“Something simple as silk combined with something that we know of graphene — I think how excited they were that something so common can become something so great,” she said.

Havasy said she hoped students such as the ones involved in the competition will inspire other young people to become involved in STEM education and work on green projects.

“The earth is changing and we need to save it,” she said. “I hate to sound pessimistic but if we don’t believe we can save it, it’s going to keep going the way it is.”

File photo of Ward Melville by Greg Catalano

The Three Village Central School District is taking a proactive stance to battling drug and alcohol abuse in the community.

In May, residents approved the district’s $204.4 million budget for the 2017-18 academic year, which includes the addition of a certified drug and alcohol counselor. Heather Reilly accepted the position, and sat down with school administrators last week to discuss short-term and long-term plans that not only involve offering one-on-one counseling, but also educational programs in the schools and local area.

Catherine Taldone, director of school and community partnerships, said Reilly will spend one day a week at each of the two junior high schools, and split the rest of the week between Ward Melville High School and the district’s alternative high school, The Three Village Academy. The district is also developing a plan for the counselor to work in conjunction with health class teachers to create a program for sixth-grade students.

Taldone said the time had come to hire someone to address the growing problem.

“In order to help those students and recognize the problems we are seeing in our school district, as well as the problems that are being seen in every school district right now, we felt that it needed and required someone with a specific background and training to address those young people and work as well with families to see if we can make some changes and help some students get the help that they need,” she said in a phone interview.

Heather Reilly has accepted the position of drug and alcohol counselor in the Three Village Central School District. Photo from Heather Reilly

Reilly, a licensed social worker with a master’s degree in forensic psychology, said she has two years of substance abuse counseling, which will be her main focus in the district, along with prevention. She has worked with the Long Island-based nonprofit WellLife Network, which focuses on healthy recovery and wellness, and also has experience conducting screenings for mental health and drug courts. Children can come to the counselor even if a family member or friend is an alcoholic or addict. She said she is looking forward to reaching out to local agencies and developing a program rounded in research-based practices.

“It’s a very proactive approach as opposed to waiting for there to be an even bigger issue,” she said of the district’s decision to hire a counselor. “I’m very excited to be part of a new program — something that we can really get off the ground and really impact the community in a positive way.”

Reilly will also be available to families and faculty, and will be educating teachers, who she describes as “the first line of defense,” about the signs to look for and trends that sometimes include slang words to refer to drugs.

Reilly said treating children with substance abuse problems is different than working with adults, and it’s important for students to have someone they can trust and receive reliable information from.

“I think with children or adolescents, there’s less thought of the consequences in the future,” she said. “Their brains really aren’t developed in that way yet. It’s really important to come at students in a very nonjudgmental way. It’s normal to have these thoughts of curiosity and experimentation, but you really need to give them knowledge so they can make the most informed decisions. You’d be really surprised how little students know about the long-term consequences.”

The local problem with drugs is something Ward Melville High School Principal Alan Baum said he never shied away from. In 2014, he was trained to administer Narcan, a medicine used to reverse the effects of opioids. After his experience, he had the high school staff trained in its use. Now, all secondary school teachers and nurses in the district have also been trained. Three Village aims to have elementary school teachers qualified in the near future.

Baum said more than 10 years ago there was a substance counselor through BOCES, but the position was removed. He is pleased that the district has now hired someone that can focus on the drug and alcohol issues facing the community. Both Baum and Reilly said another problem is vaping, which is the practice of inhaling or exhaling vapors produced by an electronic cigarette, a device that can also hold marijuana.

Although the principal said he has not seen an increase in the number of kids addicted or seeking help, and has never had to have Narcan administered within the confines of the school buildings in the area, he thought the hiring of a counselor was still a necessary move.

“Just like any other suburban area, this is an unfortunate fact of life that exists no matter where you are,” Baum said. “It’s not unique to Three Village, it’s not unique to Suffolk County. This happens across the state and across the nation. We have a problem and I want to do whatever we can to help and tackle and address this issue.”

Cheryl Pedisich, the district’s superintendent, echoed Baum’s sentiments.

“The Three Village Central School District takes a proactive and steadfast approach to educating our students and residents about the dangers of drug and alcohol use, and has dedicated robust resources to both prevention and intervention services for students and their families,” she said in a statement. “This year, we are proud to expand upon past practices through the introduction of a certified drug and alcohol counselor and an enhanced preventive K-12 curriculum. We truly believe that it is through these initiatives and services that we are able to fulfill our mission of providing a well-rounded social, emotional and wellness program.”

Ellen Barcel. File photo by Elana Glowatz

South Setauket resident, local gardening columnist and former Arts & Lifestyles editor Ellen Barcel, 72, died after a battle with cancer July 16.

Her friend Judy Hallock said the writer and editor died peacefully in her home and was happy to spend her last days with her dog Teddy Bear, cat Daisy and friends.

Hallock said Barcel retired from teaching social studies in the Patchogue-Medford Union Free School District in 1996 and was an avid follower of gardening, quilting, having afternoon tea with friends and playing the dominoes game Mexican Train. Barcel was involved for decades, even serving on the board of trustees for a period, with the Southold Indian Museum, which is dedicated to the study and education surrounding archaeology and natural history. She was a Master Gardener through Cornell Cooperative Extension.

Hallock said Barcel was an only child and moved to Long Island with her family in her late teen years and attended Stony Brook University. While Barcel leaves behind no husband or children, Hallock said the former TBR employee “grew a family around her” with her friends.

“She earned it by being who she was,” Hallock said. “She was always a great friend.”

Hallock remembers Barcel as always being there for others and providing a shoulder to cry on and will always remember her smile, good nature, kindness and enthusiasm.

Barcel began as a freelance writer for Times Beacon Record Newspapers after retiring from teaching, and July 15, 1999, became the editor of the Arts & Lifestyles section.

Jane O’Sullivan, a former editor of a few TBR Newspapers, said she remembers Barcel’s love for animals and gardening.

“She was interested in so many things,” O’Sullivan said. “I can’t think of anything that bored her.”

Both O’Sullivan and Marie Murtagh, former executive editor of TBR Newspapers, remember Barcel as always being fun to work with during the years they worked together in the office.

“She used to say she loved her job because there were so many good things going on,” Murtagh said.

Murtagh said the A&L editor always did a great job in gathering information about local events.

“She was somebody who enjoyed all the things that Long Island had to offer and other people finding out about them and enjoying them as well,” she said.

This year Barcel received an honorable mention from the New York Press Association in the Best Special Section/Niche Publications category for her freelance work on the 40th anniversary supplement for TBR Newspapers. “Stiff competition is the only reason this pub did not place,” judges wrote. “Beautifully done.”

Donations in Barcel’s memory can be made to the Southold Indian Museum, 1080 Main Bayview Road, Southold, NY 11971.

With heavy hearts, the staff of Times Beacon Record News Media say goodbye to a beloved colleague.

Leah Dunaief, publisher

“Ellen Barcel was a totally professional journalist and a pleasure to work with,” Dunaief said. “She was a fine writer, committed to her work and to the community. Her world was made more beautiful by the flowers she loved and surrounded herself with, and she tended her responsibilities with the same care that she gave her garden. Ellen was a loyal and gentle friend, and we will miss her greatly.”

Johness Kuisel, general manager

“She was a beautiful and talented writer who composed her column in her head after reviewing pictures she had taken, and the words just flowed,” Kuisel said. “Her Times Beacon Record family will miss her talent and good nature.”

File photo by Ellen Barcel

Heidi Sutton, editor of Arts & Lifestyles

“I met Ellen in June of 2013 when I started working for the paper,” Sutton said. “I had read her gardening column for years and was a big fan. When she decided to retire from the paper as the Arts & Lifestyles editor in 2013, I had big shoes to fill. She continued to write her gardening column and freelance but most of all became a good friend. Ellen often spoke of spending time in her garden. That’s how I’ll remember her — walking through her garden admiring the flowers, gently scolding her dog Teddy for eating all the tomatoes and smiling.”

Kathryn Mandracchia, advertising director

“I absolutely loved working with her,” Mandracchia said. “She was kind, always smiling, and a joy to be around. I am saddened by her loss, and I will miss sharing pet and plant stories with her.”

Ellen Segal, director of classified advertising

“Ellen Barcel was a smart and very sweet lady,” Segal said. “When I first came to TBR Newspapers, editorial was on the main floor near my new office, and I was impressed by her work ethic and her community knowledge. She reached out and welcomed me and, of course, we both exclaimed we didn’t know too many people with the name we both shared, Ellen, derived from the same Greek root — which means light, torch or bright.”

Meg Malangone, office coordinator

“Ellen was a beautiful, sweet individual, inside and out,” Malangone said. “Once you got to know her, you were graced with a wonderful, sometimes sassy personality. She loved her gardening and her pets. She bloomed wherever she was planted. Ellen was sunshine, and those who knew and loved her, were warmed by her smile and the light she brought to others’ lives.”

Caroline Church’s Carriage Shed has been fenced in and will receive much-needed repairs. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Two historical structures in Setauket are slated to get much-needed makeovers.

Recently Frank Melville Memorial Park and Caroline Church of Brookhaven were notified that they were awarded grants from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation to offset the costs of upcoming restoration projects. The park will receive $44,330 to restore the Bates Barn, better known as the Red Barn, and the church will be awarded $23,700 to stabilize the Carriage Shed. Both are matching grants, which means the organizations had to raise funds to cover half of each project before requesting the other half in funds from the foundation.

Kathryn Curran, executive director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, shed some light on what made the organizations appealing options to receive the grants.

“The organization has to be truly historically significant to the community, have a great outreach educationally, and they also have to have the capacity to fulfill the request, meaning that they have to have money in place if it’s a restoration project,” Curran said.

The executive director said the Red Barn and Carriage Shed not only met the requirements but also were ideal choices.

Frank Melville Memorial Park’s Red Barn, the site of many of the park’s programs, is slated to be restored this fall. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“[Setauket] is such a historically significant community to Long Island so it was an easy understanding of the needs for the projects to move forward,” Curran said. “And, they have a proven record to being historic stewards of these sites.”

Robert Reuter, president of the Frank Melville Memorial Foundation, said the Red Barn is one of the structures that supports the park being on the National Register of Historic Places and is a transplant from Camp Upton in Yaphank, which was used by the U.S. Army during World War I. After the camp was closed, barns were recycled and the timber was used at various locations on Long Island. The Setauket barn was restyled as an English barn from the timbers and serves as the backdrop for the park’s concerts and programs and is also used for storage.

“After we get it restored, we’re going to use it even more,” Reuter said.

The foundation president said the 1,056 square-foot barn needs structural restoration, which includes straightening, and the building up of the existing foundation to a level where it will be protected from flooding, which Reuter said the park has experienced more frequently of late. The siding also needs to be replaced.

He said the restoration of the barn began as a proposal five years ago but during the last year and a half the trustees have worked in earnest obtaining architectural drawings, securing inspections and working on applying for the grant. Reuter said the Gardiner foundation is very explicit about having everything in order before submitting a grant proposal, including having permits in place, quotes and bids.

“It’s a great deal of work leading up to the point where you can make an acceptable application,” Reuter said.

He said park foundation trustee Linda Sanders worked on the grant and did a great job in compiling all the information about the barn that is “used as a touch point in talks and walks by the historical society.”

“[The grant] is a very compelling story about the importance of this building not only in its own right but as an integral part of the diverse story of our history,” Reuter said.

Reuter said some work can begin immediately but the bulk of the restoration will be done in the fall. First the roof will be pulled off to relieve the weight, and it will be a slow process to straighten and stabilize the barn, because “it’s starting to deform as buildings do.”

Sanders said it was Reuter and Barbara Russell, Brookhaven town historian, who originally envisioned the project. She said Reuter conceptualized the project and scoped out the work needed, while Russell researched the history. She said she was delighted that the foundation recognized the historical significance of the park and barn.

“This is really in the center of the Setauket historical crescent, as I call it, that stretches from the Village Green to down Main Street to the historical society,” Sanders said.

The foundation trustee said she sees the barn as an example of not only local history but also the “reuse, recycle and repurpose” sentiment.

“When we tour the Red Barn structure, children particularly are exposed to all of the individuals who have come before them that have participated in stewarding our community assets into the present,” she said. 

Sanders said the park was able to match the Gardiner grant due to the original endowment fund from the Melville family. However, due to the fact that the funds are usually needed for maintenance work such as landscaping and tree work the FMMF will make an appeal to the community to publicly raise the park’s $44,330 half of the project in the near future as it’s the board’s responsibility to raise money for larger projects.

The Caroline Church’s Carriage Shed circa 1956 before structural damage. Photo from Caroline Church of Brookhaven

Russell, who is a member of Caroline Church’s vestry, said the Carriage Shed, built in 1887, is located on the east side of Bates Road on the church’s property and is one of the four contributing structures to the church being on the National Register of Historic Places.

The $23,700 from the Gardiner Foundation was matched by funds raised by the church from parishioners and community members and will cover the cost of stabilizing the shed that once was a place for church members to park their carriages while attending services and in later years even cars. Currently the internal framework needs replacing, as the supporting locust posts are sinking into the ground, according to Russell.

The historian said the work should be completed in the fall. After the stabilization is done, another fundraiser will be organized to repair the cedar-shingled roof.

“We have a responsibility to keep these structures in good repair,” Russell said.

The Three Village Historical Society has used the shed for its Spirits Tour, and the church has held its annual blessing of the animals there as well.

Russell said grants like the one from the Gardiner Foundation are a big help to churches and she encouraged others to apply.

“For any older churches in Suffolk County, this is a prayer answered,” Russell said.

For more information on the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation and the grants they offer, visit

After losing by two votes, newcomer is challenging validity of ballots

Poquott residents are protesting the village board trustees approving a 5-year bond for a community dock. File photo

t seems the dust hasn’t settled yet after Poquott’s June 20 election for two trustee seats.

While challenger John Richardson emerged as a clear winner for one seat, it was a tight race between newcomer Debbie Stevens and incumbent Jeff Koppelson for the second spot. Stevens recently filed a lawsuit in Suffolk County Supreme Court in Riverhead to review the results.

Debbie Stevens

At the end of election night, Stevens had a slim lead over Koppelson before absentee and 10 contested votes were counted. Official results were delayed and not announced by the village until the next day, after election inspectors retained by the village and certified by the Suffolk County Board of Elections completed the count at Poquott’s Village Hall. Koppelson was declared the winner with 180 votes, while Stevens received 178.

After Stevens challenged the results, the village brought the ballots to the headquarters of the board of elections in Yaphank June 29, where the votes were hand counted by board staff members and certified by  county election commissioners Nick LaLota (R) and  Anita Katz (D).

LaLota said the village clerk handed over the ballots to their bipartisan team, and they hand counted each ballot, and their results were the same as the village’s count. However, the board of elections was not involved in any decisions involving the disputed ballots.

Stevens’ attorney George Vlachos of George C. Vlachos & Associates in Central Islip, said the village was served with a show-cause order last week to appear in court. A hearing will be held in Riverhead July 19.

Vlachos, who was originally retained by Stevens and Richardson to monitor the election, said he and his client have taken issue with the discarding of the rule that voters must be registered 10 days before an election. He said all the votes, no matter when the voter registered, were counted.

Jeff Koppelson

The attorney said he also questions whether the ballots were secured after the polls closed. He said he was on hand at Village Hall until the end of the night June 20, and there were approximately five or six ballots that were mismarked and had to be interpreted as far as what the voters’ intents were. He said he only saw one of those ballots presented to the board of elections. The lawyer said he remembers one ballot the night of June 20 where a voter chose three candidates instead of two. Vlachos said that ballot was not brought to the board.

LaLota said he had heard about the mismarked ballots before the recount, but didn’t see any major issues.

“There were up to two ballots that required a minimal review by the bipartisan team, but they easily came to a conclusion,” he said.

Koppelson declined to comment until after the matter is resolved, and Vlachos requested his client not talk directly to the press.

Vlachos added that many people from the village have offered to pay for his services to get to the bottom of the matter.

“This may just be the tip of the iceberg,” the attorney said. “I’m doing whatever investigation I need to do. I’m not sure what’s going on in Poquott, but I’m going to find out.”

Setauket firefighters, above, fighting a 2010 stable fire in Old Field. File photo by Dennis Whittam

Old Field Village residents may have input in official matters of the Setauket Fire District in the near future depending on the outcome of a July 20 public hearing in Brookhaven Town.

Village Mayor Michael Levine said Old Field currently receives contractual services from the Setauket Fire District and is now looking to become an official part of it. The inclusion of Old Field will require the district to expand its boundaries, which needs town approval.

While nothing would change regarding fire and emergency medical services for the village, Old Field residents would have an official say in what goes on in the district if the motion passes — including voting on budgets, referendums, fire commissioners or running themselves. Village residents currently receive fire services and can volunteer as a firefighter, though they cannot vote in fire district elections.

The mayor said for approximately 30 years Old Field has received emergency services on a contractual basis from the Setauket Fire District. In September, when the five-year contract was up for renewal, the village board members unanimously decided to become part of the fire district and received a one-year extension of their contract to start the process.

The first step of the possible expansion of the fire district was New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signing a bill Sept. 29, 2016 that permitted the Brookhaven Town board to proceed with the process.

The mayor said if the village had simply renewed the contract this year, it would have been significantly more than in previous years — from $385,000 to more than $500,000. Fire services currently make up 40 percent of the village’s budget.

If the town approves the expansion of the fire district, Levine said the current amount for contractual services will come off the village’s $1,115,500 budget, and residents will see a 40 percent reduction in their village taxes. The taxes for the fire district will then be line listed in residents’ Brookhaven tax bills as it is for all residents of the Three Village area.

Levine said he hopes the upcoming town resolution will be approved.

“[The Setauket Fire District has] always provided wonderful fire services to the village,” Levine said. “Nothing will change in that respect.”

Dave Sterne, district manager of the Setauket Fire District, said the district is happy to continue their relationship with Old Field and looks forward to village members becoming more involved.

Sterne said for the fire department there isn’t much of a difference between serving a community within the district or one that happens to have a contract with them.

“We respond exactly the same way,” Sterne said.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said in an email that the proposed expansion would have no fiscal impact on the town.

“The Setauket Fire District is not a town-wide fire district,” she said. “Therefore any potential impact will be limited to the geographic boundaries covered by the Setauket Fire District.”

Cartright also said after discussions with the town’s law department there will be no impact to current fire district residents if the expansion is approved.

However, she said there is a possibility that Old Field residents may see a slight increase to their fire taxes compared to what they are paying the village now.

“If the Village of Old Field residents are included in the Setauket Fire District boundaries, village property owners will pay the exact same tax rate for fire protection services that existing fire district property owners pay,” she said.

Sterne said the change will not affect the fire district’s budget as it’s based on needs, and they already serve Old Field.   

A map, plan and report of the proposed extension prepared by Farrell Fritz, P.C. will be available for review in the town clerk’s office Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at least 10 days before the public hearing.

The hearing will be held July 20 at 6 p.m. at Brookhaven Town Hall. Anyone with an interest in the proposal will be given the opportunity to speak on the record.

Demonstrators, above, at the May 10 March for Humanities at Stony Brook University protested potential cuts to humanities programs. Photo by Caroline Parker

Despite protests from students and faculty members, which included a March for Humanities rally May 10, the administration of Stony Brook University has decided to move ahead with the consolidation of departments in the College of Arts and Sciences.

In a June 22 email from Sacha Kopp, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, the announcement was made the school will create a new Department of Comparative World Literature by combining the current departments of European Languages; Literatures & Cultures; Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature and Hispanic Languages & Literature.

“This newly combined department will draw upon faculty strengths in literature, culture and language across the college and reinforce Stony Brook’s position as a global institution,” he said in the email.

Kopp said undergraduate majors and minors in Spanish, French, Italian and German as well as a minor in Russian and master’s degree programs in language teaching would all be contained within the new department. The university will also continue to offer the graduate degree program in Hispanic languages and literature.

Other changes include the suspension of admissions into the undergraduate degree programs in theatre arts; comparative literature; cinema and cultural studies and into the graduate degree programs in cultural studies and comparative literature.

“While suspending admissions into programs is an extremely difficult decision, it is important to recognize that if constrained resources were spread over a growing number of programs, all of our programs would be weakened,” Kopp said. “That said we are building resources in key departments that have demonstrated academic and scholarly excellence.”

Port Jefferson resident Naomi Solo, whose husband Richard was part of the university faculty for five decades, said she was disappointed in the news, especially when it came to the suspension of admissions to the theatre arts program as she remembers the political theater of the 1960s and 70s.

“[The theatre arts program] is something that’s not a big money maker but makes a fuller university,” Solo said.

Kopp said that the university has planned no course changes for the 2017-18 academic year and students enrolled as of May 1 in the upcoming suspended programs will be able to complete their studies.

“For the fewer than 100 students who are currently enrolled in the degree programs into which new admissions are being suspended, every one of these students will have the opportunity to complete their programs, and we will honor existing commitments to graduate students for teaching assistantships,” he said.

According to a Frequently Asked Questions section created by the university on their website regarding the changes, the institution is making every effort to limit the impact to faculty and staff. The university is planning to reassign most; however, “some term appointments may not be renewed.” Administrators are also exploring other elements as part of a process to address the university’s “overarching budgetary challenges. According to the FAQ, “when put into practice we anticipate savings in excess of $1 million.”

Kopp said the changes occurred after discussions with faculty leadership, members of the university administration, the provost, the graduate school and the university senate.

Jordan Helin, a Ph.D. candidate in history and a department mobilizer in the history department for the Graduate Student Employees Union, participated in the May rally that the GSEU organized. Helin in an email said he wasn’t surprised by the announcement, and he sees no reason for the GSEU to give up on opposing the plan.

“A decision made is a decision that can be unmade,” he said. “Up until now, the administration has gotten by on waving off criticism because they are just floating ideas and nothing has been decided. Now that they have decided, they can be attacked with more specificity.”

Caroline Parker, who just completed her sophomore year and participated in the May rally, said in an email the combining of departments “flies in the face of the ‘commitment to diversity’ Stony Brook likes to uphold.”

“It’s true that these programs are small in numbers, but the critical thinking skills, cross-cultural exploration, creative expression and research taught therein are immeasurable for their far-reaching implications beyond borders and disciplines,” she said.

Parker said she is concerned about the future of the college.

“A true university cannot exist without humanities,” she said. “While people will be able to finish their degrees in the suspended programs, I fear the loss is a slippery slope and shows Stony Brook has lost sight of its mission, which will certainly affect future prospective students and the richness of our campus now.”

Amber Ferrari will pay tribute to Pat Benatar on July 15. Photo by Marie Fristachi

By Rita J. Egan

Vocalist Amber Ferrari is ready to hit music lovers with her best shot by taking on the hits of pop icon Pat Benatar.

Amber Ferrari as Pat Benatar

Known on Long Island for her production Joplin’s Pearl Featuring Amber Ferrari, dedicated to the ’60s icon Janis Joplin, Ferrari recently decided to create a show paying tribute to the music of Benatar — the singer behind hits such as “Love Is a Battlefield,” “We Belong,” “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” “Heartbreaker” and so much more. The new production, Benatar Featuring Amber Ferrari, will debut at Theatre Three July 15 as part of the venue’s Summer Concert Series.

It’s no surprise that the local singer is taking on the icon’s music. Not only are both from Long Island — Ferrari a native of East Patchogue and Benatar a graduate of Lindenhurst Senior High School — but both possess large vocal ranges. Ferrari said Benatar’s vocal style is one of the reasons she loves singing her songs, citing the pop stars knack for being able to sing classically or rock ‘n’ roll with a rasp.

“I enjoy singing rock music, and her songs have such a large vocal range,” Ferrari said. “She sings both clean and dirty, so I’m able to use both aspects of my vocals, and I love doing that.”

Ferrari said Benatar’s 1980 “Hell Is for Children” from the “Crimes of Passion” album and the second single from the “Precious Time” LP, “Promises in the Dark,” are among her favorites. “I love ‘Hell Is for Children’ because it’s so hard vocally, and ‘Promises in the Dark’ because the vocal range is so large,” she said. “It goes slow to up-tempo as well.”

Similar to her Janis Joplin show, and her 2015 production Material Girl Featuring Amber Ferrari, which spotlights Madonna’s hits, the Benatar show will open with a few songs from other artists. Ferrari said she has selected hits from Blondie, Melissa Etheridge, Linda Rondstadt and Journey as well as one of her own.

Ferrari said Theatre Three is the perfect spot to debut her new show. “Theatre Three has a dear spot in my heart,” she said. “First theater I ever did one of my full shows at was Theatre Three.” It was during Ferrari’s participation in the theater’s production of Woodstockmania: Woodstock in Concert in 2005 where the late music director Ellen Michelmore asked Ferrari to sing Joplin’s songs. After that experience, she was inspired to perform the legend’s songs on a regular basis and created her signature show.

Douglas Quattrock, director of development and group sales and marketing coordinator at Theatre Three, said he is always excited when Ferrari performs at the theater but he’s even more than usual with the singer debuting the Benatar show at the venue.

“As an artist, she is always expanding her horizons and never fails to impress her audiences with new material,” he said. “So when she told me she was thinking of putting together a Benatar show, I was thrilled. It is a perfect fit for her.” Quattrock said he is looking forward to Ferrari’s renditions of “We Belong” and “Promises in the Dark.”

The production will also feature special guest Teddy Rondinelli from the group Rondinelli who has performed with Vanilla Fudge and Robert Plant. Ferrari will be accompanied by her band, which includes Chris Ferrari on guitar, Mike Chiusano on bass, Gary Gonzalez on drums, Bob Bellucci on keyboards and Jim Carroll on percussion.

Ferrari said she’s attended concerts of Benatar’s in the past, and her performances are amazing to see. One day she hopes she’ll have the opportunity to meet the icon. Until then, she’s busy rehearsing for the her new show’s debut and is hoping music lovers will enjoy the production.

She encourages audience members to wear their favorite Benatar-inspired outfit the night of the show, too. “I hope they’ll have a rocking great time, and it will bring them back to the ’80s and rocking out,” Ferrari said.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson, will present Benatar Featuring Amber Ferrari July 15 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $39 and may be purchased by calling 631-928-9100 or by visiting