Authors Posts by Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan

Rita J. Egan
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Kara Hahn in 2017 Photo by Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) is seeking re-election for her fifth two-year term Nov. 5. Her Republican challenger, John McCormack, of Port Jefferson, is not actively campaigning and was not available for a debate with Hahn at the TBR News Media offices. Therefore, the legislator answered a few questions during a phone interview.

County finances

After receiving the county’s Office of Budget Review’s recent report, she said that even though there are still stresses on the budget, Suffolk is in a better place than it has been in past years.

The legislator said the proposed 2020 operating budget has no new fees and there is no pension amortization for the second straight year. The budget came in $4.8 million under the property tax cap.

“Of course, we’re overly reliant on the sales tax revenue and that was so low for so long, and we’re coming out of that,” she said. “When you are reliant on taxpayer dollars, you always feel pressured to be as tight as you can be, and you want to cut costs at every corner and, of course, we’re doing that.”

Hahn said she is aware that due to the county being reliant on sales tax, from which Suffolk receives approximately $1.6 billion, if a recession hits the county is not properly prepared.

She said a slight increase of the 3 percent hotel/motel tax, which is one of the lowest in the country, would help the budget and at the same time not deter anyone from visiting the area.

When it comes to stimulating the economy, she said it’s important to stay vigilant in the collection of sales tax. It was also helpful that the state allowed Suffolk to collect internet sales tax in 2019, she said, which generated about $10 million additional sales revenue this year and is expected to be $20 million in 2020. She said Suffolk Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation, which oversees Jake’s 58 casino in Islandia, paid off its debt, and its revenue will contribute $25 million to the county budget in 2020.

“We’ve been getting some good revenue sources that have helped to take the pressure off and that’s important,” Hahn said.

Low-nitrogen septic systems

Hahn, chairwoman of the Environment, Planning & Agriculture Committee, has supported the rollout of new low-nitrogen septic systems in the county. The wastewater nitrogen content has a mandated maximum of 19 milligrams per liter.

“This is a long-term, multidecade effort as 360,000 residences are unsewered,” she said. “These homes have to either become sewered or get a new innovative on-site alternate wastewater system. That cannot happen in one year. That cannot happen in 10 years.”

She said to help with the rollout the county has created priority zones, including the Town of Brookhaven’s initiative where new construction within 500 feet of a waterway is required to install the systems. Grants, on both the county and state levels, have been made available for homeowners who choose to replace their cesspools with the new system.

She said it took years for the county’s health department to work on establishing the program to ensure the new systems would work as promised, adding the process for the program also included working with health and science experts along with those who work in the industry. She said she is proud of County Executive Steve Bellone (D) for sticking with the implementation despite the amount of time spent on the issue.

“He stepped up, and it’s happening,” she said. “It might be slow for people who are used to instant gratification but I’m shocked that we’re here where systems are being installed and people are beginning to recognize it, and we’re going to be seeing improvements in water quality because of it.”

Environment

When it comes to the 5-cent minimum fee for plastic bags in stores, Hahn said the program has been successful, with a 70 to 80 percent reduction in the use of the bags. She also sponsored a bill to create a plastic straw ban in restaurants that will take effect in January.

In addition to continuing work on the county’s Blueway Trail, which will create a water path for recreational boating opportunities along Suffolk rivers, lakes, canals and coastlines, she hopes to establish Blue Flag beaches in the county, which will be the first in the United States. The standard was created in Europe, where a beach that flies the Blue Flag has a higher standard when it comes to water quality.

Opioids

Hahn in 2012 sponsored legislation to provide Narcan in police cars. The last two years she has worked with Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence and Stony Brook University to create training for athletic coaches in county middle, junior and high schools to teach them about the signs and symptoms of all forms of addiction. Hahn said she hopes to expand the program to athletic leagues outside of schools and even make it available to dance instructors, music teachers and Scout leaders.

“So that they’re trained to know how to deal with things when they hear it or see it, and know how to help fight and how to prevent — really the key is to prevent addiction,” she said.

Tracy Kosciuk hopes to take incumbent Valerie Cartright's seat for Council District 1 in Brookhaven.

Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) is running for her fourth term as Brookhaven Town councilwoman in District 1. Her challenger is one of her neighbors, Tracy Kosciuk.

Cartright sat down with the TBR News Media editorial staff Oct. 25 to talk about her accomplishments and initiatives, while Kosciuk, a registered nurse at St. Charles Hospital, answered questions via email due to being on a trip to Albany. The nurse is a local union president who travels to the state capital to lobby for improved working conditions.

“There are several projects that have been in the planning stages for years — stagnated by red tape.
Tracy Kosciuk

 

Kosciuk said if elected to the Town Council she plans to continue working as a nurse and promises she would give town issues the same 24/7 attention she gives to her nurses, as she recognizes the council position is a full-time job.

“I am a multitasker, ask any of my nurses, friends or family — I work with commitment to the task and get the job done,” Kosciuk said.

She said the primary reason she is running this year is the frustration people feel when one doesn’t fulfill the obligations of their job. The nurse and union leader said she is also a wife and a mother, who cares for a sick parent. A firm believer in time management, she said she will make the necessary adjustments to her life “to guarantee to my constituents a much better degree of responsiveness and dedication to my office than what they are currently receiving.”

Cartright said being a councilwoman is a full-time job, and because of that while she maintains her license to practice law, she only handles two or three cases annually. She said she spends the majority of her time in Town Hall meeting with various departments, dealing with constituents’ issues and meeting with residents at her mobile offices or in people’s homes. She said there are also community events to attend and meetings with civic groups and chambers of commerce.

“I’m very much a hands-on person,” she said. “I’m visual. I need to see what it is that the constituents are talking about.”

Cartright said she and her staff handle an average of 3,000 to 3,500 calls on a yearly basis and receive more requests via email. The issues can vary from a pothole in front of someone’s house to drainage problems to a resident asking for help with National Grid to get their lights turned back on. She encourages people to call her in addition to the department or entity responsible as she said she considers herself an advocate for her constituents.

Both candidates are focused on local issues, including revitalization in the district.

Kosciuk said she believes one of the largest issues facing the town is “the prevalence of illegal housing and also buildings that are referred to as ‘zombie homes.’” While she believes Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and other town councilpersons have been addressing the issue, she said in Council District 1, based on her walking through the communities and talking to residents, that it hasn’t been sufficiently addressed.

“As I have said many times, these illegal housing conditions are a magnet for crime, drugs and an undesirable element that our communities and neighborhoods can do without,” the nurse said.

Cartright, who bought a zombie home when she moved to Port Jeff Station from Queens 14 years ago, said she encourages residents to alert her office about homes they believe may be abandoned or if there are drug issues.

For the past few years, Cartright has been working on revitalization projects for the Route 25A corridor in the Three Village area and to create a walkable downtown hub in Port Jefferson Station between the train tracks and Route 347.

“I look forward to tackling the remaining quality of life issues,” she said.

“We did that because a community member felt comfortable enough and was willing to say, ‘Valerie, can you help?’”

— Valerie Cartright

Regarding the PJS plan, she has met with the two major landowners to discuss recommended density and site plans. She is also working with Suffolk County to create a sewer district in the area. With the Three Village 25A corridor plan, she said the work is more about historical architectural continuity, something that residents showed a concern for during visioning meetings she spearheaded.

Kosciuk, on her website, stated she would continue with current revitalization projects and help small business owners succeed, calling them the cornerstone of the community.

“There are several projects that have been in the planning stages for years — stagnated by red tape,” she said.

“It is to our benefit that these projects are completed in order to revive our community and provide a much-needed ‘face-lift’ for our district,” Kosciuk said.

The incumbent said the process can be long at times due to the need for land-use plans before work truly begins.

When it comes to quality of life issues, Cartright is currently working to allow town vehicles to provide transportation for those who are looking to enter temporary housing or clinics. The initiative was inspired by a couple who the councilwoman said she waited three hours with after they agreed to go into temporary housing. The cab was a third party hired by the county, but there was miscommunication that left her and the couple stranded. She is currently working with a task force to deal with homeless issues that includes the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association and Port Jeff village officials. She said the group has spent six months gathering information.

“There are a lot of misconceptions, in my opinion, as to where the root of all of this is coming from,” she said.

Both candidates hope to tackle the drug crisis in the area.

Kosciuk, who has been a nurse for more than 30 years, called it a problem of epic proportions

“It is essential to work with area hospitals and treatment centers to establish a more comprehensive discharge plan for patients suffering from this disease,” she said, adding the importance of providing resources to educate residents on the dangers of illicit drugs.

Cartright helped to form a community-based drug prevention coalition that holds education events, which will also include vaping cessation workshops for teenagers. The councilwoman said she hopes the workshops will be an alternative to students being suspended from school. The coalition was formed after Sal Pitti, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, approached her saying he identified money from the federal government.

“We did that because a community member felt comfortable enough and was willing to say, ‘Valerie, can you help?’ and I believe government is supposed to help people and not hinder initiatives,” she said.

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Hayes Physical Therapy at its new location at Schoolhouse Square Shopping Center in East Setauket.

An East Setauket business proves that people somehow manage to emerge from the ashes of tragedy.

A year after a fire ripped through one of the buildings that makes up the Setauket Commons at 60 Route 25A, Hayes Physical Therapy is still operating from a storefront down the road in the Schoolhouse Square Shopping Center.

Anne McLaughlin, president of Hayes Physical Therapy, said she didn’t expect the move to be as seamless as it was, and the business, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this year, has grown in its new location.

“It’s a good spot,” McLaughlin said. “We have fantastic neighbors. It seems like we have even better visibility here. It’s actually working out better than we could have hoped.”

McLaughlin, who bought the business in 2009, said the office operated out of the Setauket Commons building since 2004. She, along with other tenants, including Brookhaven Cat Hospital, were forced to close down after the Oct. 7, 2018, fire.  The incident, which took more than two hours to control, according to Setauket Fire Department, left smoke and water damage in its wake.

After the fire, the business owner, who lives in Bay Shore, said she made house calls when possible and referred some patients to colleagues in the surrounding area. When the physical therapy office was able to reopen in its new location in February, all the employees returned, and the business currently has three therapists and five support associates, and recently, they have taken on an intern.

McLaughlin and her employees reached out to former patients as best as they could through phone calls and ads, while other people have found them while patronizing other stores in the shopping center. She said she is grateful that many of her patients have returned for treatment.

A recent fire at Mario’s, located in the same shopping center, she said affected her.

“That sends a nasty chill coming in and seeing fire trucks in the parking lot again,” she said. “We’re wishing them the best. That’s been a horrible drain on the whole community.”

After the ordeal, McLaughlin said she would advise anyone who goes through a similar tragedy to consult those who are experts in dealing with such things, crediting her team of lawyers and insurance professionals with giving her valuable advice.

“I was able to rely on advice from other professionals to really guide me through completely unnavigable waters,” she said. “I didn’t know one thing about how to pick up the pieces after something so horrific. Thankfully there are a lot of people who know more about that than I do. I trusted them and I was very fortunate.”

McLaughlin said she also credits members of the surrounding community who bolstered her spirits by keeping in touch and asking her when she was going to reopen.

“It’s a matter of fortitude,” she said. “It’s really just not giving up and not getting disgusted. It can be very frustrating. You reach the outer depths of whatever frustration you thought you could handle, and you buckle up and keep going.”

Despite the rain Sunday afternoon, hundreds showed up for Benner’s Farm’s annual Harvest Festival Oct. 19 and 20 in East Setauket.

Attendees celebrated the season with pumpkin picking, hayrides, live music, craft and food vendors and more.

Bob Benner, the farm’s owner, demonstrated how to use an apple press and discussed the steps in making apple cider as well as how people centuries ago stored fruits and other perishables in root cellars.

The trails on the grounds were also decorated with tombstones and scary characters that attendees could enjoy on foot or during a hayride.

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Residents can now use a boardwalk from East Setauket Pond Park to the harbor. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Three Village residents have a new way to enjoy and connect with nature.

The Town of Brookhaven recently constructed a 180-foot boardwalk that starts at East Setauket Pond Park, next to Se-Port Delicatessen, and ends with a viewing platform at Setauket Harbor. Laurie Vetere and George Hoffman, co-founders of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said the boardwalk complements the group’s vision for the site.

“We always had a plan for the park,” Hoffman said. “We really think it’s a unique park that’s been neglected over the years.”

Vetere called the park its pet project.

“We can see the vision of it becoming a beautiful waterfront park right in the heart of downtown Setauket,” she said.

Hoffman and Vetere said the town plans to add benches to the viewing platform and switch out the current light posts to match the historic fixtures along Route 25A. The town is also currently waiting for a permit from the New York State Department of Conservation to cut down the phragmites that are currently slightly blocking the view at the platform.

The task force co-founders said a couple of months ago the town’s Parks & Recreation Department had a surplus of funds for park improvements around town, and Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) were able to secure $75,000 to be used for the Three Village park.

Vetere, said the Three Village Civic Association, of which she is 2nd vice president, is currently forming a committee to be chaired by Herb Mones and Robert Reuter. She said the hope is to further the vision of the park including aspects such as adding plantings, play equipment for children and possibly moving the gazebo that is currently there to another spot in the park.

“The hope is just to make it more useful and get people invested in Setauket Harbor and the beauty of the harbor,” Vetere said.

Cartright said she was happy with the improvements.

“This is an important place in our community, and we want to increase and promote public access and use of the park,” she said. “We received community feedback about improvements that residents wanted to see at this location. Working off of that community input, I was able to secure $75,000 funding for this project that started about two-and-a-half weeks ago and was completed [Oct. 15].”

In addition to the current work being done by the Town of Brookhaven, in 2016 state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) secured a $1 million grant for the town for East Setauket Pond Park. The funds, which became available at the end of 2018, will go toward removing sediment from the retention pond at the park and implementing improvements to mitigate stormwater inputs into the harbor. The grant will also go toward repairing the dock at the Shore Road park along the harbor.

“We look forward to the completion of this project as it fits into the larger picture of preserving and protecting the area,” Cartright said.

Defense was the story of the game Oct. 19 when Centereach senior Matt Robbert broke the ice when he punched in on short yardage for the touchdown midway through the second quarter. Robbert then kicked an extra point to make it 7-0.

Smithtown East struggled offensively, and it wasn’t until junior running back Tyler Pohlman punched in on a short run for the Bulls with under two minutes left. Needing the extra point to retie the game, the kick was partially blocked and the Cougars held on for a 7-6 win, dampening the Bulls’ homecoming celebration.

Eric Harrington got the call time and time again grinding out 107 yards on 20 carries for the Cougars, while Robbert gained 55 yards in 10 attempts.

The win lifts Centereach to 3-3 who hit the road against Connetquot Oct. 25 before returning home to face Half Hollow Hills East Nov. 1.

Smithtown East slips to 2-4 and must win out against Half Hollow Hills East Oct. 26 and Northport Nov. 2 for any hopes of postseason play.

Elected officials and Stony Brook Medicine faculty and staff at the Stony Brook Children’s Hospital ribbon-cutting ceremony Oct. 17. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Stepping into the main lobby of the new Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, which is slated to open for patient care Nov. 17, it’s apparent that young patients will come first. The downstairs lobby is decorated in soothing tones with a fun nautical theme and one wall features a live feed of fish swimming at the Long Island Aquarium.

Children sit by the live feed from the Long Island Aquarium in the downstairs lobby of Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

In anticipation of the Nov. 17 opening, Stony Brook Medicine held a ribbon-cutting at the site with staff and elected officials in attendance Oct. 17. According to Stony Brook Medicine, the 71,500-square-foot, 114-bed hospital will be the only children’s hospital with single-patient rooms on Long Island.

“We’re really trying to get everything into a child-friendly environment, and this is sort of like the icing on the cake to have our building and to get the pediatric inpatients out from the 11th floor of what is predominantly an adult hospital into this proper space that was designed for kids and their families,” said Dr. Margaret McGovern, professor of pediatrics and physician-in-chief at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, during a tour and interview two days before the ribbon-cutting.

With a full-service health care program that includes a Level 1 pediatric trauma center, neonatal intensive care unit and more, McGovern said Stony Brook Medicine treats an array of pediatric conditions.

“In general the acuity is high,” she said. “These are kids who really need to be in the hospital. It’s everything from an infection to a broken bone.”

McGovern said the single-bed rooms will provide infection control, comfort, privacy and security. The children’s hospital will be located on floors 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the new Medical and Research Translation building, also known as MART, which combined with using wristbands with devices, will provide extra security for children.

Each patient’s room will have a pull-out sofa for parents to sleep, refrigerator, safe and workspaces for both families and hospital staff. Each room also has a private bathroom with a shower that is wheelchair accessible.

Children in one of the play areas in Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

Dr. Carolyn Milana, interim Chair in the Department of Pediatrics, said that the single-patient rooms will allow medical staff to easily have private conversations with families, as the current rooms have two patients each and can only be divided with a curtain. She said at times medical teams have to step out of a room to have a conversation with parents. 

“This will allow the whole team to come in and really have a conversation with the family in private, and it’s quieter,” Milana said.

The children will also have a remote to control the lighting over artwork hung on the walls, and medical teams will be able to pull up records and patient care educational materials right up on the room’s television screen.

Maureen Cole, RN, associate director of nursing, Children’s Hospital and Women’s Services, said that the rooms were designed after receiving feedback from families on an advisory council.

“They were very instrumental in some of the additions that we have made, and then the children gave a lot of feedback, too, because we have a youth advisory council who have been touring the building,” she said.

Cole said children even offered advice on how they should be spoken to and who should be in the room when conversations occur about their care.

In addition to the private rooms, McGovern said the hospital was designed for respite with play spaces and rooms and even a teen lounge. The building will also have an adolescent unit on a separate floor from younger children and a classroom with Wi-Fi. 

The Ronald McDonald House, a nonprofit which provides support to improve the health of children, has a family room in the hospital so parents can sit and relax and even do work. A washer, dryer and shower across from the room is also available to families.

The building includes an elevator for patients being transported for procedures that is separate from visitors. The special procedure unit will provide services such as sedated MRIs, pediatric endoscopies and bone marrow procedures for both in- and outpatients.

McGovern said nearly 10 years ago Stony Brook Medicine declared themselves a children’s hospital because they recognized the need to expand children’s health care programs in Suffolk County.

“There are about 450,000 kids in Suffolk County,” she said. “That is absolutely a population that can support a children’s hospital. So we’ve been building the number of pediatric providers who are on our full-time faculty — now there’s almost 180 of them, 30 different pediatric specialties.”

McGovern said there are also more than 250 nurses on staff and Child Life Services employees and social workers.

The exterior of Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo from Stony Brook Medicine

“Everyone likes to work in a place that has been thoughtfully designed to help them do their best work,” McGovern said. “I think that has resonated, also, with our staff and keeping good staff. We’re recruiting great physicians here. Pediatricians like to work at children’s hospitals because it says a lot about the commitment of the organization to children’s health to have a children’s hospital. I think that has helped us be successful recruiting doctors here from the best training programs in the country to come and join us to help us take care of the kids in Suffolk County.”

According to Stony Brook Medicine officials, the cost of the construction was $73 million and was part of Stony Brook Medicine’s $450 million expansion, which includes a 10-story hospital pavilion and new cancer center. To help with the cost state Senators Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and John Flanagan (R-East Northport) secured $50 million from the state. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the State University of New York, under the leadership of former Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, helped to secure more funds through a $35 million NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant.

More contributions came from donors with $25 million from 3,584 contributors to the Children’s Hospital Building Fund, which was supported with two matching gifts of $10 million from an anonymous donor and $2.5 million from the Knapp Swezey Children’s Challenge. An additional $50 million was from a historic $150 million gift to Stony Brook University from Jim and Marilyn Simons.

Delaney Unger, 13, from Selden was on hand for the Oct. 17 ribbon-cutting. An Osteosarcoma survivor, who received a unique amputation called rotationplasty in the spring of 2017, was a patient at Stony Brook Children’s.

“I must say, I am a little jealous of the new beautiful Stony Brook Children’s Hospital,” Delaney said. “I can attest that not only will the children who stay here get the best possible care, but they will also do so in a fantastic new facility designed with them in mind.”

Before the official opening, the hospital invites the community to see the new building Nov. 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pre-registration is preferred at stonybrookchildrens.org/openhouse.

On Oct. 13, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, at its Educational & Cultural Center with performances from Sol y Sombra Spanish Dance Company.

Attendees, including students from The Stony Brook School, were treated to an array of dances including flamenco, salsa, the Argentine tango, Mexican folk and more. Maria Loreta, founder and artistic director of Sol y Sombra, provided a brief history of the origins of the dances before each performance. After the presentation, audience members got up to try a few steps of salsa, and then sampled empanadas, churros and rice and beans.

Participants during a recent Walk, Yoga, Meditate & Chocolate class at The Bates House. Photo from the Community Growth Center

An exercise program at The Bates House in East Setauket not only provides residents with a chance to get some physical activity but also the opportunity to donate to a local organization.

Port Jefferson Station’s Community Growth Center, which provides holistic health services, is currently offering its Walk, Yoga, Meditate & Chocolate series at the venue every Thursday for a suggested donation of $10. During the exercise program, participants are led on a 30-minute walk around the Frank Melville Memorial Park pond with flashlights in hand, then to an hour yoga session that ends in shavasana — a pose used for relaxation and meditation — and before they leave, everyone gets a piece of dark chocolate.

Michael Hoffner, co-founder and executive director of Community Growth Center, said the program ties into the center’s mission to create a sense of community and to give people an outlet to become healthier in mind, body and spirit.

“We’re really trying to build a community of people that are all working to heal and grow together,” he said. “All aspects of this event help to facilitate that type of growth. Whether it’s the physical exercise or the meditation or yoga, all of it ties into helping people grow in mind and body.”

Joanne Lauro, the center’s director of nutrition, leads the walks on Thursday nights, while the yoga portion is led by Erica Kremens. The program is different from other yoga classes as it starts with walking, which Lauro said is one of the best exercises to help with various health issues including heart and pulmonary problems and diabetes.

She said the group walks around the park three times, approximately a mile stretch. Participants can walk at their own pace whether briskly for exercise or slower to enjoying the swans in the lake and the deer and rabbits on the property.

“The person who comes can reap the benefits of whatever they enjoy,” Lauro said.

She added the center encourages “people to embrace their bodies and work a little bit harder so they won’t have heart disease or stiffness or pains.”

For a treat at the end of the night, everyone gets a piece of cacao — dark chocolate — donated by East Setauket-based Five North Chocolate, owned by Ben Conard. The director of nutrition said cacao is good for stress and anxiety, and due to being an antioxidant, it rids the body of free radicals.

Hoffner said the group calls the series a triathlon, and it was original board member Jennifer Ross who heard about the idea, as well as adding dark chocolate at the end, and thought it would be a fun way to raise money for the center, which doesn’t charge for its services.

Hoffner said the triathlon series is in its fourth year at The Bates House, and the agency has been grateful to the venue’s manager Lise Hintze who he said loved the mission of the Community Growth Center when he originally approached her. Hoffner said the center holds other events at the venue, including their upcoming Finding Balance: Wellness Conference, a Martin Luther King multifaith event in January and Spring Awakening at the end of April.

Lauro said she invites everyone to try out the class and take time out for themselves.

“Come down and enjoy the simplicity of nature and honoring your body and just being in a great place with like-minded people,” Lauro said.

Walk, Yoga, Meditate & Chocolate meets every Thursday at The Bates House until Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. (There is no class Oct. 31.) The series will start up again in the spring, and the suggested donation is $10 per class. For more information, call 631-240-3471.

Deer during mating season cause havoc on the roads. Photo from Kathy Schiavone

It’s that time of year when deer look to mate, and that can result in dangers for motorists on local roadways.

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and the Department of Environmental Conservation are advising motorists to take care when navigating roads during October, November and December. While deer can be seen all year round roaming around the North Shore, during the fall it’s breeding season.

More deer on the roads in the fall mean an increase in collisions with the animals. Photo from Kathy Schiavone

Two-thirds of the crashes between deer and vehicles occur during the three-month span, according to a press release from the agencies.

In a TBR News Media article from October of 2018, Lori Ketcham, a rehabilitator with Middle Island-based Save the Animals Rescue Foundation, reminded residents that deer don’t hesitate when they are crossing a street, especially in the fall.

“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.”

Mark J.F. Schroeder, DMV commissioner and chair of the governor’s traffic safety committee, said drivers should exercise extreme caution during the autumn months.

“When you see a deer-crossing sign along a highway, that means deer have been seen at that location and have collided with cars there,” Schroeder said. “Those signs are meant to warn you to be extra cautious when driving through such locations.”

DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said drivers should be alert during both dawn and dusk. The animals tend to be more active during these periods of the day while visibility is also reduced.

The state agencies also recommend decreasing speed when you approach deer near roadsides as they can bolt out or change direction quickly. If you see a deer, look for others as they are herd animals and usually travel in groups.

Motorists are also advised to brake firmly and avoid swerving if they encounter an animal, as swerving can cause collisions. The DEC recommends not approaching an injured animal as they can strike out with their legs or hooves.

Here are a few additional tips in case of a deer collision:

● Move your vehicle to a safe place. If possible, pull over to the side of the road and turn on your hazard lights. If you must leave your vehicle, stay off the road and out of the way of any oncoming vehicles.

● Call the police. Alert authorities if the animal is blocking traffic and creating a threat for other drivers. If the collision results in injury, death or more than $1,000 in property damage, you must fill out an official crash report and send it to the DMV.

● Look for leaking fluid, loose parts, tire damage, broken lights, a hood that won’t latch and other safety hazards. If your vehicle seems unsafe in any way, call for a tow truck.

According to the 2018 State Farm Insurance deer-vehicle collision study, it was estimated that there were 1.33 million deer, elk, moose and caribou collisions between July 1, 2017 and June 30, 2018, in the U.S. — down from 1.34 million cited in the company’s 2017 study. New Yorkers had a one in 165 chance of crashing into the animals in 2018, according to State Farm.