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TBR Staff

TBR Staff
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TBR News Media covers everything happening on the North Shore of Suffolk County from Cold Spring Harbor to Wading River.

Dance students go through a routine together at the Huntington YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

Walking into the dance studio at the Huntington YMCA feels like walking into a family gathering full of distant relatives you’ve never met before. But the vibe is one of comfort and inclusion, especially if you’ve got a penchant for impromptu group renditions of Taylor Swift songs.

Dance students go through a routine together at the Huntington YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Dance students go through a routine together at the Huntington YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano

The friendly atmosphere inside the studio is natural, according to dance instructor Pam Christy-Allen, after students, teachers and parents have worked together for as long as they have.

“I have the same kids every year, so I build relationships with them,” Christy-Allen said in a recent interview. “As their sweet sixteens have come we’ve been invited to them and they include you like their family. It’s very rewarding.”

Last month, the YMCA’s dance program turned two decades old, a milestone that staff there celebrated. But there’s no resting on laurels — program leaders say they plan to stay on their toes.

In a recent visit to the program, students showed appreciation for their instructors. Thirteen-year-old hip hop, acro and ballet student Samantha Sluka began taking YMCA dance classes at age 3 and said that Debbie Smith, her ballet teacher, has kept her interested in dancing through the years. Sluka said YMCA classes have improved her self-confidence in addition to technical dance skills, and that in the future she “would love to dance on Broadway”.

Mary Dejana, a 17-year-old tap and jazz student, said that she likes lyrical and contemporary dance styles best because they help her express her feelings. She said that the YMCA program has taught her teamwork.

“Under the tutelage of my ballet, modern and pointe teacher Jo-Ann Hertzman and with the many opportunities the YMCA provided, I have come to understand not only more about dance but more about myself and the world around me,” wrote former student Mariah Anton in a letter to the staff at the YMCA. With plans to continue dancing at University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Anton wrote that her “experiences at the YMCA have directed [her] to invest back into others through teaching, encouraging, and opening the world to the next generation in the same way that the YMCA invested in [her].”

Students practice using the bar at the YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Students practice using the bar at the YMCA studio. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Citing the Huntington YMCA as a “second home … during [her] childhood and early adulthood,” former student Melanie Carminati, now physical therapist and Pilates instructor in East Northport, called the dance program “a safe haven for artistic growth and creativity” in a written statement. She attributed the environment to the guidance of Edie Cafiero, cultural arts director.

Cafiero stressed the importance of allowing dancers to express their creativity from a young age. “We start with 3-year-olds,” he said. “We make it fun while still using terminology and introducing steps. We let them explore themselves at that age.” She said that classes become more serious as students age and advance, but that they have the option to either hone in on certain dance styles or further expand their horizons and learn new styles.

Among some of the less conventional dance classes offered at the YMCA are Irish step, hip hop, acro, lyrical, contemporary, modern and adult ballet.

When asked what factors have contributed most significantly to the success of the Huntington YMCA dance program, Cafiero pointed to the variety of classes offered and the welcome-all attitude of the staff.

She said she walked into a famous ballet school at age 15 “and they told me I was over the hill before seeing me dance. I never wanted a kid to feel like that. We don’t turn anyone away. If they have the passion to dance we want to nurture it.”

Anyone interested in the Huntington YMCA cultural and performing arts program is invited to contact Cafiero at 631-421-4242, ext. 132.

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Footprints mark a sandy trail at Cupsogue Beach in Southampton. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

Finding an enjoyable vacation doesn’t have to involve booking a cruise to the Bahamas, a plane ticket to California or even a train ride to New York City. With Long Island’s more than 100 museums, 20 state parks and 30 wineries/vineyards, going somewhere great is as easy as stepping outside of your own backyard (and contains less risk of trampling your neighbor’s freshly planted rhododendrons).

A kayaker enjoys a tranquil evening on the Nissequogue River in Smithtown.Photo by Talia Amorosano
A kayaker enjoys a tranquil evening on the Nissequogue River in Smithtown.Photo by Talia Amorosano

So hop in your car — or better yet, save gas money by hopping in a friend’s car — and explore an unfamiliar township. Because whether you’re looking for fun for the whole family, an escape from reality or a romantic getaway, you’ll find that the list of things to do here stretches as long as the Island itself, and well beyond the length of this list.

Oyster Bay
Spend a day in Oyster Bay if you love history. Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park encompasses hundreds of acres of gardens, trails and woodlands, not to mention a 1920s Tudor mansion. There’s also Sagamore Hill National Historic Site, home of Theodore Roosevelt from 1885 through 1919, and Raynham Hall Museum, former residence of Robert Townsend, George Washington’s intelligence operative.  Who knows, maybe history will repeat itself and you’ll visit again.

Huntington
There are a ton of things to do here. Purchase tickets to an unforgettable show or concert at The Paramount Theater, tour the Heckscher Museum of Art and historic Oheka Castle or explore the outdoors at Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery and Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve.

Smithtown
Tap Nissequogue River Canoe and Kayak Rentals Inc. to rent (or bring) a canoe or kayak, and paddle along 5.5 miles of tranquil river. If you still can’t get enough nature, take a stroll at scenic Caleb Smith State Park Preserve or visit the rehabilitating animals at Sweetbriar Nature Center.  If you still can’t get enough nature, build a tree house in your backyard when you get home or something. But before you go, be sure to stop at Whisper or Harmony Vineyards in St. James, listen to live music and buy a bottle of wine.

An injured red-tailed hawk gets another chance at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown. Photo by Talia Amorosano
An injured red-tailed hawk gets another chance at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Brookhaven
This town offers some wonderful watery swimming, boating and fishing destinations: West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook, Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai, Corey Beach in Blue Point, Davis Park and Great Gun Beach, both on Fire Island, are just some of the important names to remember when planning your next beach daycation in Brookhaven.

Riverhead
Head to the river for a family fun day. The Long Island Aquarium and Exhibition Center, located along the Peconic River, is home to birds, butterflies and bats, along with great numbers of ocean and river dwelling animals. Also fun for kids and adults alike are the Riverhead Raceway and Long Island Science Center.

Southold
Don’t hold out on visiting this beautiful Long Island location. Book a cab ride through gorgeous rural Southold and visit one or more of its many wineries and vineyards: Sparkling Pointe, One Woman Wines and Vineyards, The Old Field Vineyards, Croteaux Vineyards, Mattebella Vineyards, Corey Creek Vineyards and Duckwalk Vineyards are just the cork of the wine bottle. Later, dine at one of more than 40 eateries in the maritime Village of Greenport, considered one of the prettiest towns in the United States.

Southampton
See the seashore like never before at sandy, clean Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton, or lay back in luxury on a True East Charters boat tour of the Hamptons.  If staying grounded is more your style, spend a day playing minigolf with the family at the Southampton Golf Range, which also features a driving range, batting cages and an ice rink.

East Hampton
If you’re up for an art-filled adventure, spend an hour at the Pollock-Krasner House and view the paint-splattered space where abstract impressionist Jackson Pollock and fellow artist Lee Krasner created some of their most provocative works.  End the day in another world: LongHouse Reserve, where modern sculptures and furniture (created by a seasonal group of artists) fuse seamlessly with the interestingly landscaped grounds.

Exploring
A 2004 Ford Explorer was stolen after its owner left the vehicle and went to an ATM on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station on July 26 at around 1 a.m. A wallet containing credit cards was left in the car, and police said the cards were used.

Not kool, man
An unknown masked man demanded money and took off with the whole cash register from the Kool Mart on Hallock Avenue in Port Jefferson Station, at around 9:20 p.m. on July 21.

Forgetful
A wallet left behind at a 7-Eleven on Old Town Road in Port Jefferson Station didn’t make it back to its owner. Police said the owner reported returning to the convenience store on July 20 to find someone else took it.

Bumper cars
A 51-year-old Port Jefferson Station woman was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of an incident involving property damage on July 21. According to police, the woman was driving a 2013 Chevy Traverse on July 1 in Setauket when she struck the right side of the rear bumper on a 2006 Honda minivan and fled the scene.

Shattered
A resident on Main Street in Port Jefferson awoke to glass breaking at around 3 a.m. on July 26 and reported a door pane had been broken.

Knocked down
A man was knocked unconscious on West Broadway in Port Jefferson at around 1:40 a.m. on July 25. Police said the man was punched in the face, fell on the pavement and struck his head. He was transported to a local hospital for medical treatment.

Not fast enough
A woman who had dropped her cell phone in a Miller Place parking lot on Route 25A on July 20 reported that someone else claimed and took the phone before she returned.

Garden Road getaway
A Garden Road resident in Rocky Point returned home on July 20 at around 3:30 p.m. to find the front door open and several items, including two flat-screen TVs, jewelry and an Xbox 360, stolen.

Game on
At around 8:30 p.m. on July 25, a man entered a Game Stop in Centereach and demanded cash. Police said he displayed what appeared to be a weapon wrapped in a white cloth. The store clerk obliged and the man fled with cash.

Mission: Impossible
At around 10:30 p.m. on July 21 an unknown person or persons broke through the wall of a Middle Country Road store in Centereach to gain entry to the adjacent shop and attempted to pry open a vault there but was unsuccessful.

Dine and dash
Someone stole a leather wallet from a 2006 Toyota parked at the Suffolk Diner in Centereach at around 1 p.m. on July 20.

It’s personal
A 24-year-old Middle Island woman was arrested in Selden on July 22 and charged with second-degree forgery after she forged a signature on a personal check and chased it.

Off-road thief
A Clearview Avenue resident in Selden reported on July 24 that between 1 and 6 a.m. someone stole a 2005 Yamaha ATV from the backyard.

A quick DWI
Police said a 22-year-old man from Setauket was arrested in Stony Brook on July 25 at 1:42 a.m. and charged with driving while intoxicated. Police said the man was pulled over driving north on County Road 97 in Stony Brook because he was speeding.

DWI crash
A 23-year-old woman from North Massapequa was arrested in Stony Brook on July 24 and charged with driving while intoxicated after being involved in a motor vehicle crash. Police said the woman was driving a 2014 Nissan southbound on Quaker Path in Stony Brook at about 6 p.m. when she was involved in the crash.

Tablet grab
Someone entered an unlocked 2010 Honda Civic parked at a Bentley Lane home in Stony Brook on July 25 and stole an iPad tablet. The incident occurred sometime between 5:13 and 8 p.m.

That Chase
Someone stole money from the Chase bank account of someone who lives on Pheasant Court in Stony Brook. The incident happened sometime around 9:18 p.m. on July 24.

Infiniti window shattered
Someone entered a locked 2012 Infiniti by shattering the rear driver side window and stole money from the car. The car was parked at World Gym in Setauket on Mark Tree Road. The incident happened sometime between 2 and 3 p.m. on July 24.

Stop & Punch
Police said a woman reported that a man punched her in the face while at Stop & Shop on Route 25A in Setauket-East Setauket on July 24 at 9 p.m. She said the punch caused a cut lip.

Stop for a DWI
A 32-year-old man from Medford was arrested in Smithtown on July 25 at about 2:30 a.m. and charged with driving while intoxicated. Police said he was pulled over at Route 25 and Terry Road in Smithtown after failing to stop for a red traffic light.

To the left, to the left
Police said a 34-year-old man from Nesconset was arrested on July 23 at 12:07 a.m. and charged with driving while intoxicated. According to police, the man, who was driving westbound on Lake Avenue in Nesconset, was pulled over after he failed to signal left and was observed speeding.

Sloppy DWI
A 20-year-old woman from Setauket was arrested in Nesconset on July 23 and charged with driving while intoxicated. Police said she was driving eastbound on Route 25 at 2:20 a.m. in a 2009 Jeep and failed to maintain a single lane of travel, driving onto the shoulder of the road.

Missing jewels
Someone stole a jewelry box on the bathroom vanity of a home on Nissequogue River Road in Smithtown sometime between July 25 at 10 a.m. and July 26 at 9 a.m.

Hotel heist
A woman from Madison Street in Smithtown told police she gave someone a deposit on what she thought was a six-night stay at a hotel, but the person had no connection to the hotel. The bank transfer occurred on July 17 at about 10 p.m.

Car parts jacked
Tires and rims were stolen off of a 2015 Chevy parked at Enterprise Rent-A-Car on East Main Street in Smithtown on July 21 at 8:45 p.m.

A dark day
Someone took Ray-Ban and red Maui Jim sunglasses and jewelry by breaking a rear driver-side window of a BMW parked at Carrabba’s Italian Grill on Smithtown Bypass in Smithtown on July 22.

School graffiti reported
An unknown person made graffiti at the R.J.O. Intermediate School on Old Dock Road in Kings Park by spray-painting two walls sometime between noon and 1:49 p.m. on July 25.

Cadillac grab
Someone stole a 2009 Cadillac containing property from St. Johnland Nursing Center on Sunken Meadow Road in Kings Park sometime on July 23 at 11:20 p.m. to July 24 at 8:30 a.m.

Lights out
Someone damaged the left taillights of two vehicles on Ellen Place in Kings Park on July 23 sometime between 11:30 and 11:45 p.m. There have been no arrests.

‘Median’ by Marlene Weinstein received an honorable mention.

The Smithtown Township Arts Council will present its 34th Annual Juried Photography Exhibition titled Dualities at the Mills Pond House Gallery from Aug. 8 to 29. This exhibit features the works of 31 fine art photographers selected by jurors Melanie and Michelle Craven of Tilt Gallery of Photography from Phoenix, Ariz. The artists hail from 11 states across the country with 16 from New York.

Participating photographers include  Liza Hennessey Botkin, Nicolas Bruno, Linda Bunk, Geoff Delanoy, Doug Emery, Corey Phillips Fowler, William Grabowski, Cyd Hamilton, Dan Hittleman, Rohina Hoffman, Bruce Laird, Mary Lor, Roger Matsumoto, Elizabeth Milward, Margaret Minardi, Karen  George Mortimore, David Quinn, Alan Richards, Alissa Rosenberg,  Wendy Roussin, Alex Santos Murry, Wendi Schneider, Jane  Lena Schulman, Charles Andrew Seaton, Denis Sivack, William Von Gonten, Pamela Waldroup, Trudy L. Waterman, Marlene Weinstein, Dana West and Tony Zaza.

First place was awarded to Alan Richards of New York for his photographic image composite titled “Mermaidens.”

Second place was awarded to Cyd Hamilton of Tennessee for her print taken with a Holga Pinhole Camera titled “But from What Sharing.” Honorable mentions went to Roger Matsumoto, Alex Santos Murry, Liza Hennessey Botkin, Dana West and Marlene Weinstein.

The community is invited to an opening reception on Saturday, Aug. 8, from 2 to 4 p.m. to meet the artists and view their works.

The Mills Pond House Gallery is located at 660 Route 25A, St. James. Gallery hours are Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.stacarts.org.

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Charity shouldn’t be seasonal. Donate money or food during the summer, when some children who rely on school lunch programs need it the most. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Every fall and winter, good-hearted Long Islanders far and wide reach into their pockets to donate goods and food in the spirit of the holidays.

It’s so easy to imagine life without a jacket or a warm Thanksgiving dinner when it’s November or December. You won’t have to look hard to find numerous coat drives and food drives around that time of the year. And that’s a great thing. But it’s not enough.

Summer hunger pangs exist right in our own backyard. And they are growing Island-wide — particularly among children who rely on school lunch programs but don’t have access to that food during the summer.

Island Harvest food bank, a hunger relief organization based in Mineola, reported earlier this month that it expanded its summer-food service program. Last summer, they served 103,000 meals to 3,500 kids at 49 sites throughout the Island. This year, they anticipate dishing out more than 175,000 meals to about 4,000 children at 55 sites.

Those are some eye-opening statistics, especially when you consider what we already know about hunger on Long Island. A 2010 national study prepared for Island Harvest and another nonprofit, Long Island Cares, claims 283,700 people on Long Island receive emergency food each year. Of that group, 39 percent are under 18 years old.

For many of us who are fortunate, summer is our kick-back-and-relax season — a chance for us to embark on those sun-soaked vacations and long weekend trips or just leave work early on Fridays. But there are some who can’t afford to get away, and constantly struggle to make ends meet.

We urge our fellow Long Islanders to channel the holiday spirit this summer. Pitch in by donating money, your time or food. Grab a cardboard box your local deli may not need and bring it to the office — get your co-workers in on it — and collect some food. Donate the box to your local food pantry.

Charity shouldn’t be seasonal. It’s time we step up to the plate all year long.

Astros second baseman and catcher is originally from Kings Park

Craig Biggio and wife Patty greet the crowd at an MLB Hall of Fame induction parade. Photo by Clayton Collier

By Clayton Collier

Much like he did during his 20-year playing career, Craig Biggio left it all out on the field Sunday.

However, instead of an orange-and-white Houston Astros jersey and eye black, the former catcher and second baseman was donning a navy blue suit and a touch of perspiration seeping from his forehead on the hazy summer afternoon, with the hair above his ears just beginning to show signs of graying.

Instead of coming to bat before a packed Astrodome or Minute Maid Park, Biggio took to the podium in front of an estimated 45,000 people on the grassy plain behind the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown to accept his induction into the MLB Hall of Fame.

Grinning ear-to-ear as he began his 17-minute speech, Biggio spoke at length about the place where the journey to his now-Hall of Fame career began, “in a little town, Kings Park, New York.”

A young Craig Biggio tags out a base runner for Seton Hall University. Photo from Seton Hall
A young Craig Biggio tags out a base runner for Seton Hall University. Photo from Seton Hall

Senator John Flanagan (R-East Northport), who represents the Second Senate District, congratulated Biggio in a statement on his Facebook page saying the longtime Houston Astro is “an inspiration to young local athletes by showing them that they can achieve greatness if they work hard every day.”

Biggio, a member of the 3,000-hit club, said he acquired his work ethic from his parents, Yolanda and Lee. The seven-time All-Star’s voice became shaky as he described them: “two hard-working people who are no longer here. But I know they’re watching.’’

His father was an air-traffic controller who never missed a game. Every day, Biggio said, his father would tie a rope around his waist, then to the backstop while he threw to the young slugger during batting practice to prevent him from lunging at the plate.

“It worked,” Biggio said in his acceptance speech, hours before his plaque was installed in the MLB Hall of Fame. “But I came home every day with rope burns around my waist.”

Biggio said although sports were important, he had a number of commitments that kept him busy.

“Growing up in Kings Park, I had three responsibilities: school, sports and I had a job,” he said. “My job was I had a newspaper route.”

Baseball was not the only sport Biggio thrived in at Kings Park. The now 49-year-old was awarded the Hansen Award, recognizing the best football player in Suffolk County in 1983. Kevin Johnson, the then-assistant football coach at Kings Park, said at the time, he thought Biggio was better at football than he was baseball. Earlier this week at dinner, Johnson said he and then-Kings Park baseball coach John Rottkamp pinned Biggio down to the question of whether he thought his talents were superior in baseball or football.

“He picked the sport with the larger ball,” Johnson said with a laugh. “He thought he was a better football player at the time, too.”

Craig Biggio, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz are MLB Hall of Fame inductees. Photo by Clayton Collier
Craig Biggio, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz are MLB Hall of Fame inductees. Photo by Clayton Collier

Biggio had received interest from major football programs such as Boston College and Oklahoma State University, among others, but Johnson said the schools were looking at him as a punt and kickoff returner — a rough position on the body for any athlete, let alone a 5-foot, 10-inch, 165-pound high school senior.

“That’s not a safe occupation in football when you’re undersized,” Johnson said. “When we found out what colleges were going to do with him, right away we were a little nervous that he was just going to get so banged up. Then the Seton Hall scholarship fell into place.”

St. John’s head baseball coach Ed Blankmeyer, then an assistant coach at Seton Hall University under Mike Sheppard — and now Blankmeyer’s father-in-law — was responsible for recruiting Biggio to the Pirates. Blankmeyer said it was Biggio’s hard-nosed style of play, in spite of his small stature, that initially struck him.

“He played bigger than his size,” said Blankmeyer, who has amassed 688 wins in his 19 seasons as head coach of the Red Storm. “He had some outstanding skills. He could run like the wind, he could hit, he had outstanding instinct, but whether he played good or bad, you always found something good about Craig Biggio and the way he played the game. He played with an intensity; he played with a big heart. You had to go away liking the guy, that’s what it was. I just loved the way he played.”

Despite the multitude of football offers and a draft selection by the Detroit Tigers out of high school, Blankmeyer signed Biggio.

“Not many coaches can say they’ve had an opportunity to recruit and coach a big league player,” said Blankmeyer when asked about the satisfaction in knowing he signed Biggio. “But a guy who played 20 years with one organization, who played three positions, an All-Star and now a Hall of Famer? Boy I tell you, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime situation.”

A young Craig Biggio rounds the bases for Seton Hall University. Photo from Seton Hall
A young Craig Biggio rounds the bases for Seton Hall University. Photo from Seton Hall

After Seton Hall’s catcher Tony DeFrancesco was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 1984, there was a spot to fill at backstop. Sheppard called upon his star recruit, who had experience at catcher, to move back behind the plate.

“Craig used to call himself the retriever who became a receiver because he used to chase the ball back to the backstop,” Sheppard told WSOU, Seton Hall’s student radio station. “But let me tell you, he was so fast he could chase it to the backstop and still throw the guy out at first base.”

Biggio played on a Seton Hall squad consisting of future major leaguers Mo Vaughn, John Valentin and Marteese Robinson. They would capture the Big East regular season title all three years Biggio played for the Pirates and earned an NCAA Regional bid in 1987.

Off the field, Biggio converted to Catholicism and met his future wife, Patty.

“Seton Hall is very special to us,” Patty Biggio said. “It’s where our family began. It’s the roots of our relationship.”

Sheppard’s teams prided themselves on a scrappy style of baseball. Biggio said that it was simply the culture of the athletics program at the time, playing on a field he described as a “dirty, nasty bubble.” A far cry from the current playing grounds of the well-manicured turf of Owen T. Carroll Field. Most of all, Biggio said he remembers a common phrase of coach Sheppard.

“Coach Shep’s motto was, ‘Never lose your hustle,’ which is something I took to my pro career,” he said in his speech.

“He was part of the journey,” Biggio said in his post-induction press conference. “How do you get to the Hall of Fame? You got to have a little bit of talent and a lot of people to help you along the way, and Shep was one of those people.”

Biggio was drafted in the first round of the 1987 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros, going on to play the entirety of his two-decade career in an Astros uniform.

Adam Everett, a teammate of Biggio’s from 2001 to 2007, said he learned a great deal from Biggio about how to play the game the right way.

Craig Biggio, right, is all smiles with MLB Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson as he receives his induction plaque. Photo by Clayton Collier
Craig Biggio, right, is all smiles with MLB Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson as he receives his induction plaque. Photo by Clayton Collier

“There’s only one way to play, and that’s hard,” he said. “I owe a lot of my career to him and I really appreciate what he did for me.”

Biggio amassed 3,060 hits, 661 doubles and was hit by a record 285 pitches while playing second base, catcher and outfield at various points in his major league career. He also drew 1,160 walks and stole 414 bases.

What many do not know, however, is Biggio’s extensive charity work, particularly as the national spokesman for the Sunshine Kids, an organization supporting children with cancer. Biggio said his interest in helping children battling cancer came when a boy from a family on his paper route came down with leukemia.

“The Sunshine Kids are a big part of my life and one of the reasons I stayed in Houston for 20-plus years and continue to live there today,” he said.

It was because of his work with the Sunshine Kids and others that he was awarded the Roberto Clemente Award, something Johnson said is more indicative of who Biggio truly is, rather than his baseball statistics.

“I think that says more about him as a person than all the facts and figures that he amassed over the years,” Johnson said. “People have a tendency to look at what he did as a baseball player, but the Roberto Clemente award says much, much more about him as a person.”

Though Biggio has lived in Houston for more than 25 years, his impact on Kings Park is still felt.

“It’s great having an alum like Craig Biggio, because we can always refer to him to our current student-athletes as to what is possible and what can happen through hard work,” current athletic director Bill Denniston said.

The first three words of Biggio’s Hall of Fame plaque read “gritty spark plug,” an appropriate description of a player known for giving it his all in every game. In return, the game of baseball has given the local paperboy from Kings Park turned-MLB great an even greater gift, immortality.

“I gave the game everything I had every day,” Biggio said. “In baseball, tomorrow is not guaranteed, and I tried to play every game as if it was going to be my last. I want to thank the game for everything. The game has given me everything: my family, my friends, respect, but most of all memories of a lifetime.”

Beyond-Words-Jacket-wThe Bates House, 1 Bates Road, Setauket, will host a reading and book signing by Carl Safina on Thursday, Aug. 6, at 7 p.m. Named one of 100 Notable Conservationists of the 20th Century, Safina has authored seven books including “Song for the Blue Ocean,” which was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, “Eye of the Albatross,” “Voyage of the Turtle” and “The View from Lazy Point.”

Safina is founding president of The Safina Center at Stony Brook University, where he also co-chairs the university’s Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Winner of the 2012 Orion Award and a MacArthur Prize, his work has been featured in National Geographic, The New York Times, CNN.com, The Huffington Post and Times Beacon Record Newspapers.

On Aug. 6, Safina will speak about and sign copies of his latest nonfiction landmark book, “Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel,” sharing some astonishing new discoveries about the similarities between humans and animals. There will also be a Q-and-A.

Carl Safina. File photo from SBU
Carl Safina. File photo from SBU

Discover Magazine said the book is “a beautifully written, provocative case for seeing animals through their eyes,” and Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of “The Hidden Life of Dogs” said “‘Beyond Words’ is a must-read. Animals think, mourn, dream, make plans, and communicate complex messages in much the same way that we do. Readers who knew this already will rejoice, others will learn the truth and the more of us who capture the message, the sooner we will change the world.”

Don’t miss this special event. For more information, please call 631-632-3763 or visit www.carlsafina.org.

Brookhaven’s Youth Bureau is collecting school supplies. File photo

The start of school is right around the corner, and the Brookhaven Town Youth Bureau is making sure no student goes back empty-handed.

Through Aug. 24, the bureau is collecting back-to-school supplies at locations throughout the town, including Town Hall in Farmingville, the Highway Department in Coram, the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai and all Astoria Bank branch locations.

Pens, calculators, backpacks, notebooks, lunch boxes, folders, glue and binders are among the items needed and that will be distributed to needy families. Last year, the bureau collected enough supplies to help more than 1,500 children, according to a press release from the town.

For more information or to find additional collection bin locations, visit www.brookhaven.org or call 631-451-8014.

Annual Asharoken swim to benefit Alzheimer's disease research raises more than $6,000

By Talia Amorosano

On Tuesday morning, more than 20 kayakers and swimmers gathered for the 12th Annual Distant Memories Swim, an event created and organized by Bryan Proctor, a Harborfields physical education teacher, to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Participants traveled two nautical miles from Asharoken Beach in Northport to Knollwood Beach in Huntington and were cheered on by family members and supporters who waited and watched the event from shore. This year’s event has raised more than $6,000 for the Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center so far, and over the course of its existence, has raised over $100,000. Organizers hope that the money will eventually help researchers find a cure for this increasingly prevalent disease.

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By Elof Carlson

Fossils are relatively rare because most of the animals and plants that have died in nature have been eaten or decomposed. Fossils are often found in sedimentary rocks, and those dead organisms were buried after drowning, caught by volcanic ash, buried in a mudslide or sucked down by quicksand or some other event less likely than falling on a field or in the underbrush of a forest, or left as scattered bones by hungry predators. Only in the past few ten thousand years have humans buried their dead, improving the chances that their remains will someday be unearthed and studied by paleontologists.

DNAUntil the last half of the twentieth century, the only way to use human fossils to work out a historical association was through comparative anatomy and a variety of chemical and physical tools to determine the age of the sediments in which they were unearthed. The idea of a paleogenetics arose in 1963, with the use of that term by Linus Pauling and his colleagues, who studied the amino acid sequences in hemoglobin molecules of numerous organisms, from sipunculoid worms to humans, that use hemoglobin to carry oxygen to body tissues.

In 1964, the first sequence of fragments of the DNA of an extinct quagga were worked out using the skin of an extinct specimen in a museum. The quagga was an animal that looked like a chimera of giraffe and a zebra.

Once DNA sequencing was worked out, especially by Fred Sanger and his colleagues, viruses, bacteria, single-celled organisms, and then more complex worms and flies were sequenced. By 2000, the human genome was being worked out. Svante Pääbo and his colleagues are leaders in the working out of fossil human DNA.

This is what has been found so far. Four contenders for species status lived about 40,000 years ago. Three populations of humans arose after an initial origin in Africa. Of these three, the Neandertals (Homo neanderthalis) left Africa earlier than our own Homo sapiens. The Neandertals were named for the Neander river valley where they found in Germany. We were named by Linnaeus as Man (Homo) the Thinker (sapiens).

Two additional populations were found, one in western Siberia and the other in Indonesia. The Siberian humans are called Denisovans (Homo denisova). They were named for the Denis cave in which they were found and they also had an exit from Africa. The Indonesian humans are called Homo floresiensis and are named for the island Flores in Indonesia where they were found. Where they came from is not yet known. They are unusual for their small size, a Hobbit-like three- and-a-half feet tall.

The DNAs of three forms of humanity have been sequenced. The complete sequence of DNA of an organism’s cell is called a genome. The Indonesian form went extinct about 12,000 years ago, but no DNA has been extracted from their remains. Neandertals and Denisovans went extinct about 40,000 years ago.

Analysis of the three available genomes shows that most Europeans have about 4 percent Neandertal DNA. Living people in Melanesia and Australian aborigines have about 4 percent H. denisova DNA. About 17 percent of Denisovan DNA is from Neandertals. The human branch Homo bifurcated and one branch split into H. neanderthalis and H. denisova. The other branch from Homo produced us, H. sapiens. We are 99.7 percent alike for H. sapiens and H. neanderthalis.

Since we have 3 billion nucleotides to our genome, there remain 9 million mutations between us, most of it in our junk DNA. There are, nevertheless, hundreds of gene differences between our two species. It also means that where these populations came into contact, fertile matings occurred, and remain in our DNA from our ancestral “kissing cousins.”

Elof Axel Carlson is a distinguished teaching professor emeritus in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology at Stony Brook University.

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