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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.

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Jeff Carlson outlines budget figures. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

By Andrea Moore Paldy

The good news continues for the Three Village School District and its projected budget for the upcoming school year.

After whittling away programs because of financial constraints, the school district, for the first time in three years, is on the verge of bringing some back. District Superintendent for Business Services Jeff Carlson outlined this in his report.

Not only will Three Village be able to stay within the 2.93 percent cap on the tax levy increase without cuts, its administration is proposing staffing changes to restore health education in grades four through six, American Sign Language at Ward Melville High School and the Three Village Academy and full-time social workers at all elementary schools.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s official state aid projections, released Tuesday, slated a roughly 4.3 percent increase, which was roughly the same amount Carlson was budgeting for, he said, totalling more than  $1 million as the district anticipated.

Districts have yet to learn whether their aid will include a reduction in the Gap Elimination Act (GEA), a measure that deducts money from aid packages to fund the state’s budget. Carlson said that while Long Island districts pay 21 percent of the GEA, they receive just 12 percent of state aid. Three Village’s share of the GEA is $5.2 million for the current school year.

Three Village will also see some of its expenses drop next year. One example is a $3.6 million decrease in contributions to retirement systems. Since the district is a member of a self-insured consortium of school districts, it has been able to make changes that will reduce health insurance rates by 5 percent, saving more than $1 million, Carlson said.

The district can also count on tuition revenue from non-residents attending the district’s special education programs and Three Village Academy, which brought $1.2 million to the district this year.

With the finances improving, the administration plans to balance classes in all grades and to depend less on the district’s applied fund balance, decreasing the amount used to balance the budget from about $6.5 million to between $2 million and $2.5 million, Carlson said.

Declining enrollment at the elementary level is making it possible to both balance class sizes and restructure some positions. Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich said the administration would take three full-time equivalent (FTE) classroom teachers and the two remaining teachers from the Pi enrichment program — which is ending this year — to create math and science enrichment specialists for each elementary school.

“We’ve all come to the conclusion that really enrichment should be a building-wide enrichment,” Pedisich said. “We also feel, with regard to math, that greater intervention needs to be addressed at the elementary level.”

Lower enrollment also means that the district does not have to replace retirements in special education and can increase staffing in health by .9 FTE, instead.  Health, which is now only given to sixth-graders, can again be offered to students in the fourth through sixth grades. Plans also are being made to boost the social worker position by .5 FTE.

Pedisich called having full-time social workers in every elementary school “the clinical piece” that makes possible “the identification and the preventive work” necessary to complement the security and safety upgrades the district has made.

To balance classes, decrease study halls and increase electives at the junior highs and high school, there will be small increases to staffing, Pedisich said. Retirements will pay for the additions.

Departments to benefit include technology, English, foreign language, guidance, health, math, science and social studies.

The ASL class, which had many advocates during the two years it was slated for cuts, will again be offered by the foreign language department.

Due to a new state mandate, the district must also add 1.2 FTEs for English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers.

Additional clerical positions will be added and divided among junior high libraries, the Ward Melville High School office, human resources and business. Carlson said that maintenance and operations would gain three FTEs to lower overtime costs and outside contractors. There will also be additional security during the day and for evening activities, he said.

The district will restructure its current administration to create new roles without the need for additional staff, Pedisich said. Some of the positions expected to be restored include the coordinating chair for music, an assistant director for health and physical education, an assistant director for pupil personnel services, coordinating chair for junior high foreign language and district-wide ESL and an assistant director for instructional technology.

Pedisich said that the latter position is particularly important, because the schools will eventually transition to the computer-based Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers testing.
The board will adopt the budget on April 15. The budget vote is May 19 at the district’s elementary schools.

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Stock photo

As a community newspaper, we value reader feedback and welcome any and all letters to the editor on the stories that compel our neighbors. But we received one letter in particular this past week that we felt warranted a larger editorial response.

Last week, we ran a story on Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) spearheading a new law that aims to more aggressively address domestic violence by empowering victims — connecting them with agencies and offering up a self-assessment questionnaire — and analyzing offenders. The bill was approved without a single “nay” in the Legislature, showing the county’s commitment to the issue.

On Monday, we opened up an anonymous letter addressed to the publisher of this newspaper, responding to our domestic violence reporting.

“Women can be opportunists,” the letter started. “If a man just pushes his girlfriend or paramour or even his wife, the next thing you know, she comes to court with a brace on her neck and bandages and a story that complains how she was pushed down a flight of stairs and strangled.”

Our initial reaction to this argument was scoffs and rolling eyes. (And why is this man pushing his partner to begin with?) While some people may have valid concerns over the consequences of tighter domestic violence laws, our anonymous reader’s remarks underscored the very same symptomatic problem, which affects both women and men, that Hahn’s legislation is looking to end in Suffolk County.

“No wonder guys go off the deep end and murder their so-called girlfriends. If I could not see my children, I would be mad as well. Enough to murder — possibly,” the secret letter writer said about custody battles. “Women are so thick-headed, unreasonable and vindictive, especially where money is concerned, that the greed of a woman scorned cannot be fathomed and we, the dads, husbands, boyfriends, are left out in the cold with no recourse.”

The writer asked that this newspaper “do something about these issues.” That is why we chose to dedicate this week’s editorial to his letter — to do something when we are confronted with a disgusting diatribe that condones violence against a group of people.

We hope the county law, still in its infancy, helps shift the train of thought of those like this reader.

Thank you for the letter.

Jessica Lee Goldyn in a scene from ‘A Chorus Line’ at the Engeman. Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

By Charles J. Morgan

“A Chorus Line” opened at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport last weekend and was a top-notch terpsichorean treat! If your scribe could marshal more alliterative allusions evoking the theatrical theophany that burst forth last Saturday, he would be demeaning the meaning of accurate critical acumen. But enough of Roccoco doggerel! The show, directed by Drew Humphrey was, well, a smash hit.

Since it was all about dance and nothing but dance, a word about the choreography is in order. Dena DiGiacinto was in charge, and her fully charged crew put out a potpourri of evolutions and contortions in every genre including tango, tap, ballet and culminating in an all-hands-on-stage finale entitled “One,” which brought out a standing ovation rife with shouts of “Bravo!” DiGiacinto is immensely talented, having played a role in it on Broadway. However, she is the one who managed the unbelievable precision, coordination and aesthetic unitive finality that was a tribute to the totality of the show.

Since dance requires music, there was James Olmstead leading his magnificent crew with associate Bob Kelly and featuring Joe Boardman on trumpet, Brent Chiarello on trombone, Russ Brown on bass, Mark Gatz on reeds and Josh Enflich on percussion. In your scribe’s opinion previously expressed about this band, they could easily supplant a Broadway pit outfit including its string section.

The main lead is Zach, the choreographer charged with getting a chorus line in shape for a forthcoming performance. He is played by James Ludwig who reveals not only talent in dancing but a genuine stage presence as an actor. He even appears as a dancer in that knockout finale.

Then we have Jessica Lee Goldyn as Cassie who gives an empty-stage dance  solo in “The Music and the Mirror” as well as an emotional dialog with Zach that can only be described as riveting.

Stephanie Israelson is Valerie. She has two breakaway numbers. In Act I with Andrew Matzger and Sissy Bell called “And…” in which her dancing skills are obvious and in Act II a solo on “”Dance: 10; Looks: 3” in which those skills are more ubiquitous. DJ Petrosino as Al and Rachel Marie Bell as Kristine are hilarious in a number called “Sing.”

In another number entitled “At the Ballet” Kelly Sheehan, Abby Church and Courtney Moran manifested evident skill. Patent progress was also evident in Danny Wilfred’s performance as  Richie.

It should be remembered that every single person on the boards is a dancer. There are no walk-ons, no characters who have only dialog — it is dance and music all the way. Lighting was effected by Cory Pattak who handled the fast-paced action with consummate skill.

There was no set. Even the back wall upstage was seen; after all it was rehearsal and audition time. Laura Shubert on sound design made her  ability to balance, increase/decrease, volume shine through. Your scribe even picked up a brief solo by Josh Endlich played on sizzling high-hats. The beats of all the numbers was so complete that your scribe’s slightly arthritic knee grew tired from his left foot tapping. He actually had to switch to his right.

All in all, the entire performance is sharply and professionally performed, something that the Engeman has consistently presented to theater audiences.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present “A Chorus Line” through May 10. Tickets are $69. For more information, call 261-2900 or visit www.engemean theater.com.

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Scott Powers with his wife Diane at a recent Cancer Research Gala. Photo by Julie Skarratt

By Daniel Dunaief

He spent 20 years looking at the problem in one way. Now, he’s ready for a change and Stony Brook officials stand behind him. After working in genomics at several locations, including for a decade as director of human cancer genomics at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to find therapeutic targets for human tumors, Scott Powers recently embraced the opportunity to find better ways to diagnose different types of cancer.

“A major driver for me coming to Stony Brook was to work on earlier detection,” Powers said.

Working with pathology department Chairman Ken Shroyer and Stony Brook obstetrician/gynecologist Michael Pearl, Powers is hoping to develop a prototype test for early detection of ovarian cancer so it can be removed by “simple surgery,” he said.

Powers has worked in numerous ways to isolate or identify mutations that might lead to cancer. That work focused on finding drug targets or developing therapies. One of the many challenges in studying genomics is that some mutations are bystanders, which means they likely don’t have a role in causing cancer or even, necessarily, in enabling cancer to spread. They make it harder to know whether they have a role or are merely different from the range of normal in a genetic sequence.

Some of the ways Powers has understood the potential part mutations play is by taking a computational approach, which can take many forms, including finding gene networks that are frequently altered. This approach has helped find various targets for therapies and improve the classification of tumors.

Powers said the “poster child” for success of this method was the development of the Oncotype DX test for breast cancer, which allows patients with node-negative, ER-positive breast cancer to determine whether they need to take chemotherapy.

He has also compared the gene sequences for similar cancer types across different species. He and Scott Lowe, who is now at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, found this approach could “help identify drivers and, in a sense, help filter out passengers,” he said. This has been successful on a basic science level but hasn’t yet led to the identification of a viable new therapeutic strategy, he said.

Powers’ focus now is to direct his expertise toward developing a test that might address early detection and, in some cases, improved diagnosis.

“It’s a brand new set of things for me to think about,” Powers said. The effort, he believes, should prove reinvigorating. The intellectual challenge of coming up with a solution that improves or enhances someone’s life motivates him.

Powers supports Stony Brook’s effort to add staff and develop a pool of researchers who can develop techniques and tools to aid in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. “I am very hopeful for Stony Brook to build up an intellectually interesting environment that will attract a new generation of cancer scientists to come on board,” he said.

Powers believes cancer is a complex disease that has many different variations. “Many random events occur that sometimes give the cancer cell a competitive survival advantage,” he explained. “Everyone’s tumor has its own unique combination of 10 to 25 genetic alterations that are driving it.”

In addition to working with Shroyer on developing diagnostic tools for the genomics of cancer, Powers has turned his attention toward other researchers on the campus with different backgrounds. He is planning a collaboration with Sasha Levy, who works at the Laufer Center for Physical and Quantitative Biology and is an assistant professor of biochemistry and cell biology, to study cancer evolution. He said they’ll be using experimental methods Levy has developed on yeast.

Yusuf Hannun, the director of the Cancer Center, has recruited Powers to participate on the tumor board, which is where physicians from different areas come to discuss specific patients in a multidisciplinary fashion.

“There are numerous discussions and plans to expand upon this growing trend to use genetic testing in developing a personalized strategy for each patient,” Powers said.

Powers and his wife Diane, who works in fundraising with Patricia Wright at Stony Brook in the anthropology department, live in Greenlawn with their daughter Camille, who is a sophomore at Harborfields High School. Their other children are Alexander, 25, who works for a nonprofit in Brooklyn called the Social Science Research Council, and Douglas, 21, who is a junior studying applied math at Harvard.

Powers was looking for two things that he found when he came to Stony Brook: “the chance to develop diagnostic tests” and to “enter new fields by finding new collaborators with scientists doing interesting things.”

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By David Dunaief

Steroids have been in the news with headlines about sports figures like Alex Rodriguez, the NY Yankees baseball player notorious for their illegal use. However, if we look beyond the flashy headlines to rudimentary use, we see that corticosteroids, or steroids, play an important role in medicine. This is a commonly prescribed class of medications. In fact, our bodies make corticosteroids, the indigenous form of steroids, in the cortex of the adrenals, glands that sit on top of the kidneys. Here, we are going to concentrate on the exogenous form, meaning from the outside as medication.

The use or benefit
Steroids have an anti-inflammatory effect. This is critical since many acute and chronic diseases are based at least partially on inflammation. Chronic diseases that benefit include allergic, inflammatory and immunological diseases (1). These types of diseases touch on almost every area of the body from osteoarthritis and  autoimmune diseases — rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus, psoriasis and eczema — to asthma, COPD (emphysema and chronic bronchitis) and eye disorders. This type of medication is pervasive.

The delivery
Steroids are delivered via the oral route, as topical creams, lotions and eye drops or via injections, intravenous solutions and inhaled formulations. The most commonly known medication is prednisone, but there is a plethora of others, including prednisolone, methylprednisolone, cortisone, hydrocortisone and dexamethasone.
Their benefits can be tremendous, improving functionality and reducing pain or improving breathing. You could say they are lifesaving in some instances, and with rescue inhalers they may just be that.

The bad
However, there is a very big caveat: they come at a price. Steroids have lots and lots of adverse events associated with them. This is where the bad part comes in and keeps on coming. Steroids cause weight gain, increased glucose (sugars), high blood pressure, cardiovascular events, osteoporosis, change in mood (psychoses), cataracts, glaucoma, infection, peptic ulcers, Cushing’s syndrome and the list goes on. Ironically, steroids help with breathing; however, as I’ve seen in my clinical experience, they can cause shortness of breath when weaned from a longer-use high dose too quickly.

The upshot
The good news is that a plant-based diet may have similar beneficial effects in chronic diseases as steroids without all the downsides. Let’s look at the evidence.

The role in pneumonia
Pneumonia is among the top-10 leading causes of death in the world (2). It can be a most painful and debilitating disease. I know, for I experienced it personally while I was in my medical training. Every time I coughed, it felt like there was a fire in my chest.
In a meta-analysis (a group of nine studies), there was no overall effect of corticosteroids in reducing the risk of mortality in community-acquired pneumonia (3). However, don’t fret; when the data was broken into subsets, the findings were different. In subset data of those who had severe pneumonia, there was a statistically significant 74 percent reduction in mortality. And when duration was the main focus in subgroup analysis, those who received prolonged use of steroids reduced their risk of mortality by half. Unfortunately, with the benefit comes an increased risk of adverse events, and this meta-analysis was no exception. There was a greater than two times increased risk of abnormally high glucose levels with prolonged use. Thus, when giving steroids, especially for a prolonged use, it may be wise to check glucose levels.
In a more recent randomized controlled trial (RCT), the gold standard of studies, the results reinforced the beneficial effects of steroids on pneumonia. They showed that in those with both severe pneumonia and high inflammation, there was a two-thirds reduction in treatment failures when corticosteroids were added to the regimen (4). There were 120 patients involved in the study. They received antibiotics plus either methylprednisolone or placebo for five days.

Osteoarthritis: surprising results
As we know, osteoarthritis specifically of the knee is very common, especially as the population continues to age. Intra-articular (in the joint) injections directly into the knee are becoming routine treatment. A recent study compared injectable hyaluronic acid to injectable corticosteroid (5). The results showed that over three months, the corticosteroid was superior to hyaluronic acid in terms of reducing pain, 66 percent versus 43.8 percent, respectively. Interestingly, over the longer term, 12 months, hyaluronic acid reduced the pain and maintained its effect significantly longer than the steroid, 33 percent versus a meager 8.2 percent, respectively. Study groups received five injections of either steroid or of hyaluronic acid directly to the knee over a five-week period. Thus, steroids may not always be the most effective choice when it comes to pain reduction. Hyaluronic acid may have caused this beneficial effect by reducing inflammation, protecting cartilage and preventing cell death, according to the authors.

COPD: length may not matter
It is not unusual to treat COPD patients with oral steroids. But what is the proper duration? The treatment paradigm has been two weeks with 40 mg of corticosteroids daily. However, results in an RCT showed that five days with 40 mg of corticosteroid was noninferior (equivalent) to 14 days of the same dosage and frequency (6). About one-third of patients in each group experienced a COPD exacerbation within the six-month duration of the trial. The hope is that the shorter use of steroids will mean fewer side effects. There were over 600 patients in this trial. We have come a long way; prior to 1999, eight weeks of steroids was a more commonplace approach to treating acute COPD exacerbations.

Topical steroid risk
Even topical creams and lotions are not immune to risk. For example, potent topical creams and lotions placed around the orbit of the eye with prolonged use may negatively affect vision (7). However, the evidence is based mostly on case reporting, which is a low level of evidence.

Dietary effect
One of the great things about steroids is that they reduce inflammation, and we know that the basis of greater than 80 percent of chronic disease is inflammation. A plant-based diet involving lots of vegetables and fruits and some grains may have a similar effect as steroids. The effect of diet on chronic disease may be to modify the immune system and reduce inflammation (8). The bioactive substances from plants thought to be involved in this process are predominantly the carotenoids and the flavonoids. Thus, those patients who respond even minimally to steroids are likely to respond to a plant-based diet in much the same beneficial way without the downsides of a significant number of side effects. Diet, unlike steroids, can be used for a long duration and a high intake, with a direct relationship to improving disease outcomes.
In conclusion, it is always better to treat with the lowest effective dose for the shortest effective period when it comes to steroids. The complications of these drugs are enumerable and must always be weighed against the benefits. Sometimes, other drugs may have more beneficial effects over the long term such as hyaluronic acid injections for knee osteoarthritis. A plant-based diet, with anti-inflammatory properties similar to steroids, may be a useful alternative for chronic disease or may be used alongside these drugs, possibly reducing their dosage and duration.

REFERENCES
(1) uptodate.com. (2) N Engl J Med. 1995;333(24):1618-24. (3) PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47926. (4) JAMA. 2015;313(7):677-686. (5) Open Access Rheum 2015;7:9-18. (6) JAMA. 2013;309(21):2223-31. (7) Australas J Dermatol. Mar 5, 2015. (8) Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2008 Dec;78(6):293-8.

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management.  For further information, go to the website www.medicalcompassmd.com and/or consult your personal physician.

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By Michael R. Sceiford

If you are interested in saving for retirement, here’s some good news: For 2015, the IRS has raised the maximum contribution limits for 401(k) plans from $17,500 to $18,000. And if you’re 50 or older, you can put in an extra $6,000, up from $5,500 in 2014.

These same limits also apply to 403(b) plans, for employees of public schools and nonprofit organizations, and to 457(b) plans, for employees of state and local governments and other governmental agencies, such as park boards and water districts. So, in other words, a lot of workers have gotten a “raise” in their ability to contribute to tax-advantaged retirement plans.

Although you may not think you will ever contribute the maximum amount to your retirement plan, you may still benefit from making small increases each year. Unfortunately, many people don’t do this. In fact, approximately 30 percent of eligible workers don’t even participate in their employer’s 401(k)-type plan, according to the Employee Benefits Security Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor. And the median savings rate for these plans is just 6 percent of eligible income, with only 22 percent of employees contributing more than 10 percent of their pay, according to a recent report by Vanguard, an investment management company.

In any case, you do have some pretty strong motivations to put in as much as you can possibly afford. First of all, your 401(k) earnings grow on a tax-deferred basis, which means your money has more growth potential than it would if it were placed in an account on which you paid taxes every year. Eventually, though, you will be taxed on your withdrawals, but by the time you start taking out money, presumably in retirement, you might be in a lower tax bracket.

But you can also get a more immediate tax-related benefit from contributing as much as you can to your 401(k). Consider this hypothetical example. Suppose that you are in the 28 percent tax bracket. For every dollar you earn, you must pay 28 cents in taxes (excluding state and other taxes), leaving you 72 cents to spend as you choose. But if you put that same dollar into your 401(k), which is typically funded with pre-tax dollars, you will reduce your taxable income by one dollar — which means that if you did contribute the full $18,000, you’d save $5,040 in federal income taxes. Your particular tax situation will likely be impacted by other factors, but you’d have that $18,000 working for you in whatever investments you have chosen within your 401(k) plan. If you kept contributing the maximum each year, you will be giving yourself more potential for a sizable fund for your retirement years.

Even if you couldn’t afford to “max out” on your 401(k), you should, at the very least, contribute enough to earn your employer’s match, if one is offered. (A common match is 50 cents per dollar, up to 6 percent of your pay.) Your human resources department can tell you how much you need to contribute to get the greatest match, so if you haven’t had that conversation yet, don’t put it off.

As we’ve seen, investing in your 401(k) is a good retirement strategy — you get tax benefits and the chance to build retirement savings. And with the contribution limit increasing, you’ve got the chance for more savings in the future.

This article was written for use by local Edward Jones Financial Advisor Michael R. Sceiford.

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By Leah Dunaief

Almost 20 years ago this Easter, I left the comforts of home to go on a tour 10,000 miles away. The adventure was originally billed as a trip to Australia and New Zealand, but the tour company representative called to tell me about a month in advance that New Zealand was going to be eliminated from the itinerary to shorten the trip — and we would just visit Australia. I was terrifically disappointed and made my feelings known. After all, how often did I plan to be in the neighborhood? As long as I was making that long flight, I was intent on touring both countries.

Since I knew the tour owner personally, I carried on about my disappointment long and hard. Finally he called with a proposal. While the official visit was now only to Australia, there was a small group of six people, whom he knew well, who were indeed going on their own tour of New Zealand. One of their group had been stationed there during World War II and had put together a pre-tour visit. At my friend’s suggestion, they were now prepared to include me. Did I want to go with them?

“Would I be like a seventh wheel,” I asked. “No,” he assured me, “they would really like you to join them.” “Did they all know each other beforehand,” I worried. “Yes, the three couples were quite good friends,” he explained, “and lots of fun.” I worried more. “Here, take their phone numbers and call them — you can decide for yourself,” he said as he ended the call, glad to have finally solved the problem.

I did call one of them, a hasty call because she was running between two appointments, but she did encourage me to come. They were leaving from three different corners of the United States: Seattle, Los Angeles and Sarasota. So I agreed to meet them on the South Island in Christchurch, the second largest city of New Zealand, in a specific hotel lobby on Easter Sunday at 7 a.m. I can only marvel today at my daring.
The drama intensified.

Before I got on the plane to begin my trip, I came down with a nasty cold. By the time I got to Auckland, New Zealand’s gateway city on the North Island at 6 a.m. I had a temperature of 102 degrees and felt rotten. Fortunately I had included a Z-Pak antibiotic in my luggage, and I swallowed down the first dose on the bus to the motel. That bus ride went on forever, seeming to stop at every corner. When I finally arrived at the motel and got into bed, one thought occurred to me: Everyone in the world who cared about me enough to take care of me was on the other side of the world. With that, I drifted off to sleep.

When I awoke in the afternoon and wandered outside, looking for a place to eat, I was surprised to find all stores tightly closed and the streets almost empty Finally catching up to a pedestrian, I asked why.

“Everything is closed on Good Friday!” he exclaimed, looking at me as if I had just dropped down from Mars. Which indeed is how I felt. “Only the tourist shops and the movies are open today,” he added, sensing that I needed further help.

I took a bus to the center of the city and chatted up the bored clerks in all the tourist shops I could find. Auckland, a clean and beautiful city on the water, felt the size of Boston. Then, when the tourist places closed, I found the city’s equivalent of Times Square and went to see “The English Patient.” There weren’t many people in the cinema, and those few didn’t hear all the dialogue because by that time, I was coughing very hard. But it was a gorgeously filmed movie, even if I didn’t understand the plot entirely, which I attributed to my illness.

The next day I flew to Christchurch, a city that could have been located in rural England, and at the appointed hour on Easter morning I met my six traveling companions, who looked a little nervous too. Fortunately we hit it off, had a fabulous trip through the South Island, from glaciers to beaches, saw about 60 million sheep and have been friends ever since. It was a Happy Easter memory and I wish you one this year too.

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By Daniel Dunaief

I have a modest proposal: How about a new holiday, either in each school or in each town, every year? I’m not talking about taking any more time off from school or interrupting the flow of work, especially in a year when snow, ice and record-breaking blizzards that never happened upset our busy schedules. I’d like to suggest, rather, that we celebrate, recognize or mark the occasion for a different moment every year. We could create such a holiday some day in June, when classes are winding down and we’re just about to kick off the start of the summer.

Every year, Americans stop to recognize 9/11 in September. It’s a somber occasion and a chance to reflect on who we lost and what might have been. It’s also an opportunity to recognize the unimaginable bravery of those who did whatever they could to save strangers, friends and fellow New Yorkers and Americans.

Perhaps, one year, we might also recognize all the medical miracles that have made lives possible. I’ll never forget the day a colleague of mine at Bloomberg picked up the phone and his face went white. Seemingly unable to verbalize the terror in his mind, he grabbed his jacket and sprinted out of the room. His sudden and panicked motion created considerable concern from his colleagues.

As he told our editor the next morning in a barely audible voicemail, his wife went into premature labor and, less than an hour later, delivered a baby girl who weighed close to 1 pound.

For weeks, whenever he came to work, he seemed to look past us, searching for any kind of help, spiritual or otherwise, for his daughter’s fragile life. After several months, she grew enough to improve her prospects for survival. We knew things were getting better because we heard the welcome return of laughter from our friend. We also saw him exhale for the first time in months, loosening and relaxing the taut muscles in his chest.

Perhaps, one school might find the names of the doctors and scientists who improved the treatment and care for premature babies who had considerably poorer prognoses 50 or 100 years earlier.

We might also pause to recognize those working in fertility clinics or in reproductive research, who have made it possible for couples having trouble conceiving to celebrate the marvel of their child.

Maybe we could celebrate the considerable achievements of scientists who have helped prevent an HIV diagnosis from becoming a death sentence. When Magic Johnson revealed that he was HIV positive, many of us probably never imagined we’d see him cheering for his Michigan State basketball team to make it to the Final Four in 2015.

It is through remarkable medical breakthroughs, incredible dedication and a desire to defeat diseases like cancer and AIDS that we can extend the quantity and quality of our lives and the lives of our friends and family.

Some of these achievements and lifesaving discoveries wouldn’t have been possible without the insights and inspiration of scientists, researchers and doctors on Long Island.

Perhaps we can take a moment to appreciate and acknowledge the guiding hand and valuable contributions religious leaders make to us. Bringing us together and encouraging us through our battles elevates us when we’re down.

We see headlines about people who take lives and make poor decisions. Perhaps, we could use a day to recognize those who, to borrow a phrase from just about every political ad, truly “fight for us.” And maybe, by acknowledging these achievements, we inspire the next generation.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone file photo

By Julianne Cuba

At his fourth State of the County address, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone began by ensuring the county government and public that he has never been more optimistic about the current state of the region and its future.

At the William H. Rogers Legislative Building in Hauppauge on March 26, Bellone (D) also took time commending the county legislature for successfully and efficiently reducing government by more than 10 percent — an initiative that will save Suffolk County taxpayers more than $100 million a year. The county executive announced that when he took office three years ago, the unemployment rate for Suffolk County stood at 8.2 percent. As of the end of 2014, it stands at 4.2 percent.

However, Bellone continued, “I’m not here to talk about where we are today. I am much more interested in talking about where we are going and what the future could look like.”

In order to combat what Bellone said he considers the fundamental issue of our time — a two-decade trend of losing young, qualified and educated people to other regions of the county — he pointed to the county’s economic development plan, Connect Long Island.

“We cannot reach our economic potential, we cannot build a more prosperous future, if we are not a region that can attract and retain the young, high-knowledge, high-skill workers necessary to build an innovative economy,” he said.

Connect Long Island will make progress on the five crucial issues that are driving young people away, which, according to Bellone include high costs, lack of transportation options, lack of quality affordable rental housing, lack of affordable housing in desired environments and a lack of high-paying jobs.

“We build walkable, transit-oriented downtowns that have strong, public transportation links to one another and to universities, research centers, job centers and parks and open space. Effectively, what Connect LI will do is to build a quality of life ecosystem that will be attractive to young people,” he said.

But, unfortunately, Bellone said, the lack of sewage systems in many of Suffolk County’s downtown areas — which are critical parts of the region’s future — is limiting the opportunity for growth.

Suffolk County’s sewage problem impacts not only the regions economic development but its water quality as well. The water quality issue was one of the three major problems on which Bellone focused.

“We have 360,000 unsewered homes in Suffolk County — that is more than the entire state of New Jersey. Those 360,000 homes represent, potentially, 360,000 customers. So I’m happy to report that four companies donated 19 systems, which we are putting into the ground to test under local conditions. At the same time, with the leadership of Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst and Dr. Samuel Stanley, [Stony Brook University] will begin a new program to identify the next generation of septic technology, with the goal of providing better, more cost-efficient options for Suffolk County residents,” Bellone said.

Bellone announced that with the help of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), the county’s state and federal partners, and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), he was able to secure $383 million for one of the largest investments in clean water infrastructure in more than 40 years — the Reclaim Our Water Initiative.

Legislator and Minority Leader Kevin McCaffrey (R) said that he agrees 100 percent with everything the county executive said in regard to economic development and improving drinking water. However, he added that the county’s debt must be cut and the legislature needs increased oversight.

“We must ask ourselves if we are going to control the irresponsible and reckless spending and borrowing, we must become more focused on the county’s ever-increasing debt,” McCaffrey said.  “We must ask ourselves if we want to throw debt on the backs of our children and our grandchildren. It’s time to cut up the credit cards and learn how to live within our means.”

 

Council head mulls creating new lecture series

Marc Courtade photo from Huntington Arts Council

Marc Courtade, the new executive director of the Huntington Arts Council, is rolling up his sleeves and getting ready to work.

Courtade follows Diana Cherryholmes as the new leader of the arts organization and officially stepped in to fill her position on March 2. Cherryholmes, who was at the helm of the Huntington Arts Council for more than 16 years, left to work for Suffolk County.

Before joining the Huntington Arts Council, Courtade was the business manager for Tilles Center for the Performing Arts at LIU Post for the past 17 years.

“I am delighted to bring my skills, passion and energy to the Huntington Arts Council, and look forward to helping the arts remain a vibrant part of our community,” he said in a statement.

While at Tilles, Courtade was an integral part of the center’s performance season, where he assisted in planning and organizing many of the performances and special events. At Tilles, he also created the pre-performance series, “Performance PLUS!” while simultaneously producing and acting as artistic director for 10 years. Courtade continues to teach musical theater and opera courses for the honors program at LIU and The Hutton House Lectures at Lorber Hall.

“At the moment, I just want to help to continue the good work and move the organization forward … I’m still transitioning and working on a 50th anniversary reception,” he said in a phone interview. “This is the 50th anniversary of the concerts at Heckscher Park, so we’re currently working on finalizing that programming.”

Courtade said that the planning for the 50th anniversary of the concerts in the park is all still in the works, but he is looking to hold a small reception before the anniversary concert on June 27.

Courtade said that over the years he has given many lectures and would like to continue that while at HAC.

“I would love to begin a lecture series here, presentations about the arts,” he said. “Different art genres. I would like to tailor it across a wide variety of art genres. I would give some and I would like to have speakers from the outside as well on arts-related topics.”

While Courtade’s personal focus is in the performing arts, the Huntington Arts Council offers a wide variety of arts, including both performing and visual.

Courtade said that on April 10, HAC will be holding its opening reception of a self-portrait visual arts show entitled, “I see me!” It will be a juried show and the winners will be announced very soon, he said.

In addition to his involvement at Tilles and now at HAC, Courtade has been a speaker for the New York Council for the Humanities since 2007. He is a frequent speaker all over Long Island and the New York-area.

Before Tilles, Courtade worked in development for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and New York City Opera.

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