Arts & Entertainment

Stony Brook University, President Samuel L. Stanley, Jr. MD

By Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., MD

At Stony Brook University, we’re proud to be a diverse community of scholars, researchers, educators and professionals representing many races, ethnicities, ages, genders, religions, abilities, socioeconomic levels, sexual orientations and veteran status.

In consideration of persistent issues of inequality in our society, Stony Brook University is implementing a new Plan for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity, which will build on successes and address opportunities to take us to the next level in enhancing student, faculty and staff diversity and building an inclusive community.

Involving the campus community was key in developing a comprehensive plan, which embraces SUNY’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Policy in aspiring to be part of the most inclusive state university system in the country. In March, Stony Brook students, faculty and staff were invited to view a draft of the plan and share feedback. Their thoughtful comments and suggestions were received, reviewed and included, where possible, prior to releasing this plan.

While people celebrated some or all of their experiences at the University, many also recommended ways to improve how we embrace our diversity to create and maintain a welcoming environment on campus. Opportunities raised by all groups encompassed the broad areas of hiring, student enrollment and the daily campus experience.

The plan has four overarching goals: improve the diversity of the Stony Brook Community through enhanced recruitment and retention; expand educational, research, healthcare and other efforts to ensure that Stony Brook students have the ability to thrive as members of the campus community and as global citizens in a diverse society; support the development of a campus climate that values diversity, equity and inclusion in a way that promotes the ability of members of the community to thrive and to achieve their individual goals; and establish a culture of accountability and assessment around diversity and inclusion initiatives and policies.

Each goal will be achieved through a variety of initiatives and action items identified specifically in the plan, and highlights of data on our students and employees provide an overview of where we are today, giving us the ability to understand and monitor progress toward those goals. I invite you to view Stony Brook University’s new Plan for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity at stonybrook.edu/diversityplan.

If you want to harvest mint throughout the summer, it is best not to let it flower. Stock photo

By Ellen Barcel

There are many flowering plants that gardeners grow for their leaves, rather than their flowers, yet they do produce flowers. Usually these flowers are comparatively small. In addition, most of these plants, while producing seeds from the flowers, generally reproduce by underground runners, bulbs, rhizomes, etc.

Mint and other herbs

Many different herbs are grown for their leaves, including sage, thyme and mints, all flowering plants. There are dozens (or is it hundreds) of varieties of mint. I particularly like mojito mint (Mentha x villosa). It’s a Cuban mint frequently used to flavor cocktails. The leaves can be used fresh but can also be dried. Some people like to take mint leaves and freeze them in ice cube trays with a bit of water. Then they can be used to flavor beverages, like iced tea. Mints are hardy in zones 6 and over with Long Island as zone 7. Mints are herbaceous perennials, so if properly cared for, will return year after year. Yes, mints produce small white or purple flowers at the end of the stems. I prefer to remove these flowers to force the plants to become bushier, but that’s entirely up to you. In addition to being used as flavoring, a stem of mint makes a wonderful addition to a bouquet of flowers. Just touch the leaves gently to release the scent.

There are many, many varieties of mint, with slightly different scent and flavor, including peppermint, chocolate mint, orange mint, spearmint, pineapple mint, ginger mint, banana mint, lemon mint and apple mint. If you are planning to make mint jelly, select the variety with the taste and scent you prefer. If you are concerned that the mint plants will take over your garden, grow them in pots, or sink a barrier in the soil around the plant, such as metal edging. Like other herbaceous perennials, mint clumps can be divided every few years.

Potatoes

Long Island is known for its potato farms. If you’ve ever driven out to the East End, you’ve passed many. The relatively small plants, produce small white flowers in June. Yes, this is another plant grown and propagated not for its flowers and seeds but for the potatoes that form underground along the roots. While some people will grow the plants as seedlings, many just take one or more of their best potatoes, cut them into small pieces (making sure there is at least one eye in each piece) and plant each piece separately to develop into new plants.

Root crops

Many root crops will “go to seed” if not grown correctly, including carrots, turnips and radishes. Turnips, for example, will bolt (go to seed) in poor soil, so make sure you use sufficient compost if growing them. Turnips that have gone to seed are generally not of sufficient quality to eat. Carrots that have gone to seed are edible, but, again not really tasty. Understand that going to seed is a natural part of these plants’ life cycle. They, too are flowering plants and as such want to produce seeds for the next generation. Sometimes a sudden warm spell will trigger this production of flowers/seeds. Sometimes it’s a matter of poor growing conditions in general, such as insufficient water. If it’s your lettuce that is going to seed, pick the leaves regularly. If you’ve had this problem in the past, select varieties that resist bolting (check the package or catalog).

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. Send your gardening questions to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

By Linda Toga

The Facts: My father married a woman named Jane after my mother’s death. They were married for 10 years before my father died. In his will, my father left everything except the contents of his house to me and my sister.

The Question: Is it true that Jane is entitled to a larger share of my father’s estate than what he left her in his will?

The Answer: Unfortunately for you and your sister, because she is your father’s surviving spouse, Jane is entitled to more than the contents of the house. Under New York law, spouses cannot disinherit each other. Although your father left something to Jane and did not technically disinherit her, the value of the contents of the house likely make up a very small percentage of the value of your father’s estate.

Assuming Jane wants more than what is left to her in the will, and assuming she did not waive her rights in a pre- or postnuptial agreement, Jane may ask the Surrogate’s Court to award her approximately one-third of the net value of your father’s entire estate, regardless of the terms of his will. If someone is legally married at the time of their death, their spouse can exercise what is called a “right of election.” This means that the surviving spouse can elect to receive a share of the decedent’s estate valued at approximately one-third of all of the assets of the deceased spouse. Under the facts you provided, Jane can elect to receive not only one-third of the net value of your father’s testamentary assets passing under his will (assets that were owned outright by your father in his individual capacity) but also one-third of the net value of your father’s nontestamentary assets.

Such assets are sometimes referred to as testamentary substitutes and include, among other things, gifts made by a decedent in contemplation of death, jointly held real property, accounts in a decedent’s name that were held in trust for another person or designated as transfer on death accounts, assets held in trust for the benefit of another, assets payable under retirement plans, pensions, profit sharing and deferred compensation plans and death benefits under a life insurance policy. Since the assets a decedent owned jointly with others and/or held for the benefit of others are considered when calculating the value of a surviving spouse’s elective share, the beneficiaries under the will are not the only people who may be adversely impacted when a surviving spouse successfully exercises his/her right of election.

This is just one of the reasons an election is often the first step in what can be a contentious and protracted litigation. The right of election is personal to the surviving spouse; but, if the surviving spouse is unable to make the election, a guardian or guardian ad litem appointed by the court to represent the interests of the surviving spouse may make the election on the spouse’s behalf. The surviving spouse must exercise the right of election within six months of the issuance of letters testamentary and in no event later than two years after the decedent’s death.

To prevent the distribution of assets that may ultimately be determined to be part of the elective share payable to the surviving spouse, notice of the election must be served upon all people and entities that are in possession of or have control over the decedent’s assets. The executor administering an estate where the right of election has been exercised may be able to disqualify the person who made the election from receiving the elective share. To do so the executor must prove that the person attempting to collect an elective share was not actually married to the decedent at the time of death.

If there is no question that the person seeking an elective is the surviving spouse, the executor may be able to defeat the election by establishing that the spouse had the means but refused to support the decedent prior to death, that the spouse abandoned the decedent prior to death or that the marriage was void as incestuous or bigamous. Although the outcome of all litigation is uncertain, because of the issues raised in litigation involving the right of election, it can be particularly emotional and disturbing. As such, it is best to consult an attorney with experience in estate litigation and specifically with cases involving a claim for an elective share.

Linda M. Toga, Esq. provides legal services in the areas of estate administration and planning, real estate and litigation from her East Setauket office.

A beautiful lawn can also be a danger to your pet. Stock photo

By Dr. Matthew Kearns, DVM

Everyone wants a yard to be proud of (me included). However, what really gives the yard some “pop” can also be very dangerous to our pets. Here’s a short list of hazardous items commonly used to make are yards look beautiful.

Fertilizers

Fertilizer that is spread on grass rarely leads to symptoms of poisoning. Those cases that do only show mild gastrointestinal, or GI, upset (mild diarrhea, decreased appetite). However, if a patient ingests a large quantity (literally eats into a bag) of fertilizer, the GI symptoms are worse (severe vomiting, diarrhea) and may require hospitalization for IV fluids to avoid complications of dehydration and shock.

Mulch

Regular mulch is not usually too much of a problem, but cocoa mulch can be dangerous. Cocoa mulch smells delicious not only to us humans but also to our pets. This is why many try it. If there is a large amount of cocoa beans and hulls in the mulch, a dog can ingest the same two products as in chocolate: theobromine and caffeine. These two products not only cause an upset stomach (vomiting, diarrhea) but also are powerful stimulants. In large enough quantities pets can develop symptoms of tachycardia (accelerated heart rate), tachypnea (accelerated breathing) and, potentially, seizures. These symptoms usually require hospitalization and can (with large exposures) be life threatening.

Lilies

Not all lilies are toxic but those that are can be quite lethal. Oxalates from the poisonous lilies will chelate, or bind, to calcium in the bloodstream and deposit into the tissues. Cat’s kidneys are particularly sensitive to this process, and as little as a few leaves or petals can lead to acute kidney failure. Acute kidney failure secondary to lily ingestion is heartbreaking because most times the damage is done when one begins showing symptoms and either the patient passes on their own or must be humanely euthanized.

Bone or blood meal

Bone meal or blood meal are by-products from the meat packing industry that are commonly used as an organic alternative in fertilizer components or as deer, rabbit and wildlife repellants. These products (because they are bone or blood meal) are very palatable and pets (especially dogs) tend to ingest them in large quantities. Exposure in large quantities can lead to GI obstructions (which can lead to surgery), pancreatitis or generalized GI irritation (vomiting, diarrhea). Dogs also tend to dig up flower bulbs planted in soil dusted with bone or blood meal, and this is a double whammy: the complications of bone/blood meal and ingestion of flower bulbs (flower bulbs also cause GI upset), not to mention your flowers never bloom if the bulbs are destroyed.

Compost pile

Another way to recycle and make your flower gardens look beautiful is to use a compost pile. During decomposition, molds grow and mold can produce a poisonous waste called mycotoxins. Ingestion of large quantities of moldy material from compost piles can lead to neurologic symptoms (weakness, tremors, even full-blown seizures). There is no true antidote, so many patients need to be hospitalized until the toxins clear their systems. Limiting access to these substances is the best option, but that is not always possible (dogs are more at risk than cats). If limiting access is not possible, it is best to choose another option to beautify the yard.

Dr. Matthew Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office.

Author Robert Borneman. Photo by Joyce Borneman

By Rita J. Egan

Many in Suffolk County know Robert Borneman and his wife Joy as the owners of Diamond Jewelers in Port Jefferson and Centereach. Now the jewelry store owner can add author to his list of credentials with his self-published book, “Barter Your Way to Greater Wealth: Increase Your Income, Improve Your Lifestyle.” Borneman said he was planning to write a book for a long time, and with his 60th birthday on the horizon, this year was a perfect one to meet this goal. The eastern Long Island resident said the experience was an educational one for him when it came to both writing and publishing. “Barter Your Way to Greater Wealth” is full of informative tips on how one can be successful in bartering as well as advice on how to avoid pitfalls. Presented in an easy-to-read format, anyone interested in how to use his or her talents as currency will benefit. Recently, the author took time out from his busy schedule to answer a few questions about his experiences with bartering as well as writing his first book.

Tell me a little bit about your background.

I started selling jewelry from a costume jewelry kit in 1977 that cost $40, which I borrowed from my mom. Since then, with help from my family, my wife and I have grown the jewelry business into a multi-million-dollar conglomerate of jewelry stores, real estate investments, film productions and most recently an investment in a local Port Jefferson Restaurant, The Arden. I began making independent films in 2009 as an executive producer and writer (“Snapshot,” “Rock Story,” “The Life Zone,” “The Great Fight” and others). I also set aside substantial time to do volunteer work and have supported the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Cancer Fund serving as the treasurer for many years in addition to other charitable endeavors. I have been a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary since 1996.

Barter Your WayHow did you get involved in bartering?

A customer in one of my jewelry stores suggested I look into it. He said it helped him build his business and was worth looking into, so I did, and I joined the exchange he recommended. Since then I’ve joined several trade exchanges and bartered millions of dollars in products and services.

Why did you decide to share your tips?

I have a strong desire to improve the lives of others, and I‘ve accomplished this in many different ways. Giving through writing is just another way of sharing the wealth of information I have accumulated in 38 years of operating businesses. The bartering I have done has improved my lifestyle so much that I think others can benefit from the experience and recommendations I have to share.

You write in the book that sometimes bartering can go wrong. What do you suggest to ensure things go smoothly?

As I outline in great detail within this book, working with a reputable trade exchange removes much of the risk and angst you might otherwise encounter when bartering. Having a third party manage bartering transactions ensures you get paid while offering a myriad of resources and products that you can barter for. If you’re trading on your own, developing relationships over time and dealing with people you know will minimize potential problems.

What was your most successful bartering transaction?

I purchased a two-family home in the Village of Patchogue by bartering a significant down payment with the seller. I then bartered for the repairs and improvements that were needed to maximize the home’s value. After holding the house for a few years, collecting the cash rental income, I sold the house. The sale transaction was for all cash, resulting in a significant windfall, which I parlayed into my next investment.

Your book is full of tips. Do you have a few favorite ones?

Be goal oriented, know what you hope to accomplish by trading and only make trades that help you achieve your goals. Use bartering to create cash flow and make trades that allow you to keep more cash in your pocket. Trade unproductive assets, products and your spare time for the things you need or want in life.

How did you balance running your business, Diamond Jewelers, and writing this book?

Writing time is easier to manage than a business because I use time in waiting rooms and while commuting that used to create anxiety for me. I started the book in earnest when I moved to eastern Long Island creating a two-hour commute each way to Manhattan once a week for business. I supplement that with writing in the early morning and late evening hours.

Do you have plans to write another book?

Yes, I’ve already started my next book about real estate investing that focuses on how to buy, rent and manage the American Dream: single-family homes. I may have taken a day or so off, but I think I started the day after I published “Barter Your Way to Greater Wealth.” I have a few more books in me, too. I’d like to write about the odd and funny experiences of 38 years in business, “A Citizen’s Perspective of America,” and then convert some of my screenplays into books.

Those interested in bartering can find “Barter Your Way to Greater Wealth” in paperback and e-book format at www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com. For more information on Diamond Jewelers, visit www.diamondjewelersonline.com.

Iron is important for exercise motivation and may play a role in peak mental functioning. Stock photo

I believe the most salient teaching point in medical school and beyond was when a professor explained, as it relates to the patient diagnosis, when you hear hooves think horses not zebras. What this means is think of the more common or more likely diseases or disorders in a differential diagnosis rather than the more esoteric or rare diseases. And when a patient presents with fatigue, one of the more common reasons is iron deficiency.

Major causes of low iron are anemia of chronic disease, iron deficiency anemia, sideroblastic anemia and thalassemia. Of these, iron deficiency anemia is the most common. However, there is a much less known, but not uncommon, form of low iron. This is called iron deficiency without anemia. Unlike iron deficiency anemia, the straightforward CBC (complete blood count) that is usually drawn cannot detect this occurrence since the typical indicators, hemoglobin and hematocrit, are not yet affected.

So how do we detect iron deficiency without anemia? Not to despair, since there is a blood test done by major labs called ferritin. What is ferritin? Ferritin is a protein that is involved in iron storage. When ferritin is less than 10 to 15 ng/ml, the diagnosis of iron deficiency is most likely indicated. Even healthy people with ferritin slightly higher than this level may also have iron deficiency (1). The normal range of ferritin is 40-200 ng/ml.

At this point, you should be asking who does low ferritin affect and what are the symptoms? Women and athletes are affected primarily, and low ferritin levels may cause symptoms of fatigue. It is also seen with some chronic diseases such as restless leg syndrome (RLS) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.

Effect on women

In a prospective (forward-looking) study done in 1993 looking at primary care practices, it was determined that 75 percent of patients complaining of fatigue were women (2). Interestingly, less than 10 percent of these women had abnormal lab results when routine labs were drawn, most probably without a ferritin level. Many of them had experienced these symptoms for at least three months.

There was a randomized controlled trial (RCT), the gold standard of studies, that showed women who were suffering from fatigue and low or low-normal ferritin levels (less than 50 ng/ml), but who did not have anemia, benefited from iron supplementation (3). When comparing women with these ferritin levels, many of those who were given 80 mg of oral prolonged release ferrous (iron) sulfate supplements daily saw a significant improvement in their fatigue symptoms when compared to those women who were not given iron. Almost half the women taking iron supplements had a significant improvement in fatigue symptoms. The results were seen in a very short 12-week period. This is nothing to sneeze at, since fatigue is one of main reasons people go to the doctor. Also, although this was a small study, there were 198 women involved, ranging from 18 to 53 years old.

There are caveats to these study results. There was no improvement in depression or anxiety symptoms, nor in overall quality of life. Even though it was blinded, stool changes occur when a patient takes iron. Therefore, the women taking supplements may have known. Nonetheless, the study results imply that physicians should check ferritin level, not only a CBC, when a premenopausal woman complains of fatigue. Note that all of the women in the study were premenopausal. This is important to delineate, since postmenopausal women are at much higher risk of iron overload, rather than deficiency. They are no longer menstruating and therefore do not rid themselves of significant amounts of iron.

Athletes

According to an article in The American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, athletes’ endurance may be affected by iron deficiency without anemia (4). Low ferritin levels are implicated, as in the previous study. Iron is important for exercise motivation and may play a role in peak mental functioning, as reported in “Iron: Nutritional and Physiological Significance.” In animal studies, iron deficiency without anemia is associated with reduction in endurance because of a decrease in oxygen-based enzymatic activity within the cells.

However, this has not been shown definitively in human athletes and remains an interesting, but yet to be proven, hypothesis. Interestingly, female endurance athletes are more likely to be affected by iron deficiency without anemia, which occurs in about 25 percent of this population, according to studies (5). Low ferritin is not seen as much in male athletes. This difference in gender may be due to the fact that women not only menstruate, losing iron on a regular basis, but also their intake of dietary iron seems to be lower (6).

However, male athletes are not immune. At the end of the season for high school runners, 17 percent had iron deficiency without anemia (7). Do not take iron supplements without knowing your levels of hemoglobin and ferritin and without consulting a doctor. Studies are mixed on the benefits of iron supplementation without anemia for athletes.

Impact on restless leg syndrome

Iron deficiency with a ferritin level lower than 50 ng/ml affects approximately 20 percent of patients who suffer from restless leg syndrome (8). Restless leg syndrome, classified as a neurologic movement disorder, causes patients to feel like they need to move their legs, most commonly about a half-hour after going to bed. In a very small study, patients with restless leg syndrome who had ferritin levels lower than 45 ng/ml saw significant improvement in symptoms within eight days with iron supplementation (9).

Before you get too excited, the caveat is that 75 percent of restless leg patients have high ferritin levels. It is impressive in terms of being an easy fix for those who have low ferritin levels. And, it may be that high ferritin levels in RLS has the same symptoms as low ferritin for this is the case when it comes to iodine levels in hypothyroid patients. Iron is a trace mineral, meaning we only need small amounts to maintain proper levels.

Ferritin levels — both high and low — may play a role in a number of diseases and symptoms. If you are suffering from fatigue, a CBC test may not be enough to detect iron deficiency. You may want to suggest checking your ferritin level. Though iron supplementation may help those with symptomatic iron deficiency without anemia, it is very important not to take iron supplements without the direct supervision of your physician.

References: (1) Br J Haematol. 1993;85(4):787-798. (2) BMJ 1993;307:103. (3) CMAJ. 2012;184(11):1247-1254. (4) Am J Lifestyle Med. 2012;6(4):319-327. (5) J Am Diet Assoc. 2005;105:975–978. (6) J Pediatr. 1989;114:657–663. (7) J Adolesc Health Care. 1987;8:322–326. (8) Am Fam Physician. 2000;62(4):736. (9) Sleep Med. 2012;13(6):732-735. 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, visit www.medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.

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Three Village fourth-grade students hear about the carriage shed and about the horse and carriage days during a Founder’s Day program. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

Photographers have been taking pictures of the Caroline Church Carriage Shed in all seasons for many years. Since it was completed in the spring of 1887 at a cost of $273, this simple open building has aged gracefully, becoming more beautiful as the roof took on a natural wave shape that added to its special appeal. In addition, its utilitarian construction of white oak beams, white pine boards, cedar shingles and black locust posts allows us to see the construction methods that date back beyond when the shed was constructed, to the beginnings of our community when our homes, barns and out-buildings were built using these same local materials.

The shed’s seven bays for horses and carriages were funded by Mary Smith, Thomas Hodgkins, Margaret Dickenson and Sarah Dominick, General Francis Spinola, Shepard Jones, Mrs. Frank Norton and William Edwards, local residents who wanted shelter for their horses and carriages. A painted family name board was attached to the rear wall of each stall or bay.

In November of 1892, Thomas Hodgkins, who built the Emma Clark Library for the community in memory of his niece, wrote a note to library trustee Israel Tyler, “It has just occurred to me that my horse shed at the Episcopal Church may be of some use to yourself and family, and as I shall never again have any use for it, I hereby offer it to you as a free gift. Very Truly Yours, Thomas G. Hodgkins.”

Hodgkins died in December 1892 and is buried along the entrance walk in the Caroline Church graveyard. Israel Tyler’s name is still there on shed bay number three.

Barbara Russell, a member of the Caroline Church Historical Committee wrote, “What appears to some as a building that outgrew its original use about 100 years ago is … a rather unique parking place, the vehicles just changed. I always preferred it on rainy Sundays, as I could exit my car and open my umbrella without getting wet. In summer months, my car stayed cool in the shade. Those Victorians knew what they were doing when they planned and built a simple structure to make life a little more pleasant. The sliding windows on the west wall just gave the horses a little air and a view … Horses like to see what is going on around them.

“What does it look like to residents who travel Main Street or Dyke Road, and pass it everyday? What does it look like to a newcomer, maybe shopping for a home in Setauket? What does it look like to a child who sees it for the first time? To know the answers, you will have to ask your friends, your new neighbors, and the seven-year-old who lives down the street. But most important: What does it look like to you?

“Is it a humble structure that reminds you of a simpler life? Life may have been simple, but it wasn’t easy. We can rush through the morning, jump into the car and drive to church in a temperature-controlled car. In 1887, in addition to getting ourselves ready, we would have fed, groomed and harnessed the horse to our carriage. Then we made our way to church, rain or shine, hot or cold.”

In 1991, the church and cemetery, including the carriage shed, were listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The criteria include age, integrity and significance. The carriage shed, still in its original location, easily meets all of these.

In April, 2016, 450 fourth-grade students from the Three Village Central School District toured Setauket’s original settlement area including the carriage shed. They learned about the shed and about the horses and carriages that were a part of life here for more than 300 years. They also discovered that before the carriage shed was built, a colonial one-room schoolhouse stood on the site. From 1700, until a new school was built in the center of the Setauket Village Green in 1869, all of the children from Setauket, East Setauket and Drowned Meadow (now Port Jefferson) attended school here, including all the local children who later became members of the Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring.

Tours of Caroline Church and the churchyard, as well as tours by the Three Village Historical Society include the historic Caroline Church Carriage Shed and speak to the many centuries when horses and carriages were essential to our lives.

Today the carriage shed needs extensive restoration. Caroline Church has hired an architect for plans to restore the shed to its original condition and has applied for grant funding to help offset the cost of restoration. “We believe the 1887 carriage shed, as the 1729 Caroline Church building, are historic parts of the Three Village community,” reported Don Muffly, senior warden at Caroline Church. “We need the community’s financial support as the cost of restoration is beyond the resources of the church alone.” If you can help, please send your tax deductible contribution to Save the Carriage Shed, C/O Caroline Church, 1 Dyke Road, Setauket, NY 11733. For further information call 631-941-4245.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and author of books available from the Three Village Historical Society.

A group of kids decked out in Pokémon attire as they search for Pokémon in town. Photo from Benjamin Harris

By Rebecca Anzel 

The latest trend sweeping the nation is a throwback from the 1990s with a modern-technology twist: a augmented reality Pokémon game played on smartphones, and residents of Huntington are not immune. Hundreds of kids, teenagers and adults alike took to the streets this week to interact in this new game.

This latest offering from Pokémon evolved the franchise beyond the original cards, television show and video games. Pokémon GO allows players to create an avatar, called a trainer, and walk around their neighborhoods catching various Pokémon. Players can battle one another and get free in-game items from locations chosen by the game.

“Seeing all these people in my town is so new and great, especially when we can all bond over the same thing,”
— Gerard Anthony

The game is getting people of all ages out of their houses and into their neighborhoods. The only way to catch Pokémon is to walk around searching for them, and players have been posting on social media about how far they have traveled around their neighborhood.

One 22-year-old Greenlawn resident said she saw more than 50 kids hunting for Pokémon at parks in Northport and Huntington in one afternoon.

Megan McLafferty introduced the game to two kids she babysits because she thought, “it would be a fun activity to do outside with the kids — and they loved it.”

She said the kids really enjoyed searching different spots for Pokémon.

“I like that it gets you outside, it gets you moving, and it gets you to interact with other people,” she said in an interview. “It seemed like a lot of people were in big groups together [searching for Pokémon].”

Gerard Anthony, an 18-year-old Northport resident agreed that Pokémon GO is a great game to play in groups.

“Seeing all these people in my town is so new and great, especially when we can all bond over the same thing,” Anthony said in an interview. “I am able to go into Northport by myself and meet a new group of people each day.”

The only way to catch Pokémon is to walk around searching for them, and similarly, the only way to get a refill of free in-game item, like pokéballs is to go to Pokéstops.

One of those stops is the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in East Setauket. Director Ted Gutmann said once he discovered this, he had to try it. “I caught a few in my office,” he said. “So they’re here!”

The library is busy this time of year because of its summer reading program, but Gutmann said being a Pokéstop is attracting more visitors than usual.

A man captures a Pokemon. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
A man captures a Pokemon. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

“The hope is, once they get in here, they’ll stop and read a book or attend one of our programs,” he said.

Gutman added that the library had tried its hand at augmented reality a while ago, implementing the technology in its newsletter. It abandoned the effort because it was not getting enough use at the time, but now that Pokémon GO is increasing the popularity of augmented reality, he said the library may revisit the project.

“There are lots of opportunities to use the technology beyond the game,” he said.

Port Jefferson’s Main Street is also a huge attraction for players. With a multitude of Pokéstops and gyms, the promise of Port Jefferson tempted Chris Aguilar, 23, to travel from Riverhead two days in a row.

Aguilar said there were so many people in the streets on the first night he was in the area, July 13, that mobs of trainers were crossing the streets. They did not begin to clear out until about 2:30 a.m.

“This game is bringing people together in an unprecedented way,” he said. “It’s like an age gap doesn’t exist between players,” who can speak to each other on almost an equal level about the game and trade tips.

Other local hotspots to catch Pokémon include Heritage Park  in Mount Sinai and Sylvan Ave. Park in Miller Place.

Just two days after the game’s release, players were spending an average of 43 minutes and 23 seconds per day playing Pokémon GO, a higher rate than popular apps including Instagram, Snapchat and Whatsapp.

According to SimilarWeb, an information technology company that tracks web analytics, Pokémon GO has so many daily active users that it is projected to soon have more users than Twitter.

But some people are concerned about the safety risks associated with Pokémon GO.

Pedestrians are now wandering around towns, with their eyes faced down at their smartphones. Law enforcement agencies, institutions of higher education and public transportation systems have spoken of the dangers of walking around consumed by a smartphone.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) held a press conference Tuesday to remind residents to exercise caution while playing.

“The safety and well-being of our residents, especially children, is our highest priority,” he said in a statement.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini echoed his sentiments at the event.

“There have also been accounts of people using the application while driving,” Sini said. “We are encouraging not just parents, but all users, to practice caution to avoid injury to self and others.”

Stony Brook University also contributed to the conversation, reminding students to watch where they are walking while playing.

Mark Szkolnicki, a student of the university, said that he is always careful.

“I grew up in a bad area, so the whole mugging-for-phones thing has been something that I’ve been cautious of forever,” he said. “But I worry for the youth because it’s a cool concept and it could really grow, but those kinds of obstacles really put a downer on the whole gaming community.”

Stony Brook Office for Marine Sciences Secretary Christina Fink agreed. She said it is important to keep in mind that if players are going hunting for Pokémon at night, they should go with at least one other person.

Reporting contributed by Victoria Espinoza.

Author R.J. Torbert, left, talks about his new book with John Valeri of The Hartford Book Examiner. Photo by Wenhao Ma

By Wenhao Ma

The story of a Port Jefferson murderer — albeit a fictional one — was discussed at length by a novelist and his fans in the village on Saturday.

Author R.J. Torbert brought his new book “No Mercy,” which was released in June, to a question-and-answer session with more than a dozen readers at Port Jefferson Free Library on July 16. “No Mercy” continues the story of fictitious Detectives Paul Powers and Bud Johnson of Port Jefferson, who dealt with the mysterious murderer Ghost Face, in Torbert’s first novel, “The Face of Fear,” which was released in 2013.

“He turned [the Ghost Face mask] into a home town classic.” —Joseph Borozny

“When [readers] look at the cover, they think it’s a horror story,” Torbert said in an interview after the event, referring to the Ghost Face mask on the cover. “[But] this is a relationship story, a love story,” he said.

Torbert is the licensing director of Fun Wold, a Halloween costume company. His company created the Ghost Face as part of the Fantastic Faces series back in 1991.

Torbert noted that there are many differences between his books and “Scream,” the movie that made the mask famous back in the 1990s. He said that he did not design the iconic mask, but he did come up with the name Ghost Face and has been protecting its name and trademarks for years, and even fought to keep the character wearing the mask in the movies from doing anything bad enough to give too dark of a stigma.

Author R.J. Torbert poses with a fan of his newly released novel. Photo by Wenhao Ma
Author R.J. Torbert poses with a fan of his newly released novel. Photo by Wenhao Ma

“[In the first novel], the person who wore the mask was not necessarily a bad person,” Torbert said.

He said that he had always wanted to write a book, but what turned his idea into action was a novel he read on a plane. He was so disappointed with the story that he started writing on that book. What he wrote eventually became “The Face of Fear.”

“He turned [the Ghost Face mask] into a home town classic,” Joseph Borozny, a Port Jefferson resident and a fan of Torbert’s books, said, adding that Torbert used the Ghost Face character to create something that’s real, not just fictional.

Borozny brought his family to the event, including his 14-­year­-old son, Joey, who received a Ghost Face mask from Torbert as a gift. “If you like horror movies,” Joey said, “this is the guy you’ll love to meet. And he’s a real nice guy.”

After the question-and answer-portion, Torbet signed copies of the book and posed for photos with fans.

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