Business

'Some 1,300 communities in the U.S. now have no newscoverage at all.' - Pew Research Center

By Donna Deedy

It’s often said that a free press is a pillar of democracy, a fourth branch of government, capable of shining a light on corruption to reveal truth. History is full of cases where news stories have exposed unethical or criminal behavior, essentially helping to right a wrong. 

Consider the story on the Pentagon Papers, which showed how the federal government misled the public about the Vietnam War. When congressional leaders didn’t act, newspapers filled a role. 

Think of the news story about lead contamination of Flint, Michigan’s water supply and the Boston Globe’s series that exposed the widespread cover-up of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic priests. Most recently, the Miami Herald’s series “Perversion of Justice” is credited for exposing the crimes and lenient punishment of Jeffrey Epstein, who allegedly operated a sex-trafficking scheme with underage girls. 

These are just a few cases with incredible breadth and scope that show how journalism raises awareness and ultimately prompts change. Countless other stories underscore the value and impact of journalism, and the news is not always necessarily grim. Aside from exposing bad actors or twisted policies, journalists also celebrate all that is good in a community and can bring people together by showing the great achievements of ordinary people. 

Any way you look at it, news matters. 

In the last decade and a half, though, it’s become increasing difficult for newspapers to survive. Newsroom employees have declined by 45 percent between 2008 and 2017, according to the Pew Research Center. Some 1,300 communities in the U.S. now have no coverage at all in what are called “news deserts.” This spells trouble for democracy. Thankfully, Congress is now opening a door to take a look at the situation. 

A six-minute YouTube video created by The News Media Alliance, the news industry’s largest trade organization, explains what people need to know about the situation. Entitled “Legislation to Protect Local News,” if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth your time. 

In summary, technology — think internet and smartphones — has had a phenomenally positive impact in increasing the demand for news by expanding readership and engagement. In fact, just 2 percent of the U.S. population in 1995 relied on the internet to get news three days a week, according to Pew Research Center. By 2018, 93 percent of the population accessed at least some news online. But while news is more widely circulated, this shift to online platforms is also at the root of the news industry’s struggle. 

Terry Egger, publisher and CEO of Philadelphia Media Network said in the video that he recognizes the power and beauty of the Facebook and Google’s distribution models, but he also sees in detail how they are eroding the news industry’s ability to pay for its journalism. 

“Facebook and Google are able to monetize their distribution of our content, nearly 80 to 85 cents of every dollar in advertising digitally goes to one of those two platforms,” he said. 

The bottom line: News is supported largely by advertisements. By creating and distributing content to an audience, news outlets essentially broker their reach to advertisers looking for exposure. Accessing news through Facebook and Google has essentially disrupted that business model.

Facebook and Google have generated over the last year $60 billion in revenue, explains U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), chairman of the U.S. House Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee in the video. In contrast, news publishers’ revenue is down about $31 billion “over the last several years.”

Cicilline senses that something needs to be done to help local papers and publishers survive. He, along with Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), have introduced in April a bill called Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2019, H.R.2054. 

The bill provides a temporary safe harbor where publishers of online content can collectively negotiate with dominant online platforms about the terms under which their content may be distributed. 

Collins, ranking member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, called the bill a first step to see if the nation can bring fairness to smaller and local and regional papers. So far, the legislation continues to gain momentum. 

Danielle Coffey, counsel for the News Media Alliance, stated in a recent email interview that the journalism preservation bill is receiving voices of support from both sides of the aisle. The organization is looking for more sponsors to be added. “We aren’t asking for the government to save us or even for the government to regulate or change the platforms,” said David Chavern, president and CEO of News Media Alliance. “We’re just asking for a fighting chance for news publishers to stand up for themselves and create a sustainable digital future for journalism.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said that he is monitoring the bill’s progress.“A free press has been essential to the maintenance of our democracy and keeping people informed,” he said. “As the way Americans consume their news evolves, we must ensure that tried-and-true local journalists are receiving their fair share so they can continue to serve their readers for generations to come.”

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) is equally in agreement. “Our democracy is strongest when we have a free and diverse press,” he said. “From national to local news, events and happenings, we need the quality journalism of the free press to keep the public aware of what is happening in their country, state, town and local communities.”

Residents are urged to contact their congressman, Zeldin (631-289-1097) or Suozzi (631-923-4100), and ask them to become co-sponsors of H.R.2054: Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2019.

 

Photo courtesy of PJCC

RIBBON CUTTING

Prohibition Kitchen, located at 115 Main Street in Port Jefferson, held an official ribbon cutting and grand opening celebration on July 3. The event was hosted by the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce. 

Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant joined owners Lisa Harris and Robert in cutting the ribbon surrounded by chamber partners, staff and friends.

Promising to serve “illegally good food,” Prohibition Kitchen has occupied the former location of Kimi Japanese Restaurant since February. The menu features salads, burgers, seafood, sandwiches, shakes and much more along with beer, wine and spirits from Long Island.  

The restaurant is open Mondays through Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, call 631-473-0613 or visit www.prohibitionpj.com. 

 

Photo courtesy of PJCC

TIME TO PARTY!

The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for its new chamber partner, Hook & Ladder Party Company, on June 27. 

Owners Robert and Rose Rodriguez (center) cut the ribbon with Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant and Port Jefferson Chamber President Joy Pipe surrounded by family, friends and chamber members.Their full-scale fire engine truck was parked outside the chamber’s office for full display and a state of the art Firefighter Simulator was set up and visitors could help to extinguish a simulated fire. Hospitality was provided in the chamber’s office.

Hook & Ladder Party Company specializes in educational programs for schools, camps, libraries, children’s birthday parties and special events on Long Island. Children learn about fire safety, dress in firefighter gear, compete in a firefighter obstacle course challenge, use a fire extinguisher to put out a simulated fire and take part in a bucket brigade relay race. All activities can be adapted for indoor or outdoor programs. 

For  more information, call 631-236-8443 or visit www.hookandladderparty.com.

 

Photo courtesy of Suffolk Federal

Suffolk Federal presented a total of $30,000 in college scholarships ($5,000 each) to six local high school seniors who will be attending Suffolk County Community College on June 6.

“Supporting our younger generation to become productive community members by providing financial assistance as they undertake their college experience is an important focus for Suffolk Federal,” said Ralph D. Spencer Jr., president & CEO of Suffolk Federal. 

“We are happy to know that the scholarships awarded will help to alleviate some of the student’s financial burden, so they can focus on their future educational and career goals.”

From the $30,000, four of the scholarship award recipients received $5,000 each as part of the Suffolk Federal Scholarship.  In addition, one student, Amber Leon, received an additional $5,000 scholarship provided by the LT Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation, which was matched by Suffolk Federal for a total of $10,000. 

Also, William Clifford received $5,000 as part of the Michael E. Reilly Foundation Memorial Scholarship for Excellence in Fire Science and Emergency Medical Technology, which is awarded to a student enrolled in a Fire Protection Technology program at Suffolk County Community College.

Recipients were judged based upon their academic achievements, extracurricular and community activities as well as the quality of written essays.

Scholarship recipients, pictured in the front row from left include Gabrielle Cerney of Manorville, Nicole Migliano of Selden, Amber Leon of Ridge, William Clifford of Ronkonkoma, Jaime Cusmano of Centereach and Samantha Varone of Centereach. 

This year’s scholarships are being provided as a result of a new partnership between Suffolk Federal and the Suffolk County Community College Foundation.

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Raymond LaGala (center with white hair), wife Stephany (blue shirt) and the rest of the family. Photo from Thomas LaGala

For Raymond LaGala, owner of Hairport in the Village of Port Jefferson, cutting people’s hair is a feel-good business. Great service and treating his clients right — that is what he said has been bringing people back for the last 45 years. 

“You have to love what you do,” he said. “I’m glad that I still enjoy it.”

Hairport hair salon in Port Jefferson. Photo from Google maps

LaGala said he had the idea of one day opening his own shop since he first became a hairdresser. He learned the craft working at shops in Merrick and Great Neck, and in 1973, he decided to try opening his own business. 

The longtime stylist and barber had visited Port Jeff before and thought it would be a good place for his salon. In June 1974, Hairport was born and has resided in the same spot on Main Street since. 

The Port Jeff business owner said his shop was one of the first unisex salons in the area at the time. 

“As we got busier, we kept expanding,” LaGala said. 

They then expanded into barbering and along the way his children became involved in the family business. 

One of his sons, Thomas LaGala, began barbering at the salon when he was 17 years old, and was followed by his brother Jason, who said he wanted to learn hairdressing so his father sent him to a school in the city. 

From there, the two sons and a nephew of Raymond, James, began barbering in the back of the salon and it proved to be successful. 

Jason said he remembers coming into the salon when he was a kid and he would watch his father cut clients’ hair. The young man thought it seemed like a fun place to work. 

“For me it was a cool time growing up, working for my dad,” Jason said. “He taught me to always take care of the customer.”

Throughout the years, two other children, David and Joann, joined the business. James and Jason, after working at Hairport for some time, decided to open their own business across the street after some encouragement from their father. The pair now run the Men’s Room Barbershop on Main Street in Port Jeff, with James as owner and Jason as partner. 

“Running a business is not always easy. It is an uphill battle,” Raymond said. “You have to be able to adjust — it is forever changing.”

The father of seven stressed the importance of not assuming customers will come back just because you are around. 

“You can’t take them for granted. If you treat them right they will be back,” he said. 

Over the years, the salon has built up a loyal client base who appreciate the service and honesty. Raymond mentioned it is all about the relationships you cultivate with your customers. 

Jason said he is proud that the family-run business is still striving. 

“It is cool to have a successful business grow with the area it’s been in,” he said. “It has become a staple of the village.”

Jason said it has been nice watching a family man, in his father, take care of his family. 

Raymond said the key to success is that you can’t rest on what you did in the past; you have to keep going forward 

“We are still here, making noise,” he said. 

This post has been amended June 19 to better reflect the ownership of Men’s Room Barbershop.

Photo by Jackie Pickle

RIBBON CUTTING

The Three Village Artisan & Farmers Market celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 31. Manager Linda Johnson (center) cut the ribbon aided by Patty Cain, vice president of the Three Village Historical Society (left), and on right, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Johnson’s husband, David.

Located on the grounds of the Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Road, Setauket, the open-air market offers a selection of locally grown vegetables and fruits, pickles, fresh salsa, baked goods, local honey, jams, cheese, artisan breads, fudge, locally made jewelry, lemonade, gluten-free offerings, live music and much more every Friday from 3 to 7 p.m. through September. In addition, the Historical Society’s exhibits will be open from 3 to 5 p.m. for just $1 entry.

 For more information, please call 631-901-7151.

Above, the Centereach store off Middle Country Road. Photo by Heidi Sutton

The retail industry has suffered another blow as Dressbarn’s parent company, Ascena Retail Group Inc., announced it was shutting down and closing all 650 stores, including 17 on Long Island, by the end of the year. The announcement was made on May 20. The women’s clothing chain employs about 6,800 people.

“This decision was difficult, but necessary, as the Dressbarn chain has not been operating at an acceptable level of profitability in today’s retail environment,” said Chief Financial Officer of Dressbarn Steven Taylor in a statement.

“During the wind down process, we will continue to provide our customers with the same great experience both in-store and online, offering them even better deals and value. We will work to assist our associates through the transition and maintain existing relationships with our vendors, suppliers and other key stakeholders through this process,” he said.

Ascena has said it wants to focus on its other brands, such as Ann Taylor, Loft and Lane Bryant.

Suffolk County has nine Dressbarn stores including Centereach, Port Jefferson Station, Hauppauge, East Northport, Huntington Station and Riverhead.

According to the chain’s website, the company was founded in 1962 by Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe, who recognized the need of women who were entering the workforce for a convenient one-stop shop where they could find fashion at a value. The single store in Stamford, Connecticut grew to a nationwide chain.

The Huntington Town board will consider at its June 18 meeting a plan to convert its Old Town Hall into an expanded hotel. The board previously approved the project, but will be reconsider a revised plan, which entails enlarging the size of the hotel from 55 rooms to  80 rooms. The proposal includes a three-story addition onto the rear of Old Town Hall, where the rooms would be located. The Old Town Hall building would contain the lobby, offices and common areas, as previously proposed. 

The site is located in the Historic Overlay District, a designation that gives owners of historic properties and large residential estates flexibility for use. The expansion means that the board must consider applying that special status to an additional parcel east of Old Town Hall, which the applicant acquired for the expansion.

“It’s important we bring renewed life to this historic landmark, preserving Huntington’s history and boosting our downtown economy,” Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said. “Huntington village has always been a destination and the idea of a boutique hotel that pays homage to the building’s past life as the former Town Hall will achieve those goals, while bringing added convenience and comfort of an overnight stay.”

The project is being developed by Huntington Village Hotel Partners with George Tsunis one of the affiliated associates. Tsunis, a former partner in Rivkin Radler LLP, a law firm that represents both private clients and municipalities has served the Town of Huntington as special counsel.

Tsunis did not respond to telephone messages. Huntington Hotel Partners, as listed in the the state’s corporate file, uses the law firm Buzzell, Blanda and Visconti as its registered agent. The firm did not respond to telephone messages before going to press.

The plan to convert Old Town Hall into a hotel dates back to at least 2013, when Old Town Hall Operating Co. developed and submitted plans for a $10 million renovation to the town’s planning board. 

Old Town Hall was built in 1910 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It last served as Huntington’s Town Hall in 1979.

RIBBON CUTTING

On May 24, the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting for the main Law Office of Heather N. Kaplan, Esq., located at 84 Nesconset Hwy., Suite 2, in Port Jefferson Station. A second office is located in Garden City.

Pictured above, Heather Kaplan, center, with husband Joshua and their three children Julia, Lily and Charlotte cut the ribbon under the business’ sign surrounded by family member Andrea Freundlinger; Chamber President Joy Pipe of East End Shirt Co.; chamber members Tess Son of Digital Marketing Consultant and Nancy Bradley of People’s United Bank; and law firm staff members Brittany Garavelli, Diane Ferrette, Ali Kaplan and Amanda Caponi.

Specializing in New York State worker’s compensations claims, Kaplan is an accomplished litigator and has achieved excellent results at the Workers’ Compensation Board, New York Supreme Court and at the Appellate Courts.

For more information, call 631-574-2624 or visit www.nyinjuredworker.com.

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Harbor Grill says it will change its dress code to allow religiously significant headwear.

Harbor Grill in Port Jefferson said it has a policy against headwear during Friday and Saturday nights. Photo by Kyle Barr

A young Stony Brook University graduate said he was barred from entering Port Jeff’s Harbor Grill the early morning of Sunday, May 12, because he wears a turban, a religiously significant headwear.

Gurvinder Grewal, 23, who graduated in 2018, said he went out the night of May 11 past midnight to hang out with friends. His companions were already in the Harbor Grill restaurant and bar, and he was having his ID checked when he was stopped and told by a manager he was not allowed in with “a head covering.” Harbor Grill has a weekend dress code for Friday and Saturday nights after 10 p.m. restricting all headwear, though the policy made no explicit exceptions for clothing of religious significance.

Grewal, a medical scribe at CityMD, said he tried to explain his situation as he is a Sikh, whose religion stems from Punjab in northern India. Male practitioners wear turbans as articles of faith, and are not meant to remove the headwear in public.

“Never had any experience like this in my life.”

— Gurvinder Grewal

Not trying to hold up the line of people trying to get in, he went to the back of the line and came up a second time, only to be rebuffed again, and was told it was due to the restaurant’s policy on headwear.

“[I] was shocked and embarrassed,” the graduate said. “Never had any experience like this in my life.”

A Facebook post from Harbor Grill said Grewal’s black-colored turban seemed at the time “would be more widely perceived as the slang term ‘[do-]rag’ or a ‘stocking cap’ and not a traditional turban.” It said the original rule was put in place because a rule that singled out specific groups would itself be “discriminatory.”

Tom Schafer, the owner of Harbor Grill, said he has chided the manager in question and has told him to use his better judgment in cases like this. He added he plans to speak to the rest of his staff and implement a new Friday and Saturday night dress-code policy of no headwear excluding religiously required headwear, for example yarmulkes and turbans. The new code will be posted near the front door.

“I don’t have an inkling of prejudice in any way,” Schafer said. “The code was not meant to be discriminating, it was solely for the safety of patrons and staff.”

Grewal said that he was glad to see them changing the dress code, but he found the comment about his turban looking like “a do-rag” to be problematic, especially since he described it several times as a turban to the manager.

Barbara Ransome, director of operations for Port Jeff Chamber of Commerce, said the policy at Harbor Grill was to better identify troublemakers in a crowd and, as a private property, the owner is allowed to make that decision. Just as in the case of drugs cenforce that will be sold online. At the same time, the barring of a person over religious garment would cross over into First Amendment territory.

“Their staff may need to be educated,” she said.

The SBU graduate said he told the manager he had been let inside the establishment last year, back when Harbor Grill was then named Schafer’s. He said he was told the policy on headgear was a new policy.

Several other students and graduates of SBU, who did not wish to be named in this article, all confirmed watching Grewal be denied entry.

“The code was not meant to be discriminating, it was solely for the safety of patrons and staff.”

— Tom Schafer

Bansri Shah, a digital media/pre-law student at SBU, posted a message to Facebook about the situation, saying she felt it was especially concerning considering the diversity of students from the nearby university.

“Honestly, I never expected this type of action taken from an establishment in Port Jeff considering the racial diversity in a college town right next door, Stony Brook, but I think it’s really messed up,” Shah said in her original Facebook post.

In a conversation over Facebook messenger, Shah said she arrived as several people were trying to talk to the bouncer about what happened, but they were ignored.

Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant said she had messaged both Shah and Grewal and had told the latter she was sorry about what had allegedly happened to him, and that “this does not reflect the tenor or tone of the policies of the Village of Port Jefferson.” She also suggested to him his first step would be to file a police report if he wished to commit to any penal or civil legal action.

“I didn’t want that incident to become a black eye on the village,” the mayor said. “Anybody of race, color, sexuality, we embrace and invite everyone here.”

The graduate said he plans to file a police report and pursue some sort of legal action.

“I was just really surprised that something like this happened to me at a college bar,” he said. “I always read online and on social media about Sikhs and other minorities facing similar situations, but never thought that I would face the situation in my life living on Long Island.”

This post has been amended to correct the origins of Sikhism.

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