An old map of the Suassa Park neighborhood shows some streets slated to be repaved this season, including an erroneously named Longfellow Lane. File image

Streets in the Suassa Park section of Port Jefferson Village will get a fresh coat of asphalt this paving season.

During a meeting on Monday night, the village board of trustees approved work on Owasco Drive, Emerson Street, Michigan Avenue, Lowell Place, Whittier Place, Hawthorne Street and Longfellow Lane, as well as the half of California Avenue within village boundaries. Medford-based contractor Suffolk Asphalt Corp. will pave those roads on the western side of the village, south of West Broadway, for a cost not to exceed $180,000.

Trustee Larry LaPointe said the streets in that section of the village are “badly in need of repaving.”

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A survey ranked Setauket and East Setauket as the fourth happiest spot in New York State, beating out all other Long Island communities on the list. File photo

The pursuit of happiness is alive and well in Setauket. gathered data for 341 different places in New York with more than 2,000 people and ranked them based on overall happiness, placing Setauket and East Setauket as the fourth happiest place in New York State, beating out all other Long Island communities in the top-10, including North Wantagh in fifth, North Merrick in ninth and Cold Spring Harbor, ranked 10th overall. The career research website considered various topics, like education, employment, commute times and home ownership in its search for the state’s biggest smiles, and Setauket natives stood in support of the findings.

“I like Setauket’s sense of place,” said George Hoffman, a Setauket mover and shaker who heads the region’s environmental watchdog, the Setauket Harbor Task Force. “[I enjoy] its authentic architecture and revolutionary war roots, the beauty of its coastal waters and its links to the shipbuilding and seafaring days.”

The North Shore native said he enjoyed interacting with Setauket’s “highly educated and close community of interesting and engaging residents” and compared it to the kind of small town found in areas like New England.

“Nothing is perfect, but living in Setauket is pretty darn close,” he said.

Beverly Tyler, the Three Village historian, said the Setauket area is one of beauty, variety and history that is backed up by its array of historic structures, schools, public buildings, parks, trails and green spaces.

“The residents here have, over the years, formed groups and organizations that have not only preserved our history and our culture, but have expanded our understanding and concern for each other,” Tyler said. “From the first English settlers who came here 361 years ago and accepted Quakers and other religious settlers looking for safety and community, to the European immigrants who came here in large numbers in the 19th century and initially faced uncertain and conditional acceptance, we have often led the way to an understanding that our differences make us stronger and help vitalize our community.”

Ted Gutmann, director of Setauket’s own Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, said his front-row seat to the greater Setauket and East Setauket community has proven to him how unique the area is. After years at the helm of the community’s library, Gutmann said his patrons often share stories of visitors from afar loving Setauket’s character and pride.

“There are other nice towns on Long Island. There are other historic towns on Long Island. But I think what sets Setauket (and all of the Three Villages) apart is the true sense of community here,” he said. “Having worked at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in different positions for virtually my entire career, I have experienced firsthand the sense of pride and neighborliness that exists here.”

Lisa DeVerna, who works in the library’s community outreach and special projects department, echoed her director’s sentiments.

“I think Setauket has such a rich history, from the Spy Ring during the American Revolution to people like William Sidney Mount, who grew up here,” she said. “Combine this with the excellent Three Village school district and our proximity to major roads, which makes it easy for people to get to work and travel, it’s no wonder Setauket is such a great place to live.”

Also making the list were Niskayuna in first, Westvale in second, Harris Hill in third, North Hills in sixth, Tappan in seventh and West Hills in eighth.

North Shore Youth Council members make blankets with kids during a family service night. Photo from North Shore Youth Council

North Shore Youth Council has been keeping kids from ending up on the streets for more than two decades.

The council’s programs “give them more stuff to do beyond the school day and keeps them active and doing positive things,” office manager Marcie Wilson said.

Offering a myriad of programs, the not-for-profit hosts after school recreation, math tutoring on Tuesdays, social skills groups, child care, open mic nights, youth and family counseling, a Big Buddy/Little Buddy service and even helps teenagers get jobs.

“A lot of the time, young kids learn from other young people, so we try to get the high schoolers involved with the middle school kids,” Laurel Sutton, president of the North Shore Youth Council board of directors, said about the Big Buddy/Little Buddy program. “Any time they’re making good choices, it helps teach the younger kids to make good choices.”

The Youth Council also partners with local businesses and organizations to give children fun and interesting things to do or give them an outlet to help others. Shaolin Kung Fu & Fitness in Rocky Point, Studio E in Miller Place, Creative Zone Inc. in Rocky Point and national organization JumpBunch are just a few of those entities. Zumba instructors also host events for kids who are enrolled in the program.

Last December, six students partnered with Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild a home in Rocky Point. Months later, they were brought back to the dedication ceremony to see the final product.

Local students help in the construction of a Habitat for Humanity build in Rocky Point. Photo from North Shore Youth Council
Local students help in the construction of a Habitat for Humanity build in Rocky Point. Photo from North Shore Youth Council

“What was so great was that the kids were amazed,” Wilson said. “They worked on it and they went into what they called ‘their room’ that they worked on. They were so proud of themselves.”

A summer program is also available. Kids begin as campers and can become junior and senior counselors by the time they turn 16.

“They stick around with us for a really long time,” Wilson said. “Then they go off to college and we see them back in the summer time.”

North Shore Youth Council also partners with the Miller Place, Mount Sinai, Rocky Point and Shoreham-Wading River school districts, offering counseling and educating the schools on issues that concern today’s youth.

“We’re at each of the schools at 6:45 in the morning and we’re there until 6 p.m.,” said Janene Gentile, executive director of the youth council. “Everybody contributes to this organization. The kids on our Youth Advisory Board are in the schools and understand the issues and tell me the direction we should be heading in.”

According to Rocky Point Superintendent Michael Ring, six student assistance counselors work out of the Frank J. Carasiti Elementary and Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate schools. While primary focus is on middle school and high school counselors, there is a partnership at the elementary level. Emphasis is put on direct counseling, intervention and support services related to substance abuse.

“These counselors run numerous programs to support the social and emotional needs of our students and families, including anti-bullying, mentoring and character education,” Ring said. “Their expertise and support has provided critical resources to our district for more than two decades.”

Gentile, a drug and alcohol counselor with a master’s degree in art education, has been with the Youth Council for 23 years, working alongside Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson and the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office to host expressive art classes at the Little Portion Friary in Mount Sinai and working with incarcerated women and youth at the correctional facility in Riverhead.

“We’re trying to help people make good choices,” Sutton said. “North Shore is helping young people have activities to do after school rather than be home and get in trouble. There are enrichment programs, fun stuff and educational things.”

Gentile said she is thankful for all the help she’s received, but those she works with say they’re more thankful to have her around for all that she’s been able to do for the program.

“She’s such a loving, giving person, she’s very involved, she’s extremely creative and she knows her stuff,” Sutton said. “She’s a very in-tune person to what is going on. She basically built this whole program from the very beginning. She’s constantly doing things to improve it, and I couldn’t see anyone else heading North Shore.”

Gentile is more thankful for the connections made with so many other organizations, children, families, schools and businesses across the Island.

“I’m just really grateful that people have the same vision,” she said. “I get up every day and I enjoy being here and helping the young people; they’re an asset in every which way to the community. … I’ll continue to hold the young kids up, because I believe in them.”

Caroline Woo, above, plays with therapy dog Beau. She named her black Labrador stuffed animal after her regular reading companion, Malibu. Photo by Giselle Barkley

A book and a calm canine companion are all Caroline Woo needs to practice reading.

Every Thursday afternoon, this 11-year-old from Setauket visits the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library for its Books Are Read to K-9s program. Caroline joined the program and fell in love with it last November, after her mother, Eydie Woo, learned of the club. But BARK didn’t just allow her to interact with a calm canine, it also improved her reading skills.

Last month for her birthday, Caroline asked her friends and family to make a donation to the program instead of buying presents. The $270 she received went toward training more dogs for the club and other therapy dog-related programs. For Caroline, reading to Patchogue Rotary Animal Assisted Therapy certified dog Malibu, a black Labrador, helped her tackle the big words she struggled to say when reading out loud.

“Malibu, she’ll … just sit down and they’ll kind of listen and it is better because the dogs, they mostly maintain one expression,” Caroline said. “It’s easier since she’s less judgmental than people”

According to Malibu’s handler and owner Fred Dietrich, the program hasn’t only helped her reading skills, but it’s also boosted her confidence. He added that he’s seen Caroline become more outspoken since she joined BARK.

Her mother agreed with Dietrich, saying Caroline “feels comfortable with Malibu and it’s translating into other settings.” The fifth-grader met Malibu when she started the program and they’ve been regular reading partners since. Malibu, like all eight dogs involved in the reading program, is PRAAT certified.

Stony Brook resident Jo-Ann Goldwasser established the Doggie Reading Club program, which is called BARK at the library, three years ago after learning about a similar program in Chicago. The Windy City’s Sit Stay Read program has served kids in Chicago’s inner-city schools for several years. Goldwasser wanted to help children overcome their reading difficulties with this program. Her club started with Rocky Point Middle School’s sixth-grade students and has expanded to the Comsewogue school district, two schools in Brentwood as well as the library. She plans to establish the program in Hauppauge school district.

Goldwasser said the school and library programs are somewhat different.

“Children who generally like to read, who go to the library, think it’s kind of a fun thing to come to the library and read to a dog,” Goldwasser said. “In the schools however, we go into … the same classes … every other week. It’s more academic in that we listen to the same children read week after week; we know what they’re reading [and] we know how to help them.”

Fellow therapy dog handler Linda Devin-Sheehan said it’s hard to track the program’s success in the library because the club is only three-years-old. A lack of regulars like Caroline also makes it difficult to monitor a student’s improvement.

Parents must register their children to participate in the library’s program, which is held every Wednesday and Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the library’s kids’ section.

According to the handlers, a dog’s patience and calm demeanor are helpful to students like Caroline. While the program has helped Caroline in the past few months, she simply enjoys being around dogs as they come in various shapes, sizes and dispositions.

“You can see [a dog] on the street and pet it and get to know it for a short minute but … you can already tell that they’re such a sweet dog and it’s nice getting to meet a ton of different dogs,” Caroline said.

Sills Gully Beach scattered with litter. File photo

Federal dollars are giving Sills Gully Beach and Gully Landing face-lifts.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) announced that Brookhaven Town will receive $2,275,000 in federal funding to repair Sills Gully Beach in Shoreham and the town’s Gully Landing Road drainage facility in Miller Place, which were severely damaged due to high winds, heavy rains and the tidal surge during both Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“Working closely with the Brookhaven Town finance department, Brookhaven highway department, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the New York State department of homeland security, my staff and I were able to successfully expedite the necessary federal funding to make critical repairs to Sills Gully Beach and Gully Landing Drainage Facility,” said Zeldin, who is a member of the House of Representatives’ transportation and infrastructure committee, in a press release. “As a result, Brookhaven Town will now be able to make renovations to protect, restore and strengthen the beach, so that Long Islanders can enjoy its beauty for generations to come.”

The funding will be used to repair and reinforce the bluffs by installing a bulkhead. According to town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), the drainage systems and shoreline protection at the locations had been so severely damaged that it was no longer serving its primary function.

Hurricane Sandy “was not only a South Shore event — our North Shore communities were affected as well, and Sills Gully Beach and Gully Landing Road were particularly hit hard,” he said. “I thank Congressman Zeldin for securing the funds so we can finally begin work to repair the damage so residents can once again safely enjoy this popular recreation spot.”

The funding will also be used to upgrade the existing stormwater drainage system.

“We were able to finally cut through the bureaucratic red tape after years of inaction and allocate the necessary federal funding to modernize our stormwater infrastructure and repair badly eroded bluffs, protecting the endangered surface waters of the Long Island Sound,” town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said. “Shoreline protection projects such as these are critical in our efforts to maintain our shoreline and ensure its resilience.”

The federal grant was secured through FEMA. The funding is being provided under authority of Section 406 of the Robert T. Stafford Act and will be granted directly to New York State.

“I appreciate the hard work of Congressman Zeldin, the Town of Brookhaven, the highway department and Councilwoman Jane Bonner [R] have done for our community to get this project approved,” said Marc Mazza, a board member of the Miller Place Park Homeowners Association. “I offer my heartfelt thanks.”

Community clubs and organizations were just excited to see the beach restored for local enjoyment.

“We are very, very grateful,” said Jennifer Juengst, a board member of the Shoreham Shore Club. “The funding obtained with Congressman Zeldin’s efforts are a lifeline for the health of this North Shore beach and will ensure that future generations of beachgoers will enjoy safe summers for years to come.”

This version replaces an incorrect photo.

A service dog presentation at MetLife Stadium this past year. Photo from Don McKay

The Northport Cow Harbor Warriors will be presenting a service dog to a 2005 Northport High School graduate and veteran this Saturday, April 9, at 7 p.m.

Hosted in partnership with the Cpl. Christopher G. Scherer Semper Fi Fund, the veteran, who served as a U.S. Marine during Operation Iraqi Freedom, will receive the dog at Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub in Northport as part of a fundraiser for the Cow Harbor Warriors Weekend.

The warriors weekend is an event hosted on Sept. 9 and 10, where wounded warriors and veterans in need, along their families, are invited to Northport for a weekend of recreation, celebration and appreciation.

“Service dogs are invaluable in helping our veterans adjust and adapt to life after war,” Don McKay, president of Cow Harbor Warriors said in a statement. “It’s simply incredible to witness the life-changing impact these dogs can have for our warriors.”

Live music will be provided by Common Ground, and raffle prizes include an inflatable stand-up paddle board, private charter sunset cruise, half-day bass fishing trip, a fun day on the water and more. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at for $40, with buffet, beer and wine.

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Port Jefferson High School. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Port Jefferson students lost a young classmate on Wednesday night, according to a message from the school district superintendent.

In a letter to parents and community members on Thursday, Ken Bossert wrote that ninth-grader Dylan Berger had died, and asked people to respect the privacy of Dylan’s family as they grieved his loss.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time,” the superintendent wrote.

It was not immediately clear how the student died.

Dylan was on the Royals wrestling team, competing at the Suffolk County championship this year.

According to Bossert, the school district held a meeting for the students in Dylan’s grade on Thursday morning and is making counselors available to students to help them “cope with this tragedy.”

“Each student is a value member of our educational community and the death of a young person can have a profound effect on the entire school community,” Bossert wrote. “When such loss occurs, students and staff will react in different ways. Any reaction is normal in the grief process and can range from withdrawal to anger. I encourage you to speak with your children about how they are feeling and how to cope with the loss of a classmate. The most important thing we can do is to be supportive and encourage an open expression of feelings.”

The district also plans to provide resources to parents to help support grieving students, he said.

Above, Chris McCrary is running for a spot on the Comsewogue library board. His opponent, Richard Evans, did not provide a photo to the library. File photo

Local voters approved their libraries’ budgets on Tuesday night and elected a new community member to serve on one district’s board of trustees.

Comsewogue Public Library residents elected Chris McCrary to their board with 116 votes, as compared to challenger Richard Evans’ 45 votes, Library Director Debbie Engelhardt said in an email. Both men had been vying for the seat of library board President Ali Gordon, who declined to run for re-election.

Gordon is also a member of the Comsewogue Board of Education.

With his win, McCrary, a 49-year-old high school biology teacher and neighborhood soccer and lacrosse coach, will join the board in July for a five-year term.

Related: Library budgets going down, trustee race heating up

Comsewogue voters also passed the library’s $5.4 million budget, 149-25. That 2016-17 budget will raise taxes almost $0.13 for every $100 of  a home’s assessed value.

Over in Port Jefferson, voters also passed their own budget, 110-10, according to a message posted on the Port Jefferson Free Library’s website.

That $4.2 million spending plan will roughly keep taxes flat for library district residents.

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Ann Moran, left, and Ernestine Franco, right, receive a Certificate of Appreciation from Councilwoman Jane Bonner, center. Photo by Heidi Sutton

The Sound Beach Civic Association hosted its third Lasagna Dinner fundraiser last Friday night at the Sound Beach Firehouse. The event drew about 90 people and raised over $900 for the Sound Beach Civic Veterans Memorial Park. According to Civic Association President Bea Ruberto, the funds are used to buy replacement flags and maintain the plantings at the park.

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) made a special appearance to support the wonderful cause. “I came here to eat because I can never get enough lasagna and enough meatballs,” she quipped before presenting a Certificate of Appreciation to Ann Moran and Ernestine Franco of the Sound Beach Civic Association for their many hours of volunteerism.

Bonner commented that every time she drives past the memorial, which is located on New York Avenue across from the post office, “it’s always very, very beautiful, and the flags are always in great shape.”

Bonner thanked the civic for hosting this fundraiser “because honoring our veterans is not something we do often enough and this community is on the map because of what you’ve done,” adding “There is such a heart in Sound Beach and such a spirit of volunteerism in this community … You all go above and beyond and are shining examples.”

If you would like more information on upcoming events of the Sound Beach Civic Association, visit

Kids relax at a previous fun run for the Royal Educational Foundation. Photo from Jill Russell

The Royal Educational Foundation is hosting its third annual Power of One Family Fun Run on Saturday, April 16, to benefit the Port Jefferson school district.

According to the event flyer, the 2-mile run is meant to “encourage physical activity and is intended to celebrate the positive influence we can have on one another within our families and community.” The course starts at 8:30 a.m. at the Port Jefferson Village Center on East Broadway and goes through the streets of the village, ending at Earl L. Vandermeulen High School on Old Post Road.

Proceeds from the fundraiser will go toward the foundation’s efforts to improve the school district. Each runner or walker is $15, while families cost $50.

People of all ages are welcome to participate, and can register between 7:30 and 8 a.m. at the Village Center. Participants should check in no later than 8:15 a.m. Everyone will get a fun run T-shirt before the start of the race.