Community

Phil Tepe, Paul Kelly and Fred Amore, members of the Town of Huntington Veterans Advisory Board, and Supervisor Frank Petrone unveil names at the Vietnam memorial wall on June 11. Photo from A.J. Carter

Huntington Town has added 378 names to its Vietnam War memorial, and unveiled tribute plaques on June 11 as part of a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of the end of the conflict and the half-century that has passed since it began.

Almost 3 million Americans served in the military during the Vietnam War between March 1965 and April 1975, and more than 58,000 died in the conflict.

The town kicked off the day with a breakfast that served veterans, their families and supporters and included musical performances as well as a keynote address from Huntington native Frank Libutti, a retired U.S. Marine corps lieutenant general. He spoke about his service and experiences as a platoon commander in Vietnam. During the breakfast, according to a town press release, the names of the 49 Huntington residents who were killed in that war were read aloud.

Later, people gathered at Veterans Plaza in front of Town Hall for a ceremony dedicating the plaques with the 378 new names at the Vietnam memorial wall. The town said there are now 1,540 names at that memorial, which was erected in 2003 and includes names of Vietnam War-era veterans who live or have lived in the town.

The Town of Huntington Veterans Advisory Board was named an official Vietnam War commemorative partner, as part of an initiative of the U.S. Department of Defense to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the war’s beginning, and the local event was listed on the national website for the program.

It was a beautiful day in Mount Sinai on Sunday, as more than 35 boats of all sizes were blessed by Rev. Jerry Nedelka at the Mount Sinai Yacht Club’s 11th annual Blessing of the Fleet.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), Yacht Club Trustee Bill Dick and other members of the club joined Nedelka to wish the boats a safe journey.

 

On Saturday, June 13, the 2015 Long Island Pride Parade marched down Main Street in Huntington Village.

Hosted by the LGBT Network, an association of non-profit organizations working to serve the Long Island and Queens LGBT community, the parade featured an array of marching groups, including community organizations, social groups, LGBT corporate employees and other constituencies.

By Dan Woulfin

Northport celebrated new and old traditions on land and by sea this past Saturday, June 13.

The Northport Running Club held its inaugural Northport Nautical Mile Run, a downhill 1.15-mile race with hundreds of participants through the heart of Northport and ending at the foot of the harbor.

Afterward, the Coast Guard auxiliary and local clergy held the annual Blessing of the Fleet at the village docks to mark the start of the summer season.

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Taken in 1930, this aerial view of Selden’s Still Farm, owned by D. Benjamin Still and his wife Eva, shows their chicken coops and land. Photo above from Middle Country Public Library Heritage Collection

By Rachel Siford

After two years of researching, writing and editing, the Middle Country Public Library’s local history book is
finally in print.

From left, Luise Weiss, Theresa Arroyo, Jim Ward and Sara Fade lead creating the history book. Photo from MCPL
From left, Luise Weiss, Theresa Arroyo, Jim Ward and Sara Fade lead creating the history book. Photo from MCPL

“Centereach, Selden, and Lake Grove,” an Images of America History Book was released on May 25. The book, which is published by Arcadia Publishing, is the latest in the company’s Images of America series that showcases small towns throughout the United States.

“I think it’s a wonderful thing for our staff to do because we have the resources and it’s our duty as a public library to preserve the history of our area,” Library Director Sophia Serlis-McPhillips said. “It’s like we are giving back to our community.”

The book documents the history of the Middle Country area dating back to the 1700s, and features images collected from residents that show the transformation of Centereach, Selden and Lake Grove from small, rural communities to the commercial, vibrant area it is today.

Four librarians, Luise Weiss, Theresa Arroyo, Jim Ward and Sara Fade, headed the research and making of the book.

The book’s researchers utilized neighboring library archives, local historians and photos and information they already had at the MCPL Heritage Collection.

The Centereach 1934 fourth- and fifth-grade classes were held in a one-room schoolhouse. Photo from Middle Country Public Library Heritage Collection
The Centereach 1934 fourth- and fifth-grade classes were held in a one-room schoolhouse. Photo from Middle Country Public Library Heritage Collection

“I learned so much about the area, and we wanted to be able to pass that on,” said Arroyo, the coordinator of adult reference and cataloging services.

All four had to find pictures, track down and confirm information and then write a description detailing a special event or place in town.

“Local history is so much fun because you can put a historical lens on things you drive by every day,” Arroyo said.

Since the area does not have its own historical society or a main street, there haven’t been many books written about its history, according to Arroyo.

“Most people wouldn’t think that this area was full of farms and that Selden was known for its watermelons,” Arroyo said, smiling. “Middle Country Road is such a busy, commercial road today that it is hard to imagine it being a dirt road with no lights.”

Serlis-McPhillips said there has been a lot of public support and interest and a positive reaction so far: “People don’t realize how rich in history we are.”

The view of Middle Country Road near New Village Congregational Church in the early 1900s. Photo from Middle Country Public Library Heritage Collection
The view of Middle Country Road near New Village Congregational Church in the early 1900s. Photo from Middle Country Public Library Heritage Collection

While most Images of America books end around the 1920s, the Middle Country one is unique because it delves into historic moments from the 1950s and 1960s.

Arroyo and Serlis-McPhillips both said their favorite history tidbit was learning about the cycling craze of the 1890s, which led to the creation of Bicycle Path, a road that stretches from Patchogue to Port Jefferson.

According to the librarians, riders were called wheelmen, and needed license plates and registration to ride.

To accompany this book release, the library is revamping its heritage collection by changing how the current section is organized, and will add genealogy resources for patrons to use.

The library will begin reconstructing the section in late June with the hope of opening in early fall.

“We felt is was really important since we don’t have a historical society for our area,” Serlis-McPhillips said. “We really wanted to be able to do something for our community.”

To see more photos and historical archives, visit the library’s website at www.middlecountrypubliclibrary.org/adults/local-history.

John Martin demonstrates how to administer Narcan at a training session in Northport. File photo by Rohma Abbas

The Northport-East Northport Community Drug and Alcohol Task Force wants to recruit 18- to 25-year-olds in the fight against drug addiction and fatal overdoses.

Next week, the group will host a workshop that will train participants in administrating Narcan, a drug that thwarts opioid overdoses. Task force leaders say they hope to attract members of a young age group to attend because those individuals have the highest overdose statistics locally.

The workshop is on Wednesday, June 17, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Northport Public Library. This training session and hands-on workshop is hosted by the task force, and will be run by the Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. The training is easy to understand and free for anyone who registers.

“I want to equip the kids with the awareness and knowledge to battle this ongoing problem the youth today is dealing with,” Anthony Ferrandino, co-chair of the task force, said this week.

Narcan is a prescription drug that reverses an opioid overdose. An opioid describes drugs like heroin, morphine and oxycodone. Narcan cannot be used to get high and is not addictive. It also has no known negative side effects, so it is completely safe to administer this drug, even if there is uncertainty about a person having a drug overdose.

“The Northport [Village] Police Department has a 100 percent success rate for overdose victims when they have gotten to the scene in time,” Scott Norcott, the public relations coordinator for the task force, said in an interview.

In 2013 alone, there were 216 confirmed opioid-related deaths in Suffolk County, according to Ferrandino. In 2014, the number declined slightly to 167 deaths. More than half of the opiate deaths in 2013 were individuals in the 20-29 age group.

Ferrandino wants to focus on teaching kids not only how to administer the drug and the process of calling for help, but also the workings of the Good Samaritan laws. These laws protect the caller and the overdose victim from arrests for drug possession or being under the influence. Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia have varying policies that provide immunity from arrests for minor drug-law violations by people who help on the scene.

“I don’t want them to be scared to call 911 — that is a common fear — that they don’t want to get in trouble for being at the scene at all, so they become fearful of calling for help,” Ferrandino said.

The training session will include instructions on how to administer Narcan. Each participant will be given a prescription that allows him or her to carry and administer Narcan wherever they are, along with a free kit. New York State covers the costs of Narcan and the training.

Ferrandino was motivated to spread the word about Narcan to as many 18- to 25-year-olds as possible by a former student who graduated from Northport High School. When she was at college, a student overdosed at a party she was at, and she felt that if she had been trained in Narcan administration, she could have helped save the student’s life.

The task force has participated in many programs this year to try and spread awareness of the rising number of drug overdoses in town. Recovery, awareness and prevention week is an annual series of events throughout the Northport-East Northport school district with forums and events to help students learn how to avoid drugs and how to help friends who might be struggling with addiction.

Narcan training sessions will also be held in Hauppauge at the Suffolk County Office of Health Education in the North County Complex on Veterans Memorial Highway on June 15 and 29, and July 20.

“Narcan is really a Band-Aid, it’s a great one, but the endgame here is to get the kids to hear the facts, to smarten them up and see the dangers, so that one day we won’t need the Narcan training,” Norcott said.

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Yacht Wanderer flying New York Yacht Club flag. Photo of original Greene postcard from Beverly Tyler

by Beverly C. Tyler

Joseph Rowland’s home and shipyard is in East Setauket at the intersection of Shore Road and Bayview Avenue.

Rowland built the schooner-yacht Wanderer in 1857 for Colonel John D. Johnson who was a member of the New York Yacht Club, a wealthy sugar planter from New Orleans and had a home in the Islips. The Wanderer was designed by Captain Thomas B. Hawkins, who supervised construction.

The sails for the Wanderer were made in Port Jefferson in the Wilson Sail Loft. Wilson also made the first suit of sails for the schooner-yacht America, which captured the cup that still bears the name of that first winner.

That summer of 1857, the Wanderer sailed Long Island Sound with Captain Hawkins as its sailing master.

The ship’s owner, Johnson, sailed it with the New York Yacht Club Squadron. It was said to have been the fastest schooner ever built, too big and too fast so the yacht club wouldn’t let it compete.

That fall, Wanderer voyaged to Havana, via Charleston and Savannah, and it was very widely acclaimed.

However, Johnson sold the Wanderer in 1858 to William C. Corey and soon after it reappeared in Port Jefferson. It was fitted out for the slave trade, probably at the yard of J.J. Harris. Numerous large water tanks were installed. All the people looked the other way, except S.S. Norton, surveyor of the port. He became suspicious and notified federal officials in New York. The revenue cutter Harriet Lane intercepted the Wanderer off Old Field Point and took it in tow to New York over Corey’s loud protests.

Corey glibly talked himself free and the Wanderer was allowed to leave for Charleston, where the real owner Charles Augustus Lafayette Lamar surfaced. Actually he probably crawled out from under a rock. Lamar, staying in the background because of his previous connection with slavers, obtained customs clearance for it.

They completed fitting out for the slave trade and sailed for Africa. Its captain was John E. Farnum, a mean looking cuss.

Slavers were rigged to outrun the slave squadrons of Great Britain and America, both of which were trying to stop the now illegal slave trade. Wanderer took aboard some 600 “negroes” and sailed for America. The slaves were laid down side-by-side alternating head and feet and chained, wrist to ankle. They were kept lying there for days and there was no sanitation. Even worse, if a ship was overtaken by one of the slave squadrons, it was not uncommon to bend an anchor to the last man on the chain and let it go overboard, taking the whole cargo of slaves and destroying the evidence.

On the evening of Nov. 28, 1858, the ship landed 465 Africans on Jekyll Island, Georgia. The rest died during the voyage and were unceremoniously tossed over the side. The ship was seized by federal authorities; however, the Africans, now on Georgia soil, a slave state, were sold at auction.

There was outrage in the U.S. Congress; but little, if anything, was done, less than two years before the start of the Civil War. Wanderer was sold at auction and Lamar bought it. In the spring of 1861 it was seized by the federal government and used as a gunboat in the Civil War. It was credited with capturing four prizes. After the war, the U.S. Navy sold it to private owners who ran it aground on Cape Maisi, east out of Cuba, on Jan. 21, 1871, and she was a total loss. The mess kettle that was used to feed the slaves on Jekyll Island still existed in the 1970s but has since disappeared.

There was even a sign beside it that explained the history of the kettle and said that the Wanderer was built at East Setauket. In 2008, the Jekyll Island History Museum opened an exhibit on The Last Slaver.

A walking tour of the maritime and wooden shipbuilding area along Shore Road in East Setauket will be conducted this Saturday, June 13, beginning at 2 p.m. Meet at the Brookhaven Town Dock for a tour of the homes and shipyards that built ships that sailed around the world. The tour includes the home of the Wanderer shipbuilder and his story.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian.

Meeting to take place at town hall

Woodbury Road residents have called the thoroughfare unsafe in recent years. File photo by Barbara Donlon

The results of a Woodbury Road traffic study will be revealed at a meeting on Monday, June 15, at Huntington Town Hall, according to Huntington Councilwoman Susan Berland (D).

The town-commissioned study was a response to a petition organized by Marilyn McDermott, a resident of Cold Spring Harbor who lives on Woodbury Road. McDermott said in July that the road was so dangerous she was afraid to pull out of her driveway.  Numerous car crashes have occurred in recent years on the road that connects Cold Spring Harbor and Huntington, two of which resulted in fatalities.

The Uniondale-based traffic engineering consultant GEB HiRise, which will host the Town Hall meeting on Monday along with Berland, conducted the study. The town board authorized the cost of the study to be less than $25,000.

“I think people will be happy with the study,” Berland said in a phone interview this week. “They’ll see the analysis that went into it.”

McDermott said she will attend the meeting on Monday to hear the results of the study and the firm’s recommendations for future change.

“It’s been worth it already,” McDermott said about the time she has dedicated to making the road she travels on everyday safer. “It’s brought my community together in a way that’s been eye opening.”

McDermott said she was surprised by the support she received from both the board and the community thus far, but she expects that the findings will reveal a need for changes.

“It would behoove them to make some changes based on the fatalities and accidents that have gone on there in the past,” McDermott said.

Other Woodbury Road residents have spoken out about the dangerous conditions of the road since the petition for a traffic study began in June of last year.

“The way the turn is constructed, along with slippery conditions, the road equals death,” Woodbury Road resident Stan Cotek said in July.

Another resident, Sierra Mittleman, a neighbor of McDermott’s, also said in July, “Our whole road is starting to look like a memorial.”

Berland said that members of the engineering firm that conducted the study would take questions from community members after they reveal the results and their recommendations on Monday night. Boards will be set up around the room with pictures of sections of the roadway, along with what is suggested for those particular areas, according to Berland.

“I hope we have a great turn out and a lot of people come and share their opinion,” Berland said about Monday’s meeting.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.

Town board hosts public hearing on zone change

A deli on the Platt’s Tavern site would be demolished under Dominick Mavellia’s zone change application to construct a medical office building. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Residents offered mixed opinions this week at a town board public hearing on a plan to rezone a historic Huntington village property that once hosted George Washington for dinner in 1790.

Developer Dominick Mavellia wants to change the zoning of a parcel on the corner of Route 25A and Park Avenue from R-15 Residence District to C-1 Office Residence District to make way for a 10,000 square-foot medical office building. Of that space, GoHealth Urgent Care would occupy 3,000 square feet, and 7,000 square feet would be regular medical office space for North Shore-LIJ Health System.

The project is located in the Old Town Green National Historic District and the Old Huntington Green Town Historic District and was the site of the former Platt’s Tavern, one of the first buildings in the area. According to town documents, Washington dined at the establishment on April 23, 1790, during a tour of Long Island.

At the time, Huntington’s population was around 2,000.

If approved, the new development would replace an abandoned gasoline service station/automotive repair shop, a deli and a vehicle storage yard. The demolition of the existing buildings and the construction of any new buildings would have to undergo architectural review and be approved by the Historic Preservation Commission, according to a town document.

The access to and from Park Avenue would be restricted to allow only right turns in and out of the property.

Also, East Main Street would be restriped in order to provide a left-turn lane for westbound vehicles looking to enter the site, and Park Avenue would be widened to provide a right-turn lane for northbound traffic looking to head east on East Main Street.

It is said George Washington dined at Platt’s Tavern, located at the corner of Park Avenue at Route 25A in Huntington. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
It is said George Washington dined at Platt’s Tavern, located at the corner of Park Avenue at Route 25A in Huntington. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Part of the plan would also include situating a life-sized statue of George Washington beside his horse on the property.

An earlier iteration sought a zone change to C-4 Neighborhood Business District, which would allow for retail use, but the applicant amended his request for the zone change on the spot at Tuesday night’s town board meeting. The change came after consulting with “various members of the community,” according to a representative of the developer.

“Determining the fate of this exceptional corner and gateway to our great town is vital,” Mavellia, a lifelong Huntington resident, said at the meeting. “We heard everyone’s concerns loud and clear, hence the change in application to C-1.”

Mavallia also said he’s brought on a historical architect to work closely with town historians “to address their concerns and ideas.”

The main issue seemed to surround the proposed design of the structure, of which many individuals, including town board members Susan Berland (D) and Mark Cuthbertson (D), said didn’t look historic enough.

Cuthbertson said he took issue with the proposed awnings. “I’m hoping there’s room for discussion,” he said.

Berland said, “To me it looks like a CVS.”

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) asked the developer’s representative if he would be consulting with the community on the design of the project, to which the representative replied he would.

Paul Warburgh, president of the Old Huntington Green Inc., said he was pleased the applicant decided to go with the C-1 zone change request, which is more in keeping with the character of the area and neighboring buildings.

“We’re here to work with the developer to put something there that will honor the Huntington Green and the historic area,” he said.

While some seemed heartened by the amended zone change request, others wanted to see the town take action and do something unique with the property, like rebuild Platt’s Tavern. Some said they were concerned the project would create even greater traffic issues. One individual wanted the scale of the building reduced, while some speakers — who were friends of Mavellia — supported the developer and spoke highly of his character.

The zone change was a big move for some who originally opposed the project, Petrone said in an interview after the meeting.

“That basically was a real change in terms of going to C-1, which was the biggest contention of our historic community especially,” he said. “And that has provided I think an opportunity now. They want to work together. So I’m hopeful that they’ll be able to come up with something that everyone will be proud of.”

Due to the amended zone change, the public record for the hearing will be held open for 10 days. Those interested may continue to submit written comments to Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia (R).

Residents turn out for and against a plan to build a 69-unit assisted living facility in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas

Plans to build a 69-unit assisted living facility in a residential, wooded Huntington neighborhood were largely met with heavy censure by neighboring residents at a town board public hearing on Tuesday night.

The room was filled to the max with individuals holding up signs for and against the proposal, and jeering and applause often punctuated speakers’ statements. Out of the nearly 35 individuals who spoke, most residents opposed Massachusetts-based Benchmark Senior Living’s plans to build the facility at the corner of East Main Street and Washington Drive, calling the proposal too dense for the area and criticizing the traffic, noise and sewage treatment aspects of the project. The residents called on the town board to reject the company’s proposal to rezone the six-acre land, which has both C-3 Special Business and R-10 Residential zoning, to R-HS Residential Health Services District, a designation that would make way for the facility.

The project has gone through several versions. The proposed number of units has been brought down from 87 to 69 units, and the proposed on-site sewage treatment plant has been moved to the northwest corner of the lot, adjacent to commercial property. A 40-foot-wide natural buffer along Old Northport Road will be built, and the gross floor area would be slightly reduced from 70,567 square feet to 66,995.

Representatives for the developer said at the meeting that the project would meet the needs of a growing senior population in Suffolk County and especially in Huntington Town. But many residents expressed frustration over the zone change request, urging the board to keep the zoning of the current land intact.

Some support Benchmark Senior Living’s request to rezone property to make way for a 69-unit assisted living facility in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas
Some support Benchmark Senior Living’s request to rezone property to make way for a 69-unit assisted living facility in Huntington. Photo by Rohma Abbas

“Shoehorning a large-scale facility into this spot that would house 100 to 150 people including the staff is so far from the original zoning plan that it renders zoning laws absurd,” Jane Carter, a Cobb Court resident said. “Why do we have zoning laws in the first place? They’re there to protect us.”

Meanwhile, the plan got some support by fewer than a handful of residents, including the construction industry. The developer’s team of representatives argued the proposal is a good use for the site and for the town. John Dragat, senior vice president of development at Benchmark, said the plan destroys fewer trees than previous plans for the site, which included eight homes and an office building. Benchmark’s proposal covers less of the lot and, square-footage wise, isn’t much greater than the plan for the homes, Dragat added.

“In fact, we believe it’s a very responsible proposal,” he said. “It’s respectful of the surrounding community.”

Still, residents were not sold. Astrid Ludwicki, an Old Northport Road resident, said the project was too dense and called it a “monstrosity.”

“This building is too large,” she said. “It’s for Benchmark’s profits, clear and simple.”

Petitions opposing the project have been submitted to the town. Town Clerk Jo-Ann Raia (R) said if they’re valid, it could mean the board would need a supermajority vote — four out of five — to approve the zone change, versus a simple majority of three.

After the meeting, Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) said in an interview that the town’s planning staff would review the proposal. Asked for his sense of how the community feels about the project, he said “they’re against it.” The supervisor also said he agreed with the applicant’s claim that this type of facility is needed.

“I think there is a need,” he said. “I think everybody will say there’s a need. Now depending on if it’s in the right spot, we have to analyze that.”

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