Environment & Nature

Setauket Harbor Day was held Sept. 23. Attendees had the opportunity to participate in free kayak tours, harbor and maritime history tours and hands-on harborside activities. There was also a sea creature touch-tank, children’s face painting and music.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) were on hand at the event hosted by the Setauket Task Force to sign a memorandum of understanding regarding a partnering to plan to conserve the historic and natural resources of the Setauket Harbor Watershed.

By Alex Petroski

Like a scene from a popular HBO show, Port Jefferson was overrun with dragons for as far as the eye could see Sept. 16. The Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted its fourth Dragon Boat Race Festival at Harborfront Park and in Port Jefferson Harbor Saturday. The annual event features boat races, food, vendors, traditional Chinese ceremonies and customs, and musical performances.

This year 30 dragon boat teams competed in a recreational division, and four club teams squared off on the open seas in a more competitive one. Teams consisted of 20 rowers, one steersman and one drummer for the races around the inner harbor. The festival is the brainchild of Barbara Ransome, director of operations at the chamber, who said she got her inspiration after she attended a dragon boat race festival in Cape May, New Jersey, a few years back.

“We’ve got it down from an organizational perspective,” Ransome said in a phone interview after the event. “Everything went very well and very smooth.”

Ransome said she thought this year yielded larger attendance numbers — she speculated several thousand — than previous years, and said she is happy the event is growing. She said about 140 people utilized a free shuttle service provided to take attendees from their cars to the park, which was about 40 percent more than during last year’s event.

In the recreational group, a team from the Long Island School of Chinese called Huaxia Dragon took home the gold with a time of 58.06 seconds, narrowly edging Seas the Day, a team of rowers from St. Charles Hospital, who finished in 58.10 to capture silver. A New York City-area rowing club called The Collective won gold in the club division with a time of 58.27 in the final heat. The New York City Police Department rowing club came in second, finishing just two-tenths of a second behind The Collective.

Ransome said upon request from teams that competed in 2016, this was the first year racers were separated into groups based on experience levels, and she thought it was a good decision.

Port Jefferson Dragons, a Port Jefferson Village team, prepared extensively for the 2017 race, according to Ransome, so the group was bumped up as the fourth team in the club division. As a modest underdog, Port Jefferson Dragons got on the podium with a third-place finish.

“That was very impressive,” she said. “They did extraordinarily well.”

The Confucius Institute at Stony Brook University, an educational partnership between the school and China’s Office of Chinese Language Council International, was once again a sponsor of the event. According to a staff member at the institute, its directors were pleased with the event.

“We basically support any cultural events in the area that promotes Chinese culture, so it makes sense,” the staff member said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) sent Assistant Director of Constituencies for Asian American Affairs Joanne Choi to the event as a representative on his behalf. Suffolk County Legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Village Mayor Margot Garant were among the other elected officials also in attendance.

A maximum occupancy restriction was placed on the village-owned pier for the event, which has been found to need repairs following the 2016 race. Ransome said the guidelines were strictly adhered to, and actually made the event easier for timekeepers and organizers.

Denise Dragiewicz and her husband Marc during a recent visit to Indonesia. Photo from Denise Dragiewicz

By Kevin Redding

“There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’ … for the times they are a-changin.’’

The words and music of Bob Dylan will serve as a fitting soundtrack at Madison Steak House in Hauppauge Sunday, Sept. 24, during a special fundraiser to highlight and benefit the work of Eyes of the World Films — a New Jersey-based documentary company that focuses on the environment and socially relevant issues.

The Complete Unknowns, a Dylan cover band that spans the singer/songwriter’s six-decade catalog, take the stage at 5 p.m. and will rock the house with a mix of Dylan’s popular tunes and deep tracks until the end of the event at 8 p.m. Guests will enjoy a four-course dinner menu, have the opportunity to win raffle prizes that include a variety of Dylan memorabilia, and learn about Eyes of the World’s upcoming projects during the company’s quarterly fundraiser.

“Bob Dylan’s music really speaks to my heart and really opened my eyes as to what’s going on in the world when I was younger,” said Denise Dragiewicz, former Smithtown resident and the president of Eyes of the World Films. She directs and edits the company’s documentaries while her husband, Marc, a biologist, serves as environmental consultant and chooses each film’s subject and locations. “And that’s exactly what we’re trying to do — open people’s eyes to what’s going on with the environment and get people engaged.”

All proceeds from the fundraiser will go toward the production and completion of two new films being developed by the husband-and-wife duo.

“The Burning of Borneo’s Peat Swamp Forest,” which has begun filming in Palangka Raya, Central Kalimantan, and will be the company’s fifth documentary, explores the degradation of Indonesian forestland in recent decades by way of out-of-control fires brought on by the region’s dry season.

The decimation has also hit the areas surrounding Sabangau National Forest, home to the largest breeding population of orangutans, and, as of now, 80 percent of orangutan habitat has been wiped out — a major focus of the film.

A short version of that documentary, made up of footage shot in Palangka Raya last winter, recently won the YALE e360 Environmental Video Contest, and the duo hopes to use any funds they raise to return to the location and finish production on a feature-length film on the subject. For the larger film, Denise Dragiewicz said, they are concentrating on a young Dayak activist named Emmanuela Shinta, who is attempting to convince the Indonesian government to protect the remaining forest.

“Indonesia has been on the path of environment destruction for many decades,” Dragiewicz said. “Many areas, including Palangka Raya, where we are filming, have had to deal with horrendous fire seasons that last months at a time [and] not only do these fires damage remaining forestland and what is left of the orangutan habit, but the smoke and murky, yellow haze that is the offspring of these blazes have been causing serious health problems.”

“The environmental films produced and put out are generally about the bigger picture of global warming and the storms,” she continued, “but you don’t really see these little community stories and how global warming is hitting people on a smaller level and that’s what we’re trying to show.”

Marc Dragiewicz, who regularly works in environmental conservation with specific expertise and experience in rainforests, said of the film, “This is the largest project we’ve worked on yet and it’s important. It’s a subject that’s really happening right now and affecting a lot of people. It’s kind of a cautionary tale that if we’re not careful, we’re going to lose our wildlife and we’re going to have some really bad air coming up in the future.”

The other film, titled “In the Dark,” is still in preproduction and will be the duo’s first feature narrative, revolving around the sexual violence against women and children in South Africa.

The filmmakers’ documentaries have played at a variety of film festivals around the world and appear on several environmentally friendly websites like Life of Terra and Sustainability TV.

They said an ideal goal from this fundraiser would be $5,000. Of course the films will cost more than that but every little bit helps, Denise Dragiewicz said.

“The more we’re able to raise, the more we’re able to produce these types of documentaries and that’s really important to me,” she said. “The fundraisers are a real celebration of art and passion, and we hope we can not only raise funding but also draw more people into being aware of the importance of preserving our natural habitats.”

Michael Weiskopf, lead singer of The Complete Unknowns — a six-piece band that formed 10 years ago out of a love for Dylan’s music — said when Dragiewicz contacted him to play the fundraiser, he was drawn in by her passion.

“I thought, ‘this is a serious filmmaker and this is a serious subject,’” Weiskopf said of orangutan conservation. “I’m interested in helping living things that can’t speak for themselves … so it’s a good cause to get involved in.”

As a self-professed “unapologetic Bob Dylan devotee,” Weiskopf said he looked forward to the event and attendees should expect to hear a wide variety of Dylan songs, old and new.“When you have 600 plus songs to choose from, it’s always interesting,” he said.

The fundraiser starts at 4 p.m. at Madison Steak House, 670 Motor Parkway in Hauppauge on Sunday, Sept. 24, and will cost $25 for the bar and $50 for dinner and the show. You can buy tickets at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3047480.

Visit www.eyesoftheworldfilms.com and www.michaelweiskopf.com for more information.

Danfords Hotel & Marina will be the site of a new business venture in Port Jeff which will allow patrons to take week-long charter trips. Photo from Christina Whitehurst

By Alex Pertoski

A new business venture slated to open in Port Jefferson Village in spring 2018 will chart a course all the way to New England.

Lime Charters, a New York-based charter company, and Aeroyacht, a yacht dealer specializing in luxury sailing catamarans, have partnered with Danfords Hotel, Marina & Spa to establish a Port Jeff location where charter boats can be rented by interested patrons to be sailed through the Long Island Sound to the New England region for week-long trips. Sailors would have the option of setting off on their own, or the company can recommend a captain to bring on board the small vessels to handle the navigation.

One of Lime Charters three vessels available for rent beginning in 2018 for those interested in sailing on week-long trips from Danfords Hotel, Marina & Spa in Port Jeff to the New England region. Photo from Bill Beasley

According to Lime Charters’ website, most captains charge between $150 and $250 per day. Depending on the season and the size of the boat, prices range from around $4,000 to $5,000 for the seven-day use of a catamaran, which is large enough to take up to 10 people. The company requires proof of sailing experience for those declining to bring along a captain, and pre-charter checks allow the company to assess sailors and ensure they are comfortable with the boat. Though the company advertises the boats can be used to sail to Rhode Island, Connecticut, Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod, among others, charterers are permitted to take the vessel essentially wherever they would like.

Village Mayor Margot Garant said this is the first such business ever available in Port Jeff.

Bill Beasley, the founder of Lime Charters, said in an email at a recent international boat show he received a flood of interest in an offering like this in New York.

“Up until now, folks had to go further north or south to charter a catamaran sailboat,” he said.

Beasley shed some light on why Port Jeff is an “ideal location” to set up a launching area for Lime Charters. “It’s half way between New York City and the Hamptons — just an easy car or train ride out to us … Port Jefferson is a perfect sailing harbor town with its shops, diverse restaurants and, of course Danfords. It is a perfect partner considering their central waterfront location and opportunity for charter guests to stay at either before or after their charter. We hope to attract clients who like to be pampered and Danfords certainly supports that level of service.”

One of Lime Charters three vessels available for rent beginning in 2018 for those interested in sailing on week-long trips from Danfords Hotel, Marina & Spa in Port Jeff to the New England region. Photo from Bill Beasley

Christina Whitehurst, director of sales and marketing at the hotel, said Danfords is equally excited by the natural hospitality experience partnership.

“We’ve been doing a lot of upgrades to the marina and the area, and this is proof the word has gotten around,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s just going to expose another audience to Danfords.”

Garant expressed excitement over the possibilities the charter trips could present to residents and visitors in Port Jeff for those who want to add a one-night stay before or after their charter experience.

“I love it, I think it’s fantastic,” she said of the service and its base in the village she oversees. “I think it’s an excellent way to have more activities on our waterways.”

Garant also called Danfords a perfect anchor point.

Currently, Lime Charters has a fleet of three boats, though Beasley said their plan is to add more. Each vessel has a cooking area, and they offer the option of having groceries delivered to the boat.

Lime Charters is currently taking reservations for the 2018 boating season.

Deer hunting via long bow has been a controversial topic in Huntington Town since first permitted in September 2015. Stock photo

Huntington Town Hall was as tense as a drawn bowstring as residents agreed to disagree on bow hunting as a means to address deer overpopulation.

The Town Board held its public hearing Sept. 19 on proposed changes to rules regulating the use of longbows for hunting.

The proposed changes, sponsored by Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D), take aim at further restricting the use of a long bow under the town’s firearm regulations, not directly regulating deer hunting, which falls under the oversight of New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

One major change would expand the definition of what is considered a dwelling to include farm buildings, school buildings, school playgrounds, public structures,  occupied factories or churches, as hunters would be prohibited from firing an arrow within 150-feet of these structures.

Diana Cherryholmes, an Eaton’s Neck resident of 15 years, said she has concerns about the potential of hunters accidentally shooting a resident, their children or pets.

“I’m very uncomfortable during deer hunting season taking a walk…”

— Diana Cherryholmes

“Currently, I’m very uncomfortable during deer hunting season taking a walk, riding my bike and I’m scared for the kids playing outside,” Cherryholmes said.

Her concerns were echoed by  Eaton’s Neck residents Charlotte Koons and Christine Ballow. Town officials first voted to permit bow hunting in September 2015 to see if it would help address issues of deer overpopulation in the shoreline communities. The proposed changes are in response to safety concerns raised by community residents about unknown persons traveling through properties and arrows being fired in close proximity to houses and people.

“I think this is a trial that didn’t work,” Ballow said. “I think the 150-foot setback is hard to comply with given the density that we have. [The] density is not right for this type of hunting in this type of situation.”

Doug Whitcomb, speaking on behalf of Eaton Harbors Corporation civic group, said hunters realize there are additional efforts that must be made in a small community  where they must interact with neighbors who don’t agree with the sport.

“We are challenged by it as well,” Whitcomb said. “We similarly feel compromised when we have people around us when we’ve been in the woods since 5 a.m. trying to do a service to the community.”

Mike Lewis, a volunteer for NYSDEC who has taught hunter education classes since 2006, told town officials the five-year average for hunting-related accidental shooting incidents in New York is 20 to 25 people a year — a total for hunters using firearms, shotguns, pistols and bows.

“The majority of these incidents are two-party accidents where two or more people are hunting in close proximity and someone makes a mistake,” Lewis said.

He said there has only been one reported accident which involved an accidental shooting while long bow hunting, involving an elderly father and son pair. During that incident the father mistook his son for a deer and shot him in the leg, resulting in a minor injury.

“To understand our frustration and fears, understand we are taking part in an activity that’s as old as mankind itself.”

— John Marcinka

“If you put in your time and practice, you can tell a deer with antlers from a female with no antlers, or someone’s cat, dog or child,” Lewis said. “The last thing anyone wants to see is any innocent person get hurt.”

Several avid deer hunters spoke out to ask town officials to continue to permit bow hunting, despite the regulatory changes, believing they provide a valuable community service.

“Your arrow is like a surgical utensil as it pierces right through, and is the most humane way of taking out a deer,” said Joseph Wine, a hunter from Eaton’s Neck. “I think hunting is one of the best ways to control the deer. It’s free and it’s cheap.”

Huntington hunter John Marcinka requested additional clarification from the board on the proposed change that would require hunters to provide written notification to the town’s Department of Public Safety and local police departments prior to beginning a hunt.

“To understand our frustration and fears, understand we are taking part in an activity that’s as old as mankind itself,” Marcinka said. “When we’ve gone hunting on other people’s property in the past, we get permission from the farmer or landowner and it’s done with a handshake and nothing in writing.”

Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) directed Marcinka and other hunters to speak with the town attorney to work out specifics on how the written notice must be sent to property owners, how far in advance, and how frequently.

Town board members did not vote on the proposed changes Sept. 19. Their next town board meeting is not until Oct. 17, after the Oct. 1 start of the 2017 hunting season.

“I support amending the law as moving forward to a more permanent solution for relationships between people who don’t want deer hunting, like myself, and the hunters,” Cherryholmes said. “There must be a solution to help control the deer population and for the residents to have peace of mind.”

Stony Brook University professor Christopher Gobler discusses the quality of local bodies of water at a press conference Sept. 12. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

There’s still something in the water — and it’s not a good kind of something.

Scientists from the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences released an annual report highlighting the concern over the prolonged existence of toxic algae blooms, and a deficiency of oxygen in Long Island waters caused high levels of nitrogen.

Stony Brook Professor Christopher Gobler and several members of the advocacy collective Long Island Clean Water Partnership, a conglomerate of several Long Island environmental groups, revealed the findings of a study done from May to August.

The Roth Pond, a Stony Brook University body of water that plays host to the annual Roth Regatta, is affected by blue-green algae. File photo from Stony Brook University

“In order to make Long Island sustainable and livable, clean water needs to be established,” said Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “The challenge has been very great over the last decade … though the problem, unfortunately, is getting a bit worse. Algae blooms and the degradation of water quality across Long Island are serious threats to Long Island’s health.”

On the North Shore, there are several severe cases of hypoxia, or a depletion of dissolved oxygen in water, which is necessary for sea life to survive. Cases were found in Stony Brook Harbor, Northport Bay, Oyster Bay and Hempstead Bay. Measured on a milligram per liter of water scale,any case of hypoxia below two milligrams per liter can be harmful to fish, and almost anything else living on the bottom of the bays.

There were also periodic outbreaks of blue-green algae in Lake Ronkonkoma and Stony Brook University’s Roth Pond. This algae releases a poison harmful to humans and animals, but Gobler said students at the university shouldn’t worry, because he and other scientists at Stony Brook are constantly monitoring the water, especially before the annual Roth Regatta.

“[If nothing is done] the areas could expand — it could get more intense,” Gobler said. “We use a cutoff of three milligrams per liter, which is bad, but of course you can go to zero. An area like Hempstead Harbor went to zero, [Northport and Oyster Bays] went to zero at some points in time. There’s a usual day-night cycle, so it’s at night that the levels get very, very low.”

“We have the problem growing worse, and it is going to get worse before it gets better.”

—Dick Amper

As a result of the possibility of hypoxia expanding, Gobler said he and other scientists have also been monitoring Port Jefferson Harbor and Setauket Harbor.

Though Setauket Harbor is not currently experiencing any problems with hypoxia or algae, the harbor has experienced periods of pathogens, like E. coli, some of which were born from runoff into the harbor, but others might have come from leakage of antiquated cesspools in the area, according to George Hoffman, a trustee of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, which is also a member of the Clean Water Partnership.

Next May the task force hopes to start monitoring directly inside Setauket Harbor. Runoff from lawn fertilizers can also increase the nitrogen levels in the harbor.

“If our problem isn’t hypoxia, we have a problem with pathogens,” Hoffman said in a phone interview. “Prevention is really [Dr. Gobbler’s] goal — to know what is happening and to start taking steps. I think people’s information levels [on the topic] are high in the surface waters that they live by.”

In addition to hypoxia and blue-green algae, some of the water quality problems found in the assessment were brown tides on the South Shore, rust tide in the Peconic bays and paralytic shellfish poisoning on the East End — all of which are also nitrogen level issues that can be  traced back to cesspool sewage and fertilizers.

Port Jefferson Harbor is being monitored due to the speading of hypoxia across local bodies of water. File photo by Alex Petroski

“Make no mistake about it, this is so big that even … still, we have the problem growing worse, and it is going to get worse before it gets better,” said Dick Amper, the director of The Long Island Pine Barrens Society. “What’s the solution to this problem? We have to do more.”

There have been several efforts to help curb water degradation on Long Island. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legislation in April that put $2.5 billion toward clean water protection, improving water infrastructure and building new sewer systems in Smithtown and Kings Park, and adding a rebate program for those upgrading outdated septic systems.

Despite doing more, the repairs will take some time.

“This is going to be a long, long marathon,” said Kevin McDonald, the conservation project director at The Nature Conservancy said.

There is also worry that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — announcing the dumping of dredged materials into Long Island Sound — could compound the problem.

“We have more political funding and will try to implement solutions,” Esposito said. “The problems are getting worse, but the solutions are becoming clearer.”

Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society receives a $145,000 grant that helps the organization reach the $1 million needed to complete foundation repairs. Photo from Pamela Setchell

The future of a historic lighthouse in Huntington Bay is looking bright.

The 105-year-old Huntington Lighthouse will undergo much-needed repairs this fall thanks to preservation efforts by members of the nonprofit Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, which in August secured a $145,000 matching grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation.

Kathryn Curran, executive director of the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, when announcing the grant recipient, highlighted the lighthouse’s “vital role as a cultural entity, enhancing education and preserving heritage in the community.”

The Gardiner grant, which the preservation society applied for in July 2016, will be used to complete what members are calling phase one of restoration efforts to the lighthouse’s exterior foundation.

It will also allow the lighthouse to reopen for tours and educational groups again after two years of dormancy, as well as mark the return of the Lighthouse Music Fest.

Steel sheeting has been placed around the entire base of the structure to ensure more stability for the next 100 years against rough weather conditions. A brand new landing platform will be installed to replace a deteriorating one.

Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society receives a $145,000 grant that helps the organization reach the $1 million needed to complete foundation repairs. Photo from Pamela Setchell

Pamela Setchell, president of the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society, said she believes it was her passion for the historic landmark that clinched the highly-competitive grant during the interview process.

“For me, it’s just a dream,” said Setchell, a lifelong Huntington resident who has been exploring the lighthouse since she was young. “Just knowing she is going to be strong for another 100 years and hopefully go on to tell its story to everybody and to children and continue on … it means the world.”

She said without these restoration efforts, the lighthouse would become unstable and rapidly deteriorate, undoing the last 30 years of work the society has done to upkeep its interior. Setchell joined the society upon its formation in 1985 when threats of demolition loomed over the structure.

“We took it over in a deplorable state, put her back together and now she’s actually one of the poster children for offshore lighthouse restoration in the country,” Setchell said.

She pointed to the offshore lighthouse as unique among others on Long Island as it’s one of the few, due to its location, that allows the public to fully experience it. Many other lighthouses on the island are off-limits to visitors due to treacherous waters, she said.

Bernadette Castro, a longtime Huntington resident and former commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, echoed Setchell’s admiration for the lighthouse.

“For 50 years, I have looked out my dining room window and sat on my back terrace and appreciated that magnificent little structure,” Castro said of the lighthouse. “It is part of the landscape of those of us who live nearby.”

The recently acquired $145,000 grant, in addition to the nonprofit’s previously-raised $740,000 to secure a $250,000 New York state matching grant, as well as fundraising efforts among Huntington Bay residents, closes the gap on the $1 million foundation repair.

Huntington Manor Fire Department members unveil the new sign at the entrance of the newly-named Depot Road Richard W. Holst Memorial Park. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Eight years after the tragic death of a Huntington Manor firefighter, a town park has been renamed to honor his service to the community.

Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) and the town board announced Depot Road Park is now officially Richard W. Holst Memorial Park, renamed after the late fire police captain, chaplain, and posthumous honorary chief of Huntington Manor Fire Department.

“It is our honor to rededicate this park in his name for his heroic efforts and his giving to this community, continuously,” Petrone said.

Noreen Holst, Huntington Town Board members and Huntington Manor Fire Department members unveil a memorial plaque dedicated to Richard W. Holst. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Holst, a U.S. Navy veteran, joined the Huntington Manor fire department in 1978. He served for 31 years, spending 26 of those as the department’s chaplain and captain of the fire police. Prior to his death, Holst was elected chief chaplain of the New York State Association of Fire Chaplains in 2008. His fellow firefighters affectionately called him, “the Rev.”

“As chaplain, Rich spent countless hours looking after, comforting and at times consoling members and families of the Huntington Manor Fire Department,” said Jon Hoffman, first assistant chief of Huntington Manor Fire Department. “Today, we dedicate this stone and plaque in honor of Richie. It will stay here for years and watch over the people in this park as Richie did for us for so many years.”

In the early morning of Sept. 9, 2009, Holst was walking to 7-Eleven on Depot Road when he saw smoke rising from the adjacent shopping center. He reported the fire and immediately went to the scene to begin evacuation of the stores and checking for possible trapped occupants. Shortly after firefighters arrived, Holst suffered a heart attack and died.

The fire was determined to have started in Uber Cafe, a bagel shop, and police later ruled the incident arson, Petrone said. One of the shop’s owners pled guilty to attempted arson, the second owner was later convicted of arson.

Depot Road Park in Huntington was renamed for former Huntington Manor Fire Department member Richard W. Holst.

The newly renamed Huntington Station park off East 20th Street is only a few hundred feet from the site of the fatal fire. It features a playground and Little League baseball fields. 

“Depot Road Park is a special place, it’s a hidden gem in our park system,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “I think like many of you firefighters who knew Chief Holst, he was a hidden gem in our community. He was someone who was there to serve, dedicated his life to service in the [U.S.] Navy and in the fire department, then the important role of chaplain. So much of his time was dedicated to others.”

In addition to the park’s new signage, a large stone was unveiled bearing a memorial plaque with Holt’s image, notes about his accomplishments and details about his death. Deacon Edward Billia from St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church said a blessing over both the sign and memorial stone.

Noreen Holst appeared deeply touched by the tribute paid to her late husband. While she declined to speak publicly, she clutched a tissue in hand while Huntington Manor Assistant Chief Chuck Brady thanked all those who attended Saturday’s ceremony on behalf of the family. 

Huntington Manor Fire Commissioner Chris Fusaro encouraged the young members of the organization to take a long look around at those gathered and ask to hear personal stories about Holst’s exemplary life. 

“For all you who don’t know what firefighters do, it’s day and night, holidays and weekends when you get up from the table, get out of bed to go and respond,” Fusaro said. “Rich did that. He did it willingly and always from his heart.”

Huntington Manor firefighters salute their former colleague. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Port Jefferson Village and John T. Mather Memorial Hospital squared off on the open seas for the eighth time Sept. 9 for the Village Cup Regatta, an annual event that features a parade, sailboat race, a reception and even remarks from actor Ralph Macchio. Representatives from both groups man vessels and race in the Long Island Sound near Port Jefferson Harbor for bragging rights and, more importantly, to raise money for cancer research. The Mather team won the 2017 incarnation of the race and proudly took the trophy back from Village Mayor Margot Garant, who had the cup since the village’s 2016 victory. In total, about $65,000 was raised for Mather’s Palliative Medicine Program and for the Lustgarten Foundation, which funds pancreatic cancer research. The event is hosted by the Port Jefferson Yacht Club.

Hurricane Harvey caused devastation across Texas and neighboring states last week. Stock photo

By Alex Petroski, Rita J. Egan, Kevin Redding, Desirée Keegan and Sara-Megan Walsh

Hurricane Harvey ripped through the Gulf of Mexico and the eastern coast of Texas as a Category 4 storm, dumping historic floodwaters on the region and leaving hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes, injured or worse. About 1,700 miles away several efforts to raise money and accumulate food and supplies for those affected sprung up across the North Shore this past week into the weekend. Business owners, nonprofits, citizens and even kids pitched in to try to help in the early stages of getting victims back on their feet.

Port Jefferson

Tara Higgins, Kate Higgins and Joseph Higgins, owner of Tara Inn in upper Port, during a fundraiser Sept. 4 at the pub to benefit victims of Hurricane Harvey. Photo by Alex Petroski

In October it will be 40 years that Joseph Higgins has owned Tara Inn pub on Main Street in upper Port. When Higgins heard of the devastation in Houston and the surrounding region as a result of Hurricane Harvey, he said it resonated with him in a way that left him feeling like action was required. The pub owner decided to hold a benefit Sept. 4, Labor Day, to raise money for people affected by the massive storm. In addition to the sale of raffle tickets and Harvey relief T-shirts donated by Port Jefferson Sporting Goods, Higgins pledged to donate 100 percent of the bar’s food and beverage sales from the day to a group providing aid for victims in the region.

Tara Inn amassed more than $15,200 in sales and donations during the course of the day, which will be donated to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which was created to honor the memory of Siller, who was a firefighter killed in the line of duty Sept. 11, 2001. The organization is asking for donations to help Harvey victims on its website, and 100 percent of the money raised will go toward supplies and helping those affected.

“Forty years ago I had eight kids, my wife and I didn’t have two nickels to rub together, and I said, ‘God, help me raise these kids,’ and he did,” the 86-year-old Higgins said during the event, while seated near the pub’s front door with a container for additional donations. “And I can’t thank God enough for all he has given me and that’s why we give back. I’ve had a great life, and I like to give back. There have been times in my life where I had an opportunity to do something good and I didn’t do it, and I always regret that. Every time something comes along that we can do for somebody else, I want to do it.”

Tara Inn was filled with guests and volunteers throughout the day, including two of Higgins’ daughters.

“This is the family business, and we’ve done fundraisers in the past, and we just thought it was our small contribution to people that have been really devastated,” said Tara Higgins, whom the bar was named after. “Our customers are very loyal and really step up when we do fundraisers.”

Bubba Davis, a Port Jefferson Village resident for 78 years, was among those in attendance for the fundraiser at Tara Inn.

“This family here, they’ve always done that — they’re fantastic people,” Davis said.

Higgins’ wife of 65 years, Pat, was also at the pub for the event.

“He has the biggest heart in the world,” she said of her husband. “We feel so sorry for all the poor kids.”

In addition to the Tara Inn fundraiser, an emergency clothing drive will be hosted Sept. 9 at the Avalon Park barn in Stony Brook from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. by Knead 2 Feed, an organization that works with Port Jeff elementary school students to help the homeless. The organization, which was founded by former Port Jeff resident Jane Parker, features about 40 kids from the local area ranging from 5 to 14 years old who typically meet once a month to fulfill their mission of collecting goods to donate to a homeless shelter in Manhattan. This month their meet up will be the clothing drive.

“It’s a great group of kids who we’re really just teaching how important volunteering is and just trying to inspire them to be altruistic and help other people,” Parker said in a phone interview. She added the group has plans to drive a U-Haul truck to Texas in the coming weeks to deliver the bounty from the clothing drive.

Port Jefferson high school graduate Shaughnessy Harrison and her team at Keller Williams Realty Homes & Estates also collected donations of supplies to fill a truck  headed to Texas Sept. 7.

STAT Health Urgent Care centers, including the one in Port Jefferson Station, also accepted donations of supplies and nonperishable foods through Sept. 4, which were loaded into a truck and driven to Texas this week.

Setauket

Eric Cohen, president of True View Window Cleaning and Power Washing, with donations he collected and plans to drive to Texas to donate to Hurricane Harvey victims. Photo by Rita J. Egan

A few days after Hurricane Harvey left devastation behind in its wake in southeastern Texas, a Setauket business owner sat in his office surrounded by boxes and bags of much-needed staples.

Eric Cohen, president of True View Window Cleaning and Power Washing, said he was watching news coverage of the hurricane with his 12-year-old daughter Jamie when she turned to him and said, “That’s not going to happen to us Daddy, right?”

The Port Jeff resident said he started explaining to her there was no need to worry because volunteers would bring the flood victims food and help rebuild their houses. It was then he said he realized he needed to do something.

“I figured she’d grasp it better if I did something than explain it,” Cohen said.

The business owner decided he would collect food, toiletries and clothing, load up a truck and transport them to one of the drop-off centers in Texas. He said this is the first time he has organized a drive like this, but as soon as he made the decision to do so, he posted on social media and called clients. In the days that followed, dozens of people stopped by with donations, and a few of Cohen’s clients have helped store items in their offices.

This past weekend, he loaded a 24-foot enclosed trailer with cases of water, granola bars, Ramen noodles, canned goods, diapers, toothpaste, deodorant and blankets.

Cohen said he’s excited and the donation drive has been satisfying, but he is a bit nervous about the trip. Before choosing a day to drive down, he was monitoring the weather, availability of gas in Texas and safety issues. Cohen plans on posting updates about the trip on his business Facebook page, www.facebook.com/trueviewcleaningservices.

“I kind of have butterflies in my stomach thinking about the trip down,” Cohen said. 

His daughter said she thinks Cohen’s volunteer mission is cool.

“It’s nice because we have a lot of things that they used to have, and now they don’t have anything, and now he’s going to help them,” Jamie said.

In addition to Cohen’s Hurricane Harvey relief drive, Alchemy Martial Arts and Fitness of Setauket, located at 254 Main St., will be accepting donations for flood victims until Sept. 16. All contributions will be dropped off at U.S. Rep. Tom Souzzi’s (D-Glen Cove) office in Huntington.

The school owner, Nick Panebianco posted on Facebook he was approached by 7-year-old student Josh Rossler who asked: “What are we doing to help with what’s going on in Texas?”

“He really impressed me today, and I hope all my students can take this act as an example of how a martial artist holds themselves in and out of the classroom,” Panebianco wrote. 

The board of Jefferson’s Ferry life plan community in South Setauket was moved to donate $5,000 to the LeadingAge Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund after a photo of La Vita Bella Assisted Living Home residents awaiting rescue in waist deep water appeared in various news outlets. LeadingAge represents organizations serving older adults in 38 states, and in the past members of LeadingAge donated $1.3 million in total for victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma and Sandy.

“Seeing the footage and photos from Houston, particularly of some of our most vulnerable populations, quickly moved us to action,” George Rice, chair of Jefferson’s Ferry’s board of directors, said. “Knowing that LeadingAge would target 100 percent of our donation to help seniors in need made it easy to help.”

Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai Fire Department volunteers box up assorted items to be shipped directly to shelters in Houston. Photo by Kevin Redding

A cardboard sign spray-painted with the words “Help Texas” greeted residents who stopped by the Mount Sinai Fire Department over the weekend.

In an effort dubbed “Help Us Help Texas,” volunteer firefighters collected hundreds of items — including cases of water, pet food, nonperishable foods, diapers, contractor bags and paper towels — from members of the community, who dropped the goods off to the firehouse on Mount Sinai-Coram Road Sept. 2 and 3.

As residents pulled into the parking lot with vehicles full of much-needed supplies for those suffering in the wake of the storm, all members of the department from junior firefighters to chiefs helped carry them in, while other volunteers got to work boxing them up to be delivered to shelters in Houston.

“It’s so encouraging that everybody can get together and do what needs to be done under these types of circumstances,” said safety officer Dan Desmond, who has been a volunteer with the Mount Sinai department for 30 years.

Desmond said he wasn’t surprised to see so many people stopping by to help.

“There’s nothing stronger than the bond that Long Islanders have,” he said. “Whether it’s for somebody in Alaska or down in Texas, if somebody needs help, Long Island’s going to come together.”

Adam Thomas, an 11-year volunteer who organized the event, said he immediately sprung into action because he has friends who serve as firemen near Houston. As he and other Mount Sinai volunteers couldn’t make the trip to Texas, he thought of the next best thing.

Through Facebook, emails, phone calls and word of mouth, Thomas promoted the donation drive in the week preceding it.

With a direct contact on the scene in Houston, Thomas was also able to compile a specific list of supplies for residents to contribute. Rather than clothing or cash, the most crucial supplies included batteries, flashlights, cleaning supplies, mops, hygiene products, masks, goggles and bug spray.

“My friends down there, they’ve been working all night, and sent me a text saying, ‘We need mosquito sprays’ because they’re getting slaughtered by them — they have fire ants all over the place too,” Thomas said.

As another car full of items pulled in, Thomas said the initiative felt wonderful.

“It’s not just me doing it, it’s everybody that’s helping,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to do it without them.”

Department lieutenant Rob Pobjecky, who helped Thomas get the event off the ground, pointed to another storm’s relief effort as inspiration.

“I think that the outpouring of help that we got from around the nation with Hurricane Sandy really helped spawn this idea that we can give back and help others in their time of need,” Pobjecky said.

The lieutenant said  the event was evidence of social media being put to good use.

“I’m not the biggest fan of social media, but in instances like this, I think it’s when it really is tremendous,” Pobjecky said.

As one resident dropped off water, baby wipes, cat food and paper towels, she said of her donations: “It’s the least we can do, right?”

Wading River

The New York Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing, based in Westhampton Beach, traveled to Texas to help with rescues.

The group rescued nearly 300 people by boat and helicopter as of Aug. 29, military officials said, though the number has grown substantially since then.

Wading River’s Ryan Dush, a 32-year-old staff sergeant, was one of about 140 members of the 106th Rescue Wing to help in Texas.

Dush’s rescues included an airlift of an extended family of nine, including a 1-month-old child. The family members, three of whom were adults, were inside of a partially submerged pickup truck. Dush led the group members to the roof, where he strapped them into harnesses that hoisted them 60 feet up to the helicopter.

According to Capt. Michael O’Hagan, the helicopter was already filled to capacity when the group was spotted.

“A male was spotted waving for help,” he told CBS News. “It turned out to be a family of nine.”

Dush can be seen in a video on the 106th Rescue Wing’s YouTube channel holding the infant as he was pulled back up to the helicopter.

It hit home for Dush, because he’s the father of a 1-year-old girl.

“It was definitely an emotional rescue, going after an infant that was that small,” Dush told CNN. “I rescued another infant today. It’s an amazing feeling to come out and help people in their time of need.”

In multiple YouTube videos on the channel and elsewhere, family members can be seen smiling and waving to Dush, mouthing “thank you” as they are dropped off at the George R. Brown Convention Center in West Houston, which is serving as a shelter.

“We as a New York wing are very well-acquainted with this type of a disaster, having lived through Hurricane Sandy only five years ago,” O’Hagan said. “We remember that in our time of need others came from around the nation to help us out, so we’re happy to do so. Everyone that’s here is a volunteer. This is the very definition of what we do as the Air National Guard — these things we do so that others may live.”

Smithtown

A Smithtown-based charity has sent volunteers down to Texas to make sure man’s best friends aren’t forgotten in a time of need.

Volunteers from Guardians of Rescue, a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that works to protect the wellbeing of all animals and come to the aid of those in distress, have been rescuing pets affected by Hurricane Harvey and reuniting them with their owners.

“The Guardians have been taking rescued animals to the Montgomery Animal Control where Best Friends have set up an emergency intake shelter to care for animals displaced from the hurricane and flooding, and to get them reunited with their owners,” Guardians of Rescue posted on their Facebook page Sept. 6. “And while we didn’t rescue the dogs in the video, we did get to witness the happy moment of a woman who had just picked up her dogs that had been brought into the shelter.”

In addition, the Smithtown Fire Department joined others across Long Island in collecting donations for Hurricane Harvey victims at their main fire house on Elm Avenue through Sept. 6. All donations will be packed up on a tractor trailer for delivery to Houston residents.w

In Saint James, Sal’s Auto Body also opened its doors as a drop location for non-perishable and other donations for Hurricane Harvey victims.

Huntington

Halesite Fire Department coordinated with two Huntington business owners to serve as a drop-off point for donations to Hurricane Harvey victims through Sept. 6. Photo from Dom Spada

Two Huntington auto-shop owners found themselves unable to stand by without taking action after watching televised news broadcasts of the widespread flooding in Houston. It struck a painful reminder of Hurricane Sandy, five years ago this fall.

“I was watching the news with my wife, that morning, and my kids were very upset,” said Huntington resident George Schwertl. “We’re sitting here right now very comfortable and as we saw on the news, it’s a mess down there. We have to help.”

Schwertl, owner of Schwertl Auto Body in Islandia, and Andre Sorrentino, owner of PAS Auto Body in Huntington, coordinated as massive donation drive for the victims of Hurricane Harvey in coordination with Dom Spada, second assistant chief of Halesite Fire Department.

Halesite firefighters are particularly sympathetic to the damage flooding can cause, Spada said, given the area’s flooding in past storms and rescue missions of stranded automobile drivers.

“Water can be a nasty thing and wreck havoc on people’s homes and their lives. We had to do something,” Spada said. “We know how water can be, as we’ve had it with our own residents. We know what they are going through and it’s probably at least 10 times what we have gone through.”

Halesite’s Fire Chief Greg Colonna sent out a mass email to local residents Aug. 30 calling for donations of nonperishable food, toiletries, hygiene products, water, blankets and dog food to be dropped off to one of the participating businesses, the firehouse or one of its sister fire districts — Dix Hills, East Northport or Huntington Manor — by Sept. 6.

Schwertl said he and Sorrentino originally rented five Sprinter vans to be driven by local volunteers down to Houston Sept. 7, but that number had grown to eight trucks and tractor trailers, and was still growing.

“We’ve had a great turnout everywhere with the businesses, the fire departments,” Schwertl said. “It’s an incredible turnout, to see everyone coming together. People are volunteering to drive down with us, they are volunteering and offering trucks.”

The group has been coordinating with a legislative aide from U.S. Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) who previously lived in Texas, Suffolk County Legislator Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station), and state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) to get the specific locations of shelters in need of supplies, according to Schwertl.

“We want to be positive that when we get there they will take the donations and it will go into the right hands,” Sorrentino said.

The convoy of trucks and trailers driven by a mixed volunteer of retirees, construction workers, servicemen from Hauppauge to Huntington plans to depart late Sept. 7 for Texas.

A Huntington nonprofit has collaborated with the Town of Huntington to make sure that all of Hurricane Harvey’s victims, big and small, are getting aid so desperately needed.

Little Shelter Animal Rescue & Adoption Center of Huntington reached out and made arrangements with an animal rescue group in Rockwall, Texas, to accept shelter dogs and cats for adoption to make more room for more four-legged refugees.

“We are giving more room for the shelters down there so they can do the right thing, take in and reunite pets that they are still finding in the floods right now,”  Little Shelter executive director, David Ceely, said.

Ceely said Sept. 1 that the plans were underway to arrange transportation of approximately a dozen shelter animals up to Delaware where they will be handed off, and driven the rest of the way to New York with their expected arrival on Labor Day. The animals were then going to be split up for lodging with five dogs and three cats going to stay at Little Shelter, according to Ceely, while the Town of Huntington’s Animal Shelter was going to accept three to five dogs.

“Town municipal shelters don’t normally do this type of thing,” he said. “For Huntington Animal Shelter to do this is groundbreaking.”

The plans to transport these animals hit a speed bump earlier this week, according to Huntington spokesman A.J. Carter, who said the transportation of the animals was delayed due to legal issues with getting health certifications needed to allow pets to travel across state lines.

If the legal issues can be sorted, Ceely said the animals will be required to be put under a two-week quarantine period for medical and behavioral screening before being put up for adoption.

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