Opinion

Split, Croatia

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Continuing our sailboat-and-diesel cruise down the Dalmatian Coast on the Adriatic, we next stopped in Split, the second largest city in Croatia. Again, located against the backdrop of steep limestone mountains, Split is particularly known for its beaches and Diocletian’s Palace.

Built for the Roman emperor, Diocletian, at the turn of the fourth century, and built like a Roman military fortress, the palace was at one time the home of thousands of inhabitants and its 200 buildings are surrounded by white stone walls. Today, the palace is a sprawling Romanesque destination spot for tourists, and it also offers bistros, hotels, shops and a cathedral, some of which are underground.

The city, like the rest of Croatia, was variously part of several empires throughout the centuries, including that of Austria-Hungary and Venice. Its importance, because of its coastal location and proximity to both Europe and the East, was as a trading center. Now it is a picturesque stop on the Dalmatian Coast.

With the mountains along the shore getter ever steeper, we cruised on to Dubrovnik on the southern coast of Croatia. The Old Town is surrounded by massive walls, extended until the 17th century, and features fabulous examples of Baroque, Renaissance and Gothic architecture. Paved with limestone and lined with shops and restaurants, the city is built along the shore and up the sides of the mountains, a natural magnet for photographers. There is even a cable car to ascend the undeveloped upper mountainsides. We rode back down in one such car at sunset, marveling at the beauty of the city as the lights came on below us in the houses and shops, and on the many boats in the distant harbor.

Dubrovnik is particularly known for its wealth and its diplomacy. The first was much the result of the second. During the many centuries of warfare and strife among the surrounding empires, the rulers of Dubrovnik, established along the doge and city council pattern of Venice, were able to avoid invasion. They paid tribute to the sultan of the Ottoman Empire and to others throughout the years by using the wealth they accumulated from their favorable trading position along the coast and from the sale of their precious natural resource: salt. 

Further evidence of their diplomatic skill extends even to the American Revolution. They were able to provide ships that carried pelts from Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York to Marseilles, France, because they had gained the status of safe passage from the colonists and were not fired upon during hostilities. 

Slave trading was abolished in Dubrovnik, then part of the Republic of Ragusa, as early as 1418. The city, along with its neighbor to the north, Split, is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site List. And although Dubrovnik was heavily shelled in the early 1990s from Bosnia-Herzegovina, the city has been carefully rebuilt to authentically reflect its medieval and renaissance history and architecture. Visitors can see where the lower old stones of buildings remain and where the newer, careful reconstruction has replaced the demolished tops and roofs. Dubrovnik is the pearl of the Adriatic and the city that attracts the most visitors to Croatia.

Last along the coast is Montenegro, named by the Italian sailors as “black mountain” for the steepness and hence frequent cloud cover that blocked out the sun above the mountainsides. Montenegro is a republic and offers tourists some of the most rugged terrain in Europe. There is much wild greenery and most of the areas have only one lane roads. We visited an olive oil farm while there, enjoying sight of the ancient methods of making olive oil compared now with computerized processes. 

On the way, we stopped to overlook the Bay of Kotor, a strategically important site of great natural beauty. Though not a member of the European Union yet, it is the government’s goal to join by 2025. Nonetheless the country uses euros and looks to develop into an elite tourist destination. At this time, its economy is dependent on direct foreign investment, and the Chinese and Arabs are competing there for developmental control. 

Next: Back to the Italian Coast.

Dennis Sullivan blows a bugle at the 2011 Veterans Day Ceremony at the Centereach VFW post. File photo by Brittany Wait

Veterans Day events across Long Island have inspired children to sing, bands to play, politicians to speak and servicemen to march in parades.

Many Long Islanders came out to exhibit unwavering support for veterans on this national holiday. But with so many veterans facing hardships, such as food insecurities, joblessness, homelessness and health issues — some service-related — more needs to be done each and every day.

There are many ways our readers can help the men and women of the armed forces long after Veterans Day is over. Long Island organizations are always looking for help, year-round, whether it’s donating time, money, clothing or gently used items.

Here are a few groups, where you might lend a hand: 

• Long Island Cares Inc. — The Harry Chapin Food Bank: This Hauppauge-based center has been helping veterans, military personnel and their families since 2010. According to the nonprofit, more than 1,200 veterans per month typically receive support from its regional food bank through many of their programs. Long Island Cares will provide 500 veterans with holiday meals this year. The food bank is able to do this in part thanks to an $11,000 donation expected from Steven Castleton, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army. Long Island Cares also offers the Veterans Mobile Outreach Unit, the VetsWork program and Military Appreciation Tuesdays where all Long Islanders can help by donating food items or money.

• United Veterans Beacon House: Headquartered in Bay Shore, this organization provides housing throughout Long Island for veterans. According to its website, on any given day more than 255 men, women and children throughout the tristate area have received services ranging from help with homelessness to treating PTSD, addiction and more. The organization can always use coats, gently used clothing and furniture.

• Long Island State Veterans Home at Stony Brook University: Located on SBU’s west campus, interested people can help out by assisting the home’s residents during their recreation programs and trips, or simply by sitting and talking with the men and women.

• Northport VA Medical Center: The VA presents opportunities where community members can volunteer or donate their time or money. A cash donation can be used by the VA to buy items for patients including hygiene products and refreshment supplies. The hospital also collects items such as magazines, coffee, and new or gently used clothing.

Some veterans are doing well, but sometimes they could use a little company. Many people at the senior centers and retirement homes would welcome a visit, so they can share a story, or have someone even record it for future generations.

Long Island has the highest concentration of vets in New York state. These men and women are our neighbors. Make some time to find a vet in your community.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

You know the face dogs make when they’re taking care of their business? I’m not talking about number one. I’m talking about the big whopper: number two. For many dogs, I imagine that is the equivalent of the human concentration face, as we ponder everything from what we should have for dinner, to the best route home in a traffic jam, to the best use of our time on a Friday night when we’re exhausted but know we could contribute to our area through community service.

My dog must know that I’m watching him closely because every time he finds exactly the right spot to release the contents of his bowels, he turns his back to me. Before he enters his squatting position, he looks back over his shoulder to make sure no one or everyone is watching him. He’s easily distracted in the moment of separation from his solid waste.

I respect his wishes and give him his moment of privacy once he starts the process. Now, of course, much as we might watch them as they relieve themselves, I know that they watch us closely, wondering why we’re so meticulous, or not, as the case may be, about scooping up everything they’ve dropped.

My dog still seems to think that he’s doing sufficient cleanup duties by kicking a few blades of grass in the general direction of his creation. He starts tugging on the leash immediately after that, sending a nonverbal signal from his neck to my hand, as if to say, “I got this one, let’s move to that flower bed where Marshmallow left me a secret scented note.”

As I bent down recently to clean up his mess, he saw one of his favorite couples. That’s not exactly a fair characterization, as almost any combination of two people would immediately rank among his favorites if one or both of them came over to him and rubbed his stomach while he turned over on his back and dangled his paws in the air, as if he were at a canine nail salon. The challenge for me, as he was pulling, tugging and twisting on the leash, was to do the impossible: Chat with his human friends, keep him from knocking one or both of them over with his enthusiasm and politely scoop up his poop.

I waited for a moment to retrieve my retriever’s droppings, hoping that he’d calm down enough to allow me to bend my knees and lift the boulders from the ground. No such luck, as he seemed to be playing twist-the-leash-around-the-human-legs game.

One of the many sensory problems with my dog’s poop is that the longer it remains in place, the more it seems to spread out and sink into the ground. Knowing this, I was eager to bag it and to move on during our walk.

Just as the couple finally disengaged from my dog and his leash, another dog and his owner appeared, causing my dog’s tail to wag so violently that it looked like those whirling propellers on an old airplane. While my dog darted and retreated from his much bigger and more mellow friend, I got farther away from his droppings. In the back of my mind, I wondered whether I could, just this once, leave his biodegradable droppings where they landed.

When the other dog and his owner took off, my dog and I returned to the expanding pile. I’m convinced that my dog watched the entire pickup routine with rapt fascination, knowing he’d succeeded in extending the process into something considerably more challenging for the human scrunching his nose at the other end of the leash.

Steve Bellone (D) and fellow Democrats celebrate keeping the county executive position. Photo by David Luces

As election season draws to a close, finally, we are among the many breathing a sigh of relief. 

We heard that a few people were unhappy with our endorsements. That, of course, should be expected. Some points, though, need to be made clear about our process for endorsing candidates.

Starting in late summer, we start gathering a list of candidates for the upcoming electoral season and arrange candidate debates in TBR News Media offices in Setauket. The process is long and grueling and, despite months of effort, sometimes candidates cannot find a time that works for everyone or, as we saw in several cases this year, some people simply never respond or don’t show up. So, we talk with the candidates that do come to the office and conduct candidate interviews over phone or email with the remainder. The better interview is always done in person as a debate in a roundtable discussion.

The last publication date before election day — which for us is a Thursday — becomes the election edition. In that issue, we exclude letters to the editors that focus on local politics, because there is no way for people to respond publicly before the election. Instead, we include our endorsements on the letters-to-editors pages. 

Our election issue contains multitudes of political advertising, but there’s a common misconception that advertising buys our endorsements. The advertising and editorial departments are two distinct entities, and work on two separate floors of our small office space. Advertising is indeed what keeps TBR afloat, but that department has no input on editorial decisions. Of course, there is communication between departments in the newsroom, but that comes down to the placement of ads, and our papers policy avoids placing political ads for candidates on the same page as the candidate profiles that we write.

The endorsements are a product of the interviews, not the other way around. In fact, we are prouder of the debate articles we conduct, which we try to make as balanced as possible between the candidates. We let all sides speak their piece before carefully writing the articles. The debate interviews are conducted throughout October, then written and placed into our annual election issue. These articles range from 500 to more than 1,000 words each for some of the wider-ranging offices. 

The endorsements, on the other hand, are barely more than 200 words each. They represent the collective opinion of editors, along with our publisher Leah Dunaief who moderates the debates. We consider long and hard all that we heard, along with our experience with the candidates on the campaign trail. Sometimes we cannot come to an agreement, or may be on the fence, and meet again the next day to review pros and cons of our choices. The endorsements represent those who we feel might make a better fit for office, but they are also our chance to compliment the person we didn’t endorse or criticize candidates for past performance. 

We at TBR News Media congratulate all who stepped up to campaign for public office but, if we were to be honest, endorsements sometimes have little bearing on future performance. In 2016, we endorsed the opponent of Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. (D) for the office. Toulon won that election, and in 2018 we named him one of our People of the Year. What matters is what an elected official does for the constituents when in office.

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

I wonder how the creators of the show “Seinfeld,” Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld, would portray today’s world? The answer resides in their approaches to other ideas and conflicts that became the focal point for shows that continue in reruns almost every day.

In one show, Elaine, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, is dating furniture mover Carl (David James Elliott). When Elaine finds out that Carl is a pro- lifer, they decide to end their relationship.

In Washington, D.C., and indeed throughout the country, that seems tame compared with the passions people feel when they share their views about the president and about the upcoming election of 2020.

I could imagine an entire modern “Seinfeld” episode dedicated to the efforts people take to avoid discussing politics. Changing the subject, walking out of the room and pretending they can’t hear each other seems like a way these characters might keep the political genie locked in the bottle, allowing them to enjoy the company of anyone and everyone, even if those people disagree with their views on national politics.

We play out that scenario regularly wherever we go, whether we’re looking to date someone or just chat with someone in a line at the deli, on vacation or at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

We are so concerned that we might offend the other person or that he or she might offend us.

When did we become so incapable of speaking with each other? Are we determined to live in echo chambers, where we only listen and speak with the people whose ideas, thoughts and words match our own?

Come on, that’s not how democracy is supposed to work. We can and should be capable of hearing from other Americans whose ideas differ from our own. In addition to the land, the flag, the monuments, the Constitution, the history and so many other facets of American life that we share, we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to be able to listen to each other and to remain open to ideas and opportunities.

Are we afraid that someone who seems rational and reasonable might convince us to change our mind? Are our ideas so fragile and our confidence so weak that we can’t have an informed discussion about our views and our ideas?

Surely, we are better than some homogenized party line. We are a land of rugged individualists, who can and should find a way to advance our local, state and national best interests to give everyone an equal opportunity.

It’s not up to the leaders to tell us what to think, who to be and how to live. We have the chance to make those decisions for ourselves. At their best, those leaders are working to give us a shot at pursuing the American Dream which, last time I checked, doesn’t belong exclusively to one political party or another.

By not talking with each other, we increase the tension that separates the parties and the people who support them. Rather than waiting for a bipartisan detente in Washington, we can and should gather ideas about each other.

If they were still making the show today, the characters from “Seinfeld” might have helped us laugh about how entrenched we have become in dealing with our differences. We, however, aren’t living in a TV show and we owe it to ourselves to gather real information, to listen to other people and to bridge the divide that’s causing the fabric to fray of a country we all call home. 

We can learn and grow from making decisions for ourselves, instead of following the same script with every conversation.

Rovinj

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

All vacations are wonderful in their own way. A chance to get a break from the daily routine, to rest, perhaps to view new scenery, meet new people, learn new things, even just to get a break from the news — these are hoped-for results. We’ve just returned from a trip abroad and, as I have done in past columns, I would like to share some of what we saw and did.

We boarded one of the largest sailing vessels in the world in Venice, Italy, after an eight-hour plane ride from JFK International Airport. I won’t go into raptures about Venice because it would take up the rest of my allotted space and, besides, I’ve done so before. I will just say that there were probably more visitors in Venice than there are on any given day in Walt Disney World. Large ships are not allowed inside the harbor, so our small group was ferried to the Wind Surf by small motorboats lined up waiting for passengers along the Grand Canal. 

Let the adventure begin.

We departed at 6 p.m. and set sail to cross the Adriatic Sea, an extension of the Mediterranean, to land on the Dalmatian Coast the next morning. The first city, in the north of Croatia, was Rovinj, pronounced roveen. Croatia is a country often described as being at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe and one that is exquisitely picturesque with seaside cities and steep limestone mountains. As you might guess, for being in the center of human history, the country has had many invasions, rulers and iterations of government. Now a republic, it has been a duchy, a kingdom, in a union with Hungary, part of the Habsburg Monarchy, part of Austria-Hungary, part of Italy, then remade after World War I into Yugoslavia until that country finally fell apart into six independent smaller countries after the 1980 death of the autocrat, Josip Tito. 

The countries surrounding Croatia geographically are Slovenia, Hungary, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Croatia joined the European Union in 2013. All of that abbreviated history took place over only the past 14 centuries. The area actually has been inhabited since prehistoric times.

Rovinj is a fishing port on the Istrian peninsula. Surrounded by blue-green, startling clean Adriatic water, its pastel houses crowded down to the seafront, the small city offers a tangle of pale yellow cobblestone streets, lots of inviting bistros and a beautiful Baroque hilltop church, St. Euphemia, whose tower is the highest in Istria at about 61 meters and can be climbed — not by me — for a magnificent view.

The Adriatic is only 120 miles at its widest point, separating what was known as the Balkans from Italy. The coastal towns were often under attack and thus encouraged to build fortified walls along the beachfronts. 

We walked the pebbled beach of Rovinj, bargained in the marketplace for native olive oil and truffles, and bought a couple of scarves made in Italy at cheaper than Italian prices. In fact, Croatia is known as a less expensive tourist destination, where a room in a fine hotel for the night during high season may be had for 50 euros (about $55). So far mainly Germans seem to have discovered this bargain, and they visit Rovinj in large numbers.

The eastern shore of the Adriatic is often referred to as the Dalmatian Coast and the name stems from an Illyrian tribe called the Dalmatae, (from their word “delme,” meaning sheep) who lived there during classic antiquity. Dalmatia is even referenced in the New Testament. And, yes, the hardy Dalmatian dogs come from there, whose unique black and white markings make them easily spotted on fire trucks. Dalmatia is one of the four historical regions of Croatia and for a long time was ruled by the Republic of Venice from 1420 until Napoleon of France appeared on the scene in 1797.

One of the frustrations of traveling along the coast by ship is that time spent in any port city is of necessity limited by the schedule of the cruise. After a delicious fish lunch in a sidewalk café, we returned to the ship, with its white sails billowing dramatically in the breeze, then went on to the larger city of Split. More next time.

Students holding buttons at voter registration

 

Vote Leslie Kennedy for County Seat District 12

We support Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) for county District 12. Kennedy had a few facts completely wrong with regard to Suffolk County’s new clean water initiatives. We urge her to be more careful with her criticisms about the cesspool and sewer replacement program. This program is essential, and it serves no good purpose to misinform a public. Margot Rosenthal, Kennedy’s opponent, may in fact be a good candidate. However, we were unable to connect with her. Elected officials need to be responsive to their constituents. That means returning phone calls from news outlets that aim to better inform the electorate.

Vote for Trotta for County Seat District 13

We strongly endorse Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) for county District 13. Jan Singer is a competent candidate. But Trotta’s background with the county’s Police Department provides incredible insight into the system. He’s a true watchdog and government agencies better serve the public when people speak out about corruption and wrongdoing. Trotta is running for office for the right reasons and we wish him luck and support in addressing the budget concerns.

Vote Berland for County Seat District 16

We urge voters to Re-elect Berland to the county legislature. For Suffolk County’s 16th Legislative District, we believe that incumbent Susan Berland (D-Dix Hills) is still the best choice to sit on the county legislature for the next two years. Her experience and record speaks for itself and she has the community knowledge needed for the job. 

She will be facing tough challenges with the future of the red-light program, it will be up to her and her other constituents to fix the problems of the program and alleviate concerns from the public who remain skeptical. 

On other issues like affordable housing and public safety, Berland’s time on the Huntington town council will prove to be important as she has shown an understanding of resident’s concerns in the past while supporting smart fiscal practices, pushing for more affordable housing projects, economic development and increased resources given to schools. 

To tackle the MS-13 situation, Berland will need to continue to work with community leaders, residents and the SCPD. 

While we admire Hector Gavilla’s passion for his district and the issues it faces, he unfortunately falls short on experience. Though the Republican candidate brought up some interesting ideas, they just aren’t fleshed out enough. It’s clear that Gavilla has become a community leader in his district and we encourage him to continue being in tune with residents’ concerns. Also, we encourage Gavilla to work with Berland.  It could lead to alot of positive things down the line. 

Re-Elect Spencer for District 18

Please re-elect Doc Spencer to a fourth-term. 

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D) has served the people of the 18th Legislative District well for the last seven years. 

The legislator’s background as a licensed physician has given him knowledge and experience to help in some of the county’s pressing issues like underage tobacco use and opioids. His record shows that he is committed to tackling numerous environmental and health issues that residents face, especially with the vaping situation. 

Spencer has demonstrated a good understanding of numerous topics and acts as a vital voice on the Suffolk County Legislature. 

We believe that Spencer is still the right man for the job. 

For Town Council Elect Cleary and Re-Elect Cergol

We urge you to re-elect Joan Cergol and elect Kathleen Cleary. Cergol has an impressive grasp of the issues in the Town of Huntington.  Residents are fortunate to have a hard-working and dedicated person representing them on the Town Council.  After serving only one year, before running for re-election, she cleary deserves to be re-elected.  She gets things done, is articulate and responsive to constituents. 

Kathleen Cleary brings similar enthusiasm to job.  It’s a tough choice between Cleary and incumbent Cook, who has been behind bold initiatives.  But Cleary’s unique background in business and horticulture offers the town fresh approaches to water quality problems.  

Andrea Sorrentino is a special candidate, who should stay active in the community.  His idea on creating more apprenticeships in the town needs to be embraced.  He’s a true community and family oriented person, qualities that people value. 

Vote for Shirley for Smithtown Town Council

Two seats are open for the Smithtown town council. We support Patricia Shirley (L) for a seat as council member. Shirley has noticed that the town’s board meetings could be more open and transparent. The current system allows citizens the right to address the board with little or no dialogue following the concerns raised. Decisions often appear to be discussed outside of public view. Other challengers to the incumbent candidate also call for more transparency and public engagement. We agree. 

Reelect Lohmann for Town Council

We recommend reelecting Tom Lohmann (R) to Smithtown town council. Lohmann is committed to getting work done, full time. Though we wish he would take on a more receptive and less dismissive tone, we feel that he has sleeves rolled up and now has the background needed to complete tasks like the sewer projects. Since other challengers to the town council are requesting more transparency and better engagement with the community, the current town council likely is getting the message. When elected officials personally commit to accountability, the community benefits.

 

Photo from Tom Muratore's campaign website

In the race for Suffolk County legislator in the 4th District, we enthusiastically endorse Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma).

He has recently secured funds for a feasibility study for sewers in his district and has worked with multiple government agencies as well as community groups to purchase land in order to develop Selden Park Complex.

Sewers in the district will bring in more businesses and the park complex will provide much-needed open space to the area. The legislator has also always been a big supporter of the last working farm in Centereach, Bethel Hobbs.

We strongly hope to see his challenger David Bligh remain in the political arena. An environmental engineer, he seems to be knowledgeable and passionate about water quality in Suffolk County.

As a father of three with the hope that the kids will be able to remain living on Long Island when they grow up, he would also make affordable housing on the Island a priority.

Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro. Photo by Phil Corso

The responsibilities of the Brookhaven highway superintendent prove to be a daunting task, as it is the third biggest highway department in the state. The position oversees thousands of miles of roads and we feel that Dan Losquadro (R) is still the right man for the role. He has done an admirable job with the budget given to him in fixing roads throughout the town. 

While some residents may not be fond of Losquadro, they do deserve a more transparent process and more communication on when work is being done. Putting a list of expected road work on the Town’s website as his challenger Anthony Portesy (D) proposed is a good idea to qualm residents’ questions and concerns. It would probably lessen the amount of calls and letters his office receives. 

We commend his challenger, Portesy, for deciding to run again for this position, as he brought in fresh ideas and enthusiasm. We believe with enough experience down the line Portesy could make himself an attractive candidate for other offices in the town or other municipalities. We hope he continues to stay involved in the local community and politics.  

Photo by Kyle Barr

Growing up in Centereach and a graduate of Centereach High School, Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) has deep roots in the community. He has seen the area grow, and at times suffer, and therefore fights for what’s best for his district.

It’s because of his commitment to Town of Brookhaven District 3 that we strongly endorse him in his fourth term as town councilman.

LaValle has developed strong relationships with business owners in his district and listens to their needs. He also understands the importance of open spaces as he remembers being a child with no proper ball fields to play on.

He has worked with the state, county and town to get the Selden Park Complex developed that will provide multipurpose fields, a walking trail, ice skating rink and playground and is a proponent of the last working farm in Centereach, Bethel Hobbs.

He also strongly supports Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) with his study for a sewer district.

We applaud his challenger Talat Hamdani for her work in battling Islamophobia and fighting for social justice. We encourage her to remain in the public eye, and we hope we will see her name on an Election Day ballot in the future.