Port Times Record

New cellphone antennae should make reception stronger at near Port Jefferson Village Hall and the country club. File photo by Heidi Sutton

They say in life communication is key.

Those in the vicinity of Port Jefferson Village Hall and the Port Jefferson Country Club should soon expect to see improved cellphone signal reception thanks to an action taken by the village board Feb. 5. The board unanimously passed a resolution approving the design of the two Verizon antennae.

According to village Mayor Margot Garant, the antennae will not resemble the controversial cellphone towers being debated in places like the Village of Old Field. The mayor described Port Jeff’s new signal boosters in an email as “completely non-invasive and hidden.” She said they are small boards that will be placed behind wood in the cupolas, or small domes typically adorning the roof of a building. She said the devices will strengthen cellular reception in the vicinity of the two locations and would net the village about $13,000 annually in revenue per unit.

She added that the installation was desired in part as a way to alleviate an ongoing issue of inefficient cell service at and around the country club and village beaches, each located in the northeastern corner of Port Jefferson.

“We need cell service at the country club and beaches desperately for emergency related services,” she said.

Board Trustee Stanley Loucks, who also serves as the board’s liaison to the recreation department, expressed similar concerns about signal strength at the club.

“There are many areas on the country club property where there is absolutely no service,” Loucks said. “You can actually move a few feet and lose service. This has been a problem for many years and presents a dangerous situation. Golfers, tennis players, maintenance workers and club guests can and have experienced situations where assistance was needed, and they could not make contact with anyone. This becomes more of a problem when you are on or near our beaches.”

Residents’ concerns about the safety of stronger cellphone signals in close proximity to communities have abounded during the Village of Old Field’s public discourse about a proposed tower at a public park, known by many as Kaltenborn Commons, located at the intersection of Old Field Road and Quaker Path.

Oleg Gang, who works at Brookhaven National Laboratory, said during a hearing on the proposed Old Field cellphone tower he lives in close proximity to the proposed location and was among those who voiced opposition due to health risks.

According to the website of the American Cancer Society, there is currently very little evidence to support the idea of cellphone towers increasing the risk of cancers or other health problems.

Others in Old Field have also balked at the proposal because of the look of the tower. The proposed tower is similar to one installed in Belle Terre Village in recent years, according to Tanya Negron, founder of Elite Towers, a Long Island-based company that develops wireless telecommunications tower sites and is working on the Old Field project.

In August 2016, U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) revealed a list of areas on Long Island deemed to be “dead zones” for cellphone service. The list was compiled through a crowdsourcing campaign and included Crystal Brook Hollow Road in Port Jefferson Station, North Country Road in Port Jefferson and Norton Avenue in Terryville.

“A heavily populated region like Long Island shouldn’t be home to over 200 dead zones,” Schumer said at the time, adding shoddy cell service could be a deterrent for individuals or businesses looking to move to the area.

Port Jefferson High School. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Just days after a shooting killed 17 at a high school in Florida, a threat was made via social media against Port Jefferson High School, according to an email sent to parents in the district by Superintendent Paul Casciano.

“Today our high school administration was made aware of an alleged threat via social media,” Casciano’s email said. The message went out just before midnight Feb. 15. “An investigation was conducted and all appropriate protocols were followed, including the involvement of law enforcement authorities. School will be open tomorrow as planned. Extra precautions will be put in place to reassure our students and staff that they are safe. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.”

The district sent out an update to parents on the situation Friday afternoon and posted the message on its website.

“While I know that there are many questions that you may have, please understand that there is a limit to the amount of information we are permitted to share publicly about this type of situation,” Casciano said in the notice to parents. “Please know that the individual responsible for the threat has been identified and that our district is complying with the Suffolk County Police Department with their ongoing investigation into this matter. Our top priority is the safety and security of our students and staff and we are working diligently to ensure that all of our available resources are deployed as extra precautions.”

The superintendent’s message sought in part to dispel what her referred to as “a firestorm of rumors,” on social media.

“At no time today or yesterday were any of our campuses on lockdown/lockout, no evacuation occurred and no bomb threat was made against any of our school facilities,” he said. “The police presence on campus was intended to put our parents and students at ease and was a direct result on the before mentioned ongoing investigation.”

Casciano shared details about the district’s preparedness for an active shooter situation prior to the news about the threat.

“It is important for us to establish an environment for students and staff that is safe and secure physically, mentally and emotionally,” he said. “We conduct drills on a regular basis with our staff and students. We have security guards in place and question visitors to our schools. Our staff knows to report any suspicious people on or around our school property. Security cameras exist throughout our property. We are working collaboratively with the Suffolk County Police Department to identify areas for continued attention moving forward … Internally, we are working with students through a variety of programs and strategies to address their social-emotional health.”

The Suffolk County Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. School will be closed next week for mid-winter recess.

This story was updated Feb. 16 to include Casciano’s Friday afternoon update.

This story will be updated as more information is available.

Reporting contributed by Kevin Redding.

 

Günther Lützen. Photo from Lisa Viscovich

By Fred Lützen

Günther Lützen, former Long Island delicatessen owner and entrepreneur, of Plano, Texas, formerly of East Northport and Coram, died peacefully Jan. 27 at the age of 85.

Günther is survived by his wife Ingrid Lützen of Cape Canaveral, Florida, and their five children and ten grandchildren: Harold Lützen of Taylor, Michigan and his wife Jennifer and their children Sabrina and Thomas; Fred Lützen of Manlius, New York and his wife Nicole and their children Frederick and Riley; Lisa Viscovich of Glen Cove and her husband Gregory and their children Calvin and Emery; Linda Francis of Cutchogue and her children Julia and Samuel and her husband Donald; Stefanie Summers of Celina, Texas and her husband Daniel and their children Günther and Tanner; and by his brother Volkert Lützen of the City of Wyk, Island of Föhr, Germany; and his sister, Christa Storm, of Kayhude, Germany. He is preceded in death by his father Friedrich Christian Lützen, his mother Christina Dorothena [Freiberg], his brother Friedrich [“Freddy” or “Fiete”] Lützen and his brother Werner Lützen.

Günther was born May 21, 1932, in Wyk on the Island of Föhr, Germany. He has always loved flowers, plants and vegetation, so as a teenager in Germany he studied botany and received a certification in botany at the age of 19.

He moved to the United States in 1951. He then began his German delicatessen career and his American Dream. After working relentlessly toward his goals, he became a delicatessen and business owner within a few years, and then married Ingrid by the late 1960s, and they started a family together. Günther and Ingrid worked hard in the delicatessen business for years and raised five very proud children.

One of his longer tenures was owning the Se-Port Delicatessen in East Setauket, which he owned for two separate stints through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.  The Village Times published an article in the 1980s about Günther and his hard work ethic that focused on his success with the Se-Port deli, and the devotion and discipline required of him to operate such a business so successfully. Günther and the  deli received a “4 Pickle Rating” award (out of a possible four) from the paper, which was the only “4” rating amongst all of the local North Shore delis that were reviewed. He still had the award with him in Texas when he passed away.

Günther and Ingrid are examples of how hard work pays off. Günther truly lived the America Dream, and his family is extremely proud of his accomplishments. Günther was a man of integrity, a gentleman, and a kind, loving, and devoted father and grandfather. Opa will be missed.

A post-cremation visitation and memorial service is scheduled for Feb. 17 at O.B. Davis Funeral Home, 4839 Nesconset Hwy., Port Jefferson Station. Visitation will be from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m., and the ceremony will be at 1:30 p.m. followed by additional visitation ending at 3:30 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Children’s Cancer & Blood Foundation. The family would like to thank The Legacy at Willow Bend in Plano and their caregivers, the Vitas hospice caregivers and the caregivers at The Bristal at East Northport assisted living for their efforts and dedication.

Carolyn Droscoski. Photo from Theatre Three

A cherished member of Theatre Three, and by extension the Port Jefferson community, was lost this month.

Carolyn Droscoski, 61, of Port Jefferson Station died suddenly of an aneurysm, according to her close friend Vivian Koutrakos, managing director at Theatre Three. She was a lifelong resident of Port Jefferson Station and a graduate of Comsewogue High School.

“Anyone that you spoke to would say the same thing — it was just her voice, her vocals,” Koutrakos said of what she would remember most about her close friend, along with her beautiful smile. Koutrakos said she’d heard Droscoski described as having “leather lungs,” a tribute to her booming, powerful singing voice. “She was a powerhouse, a powerful, powerful singer and performer.”

“She helped me foster a love of theatre and performing. I am forever grateful for her friendship and am feeling extremely sad to hear this news.”

— Debbie Schwartz McGinley

Droscoski had 40-years-worth of history at Theatre Three. She performed in dozens of productions, including memorable performances as Rose in “Gypsy,” Mother Abbess in “The Sound of Music,” Cass Elliot in “Dream a Little Dream,” and many incarnations of “Woodstockmania: Woodstock in Concert,” according to Theatre Three’s website.

Times Beacon Record News Media reviewed her 2013 performance in “Barnaby Saves Christmas” as Mrs. Claus: “Santa and Mrs. Claus, played by Stephen Doone and Carolyn Droscoski, are in numerous scenes and steal the show. Every appearance on stage had the children sitting up straight and pointing. During a recent Saturday show, many children cried when the lights came up for intermission, thinking the show was over and wanting to see Santa just one more time. Doone and Droscoski also double as Andrew and Sarah, the nice Jewish couple who teach Barnaby and Franklynne all about Hanukkah, and switch roles effortlessly. The musical numbers are terrific and are accompanied on piano by Quattrock, who also wrote all of the music and lyrics. ‘Still with the Ribbon on Top,’ sung by Hughes, reveals Barnaby’s struggle to fit in; ‘Miracles,’ sung beautifully by Droscoski as Sarah, will touch your heart and ‘S.B. Dombulbury’ will have you tapping your feet.”

Droscoski traveled the country in an off-Broadway production of “Nunsense,” a show in which she played five different roles. She also performed and toured with her band, Everyday People, which performed countless shows in Port Jefferson. She even appeared in promotional materials for the snack Cracker Jack.

“The only thing I could say is I loved her, and she made me happy,” her longtime partner Charlie Cacioppo said. He added she often affectionately referred to him as “Bubba” or Charles Francis.

“She was a powerhouse, a powerful, powerful singer and performer.”

— Vivian Koutrakos

She had two sisters and four brothers, as well as many nieces and nephews, according to her sister Barbara Cassidy.

“The most important thing in her life was her family,” Cassidy said. “She was the biggest cheerleader for her many beloved nieces and nephews.”

Upon Theatre Three sharing the news of her passing on its Facebook page — a post that was shared and commented on more than 50 times — admirers of her talents and friends posted condolences and memories of the beloved performer.

“She was kind, fun, caring and always treated me like a regular person — not just a kid,” a poster named Debbie Schwartz McGinley wrote, adding Droscoski had played her mother in a 1980 production of “A Christmas Carol.” “She helped me foster a love of theatre and performing. I am forever grateful for her friendship and am feeling extremely sad to hear this news. All my love to her family, friends, and especially my old school T3 family!”

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File photo

The Comsewogue board of education had a community bonding experience Feb. 12.

The school district’s six buildings are in need of upgrades and improvements, according to its facilities committee, a group of 21 professionals from across Comsewogue including members of the board, administrators, architects, engineers, former teachers, civic association members and more. The group was assembled in early January, and has been holding workshops and meetings to compile a list of projects to recommend to the board.

The committee presented a list of more than 100 upgrades considered of the highest priority and identified as the A-list. The projects would take place in each of the district’s schools if a bond referendum were passed. Some of the projects include required upgrades to achieve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act; parking lots and sidewalks; security at all of the district buildings; exterior and interior building infrastructure; athletic fields and facilities; and kitchen upgrades among many others.

The total price tag for the A-list would be almost $32 million, paid for during a 15-year period with approximately $3 million in interest, according to the committee. If passed, the average taxpayer would see an increase of about $120 annually to their school tax bill, based on conservative state aid estimates which won’t be known until the spring.

The committee also presented two other potential propositions for the board to consider: one a $9 million B-list of items deemed to be of lower priority and the third a complete overhaul of just the district’s air-conditioning units for approximately $13 million. Members of the committee said after touring the district facilities and buildings, its initial list of projects was in the ballpark of $75 million, which it then pared down to what currently appears on the A-list.

Susan Casali, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, served as the leader of the facilities committee.

“They’ve been phenomenal,” Casali said, of her colleagues on the committee. “It has been a great process, a lot of input, a lot of knowledge. We went through a lot of things and they really worked hard.”

Casali said the committee also took public input along the way from teachers, organizations and others in the community who had requests for upgrades.

“The board needs to know, and the public should know, how very carefully we looked at what items were to make the A-list,” said Joan Nickeson, a member of the Facilities Committee engaged in several aspects of the Comsewogue community. Nickeson also praised the work on the committee of architect Kenneth Schupner and engineer Frederick Seeba.

“The engineers and the architects, I don’t know how well you know these gentlemen, but I was so impressed with their knowledge and their ability to handle a myriad of questions,” she said. “We looked so carefully at every item.”

Stephanie Jaklitsch, a former teacher in the district who also has children attending Comsewogue schools, offered her input as a member of the committee.

“We’ve really touched everywhere that your child could be from safety in the parking lots and curbs, to every elementary classroom getting a face-lift,” she said. “Our students are going to see changes all the way through their education.”

Board of education president John Swenning, and Superintendent Joe Rella each thanked the committee for its thorough work, dedication to improving the Comsewogue environment and generosity in lending each of their personal levels of expertise to the group.

Some of the higher-priced projects included in the committee’s recommendation are: a new roof including solar panels at Terryville Road Elementary School; interior work at JFK Middle School, including some classroom and hallway renovations; and athletic upgrades at the high school to the
concession stand building.

The board will vote March 5 on the recommendations, and if it elects to move forward, to establish the specifics of the bond referendum and how it would appear on a ballot. The referendum would be included as a separate proposition on the same ballot as the annual budget and school board vote to be held May 15.

The full list of project recommendations is expected to be posted and available on the district website, www.comsewogue.k12.ny.us.

This post was updated Feb. 14 for grammatical fixes.

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Alan Dylan Smith reaches for the rim over the block. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Comsewogue’s 10 shots from beyond the arc accounted for almost half of the boys basketball team’s total points in a must-win game against West Babylon Feb. 2. The 71-53 victory puts the Warriors one win away from making the postseason.

Patrick Billings battles in the paint. Photo by Bill Landon

Despite the scoring frenzy, with six 3-pointers scored in the first half, three from senior Tom McGuire alone, that wasn’t what impressed head coach Joel Sutherland the most.

“It was our intensity on the defensive end,” he said. “Honestly, that’s the best defensive effort we’ve had all season.”

From opening tipoff West Babylon faced surmounting pressure, struggling to clear the ball which led to minimal looks at the basket. After the first eight minutes, the Warriors had already taken a commanding 26-9 lead.

“We definitely prepped for them more than last time — this time we worked on our 1-3-1 [defense] and stopping them at half court,” McGuire said. “The coaches really got us ready and it showed.”

McGuire made his fourth and fifth 3-pointers in the third quarter, ending the eight minutes with eight of his game-high 19 points. Pat Billings, who scored five points in the third, finished with a double-double on 12 points and 21 rebounds. He said the pressure has been difficult to manage, but his Warriors are motivated, and are ready to battle it out Feb. 8 at home against Half Hollow Hills West. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:45 p.m.

“It’s just coming down to the wire — we need to win two games and that was in our minds because we don’t want our season to end,” Billings said. “We’ll game plan, we’ll look at some film to see what they do best.”

Dylan Morris Gray lays up for two. Photo by Bill Landon

Comsewogue senior Rob Orzelowski, who scored 10 of his 13 points in the second quarter, went 5-for-6 from the charity stripe. He said he hopes his team can come into Thursday with the same preparedness so that he can keep playing with his Warriors.

“We were practicing a lot for this — we went over a lot of defenses and offenses, we were switching things up and it worked out today,” Orzelowski said. “We had chemistry, and the shots were falling tonight.”

Comsewogue improves to 10-9 overall and 5-6 in League IV. Half Hollow Hills West sits right above the Warriors in the standings at 7-4, with a 14-5 overall mark.

“We’ve got a tough one on Thursday, so we’re going to prepare for it,” Sutherland said. “[My team] executed in the half-court sets, the guys were rotating and playing together, they shared the ball offensively, it was a joy to see and it was just a total team win. [We have another winnable game ahead of us], and we’re going to come out and throw everything we have at them, and let the chips fall where they will.”

State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson). File photo

New York state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) wants to make it more difficult for LIPA to increase rates for its customers.

LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) introduced the Long Island Power Authority Rate Reform Act in January, a bill drafted to require the not-for-profit public utility’s board of trustees to “protect the economic interests of its ratepayers and the service area,” in addition to the interests of the utility company when considering a rate increase proposal, according to a joint press release from the lawmakers. The bill would also prevent LIPA from increasing rates to offset revenue losses associated with energy conservation efforts, like the installation of energy-efficient appliances and lightbulbs. If passed, it would be mandated the board hold public hearings within each county overseen by LIPA prior to finalizing rate plans.

Currently, LIPA’s board is required to consider three criteria when a rate increase is proposed by the State Department of Public Service: sound fiscal operating practices, existing contractual obligations and safe and adequate service, according to the press release.

“While we have been working to keep Long Island affordable by implementing measures like the 2 percent property tax cap, LIPA approved the largest rate increase in its history,” LaValle said in a statement, citing a three-year rate increase approved by the board in 2015. “This measure will enable more community input by mandating a public hearing when considering rate changes. In addition, this legislation would provide the trustees with the tools necessary to reject rate increases that would cause additional financial burdens on Long Islanders.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant each voiced support for LaValle’s bill.

“The record amount of investment in reliability, customer service and clean energy all come at a time when electric rates have remained roughly flat for decade,” LIPA Trustee Tom McAteer said in a statement through spokesman Sid Nathan. “Customer satisfaction is significantly higher and customers see PSEG Long Island crews tree-trimming and storm-hardening the electric grid throughout the year. Those are the facts. Not opinion. The Reform Act is working for our customers.”

The LIPA Reform Act was enacted in 2013 to revamp the utility’s operations, including empowering the board to decide on proposed rate increases. PSEG Long Island — which operates LIPA’s distribution systems — Media Relations Specialist Elizabeth Flagler said in a statement the company is reviewing the legislation and will be monitoring its status.

The proposed legislation comes as municipalities continue settlement discussions pertaining to lawsuits filed by Port Jeff Village and Port Jefferson School District — both in LaValle’s home district — in addition to the Town of Huntington and Northport-East Northport School District against LIPA to prevent the utility’s challenges to property value assessments at the Port Jeff and Northport plants. The result of the lawsuits could have a dramatic impact on Port Jeff Village and its school district, as both entities receive substantial property tax revenue as a host community of a LIPA power plant.

The Port Jeff plant is currently used about 11 percent of the time, during periods of peak energy generation demand, an argument LIPA has used against the village’s public pleas to repower its plant and give LIPA more bang for its tax-assessment buck. A 2017 LIPA study predicted by 2030 the Port Jeff plant might only be needed about 6 percent of the year, thanks in part to the emergence energy efficient household appliances. In August 2016 New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) mandated that 50 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, by 2030.

Bruce Blower, a spokesman for LaValle, did not respond to an email asking if the proposed legislation was drafted with the lawsuits in mind, or if a settlement was imminent. Both the senate and assembly versions of the bill are in committee and would require passage by both houses and a signature from Cuomo prior to becoming law.

Firefighters work on a blaze at a Port Jefferson Station home Feb. 5. Photo by Dennis Whittam

A fire at a home on Clematis Street in Port Jefferson Station at about 4 a.m. Feb. 5 required response from four local fire departments, according to Dennis Whittam of the Terryville Fire Department. With assistance from Port Jefferson, Setauket and Selden, Terryville Fire Department battled the blaze.

 

“Under the command of Chief of Department Tom Young, the fire, which had extended to the attic, was brought under control without incident,” Whittam said.

The fire is under investigation by the Brookhaven Town Fire Marshal’s Office and the Suffolk County Police Department’s Arson Unit.

This post was updated Feb. 5 to include video shot by Dawn Farrell Brown.

A fire burns at a Port Jefferson Station home Feb. 5. Photo by Dennis Whittam

An Amtrak train carrying GOP lawmakers, including Lee Zeldin, crashed into a garbage truck Wednesday, killing a passenger of the truck. Photo from Albemarle County Police Department

An Amtrak train crashed into a garbage truck on the tracks in Albemarle County, Virginia at about 11 a.m. Jan. 31, according to the Albemarle County Police Department. The train left from Washington D.C. and was carrying several GOP lawmakers headed to the Annual Congressional Institute retreat, including U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

Three people were in the truck upon impact, including 28-year-old Virginia resident Christopher Foley, who died as a result of injuries sustained during the crash, according to ACPD.

“Thank you to everyone who has reached out to check in,” Zeldin said in a statement released via email through spokeswoman Katie Vincentz. “I am okay. It was clear upon impact that something had gone terribly wrong and I am very grateful that the train was able to stop without severely derailing. Fortunately, our amazing first responders, police officers and medical professionals, without hesitation, leaped into action with the utmost expertise and professionalism to help everyone in need of first aid. I am praying for all those injured in today’s accident and their families and loved ones.”

Foley was one of two passengers in the truck. The other was airlifted to University of Virginia Medical Center with critical injuries, and the driver was transported by ground in serious condition, ACPD said.

“The ACPD, Albemarle County Fire/Rescue and numerous other state and local agencies worked quickly to break down the size and scope of the scene,” ACPD Public Information Officer Madeline Curott said in a statement. “The ACPD Crash Reconstruction Team is investigating the crash and working with the National Transportation Safety Board in their Investigation.”

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Employees from Port Jefferson Station and Terryville gas stations were arrested Jan. 31 for allegedly selling alcohol to minors, according to the Suffolk County Police Department.

The arrests came as a result of New York State Liquor Authority inspections Jan. 31 in the Town of Brookhaven, police said. Due to numerous community complaints, 6th Precinct Crime Section officers conducted SLA inspections utilizing underage police agents, according to police. The police agents attempted to purchase alcoholic beverages from targeted businesses within the town. Employees at Sunoco gas stations located at 669 Old Town Road in Terryville and and 200 Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station allegedly sold an alcoholic beverage to an underage police agent.

Paresh Patel, 25, and Tirath Ram, 61, both of Port Jefferson Station, were charged with ABC Law 65.1 – Sale to Persons Under 21. They were issued Field Appearance Tickets and are scheduled to be arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip April 2, 2018.

The following businesses complied with the New York State Liquor Authority and refused to sell an alcoholic beverage to an underage police agent:

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