Port Times Record

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The Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Easter parade and egg hunt April 21, sneaking in the event between the weekend rains.

Starting from Theatre Three, the young kids of Port Jefferson and the surrounding communities strode down Main Street towards Harborfront Park, where chamber volunteers had been planting eggs since 11 a.m. Yellow police tape acted as a guard and a starting line for the kids, many dressed in faceprint and bunny ears, before they could run off to collect their eggs. Once the tape was removed, those kids were like a swarm of piranhas, and the field was stripped clean of the brightly colored eggs before one could say “Happy Easter.”

After the race for eggs, kids had the opportunity to take a picture with the Easter Bunny, namely Chamber President Barbara Ransome dressed in the trademarked costume, before walking away with a chocolate bunny.

State senators at THRIVE press conference. Photo by Maureen Rossi

Advocates say new budget has wins for people in recovery

By Maureen Rossi

With the opioid epidemic still endemic throughout Suffolk County and beyond, New York State senators are hoping the new state budget will mean more help for those in the throes of addiction.

Measures woven into and passed in the state budget include increasing access for those suffering with substance use disorder to access 28-day inpatient and outpatient programs without prior insurance authorization.  They also include money for a recovery high school start -up and no prior authorization for medication- assisted treatment.  

“These are critical reform measures,” said New York State Sen. Monica Martinez (D-Brentwood). In addition, she touted another reform, which will require emergency rooms to enact screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment for all overdose patients before they are released. For the first time, emergency room doctors will also initiate medically-assisted treatment to overdose patients prior to their release, utilizing drugs like buprenorphine that alleviate the craving for opioids including heroin. 

Long Island advocates rally in Albany for the state to do more about the opioid crisis on LI Lobby Day in March. Photo from Friends of Recovery NY

Martinez was joined by her Democratic colleagues at a press conference in Islandia April 12.  Senators Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), James Gaughran (D-Northport), Kevin Thomas (D-Levittown) and Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) gathered at THRIVE Long Island, a community center for people in addiction recovery whose funding was a legislative win three years back.

The Island’s Democrats were joined by stakeholders to celebrate critical initiatives passed in this year’s state budget to combat Long Island’s pernicious opioid epidemic. Those stakeholders include parents of those lost to the epidemic, those in recovery and those in the prevention and addiction field, including the CEO of Family & Children’s Association Jeffrey Reynolds, of Smithtown.

 “There is still much work to be done to combat the opioid epidemic we are seeing here on Long Island,” Martinez added.  She looked to Reynolds to the right of the podium and shared that he was tenacious in getting the Long Island’s senators’ attention as the hours dwindled in budget meetings. “He used social media and tagged every single one of us and let us know what funding was missing in the budget.”

Kaplan said the crisis affects every community, every school and every community.   

“Too many innocent souls have been lost to this disease, they have been failed time and again,” Kaplan said.  “We are done with half-measures — we will do everything we can to help people get into long-term recovery.”  

One such measure included and passed in the budget was the funding of another THRIVE center for Nassau in Hempstead. The doors are scheduled to open next month.

Kaminsky met with some Long Island parents who lost loved ones to the epidemic prior to the budget process. Figures released by the addiction experts on Long Island put that figure at 3,400 since 2010.

“When a parent tells you the story of how they found their child (dead), you want to make sure another parent doesn’t experience that,” said Kaminsky.   

When it came to budget negotiations that lasted around the clock, the state senator said they would not take no for an answer.  

Suffolk County has long been a powerhouse when it comes to shining a light on the opioid epidemic and taking legislative measures to address it. Packages of historic bills have been pushed through statewide by Suffolk County advocates. The county is one of the state’s hardest hit counties and they were the first county in the country to file a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the makers of the drug OxyContin.  

Reynolds addressed the senators on behalf of the sixty-plus advocates present.  “ ‘Thank you’ seems insufficient. You promised on campaign trails you would do good for Long Island. Thank you so much for your efforts,” he stated.

However, Reynolds promised that he and the Long Island advocacy movement will always ask the senators to do more. 

County officials at Cordwood Landing County Park in Miller Place announce free park access. Photo by Kyle Barr

Suffolk County legislators announced April 16 all county residents will have free access to all county parks April 20 through April 28.

Parks Appreciation Week will coincide with National Parks Week, which promotes free access to all federally-owned parks.

Normally residents require the county parks Green Key Card, which charges $30 for a three-year pass; otherwise they would have to pay a parking fee. During the week the county will have no admission required.

“We have this luscious, beautiful woodland that we can enjoy,” said legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai).

During the week, Suffolk officials are also promoting a number of programs in many county parks.

For more information, go to Suffolk County’s parks website at https://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/Parks  or call Suffolk County Parks Department at 631-854-4949.

Here are some of the events going on during the week:
  • St. James General Store –New Spring Displays and old fashioned items available at the store. The St. James General Store is an historic and is a National Historic Landmark has been in continuous operation since it was built in 1857 by Ebenezer Smith. It held St James’ first post office. It is considered to be the most authentic general store in the United States.
  • Long Island Maritime Museum is hosting fun Spring Break Classes for Children April 22-26
  • The Seatuck Environmental Association (550 South Bay Ave Islip, New York 11751)  is hosting their The 10th Annual Eco-Carnival Saturday, April 27, 2019 A full day of educational family fun featuring nature programs , live animals, music, art and food to celebrate Earth Day 2019
  • Vanderbilt Museum will be hosting its annual Bunny Fest, located at 80 Little Neck Road in Centerport Saturday, April 20
  • The Vanderbilt Museum’s Spring Creative Workshops for Children (180 Little Neck Road) Centerport, April 22-26 offering a different program each day
  • Versatile Steel Silk Band Returns to Planetarium (180 Little Neck Road) April 27 @ 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
  • North Fork Environmental Council  is hosting a 5K Walk/Run –  Help “Save What’s Left” April 28. Indian Island Proceeds will be used to fund the 2019 NFEC Scholarship Fund. This fund will give two scholarships to high school seniors that plan to pursue environmental.
  • DEC Free Fishing at Southaven Park April 23 10am-12pm. In this fishing event participants can fish for free, where they supply all bait, rods, and tackle for free, no freshwater fishing license necessary. In addition to fishing, participants can learn about fish identification, fishing equipment and techniques, angling ethics and aquatic ecology.
  • Long Island Greenbelt is holding its STUMP POND CIRCULAR “CHOCOLATE” HIKE April 25 at 9:00 AM – 5.7 miles – moderate – varied – Info Nancy B., 631-682-0035. Hike around the 120-acre pond in Blydenburgh Park: bring drinks and snack: rain or shine, although extreme weather cancels; meet at the south entrance of Blydenburgh County Park, opposite the County Offices on NY 347 in the parking lot just east (above) the entrance booth; enjoy a chocolate snack when over.
  • Long Island Greenbelt LAKELAND County Park TO WESTBROOK: April 27 9:00 AM – 6 miles – moderate – flat – Info: Tom or Sherri, 631-567-9484. See Honeysuckle Pond, the Connetquot River, historic hatchery and mill and more on a walk-through Lakeland County Park and Connetquot River State Park Preserve; rain cancels; bring water; meet at Westbrook sports complex; from So. St. Pkwy. Exit 45E, follow Montauk Hwy. east over LIRR bridge to an immediate left onto Wheeler Rd.; park at bottom of hill.
  • Long Island Greenbelt San Souci Stroll April 28 10:00 AM – 4 miles – moderate – mostly flat – Info: Kathie, 631-682-5133.    We will explore two trails in the pine barrens of this county park in Sayville; heavy rain cancels; meet at park entrance on Broadway Avenue turn left to park; parking is limited; overflow parking on Broadway Ave. or side street opposite entrance.
  • Long Island Beach Buggy Association Beach clean-up of Smith Point County Park on April 27
  • Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center at Munns County Park Nanny Class. Learn how to assist our hospital staff in feeding the orphaned babies this Spring in this class. No experience necessary. We will train you. Commit to a minimum of 3 hours per week. Ages 16 and over. Call 631-728-WILD(9453) to register
  • North Fork Audubon-Earth Day and Get To Know Your Local County Park Saturday April 20 at 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Inlet Pond County Park 64795 County Rd 48 Greenport Celebrate Earth Day and “Get To Know Your Local County Park Day” with The North Fork Audubon Society at Inlet Pond County Park.  The Nature Center will be open and there will 2 guided nature walks at 10 AM and 12 PM respectively. This is a family fun day, so adults and children are welcome. Come discover Inlet Pond County Park and learn about the North fork Audubon Society as well. For more information contact Tom Damiani at (631)-275-3202
  • Sagtikos Manor Earth Day Clean-up Monday April 22 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. 677 Montauk Highway West Bay Shore Bring your gardening gloves and weeding tools and we will provide the rest.
  • Nissequogue River and Kayak Rentals open for Paul T. Given County Park, Smithtown call for tide and rental information 631-979-8422.
  • Scout Stewardship Day at SCMELC Mon 4/22/19 Hours 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. Calling all scout troops. Join us for a celebration of Earth Day to learn about and get directly involved with the restoration and stewardship efforts of CCE’s Marine Program. Projects will include eelgrass restoration, shellfish population enhancement, a beach clean-up and more!
  • This program is intended for scouts ages 6-18 with their leaders. All children must be accompanied by an adult, this is not a drop-off event. Advanced registration REQUIRED via Eventbrite Fee $10/person
  • Blydenburgh Rowboat rentals available daily 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Southaven Rowboat rentals available daily 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn holds up straws during Legislature's meeting. Photo from the Suffolk County Legislature Facebook

Several businesses have already converted to renewable products

Come January next year, Suffolk residents will likely be slurping down their iced coffees using paper straws, instead of the usual plastic.

As Suffolk lawmakers passed bills aimed at reducing plastic and polystyrene waste in the county April 9, food business owners will need to begin the process of adjusting to the new restrictions on plastic straws and polystyrene, more commonly known as Styrofoam, food service products. 

As per the new bill, food establishments would be required to provide straws and stirrers by request only, and they would have to be biodegradable — not plastic. For customers with a disability or medical condition, plastic straws will be made available by request.  

“The plastics crisis is more urgent than people realize.”

— Kara Hahn

“The scale of the worldwide single-use plastics problem has become an ever-increasing threat to our environment and everything that relies on it, including human health,” said Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). “The plastics crisis is more urgent than people realize.”

Some businesses in Suffolk County have already made the switch over to biodegradable options. Local’s Cafe in Port Jeff doesn’t use plastic straws and stirrers, and only uses paper goods, while Soul Brew in St. James said they switched over to paper goods at the end of last summer.  

Constantinos Drepaniotis, co-owner of the Setauket Village Diner, said he and others have advocated for the environment and said the bans are quite a big step in right direction. 

Drepaniotis’ diner hasn’t used Styrofoam food service products for close to two years and has begun reaching out to vendors for plastic straw alternatives. He has considered distributing reusable straws to his customers as well. 

While the price of these alternatives has concerned business owners, the restaurant owner said it is business’ responsibility to be proactive and help in this environmental cause. The owner said he will not let the cost affect the business and it will adapt. 

The Styrofoam bill would bar businesses from using items such as cups, trays and containers that are made from polystyrene, as well as ban retail stores from selling those products. It will require businesses in the county to use biodegradable products, though the bill would exempt items used to store uncooked eggs, raw meat, seafood and poultry. Changes would take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services classified styrene as a potential human carcinogen and, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, polystyrene manufacturing process is the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste in the United States. 

“[Styrene has] recently been upgraded from a possible carcinogen to a probable carcinogen — a cancer causing chemical,” Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said at a Feb. 13 press conference advocating for the bills. “Long Island has some of the highest cancer rates in the country.”

Plastic presents a difficult but necessary to address challenge for the world’s oceans. Photo courtesy of United States Coast Guard

An employee from Tiger Lily Café in Port Jefferson said she dislikes plastic straws and hopes the new ban will potentially get people to bring their own reusable straws, mentioning that it is very expensive right now to purchase biodegradable alternatives, like paper straws. 

While acknowledging the ban would be good for the environment, she said the cost is something a lot of entrepreneurs will have to deal with. The employee also hopes as the demands for these paper goods increase eventually the prices will go down and manufacturers will make it more cost effective. 

Other businesses have been using alternatives to polystyrene containers. Setauket Pita House said it doesn’t use Styrofoam food containers and currently uses aluminum foil containers.   

Officials also passed a third bill that would prohibit the sale of single-use plastic cups, utensils and beverage straws from county beaches and parks. 

Last month, the Legislature approved a companion bill that would replace existing water fountains with new ones designed to allow bottle filling at county facilities and county-owned parks that have water dispensers. 

The bills will now go to the county executive’s office to be signed into law.

A family of deer stands, weary of strangers, at the Port Jefferson golf course. Photo by Kyle Barr

Environmental experts fear the impact of deer on local forests

Deer have made a mess out of the Long Island ecology.

It’s a sentiment shared by several federal employees working in multiple environmental departments. At a presentation held in the Port Jefferson Village Center April 11, Thomas Rawinski, who works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, said deer eat the saplings that would create new trees. They eat the bushes and flowers that would bring insects to the forests. And since they have no natural predators on Long Island, they multiply at an alarming rate.

“If your land is healthy, you can sit back and rest on your laurels,” Rawinski said. “If it’s not, like every damn forest on Long Island, then somebody has work to do, including me.”

Crowded into the Port Jefferson Village Center, residents of both the Village of Port Jefferson and Village of Belle Terre spoke about their own experiences with deer, but it all begs the question: What are the local villages going to do?

“I can tell you the level of deer damage on the east end is the worst I’ve seen in New York.”

— Thomas Desisto

The villages of Belle Terre and Port Jefferson have been working out the details on some sort of organized deer hunt, either a coordinated hunt or deer culling, one that could likely happen at the Port Jefferson golf course.

“It’s either going to be a controlled hunt or it’s going to be a cull,” Port Jeff Mayor Margot Garant said. “I don’t know which way we’re going to go but we’re going to figure it out.”

Talks have been ongoing since January, where both Garant and Belle Terre Mayor Bob Sandak have expressed their intent to split the cost of a deer culling, which would likely be performed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This would involve a specialized team of hunters using thermal imaging and silenced rifles to kill deer from elevated positions at night. The cost could be expensive, with some estimates as high as $1,000 per deer.

Thomas DeSisto, a wildlife specialist with the USDA said the operation is mandated to charge for their services, as they get all their funding through cooperative service agreements. While the cost hasn’t deterred the mayors from finding a solution, DeSisto said there are issues with performing a culling on Long Island due to regulation by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. 

In 2017, new legislation has restricted hunting to the point that DeSisto said fundamentally restricts the culling process. In Suffolk County, hunting is restricted to bows, or to muzzle-loaded rifles during the January hunting season. In addition, hunters are not allowed to keep loaded firearms within vehicles, use of bait is not allowed within 300 feet of a roadway, and hunters are not allowed to discharge firearms from the road.

“We’ve seen about 50 percent decrease in efficiency in our upstate program, and on Long Island we’ve seen a 75 percent decrease in efficiency,” he said. “I can tell you the level of deer damage on the east end is the worst I’ve seen in New York.”

In January, Belle Terre changed its village code to allow hunting within the premises, saying they had received an opinion by the state attorney general who said that no municipality other than New York State could regulate hunting.

While some village members shared fears of hunting going on so close to their homes, and shared a general distaste for killing animals, Sandak said so far, the change in code, and the facilitating of hunters, has been a success. He estimates since the village allowed hunting approximately 100 deer have been killed.

“Five years ago, if you were in your car and you saw a deer, you took out your phone and took a picture of it, because it was an oddity,” Sandak said. “Now, it’s unbelievable.” 

The New York State DEC allows residents to apply for Deer Damage Permits, which allow property owners to hunt or allow hunters outside of the normal season. The Belle Terre mayor said to his knowledge there are three residents in Belle Terre with DDPs. 

“Five years ago, if you were in your car and you saw a deer, you took out your phone and took a picture of it, because it was an oddity.”

— Bob Sandak

Port Jefferson currently has code on the books that says discharging any kind of firearm, bow or crossbow is strictly prohibited. Garant said village officials are still looking at changing the code so it will allow hunting, conforming to what the state attorney general has said. However, she added the village could not and would not go after residents who break the code and allow hunting on their own property.

Sue Booth Binczik, wildlife biologist with the New York Department of Wildlife Conservation, spoke to those who attended the meeting, echoing Rawinski by saying deer lead to reduced diversity, more invasive plants and fewer canopy and trees.

Deer are perhaps the most efficient devastators of the local ecology. For one, they have prolific breeding patterns. Binczik said does can start to breed at 1 year old and can give birth to two fawns per year in May and June. While deer are naturally prey animals, Long Island shows a distinct lack of natural predators to cull their numbers. An average deer can live to be 20, and while vehicles and hunters may start to pick off the occasional deer, stags can mate with any number of females, ever increasing the population. The only things left to kill the deer are recreational hunters, starvation, but especially moving vehicles.

“Under ideal conditions the deer populations can double every two to three years,” she said. “The reason they have this high reproductive rate is because they’re a prey species.” 

State DEC regulations require that hunters only use a bow and arrow and only during the hunting season, barring a DDP permit. Hunters must also shoot 150 feet away from any structures with a bow, and of course they are not allowed to trespass onto other residents’ property without permission.

Binczik said there are means to get a community involved by completing a “controlled hunt,” which would require each individual homeowner to give permission for the village to hunt on their property. Those participating community members would come together to decide on a set of rules for any hunters participating, including the qualifications of the hunters and the times the hunters would be allowed out.

“There have been communities in upstate New York that have been running for controlled hunts for decades, and they have been very happy with it,” she said.

Despite all these efforts, Rawinski remains skeptical. He said it comes from years of seeing the damage that deer have caused to the local wildlife. People, he said, have to wake up to it. While by the roadside it may seem the forests are blooming with green, but it’s a symptom of what he called the “great green lie,” that while it may seem the forests are lush, on the ground, there’s not much left. 

“It’s hard to come by solutions, especially in this suburban situation,” he said. “Humans have a can-do attitude, but I have to tell you, we’re up against our match. I don’t hate deer. I hate what people have let them do to the ecosystem.”

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John and Mark Cronin, center, came to speak in front of village residents and PJ SEPTA. Photo by David Luces

Village to call March 21 Crazy Sock Day

While a nice pair of socks draws the eyes down to the feet, John and Mark Cronin of John’s Crazy Socks ask that one look up, at the whole person and see what an individual can do, no matter the limits

As part of their ongoing speaking tour, John and Mark Cronin of the Huntington-based John’s Crazy Socks, spoke to members of the Port Jefferson School District Special Education PTA and students April 8 about their inspiring story and the continuing strength of individuals with differing disabilities. 

The Huntington father-son duo’s story began back in 2016 when John Cronin, a 22-year-old entrepreneur with Down syndrome, was trying to figure what he wanted to do after he graduated from Huntington High School. 

Mark Cronin, John’s father, said together they looked at job programs and a college, but the younger Cronin didn’t see a lot of choices he liked. 

“[He’s] a natural entrepreneur — I don’t see something I want to do, so I’ll create it.”

— Mark Cronin

Around that same time, the business the father worked for shut down overnight, leaving him suddenly unemployed. 

That’s when the son came up with the idea of going into business with this dad.

“[He’s] a natural entrepreneur — I don’t see something I want to do, so I’ll create it,” the father said. 

The 22-year-old entrepreneur went through a few ideas for a business until he ultimately went with crazy socks, stating that he didn’t like the selection he found at stores. 

The duo opened John’s Crazy Socks Dec. 9, 2017, and initially were only expecting a few orders. Instead, they were flooded with requests, and people enjoyed the in-person deliveries and the personal card they received with their orders.  

“We learned people wanted to buy socks, and buy them from John,” the elder Cronin said. 

From there, the company has grown to offering more than 2,300 different styles of socks, and the duo now sells internationally. Last year, they shipped over 144,000 orders, accumulated over $5.5 million in revenue and have raised $280,000 for the company’s charity partners.  

The father said their goal is to inspire, show the strengths of people with differing disabilities and their abilities.

“We are showing the brighter side of what people can do,” he said. 

Currently the business has 23 employees who have some type of disability, and according to Mark Cronin, every person working for them earns their place through hard work.

“There is no charity here, everyone earns a job,” he added. 

Over the years, the pair have advocated for jobs for individuals with disabilities. They have gone to Washington, D.C., and Capitol Hill with a special message. “People are ready and willing to work, let’s make that possible.”

The father and son were in Detroit speaking to the National Down Syndrome Society recently, and earlier last month they went on a tour of Canada with the state department. 

Karen Sullivan, president of the Port Jeff SEPTA, was glad the duo was able to come after planning this event for about a year. 

“They are employing people with disabilities. It is important for Port Jeff SEPTA, these men and women need jobs after high school and what are they going to do.”

— Karen Sullivan

“We really wanted to bring him into the village and show our students what is possible,” she said. “They are employing people with disabilities. It is important for Port Jeff SEPTA, these men and women need jobs after high school and what are they going to do.”

The duo was also presented with a proclamation from the Village of Port Jeff. 

Village trustee Stan Louks presented the Cronins with the proclamation stating that every March 21 in the village will be known as Crazy Sock Day. While he added they did not have anything specific planned for the date, they are working out some kind of celebration that could help bring the community together.

“A great deal has to go to Karen Sullivan,” the trustee said. “SEPTA was not in the village and [it was] inactive — Karen really brought it back to life.”

Sullivan said this is the organization’s one-year anniversary, and for close to 17 years Port Jeff didn’t have a special education PTA. 

“It’s very exciting to collaborate with the school district and the village,” she said “Mayor [Margot] Garant has been with us every step of the way.”

By Heidi Sutton

Spring is in the air and that means the return of one of the most adorable children’s shows on the planet — “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and the late Brent Erlanson, with music by Kevin F. Story, the show is based on “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter.

Published in 1901, the story and its endearing illustrations were inspired by Potter’s pet rabbits, Benjamin Bouncer and Peter Piper. It has been translated into 36 languages, and with 45 million copies sold, is one of the best-selling books of all time.

Going against his mother’s wishes, Peter Rabbit (Eric J. Hughes) is always sneaking into Mr. McGregor’s garden to satisfy his insatiable appetite for parsley, tomatoes and string beans. His partner in crime, cousin Benjamin Bunny (Steven Uihlein), is just as naughty, eating all the carrots he can find and this constant marauding is testing the farmer’s patience. It’s a cat and mouse, or should I say, farmer and hare game that is about to go terribly wrong.

Directed by Sanzel, the show is fast-paced and action-packed with so many wonderful scenes often taking place off stage and among the audience. Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail (Nicole Bianco, K.D. Guadagano and Michelle LaBozzetta) spend much of their time looking for their wayward brother and cousin throughout the theater and enlist the young audience’s help to find them before Mrs. Rabbit (Elizabeth Ladd) comes back from the market and the McGregors (Andrew Lenahan and Emily Gates) chase Peter and Benjamin down the aisles in an attempt to save their garden.

Over the years, I’ve seen this show at least 10 times, but this latest production is the best one yet. Perhaps it is because the cast is able to utilize the Mainstage set of “The Miracle Worker,” adding Peter’s bedroom for the first time and giving the show more dimension. Maybe it is the revamped choreography by Nicole Bianco or the creative lighting by Steven Uihlein. Possibly it is the boundless enthusiasm from the cast, drawing their energy from the constant giggles and laughs from the children and parents in the audience or that the songs are by now classic and timeless. 

Whatever the reason, this gem of a show is like a fine wine and just gets better with age.

Souvenir bunnies are sold before the show and during intermission for $5. Join the entire cast in the lobby for a meet and greet on your way out.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” through April 27 with special performances during spring break. After a brief hiatus, children’s theater continues with “Cinderella” from July 6 to 27 followed by “Pinocchio” from Aug. 2 to 10. Tickets are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

All photos by Peter Lancombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

From left, Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). Photo from the governor’s office

Cuomo lauds LIRR reform, hints at renewable energy initiatives

By Donna Deedy

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) unveiled April 11 his Long Island agenda to a crowd of some 400 politicians, business leaders, local residents and students at Stony Brook University’s Student Activities Center. It was one of two stops statewide, where the governor personally highlighted regional spending for a local community. 

Overall, the $175 billion fiscal year 2020 budget holds spending at 2 percent.

“This year’s budget builds on our progress and our momentum on Long Island, and it includes $18 billion for Long Island — the largest amount of money the state has ever brought back to the region, and we’re proud of it,” Cuomo said. 

Nearly half of the revenue that Long Island receives goes toward school aid and Medicaid, $3.3 billion and $6.9 billion collectively, according to Freeman Klopott in New York State’s Division of the Budget. But the spending plan funds several bold initiatives, such as an overhaul of the MTA and Long Island Rail Road and the phase in of free public college tuition for qualified students. 

Long Island Association president and CEO Kevin Law, who had introduced the governor, suggests looking at the enacted budget as five distinct categories: taxes, infrastructure, economic development, environmental protection and quality of life issues, such as gun safety reform. 

On the tax front, Long Islanders, according to the governor’s report, pay some of the highest property tax bills in the United States. Over the last 20 years, Cuomo said, local property taxes rose twice as fast as the average income. 

“You can’t continue to raise taxes at an amount that is more than people are earning,” he said. His goal is to stabilize the tax base. 

On the federal level, the governor will continue to fight with other states the federal tax code, which last year limited taxpayers’ ability to deduct state and local taxes over $10,000 from their federal income tax returns. Long Island reportedly lost $2.2 billion. 

Otherwise, the governor considers his plan to be the most ambitious, aggressive and comprehensive agenda for Long Island ever. 

The budget’s regional development goals emphasize a commitment to Long Island’s research triangle: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Northwell Health, Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory. The governor envisions the Island as New York’s potential economic equivalent to California’s Silicon Valley. The objective is to bridge academic research with commercial opportunities.

Some of the largest investments include $75 million for a medical engineering center at Stony Brook University, $25 million to Demerec Laboratory at Cold Spring Harbor, $12 million for a new college of veterinary medicine at Long Island University Post, $5 million in additional research investments at Stony Brook University and $200,000 cybersecurity center at Hofstra University.

“Governor Cuomo’s presentation was uplifting,” said state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket). “It was also a preview of the future of Long Island as an indelibly important part of the state the governor and Legislature appreciate and are continuing to invest into.”

Offshore wind initiatives will be announced in the spring, with a goal of providing 9,000 megawatts of wind power by 2035. As part of Cuomo’s New Green Deal, the state target is 100 percent clean energy by 2040.

Highlights of Gov. Cuomo’s 2019-20 budget for Long Islanders

Taxes: Permanently limits local tax spending to 2 percent annually. The 2 percent property tax cap, first implemented in 2012, has reportedly saved Long Island taxpayers $8.7 billion. Now that the property tax cap has become permanent, the governor reports that the average Suffolk taxpayer will save an estimated $58,000 over the next 10 years. The budget also supports the phase in of middle-class tax cuts. By 2025, under the reforms, middle-class filers will save up to 20 percent income tax rate and impact 6 million filers. 

Internet taxation: Requires internet purchases to charge sales tax to fairly compete with brick-and-mortar retail establishments. This reform is expected to raise sales tax revenue by $33 million for Suffolk County in 2019. 

LIRR reforms: Dedicates $2.5 billion to the Long Island Rail Road. $734 million will be used to purchase 202 new trains, $47 million will fund the Ronkonkoma train storage expansion project, which adds 11 tracks to the railyard. Another $264 million is allocated to reconfiguring and rebuilding the Jamaica station. An additional 17 stations will also be upgraded. A third track will be added between Hicksville and Floral Park to address bottlenecking. Many projects are already underway and expected to be completed
by 2022.

The new LIRR Moynihan Train Hall will become an alternative to Penn Station in New York City. It will be located in the old post office building. Construction is underway with completion targeted for the end of 2020. The cost is $2.5 billion with $600,000 million allocated for 2020. A new LIRR entrance at mid-block between 33rd Street and 7th Avenue will also be built at a price tag of $425 million. 

School aid: Increases school aid to $3.3 billion, a nearly 4 percent uplift. The 2020 budget includes a $48 million increase of foundation aid.

College tuition: Funds tuition-free education in public colleges to qualified students, whose families earn less than $125,000 annually. The program annually benefits more than 26,100 full-time undergraduate residents on
Long Island.

The DREAM Act: Offers $27 million to fund higher education scholarships for undocumented children already living in New York state. 

Higher education infrastructure: Spends $34.3 million for maintenance and upgrades at SUNY higher education facilities on Long Island. 

Downtown revitalization: Awards Ronkonkoma Hub with $55 million for a downtown revitalization project. Nassau County will receive $40 million to transform a 70-acre parking lot surrounding Nassau Coliseum into a residential/commercial downtown area with parkland, shopping and entertainment, where people can live and work. Hicksville, Westbury and Central Islip will also receive $10 million each to revitalize its downtowns. 

Roads and bridges: Among the initiatives, $33.6 million will be used toward the Robert Moses Causeway bridge. Safety will be enhanced with guardrails along Sunken Meadow Parkway for $4.7 million. The Van Wyck Expressway is also under expansion for improved access to JFK air terminals. 

Health care: Adds key provisions of the Affordable Care Act to state law, so health insurance is protected if Washington repeals the law.

Plastic bag ban: Prohibits most single-use plastic bags provided by supermarkets and other retailers beginning in March 2020. Counties and cities can opt to charge 5 cents for paper bags. It is projected that 40 percent of revenue generated will fund local programs that purchase reusable bags for low- and fixed-income consumers. The other 60 percent will fund the state’s environmental protection projects.

Food waste recycling program: $1.5 million will be allocated to establish a clean energy, food waste recycling facility at Yaphank. 

Clean water initiatives: Awards Smithtown and Kings Park $40 million for installing sewer infrastructure. A shellfish hatchery at Flax Pond in Setauket will get an additional $4 million. The new budget offers $2 million to the Long Island Pine Barrens Commission and $5 million in grants to improve Suffolk County water supply. The Long Island South Shore Estuary will get $900,000, while Cornell Cooperative Extension will receive $500,000. The state will also fund another $100 million to clean up superfund sites such as the Grumman Plume in Bethpage. The state has banned offshore drilling to protect natural resources. 

Criminal justice reform: Ends cash bail for nonviolent felonies and misdemeanors. Mandates speedy trial to reduce pretrial detention. Requires that prosecutors and defendants share discoverable information in advance of trial. 

Gun safety: Includes one of the nation’s first “red flag” laws. Passed in February 2019, the law enables the courts to seize firearms from people who show signs of violent behavior or pose a threat to themselves or others. The new law, which takes effect later this year, also authorizes teachers and school professionals to request through the courts mental health evaluations for people who exhibit disturbed behavior related to gun violence. Bans bump stocks. Extends background check waiting period for gun purchases. 

Anti-gang projects: Invests more than $45 million to stop MS-13 gang recruitment and improve youth opportunities.

Opioid crisis: Allocates $25 million to fund 12 residential, 48 outpatient and five opioid treatment programs. The state also aims to remove insurance barriers for treatment.

Tourism: Promotes state agricultural products with $515,000 allocated to operate Taste NY Market at the Long Island Welcome Center with satellite locations at Penn Station and East Meadow Farm in Nassau County. The PGA Championship next month and Long Island Fair in September, both at Bethpage, will also feature New York agricultural products. 

Agriculture: Continues support for the New York State Grown & Certified program to strengthen consumer confidence and assist farmers. Since 2016, the program has certified more than 2,386 farms.

Voting: Sets aside $10 million to help counties pay for early voting. Employers must offer workers three hours of paid time off to vote on election day.

Mount Sinai attack Russell Maher with a shot on goal in a home game against Kings Park April 12. Photo by Bill Landon

Kings Park boys lacrosse team was able to stay within striking distance with Mount Sinai through two quarters of play April 12, but the Mustangs exploded in the third quarter, scoring eight goals to put the game out of reach. Mount Sinai defeated the Kingsmen 14-5 at home to remain unbeaten at this midpoint of the season at 8-0 in division, 10-0 overall for second place behind Shoreham-Wading River.

Joey Spallina, the spark of the Mustang offense, split the pipes five times. Meanwhile Bobby Demeo found the back of the cage thrice and Brandon Ventarola and Russel Maher stuck it out with two goals apiece.

Vince D’Alto led the way for the Kingsmen with two goals while Alex Wenzler along with Jack Quaranto both scored as well. Kings Park keeper Christian Michaels had a busy day between the pipes grabbing 19 saves on the day.

Both teams were back in action April 16 where the Mustangs hosted Islip and the Kingsmen hit the road against Babylon. Mount Sinai will be taking the road to Sayville April 23 while Kings Park is hosting Kellenberg April 24. Game times are for 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. respectively.

Maurizio Del Poeta. File photo from SBU

Maurizio Del Poeta, a professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics & Microbiology at Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, works to combat potentially deadly fungal infections. Recently, several press reports have highlighted the prevalence in New York and New Jersey of Candida auris, which is resistant to drugs and can cause death. Through an email exchange, Del Poeta shared his perspective on this fungal infection and his efforts to develop a treatment.

Are there multiple drug-resistant strains of numerous types of Candida?

Yes, there are several species of Candida that are resistant to some antifungals. For instance, Candida lusitaniae is normally resistant to amphotericin B. Candida glabrata is normally resistant to fluconazole. There are over 20 species of Candida that can cause infection in humans. Most are sensitive to antifungals. C. auris is normally resistant to all antifungals. They are resistant for mainly two reasons: (1) the target/enzyme is genetically different and, thus, the drug does not recognize the target; thus it does not bind to the target; and thus it does not inhibit it; (2) the drug is pumped out by membrane transporters. C. auris is notorious for having multiple membrane transporters.

I understand the damage from Candida is primarily among people who are immunocompromised. Is there a risk for those people who are also healthy?

Healthy people should be fine. But who is really “healthy?” Because C. auris is spreading in hospitals and nursing homes, all patients in hospitals and nursing homes are at risk: some more (e.g., cancer patients, patients with an organ transplant, patients in ICU, patients taking corticosteroids) and some patients have less risk because they are more immunocompetent, but certainly those patients could get contaminated.

What makes it so hard to eliminate Candida?

Because (1) we are not used to and (2) because we still do not know which type of disinfectant is efficacious against C. auris … Unlike other Candida infections, which are generally thought to result from autoinfection from host flora, C. auris can be transmitted between patients … C. auris requires implementation of specific infection control measures, such as those used for control of [other infections] (e.g., private room and on contact precautions). Because C. auris can survive in plastic surfaces, floors, and door knobs for weeks, it is essential that infection control measurements be implemented in the health care settings.

Does the work you’re doing offer hope, albeit in the earlier stages, for ways to treat and reduce the virulence of Candida?

Yes, our new compounds are sensitive to C. auris in vitro against the C. auris clinical isolates that are resistant to current antifungals. We are currently testing their efficacy in vivo (animals). We are doing this in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health and the Health Science Center in San Antonio, Texas. Our compounds have different mechanism of action from the current antifungals,

Given that the symptoms of a Candida infection -— fever, weakness and aches — are so prevalent in other types of infections, are there ways to make a clinically differentiated diagnosis of Candida without taking a blood sample or conducting extensive analysis?

Unfortunately, there are not. Diagnosis of C. auris can only be made using sophisticated tests. Normal phenotypic tests are not able to identify C. auris for certain. If we want to stop (or at least control) the epidemic, anyone with a Candida infection in a hospital setting should be treated as C. auris. Hospital trafficking of nurses, doctors, visitors from and to patients with C. auris should be highly restricted. Nurses and doctors should not be allowed in cafeteria without changing gowns, particularly if they are taking care of a patient infected with C. auris and other common sense practices should be implemented; but, unfortunately, they are normally out of the window in the hospital settings … In the case of C. auris “isolating rooms” and “contact precautions” should be implemented.

How does your treatment for Candida work?

The class of compounds are “acylhydrazones.” They target the synthesis of fungal sphingolipids.

Given what you know about the prevalence of Candida, particularly in New York, and the minimal information about the specific locations where hospitals have found Candida, what would you advise anyone who might be “at risk” for Candida to do if they had elective surgery scheduled?

Elderly and immunocompromised people going to the hospital should be treated with “contact precautions.” No need for isolation unless positive for C. auris.

Is C. auris the most virulent or problematic species of Candida confronting public health professionals today?

Not really. C. glabrata is also a nasty Candida strain. What makes C. auris difficult is the resistance to drugs.

Do other species suffer through Candida infections as well?

Although humans are the most known carriers and hosts for Candida infection, other animals can also get infected such as dogs, horses and cattle. Certain Candida species are used in food production. Candida utilis extracts are used in Asia as a “salt” instead of salt because these extracts are salty and do not cause hypertension. We actually have a collaboration with the Japanese company that makes these extracts. Candida krusei is used to ferment cacao during chocolate production. Whereas C. utilis is not a human pathogen, C. krusei actually is.

How do you protect yourself, your office and your staff from the spread of the infection?

We use biosafety label 2. My lab is certified to handle BSL2 organisms, such as C. auris. We use all sorts of protective gears and standard protective procedures to make sure lab personnel are protected and to make sure we keep the microbes inside the lab. Entrance to my lab is strictly prohibited to anyone that did not receive appropriate training.

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