Port Times Record

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The mosaic includes the Comsewogue logo and the notorious cherry tree. Photo by Leah Chiappino

By Leah Chiappino

Comsewogue High School’s lobby will soon receive a unique face-lift. The Art Honor Society and students in the advanced studios and murals class are putting the finishing touches on a mosaic that spans the entire center of the room. Fully designed by students, it consists of intricately placed pieces of hand-cut glass that reflect in the light of surrounding windows, making the whole piece sparkle.

The high school’s Art Honor Society with art teacher Gina Melton and Assistant Super Joe Coniglione on the right. Photo by Leah Chiappino

The project, which began construction three years ago, was the brainchild of Assistant Superintendent Joe Coniglione. 

“It has been a labor of love,” he said

The area on which the mosaic now sits was once a pit where students could sit and socialize. Eventually, it was filled in with concrete and a mural was painted over it. However, over the years the floor aged and the concrete began to crack, prompting Coniglione to push for something sturdier. 

“My thought process was rather than to paint it and have it crack again, we could have our amazingly talented student do a mosaic,” he said.

He brought his vision to Gina Melton, an art teacher at the high school, who ran with it.

“Both [Coniglione] and I are Italians so we appreciate mosaics,” she said jokingly. “However, mosaics are beautiful, and we figured if they could last through Pompeii, hopefully they will last through Comsewogue.”

Students then began the design process, making sure they included the school’s warrior logo, and aspects of the surrounding area of Port Jefferson Station, including the signature cherry tree outside the school’s window. They also added a starry night sky, as homage to Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, “The Starry Night,” which is a favorite among many students.

The mosaic includes the Comsewogue logo and the notorious cherry tree. Photo from Gina Melton

After the design was approved, students began to install the 2 million pieces, transitioning from glass to tile over time. They have to cut the pieces, lay them out and glue them down. 

Melton admitted the project has been a learning curve. 

“The first year the students were a little hesitant because it was so new,” she said. “545 square feet of space is a daunting task, but now that they’re seeing everything coming together, they’re very proud of it. I can’t even tell you how blessed I am to have the kids I have.”

For students who built the project, the process has had its good and bad times.

 “It’s certainly resulted in many cuts and scratches over the years,” Art Honor Society Vice President Alexa Bonacci said. She added that it was worth it to be able to look back and see what was created. 

While the Art Honor Society only meets once a week to work on it, several students within the club devote their free period and time after school to the mosaic. Bonacci works on it every day. She does not participate in any sports and said most people she knows work on it at least three days per week. She estimated Art Honor Society President Gianna Alcala has worked on it for at least 70 hours.

“This is something so many people are attached to,” society secretary Maison Anwar said. “When you see all the different techniques throughout the piece it makes you feel like everybody has a piece of themselves.”

The project was delayed because of the floor crack and the group of students subsequently having to redo the backboard. The original design was thrown out over the summer, forcing students to have to design much of the  project themselves. This has led the district to host what they call “mosaic workshops,” enabling students to work on the project for entire days at a time. “We made a lot of headway in those days,” Melton said.

Coniglione praised the impact of the program on students. 

“You would be surprised if you sat in Gina’s classroom for a day and saw students who struggle elsewhere in school,” he said. “They excel in her class because she allows students to find their creativity, and finds something good in every person,” he said.

Melton struggled to hold back tears. 

“They are amazing kids,” she said.

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Mock-up of the sign the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce hopes its members will put up in their windows promoting inclusivity. Image from Barbara Ransome

Little more than a month after the Greater Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce and Stony Brook University hosted a cultural humility panel for businesses, chamber members are looking to make good on a promise to promote the village as open to all.

Director of operations for the Port Jeff chamber, Barbara Ransome, announced it had produced placards for its member businesses to put in their windows reading, “All are welcome here.” 

The item came as a suggestion from experts from SBU who presented in front of chamber members Sept. 24, and said simply putting a sign on a business noting it was open to all goes a long way toward making visitors feel welcome. 

“We’re supporting being open and welcoming,” the chamber director said. 

Aventura in Commack was cited by feds for allegedly giving Chinese-made technology to the U.S. Govt. Photos from U.S. Attorney’s Office

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is charging a Commack company, Aventura Technologies Inc., and seven current and former employees with allegedly selling Chinese-made electronic equipment with known cybersecurity vulnerabilities to the federal government and private customers, while falsely representing the equipment as made in the United States.

Yacht seized from the owners of Commack business Aventura. Photos from U.S. Attorney’s Office

The individual defendants charged in the alleged scheme include Northport residents Jack Cabasso, Aventura’s managing director and de facto owner and operator, and his wife Frances Cabasso, purported owner and chief executive officer. The Cabassos were also charged with money laundering proceeds from the alleged schemes and fraud for falsely representing Frances Cabasso as chief executive of Aventura to gain access to government contracts set aside for women-owned small businesses. The government froze approximately $3 million in 12 financial accounts that contain proceeds from the alleged unlawful conduct and seized the Cabassos’ 70-foot luxury yacht Tranquilo, which was moored in the gated community where the Cabassos reside. 

“As alleged, the defendants falsely claimed for years that their surveillance and security equipment was manufactured on Long Island, padding their pockets with money from lucrative contracts without regard for risk to the country’s national security posed by secretly peddling made-in-China electronics with known cyber vulnerabilities,” stated U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donoghue in a release. 

In addition to Aventura and the Cabassos, the company’s senior executives Jonathan Lasker of Port Jefferson Station, Christine Lavonne Lazarus of Shirley and Eduard Matulik of North Massapequa were charged in the complaint, along with Wayne Marino of Rocky Point, a current employee, and Alan Schwartz of Smithtown, a recently retired employee. 

If convicted, the defendants each face up to 20 years imprisonment on each charge of the complaint, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. No trial dates have been set, according to John Marzulli in the U.S. Attorney’s Office. 

The attorney for Frances Cabasso was out of town. Jack Cabasso’s attorney did not respond before press time to messages left on his answering machine.

Equipment labeled with the Aventura logo. Photos from U.S. Attorney’s Office

“With the arrests, the defendants’ brazen deceptions and fraud schemes have been exposed, and they will face serious consequences for slapping phony ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ labels on products that our armed forces and sensitive government facilities depend upon,” Donoghue said.

Case documents state that the company lied to its customers, including the U.S. military, for more than a decade. Aventura reportedly generated more than $88 million in sales revenue from November 2010 and the charged scheme has allegedly been ongoing since 2006. 

“Greed is at the heart of this scheme, a reprehensible motive when the subjects in this case allegedly put into question the security of men and women who don uniforms each day to protect our nation,” stated FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William Sweeney Jr. 

The money laundering scheme allegedly entailed siphoning illegal profits out of the company through a network of shell companies and intermediaries, including transferring hundreds of thousands, and in some cases, millions of dollars into an attorney escrow account belonging to an unnamed Long Island-based law firm, where the funds were used to purchase homes, in some cases for relatives. 

The FBI has established an email hotline for potential victims. Anyone with information regarding Aventura’s alleged crimes or anyone who believes they have been a victim can send an email to NY-AventuraVictims@fbi.gov. 

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Enrico Scarda, owner of Danfords, with Jami Cohen at the fundraiser for her sister. Photo by Julianne Mosher

By Julianne Mosher

The Brookhaven Ballroom at Danfords was filled with hundreds of people to celebrate and support one of their own this week through the family’s bout with cancer.

Dara Cohen. photo from Dara’s GoFundMe health fund

Dara Cohen, originally of Dix Hills, has been living under the weight of cancer for years, battling Stage 4 breast, brain and lung cancer, and now friends said it has metastasized in her lower spinal cord. The actress and professional dancer works as a ballet teacher when she feels up to it, but the disease has had a lasting effect.

It was just a few months ago when Dara Cohen’s sister, Jami, who bartends at the hotel in PJ, came to work and asked her managers if they could help her create a fundraiser. 

The goal was to raise $100,000 for the 46-year-old dancer, singer and actress. 

“They immediately said yes,” Jami Cohen, of Port Jefferson, said. “I couldn’t ask for better people to work with.”

On Monday, Nov. 11, Danfords donated its space upstairs and an extensive menu at its buffet to the Cohen family. 

“Obviously it’s an unbelievable cause,” Enrico Scarda, owner of Danfords, said, “And we do whatever we can to support our employees.”

Lamar Peters with Gail King and Shelly Cohen. Photo by Julianne Mosher

A DJ blasted music while people mingled. Lamar Peters, a tribute artist known for his Elvis, Johnny Cash and Buddy Holly impersonations, came out to play, and over 100 gifts were donated to the raffle table. 

“All of us are here to unite and break course for Dara,” Dara’s father Shelly Cohen said. “We’re looking to make a difference and these people are coming out to help our daughter.”

Tickets were $40 for the three-hour event and the outcome was a huge success. Although Dara couldn’t be in attendance, she video-called in and was grateful for the response given in her honor. 

Known for her popular social media posts chronicling her journey, Dara’s goal has been to help other people struggling as well. 

“She’s an amazing person,” Dara’s mother Karen Deangelis, said. “Dara has made an impact on other people and has a tremendous amount of support … Hopefully we can help other people, too.”

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Suffolk County police car. File photo

A Mount Sinai man was arrested Thursday, Nov. 14 for allegedly shooting at a neighbor’s cats with a pellet gun, one of which led the cat to need to be euthanized.

Suffolk County Police said a resident of Puritan Drive in Mount Sinai noticed one of his cats was walking with a limp in early September and a veterinarian determined it had been shot with a pellet gun. The cat was euthanized. The resident called police Nov. 14 at around 9 a.m. after he noticed two of his other cats were limping and a veterinarian determined they also had been shot. The cats are being treated for injuries.

Following an investigation, police determined the victim’s neighbor, Clifford Nagel, 72, of 27 Puritan Ave., shot the three cats with a pellet gun. Suffolk County Police and the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals arrested Nagel at his home.

6th Precinct officers and detectives from the SCSPCA charged Nagel with three counts of Aggravated Cruelty to Animals, a class E Felony under the New York State Agriculture and Markets Law. Nagel was issued a desk appearance ticket and is scheduled for arraignment at a later date.

Attorney information for Nagel was not immediately available.

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Photo from Comsewogue

When Mike Mosca was formally introduced as the incoming principal of Comsewogue High School at this past January’s district board meeting, he expressed his desire to revamp the school’s business department, saying he was focused on getting his students to the next step of their lives, whether it be college or straight into their careers. 

Comsewogue School District From left: Susan Casali, Jennifer Polychronakos, Michael Mosca, Joseph Coniglione and Jennifer Quinn. Photo from David Luces

Working together with Comsewogue Superintendent Jennifer Quinn, fellow teachers and administrators, collectively they have already begun making changes to the business curriculum at the start of this school year. 

In conjunction with this strategy, the high school has revitalized its School to Career Advisory Committee, which aims to help students with their career paths and become productive members of the community. The group will be made up of teachers, administrators, business leaders, local professionals, community members, students and other stakeholders.

“We think this is something we believe will get our students to the next level,” Mosca said. “We have been reaching out to professionals and asking them, ‘What are you looking for in a candidate?’ and use that help and sculpt our students to be successful post school.”

Mosca said he hopes that the revamped curriculum and committee will help bridge the gap from school to the next stage of a student’s life.

“We want to make the business curriculum focused on career readiness and want to make sure they gain the skills needed for the 21st century and their careers,” he said.

The principal of the high school said it has already begun reaching out to community members, organizations, professionals, business leaders, among others, to see who would be interested in joining the committee. 

As of now, the district has around 50 people who have pledged to join the committee. Together they will provide input on how the business courses can be improved as well as connecting students with professionals in their preferred career path. 

Mosca said they have plans on doing mock interview days with students, job shadowing opportunities, guest speakers to talk to students and set up possible internships. 

Anthony Ketterer, business education teacher, said he believes this is a great opportunity and advantageous for students at the high school. 

“We want our students to think about their careers and life after high school,” he said. “We want to bring students and professionals together … and continue the strong relationship between the community and the school.”

Ketterer said the main goal is to better educate students and teach them practical skills that they can use in the future. He also said they want to provide resources to students who chose to pursue trade and vocational careers after graduating. 

Beginning in September, administrators and teachers began the first step in the business department revamp when it began offering a virtual enterprise business class to seniors. 

The six-credit course offered through SUNY Farmingdale allows students to essentially run a virtual business, specifically a clothing business, which was chosen by the students. 

Mosca said the class is made up of 10 students and will act as a liaison for the committee on how they can further improve the curriculum for future students. 

The principal also mentioned that members of the committee donated cubicles, desks and other office materials to mimic a real-life business setting.

“We want our students to think about their careers and life after high school.”

— Anthony Ketterer

 

“They are getting real-world experience — they are our pioneers and they are going to be working closely with the committee,” Mosca said.

He wants to make this experience accessible to all students in the district and hopes to expand it younger students down the line. 

In addition, the principal said he wants to make sure they are catering to different fields and career paths that students are interested in nowadays, adding there are “so many directions they can go in now.”

In response, administrators have reached out to professionals in the health care and medical field like St. Charles Hospital and Northwell Health. Local officials and politicians have expressed interest in contributing to the committee. 

Mosca also has plans to eventually create a senior workshop stemming off ideas from the committee. He said there are opportunities to teach students important life skills like changing a tire or filing their taxes.

The committee plans to meet several times a year and its first advisory meeting will be on Nov. 14 at Comsewogue High School. 

“Getting our students exploring these opportunities is the goal,” Mosca said. “They should be thinking about this and their careers as early as possible.”

SOME ENCHANTED EVENING

John T. Mather Memorial Hospital of Port Jefferson honored three of its own at its One Enchanted Evening gala at East Wind Long Island in Wading River on Nov. 1. 

Neurosurgeon Dr. Sumeer Sathi (second from left), section chief of neurosurgery and the medical director of neurosciences at Mather Hospital, and Dr. David Shenouda (center), cardiologist with Three Village Cardiology and former medical board chairman, each received the Theodore Roosevelt Award. The Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council created the Theodore Roosevelt Award more than 50 years ago to honor those who demonstrate exceptional volunteer commitment to a member hospital and its community.

Dr. David BenEliyahu (second from right), administrative director of the Back & Neck Pain Center at Mather Hospital and Mather’s Chiropractic Collaboration program was honored as the hospital’s Community Honoree as thanks for supporting the hospital and its programs over the years.

With them are Mather President Kenneth Roberts (far left) and Mather Chairman Leo Sternlicht (far right). The 54th annual event raised funds for the Contessa Nadia Farber Emergency Pavilion at Mather Hospital.

Photos by Stuart Vincent

Skyler Johnson, 19, is looking to run against Laura Ahearn and then Ken LaValle for state Senate. Photo from Skyler for Senate website

Just two days after the end of the 2019 elections Nov. 5, Skyler Johnson, a 19-year-old Mount Sinai resident and college student, announced he wanted to take on one of the longest-running incumbents in the New York State Senate.

Skyler Johnson, 19, is looking to run against Laura Ahearn and then Ken LaValle for state Senate. Photo from Skyler for Senate website

“Someone should not hold a seat for 43 years,” he said during a phone interview after he announced he was running. “We need
term limits.”

Johnson is a political science student at Suffolk County Community College and said he had already filed his name to run for the state Senate’s 1st District seat. As a local activist, he said he sees young people not getting a fair shake, with college students working 60-hour weeks to pay for higher education and senior citizens unable to afford much of the costs of living.

Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) has held the position since 1976 and has been cited by people like Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) for bipartisan support on issues of the environment. He has shown unwavering support for Stony Brook University and is often behind many state grants the college receives.

But Johnson said there are two issues that made him especially want to run that has expecially vexed the incumbent in recent years. One is the number of young people leaving Long Island and the lack of real affordable housing, the other is what he called a history of denying rights to the LGBT community. He cited the senator’s opposition to New York’s same-sex marriage bill in 2009 and his voting against a bill banning gay conversion therapy earlier this year. 

“It’s time to take our future into our own hands,” he said. “I believe I can bring much needed change.”

Johnson was the campaign manager for Sarah Deonarine, a Democrat who ran against another longtime incumbent, Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) for the Brookhaven District 2 council seat. He said that campaign gave him the experience of what it was like to be on the campaign trail. He said he plans to spend next year canvassing the district.

It won’t be an easy road for the first-time contender. He will have to first primary for the Democratic nod against Laura Ahearn, a well-known voice in advocating for crime victims and founder of organizations such as Parents for Megan’s Law and Crime Victims Center. 

Bruce Blower, a spokesperson for LaValle, confirmed that the state senator planned to run again in the 2020 election.

The young man agreed he was part of a larger wave of young liberally minded people looking to get involved since the 2016 election of Donald Trump (R). Johnson is going to be running in a presidential election year, which are notoriously the most hotly contested races to campaign.

“I expect people are ready for change,” he said.

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Port Jefferson officials amended the village code to allow Suffolk County police and code enforcement officers to impound bicycles from reckless riders, including juveniles. Photo from SCPD

Village officials have moved to curb reckless biking around Port Jeff by impounding bikes of people they find breaking the code.

At the Nov. 4 board meeting, Port Jefferson officials amended the village code to allow Suffolk County police and code enforcement officers to impound bicycles from reckless riders, including juveniles.

“As an era of common sense is not really operating anymore regarding bicycles, we have heard and seen kids running in front of cars, playing games where they’re hooking onto cars — incredibly dangerous activities out there,” village attorney Brian Egan said. “Vehicles are taking incredibly dangerous maneuvers to avoid these bikes.”

The code’s language forbids persons from trick riding, which usually comes in the form of wheelies, weaving back and forth in traffic or hanging onto automobiles driving on the road. It also forbids people from riding distracted, such as while using a phone or camera, though using a GoPro camera or similar devices while biking is permissible, according to the village attorney. 

Acting Chief of Code Enforcement Fred Leute Jr. could not be reached for comment.

Egan said at the Nov. 4 meeting that the law was being “narrowly tailored” to still allow bike riding in the village.

Bikes seized by either code enforcement or Suffolk police are kept in Port Jeff at the Department of Public Works building, with a record of impounding kept by the head of Code Enforcement. A parent or guardian can retrieve the impounded bike on behalf of a minor. 

Some residents at the meeting questioned if there were any issues with taking and impounding a minor’s bike, but Egan said it has worked for villages like Babylon.

“In practice, we see from other villages that these bikes never get retrieved,” he said. 

Mayor Margot Garant said after they reach a certain number of bikes that are not recovered after a time, they would hold an auction like they have done for kayaks left on village racks after the season is complete. She said the village would likely decrease the price of impounded bikes based on age.

“We have to review the impounding fee, because I think with the kayaks, we didn’t take into consideration an aging timeline, it was one set fee and here we were with all these kayaks,” she said.

In August of this year, the Village of Babylon passed a similar measure to curb the number of reckless bicyclists. That village fined riders over 16 years of age $250 when charged with violating the village code. 

The village has yet to set any fines from breaking this new section of the code or for retrieving the bike. Village officials said that decision would come at a future date after discussion, likely the next board meeting Nov. 18.

 

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Local officials and veterans gathered at Port Jefferson Memorial Park for an unveiling ceremony of three new monuments to honor those who served in the nation’s most recent conflicts Nov. 10. 

The ceremony and unveiling completes renovations for three of four memorial sites located in Port Jefferson, Setauket and Stony Brook identified last year for upgrades. The new memorials honor those who served during the Cold War, Lebanon peacekeeping, the Grenada and Panama invasions, the two Gulf wars, the Afghanistan War and the War on Terror.

The work was spearheaded by a war memorial fund committee formed last fall through a partnership between Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars members, and the Long Island State Veterans Home. 

“Today is the unveiling of three new monuments that have been long overdue here — the previous three monuments only went up to the Vietnam War,” said Bill Wolf Sr., commander of the Port Jefferson Station American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432. “We are dedicating three new monuments from the Cold War to our present-day wars we are fighting today.”

Hahn thanked the veterans present for the sacrifices they’ve made. 

“I want to thank the veterans here today for their services — this great nation is only free because of all the things they have done,” she said. “We’ve been working for a year and half to update these memorials … so when veterans come home, they can have the conflicts they participated in reflected here.” 

Dedication of the updated memorial in Port Jefferson was accompanied by the replacement of the site’s damaged existing stonework. Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) secured funding from her district parks budget to make these updates and other related work in advance of the installation of the new monuments. The Town of Brookhaven owns and maintains the memorial site in Port Jefferson across the road from Village Hall.

Phase 1 of the project has already been completed by expanding the memorials in Stony Brook Village and on Setauket Village Green. The final phase will comprise an update at Setauket Veterans Memorial Park near Se-Port Deli.

The approximate $35,000 cost for the memorials project is being paid largely through donations. Contributions are still being accepted for the phase 2 costs. As of Nov. 10, the project members have raised $29,000 since 2018.

Members of the committee will look to complete phase 3 of their project in time for next year’s Memorial Day. Wolf said the committee should have the funds by then to get the work done. 

Checks can be made payable and mailed to Veterans Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 986, Port Jefferson Station, NY, 11776, or can be hand delivered to the attention of Ed Kiernan at American Legion Wilson Ritch Post 432, 1450 Hallock Ave., Port Jefferson Station.

More information is available at the website americanlegionwilsonritchpost432.org.