Port Times Record

Vietnam veteran Thomas Semkow, from Post 6249 Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars, poses with members of the A-Team in 1968. Photo from Semkow

‘Many veterans of Vietnam still serve in the Armed Forces, work in our offices, on our farms, and in our factories. Most have kept their experiences private, but most have been strengthened by their call to duty. A grateful nation opens her heart today in gratitude for their sacrifice, for their courage, and for their noble service.’ — President Ronald Reagan, Memorial Day Speech, May 28, 1984

By Rich Acritelli

Today Vietnam veterans comprise the largest group of Americans who have fought for this country. Nearly three million citizens were deployed to Southeast Asia during the longest war in our history. For the next couple of decades, they will also be the most prominent group of veterans in this nation.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Bald Hill in Farmingville reaches into the sky. File photo
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Bald Hill in Farmingville reaches into the sky. File photo

Locally, the Suffolk County Chapter of Vietnam Veterans and the VFW Fischer/Hewins Post 6249 of Rocky Point are two groups that strenuously work to welcome home all members of the armed forces who have protected this nation during the war on terror. These organizations are headed by two men who are driven to help every veteran.

Richard Kitson, from Port Jefferson Station, is the longtime president of the Suffolk County Chapter of Vietnam Veterans. Members of this chapter all point to Kitson’s dedication: He organizes members to speak in the schools, march in parades, welcome home veterans, help their families and assist veterans who have fallen on hard times. Both groups have been a fixture at the Rocky Point High School Veterans Day program and have been guest speakers at the Vietnam War history classes that are taught at Ward Melville High School in E. Setauket.

Kitson grew up in Levittown and served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a mortar man in Dong Ha, situated near the demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam. The war had especially hit home for Kitson as he not only lost many friends from his hometown but his brother was killed fighting in Vietnam in 1969. It is families like Kitson’s who have completely sacrificed for this nation.

Instead of returning home to a grateful country, these veterans were degraded for their efforts to serve in the military. For several years the government did not recognize those who fought in Vietnam, and because of this policy, these veterans were not properly recognized for their service. It was not until 1978 that the Vietnam Veterans of America was granted the same rights to function as a charter as the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.

Richard Kitson and Frank D’Aversa served in Vietnam. Photo from Jennifer Pohl
Richard Kitson and Frank D’Aversa served in Vietnam. Photo from Jennifer Pohl

After the war, Kitson went to college, married, started a family and worked for the post office. It was not until the 1980s that he began to fight for greater rights for the veterans who fought in that war. His devotion helped build the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial at Bald Hill in Farmingville and his chapter will read the names of all those residents of Suffolk County who were lost during that conflict at the site on Memorial Day at 5 p.m.

This weekend marks an important date for Kitson for not only thanking our veterans who served in the military but also to recall the memory of his brother. Kitson and his members are always visible to ensure that our local veterans are properly thanked for their past, present and future service.

Joseph A. Cognitore is the commander of Post 6249 Rocky Point Veterans of Foreign Wars. A former football and track standout from Farmingdale, he went to college in South Dakota and after graduation joined the U.S. Army. Cognitore fought in Vietnam in 1970 and had the unique experience of operating inside of Cambodia. A platoon sergeant, he was part of the air cavalry that flew dangerous missions into territory that was held by the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese Army. Cognitore was a combat veteran who was always looking out for the safety and security of his soldiers.

For almost two decades, Cognitore tried to put the war behind him by taking care of his family and working for the Coca-Cola Company. It was not until the first Gulf War that Cognitore became an active participant at Post 6249 in Rocky Point. He wanted to ensure that the men and women who were serving overseas were properly cared for at home and abroad.

Currently, Cognitore runs one of the most productive VFW posts on Long Island and is the legislative chair for the Department of New York Veterans of Foreign Wars. Retired from his job, Cognitore puts in a tremendous number of volunteer hours running this post. He has helped run a Wounded Warrior Golf Outing, has participated in the creation of a 9/11 Memorial and is always present in our local schools. This weekend presents a somber moment for Cognitore to reflect on all of his comrades who were killed in Vietnam.

Both Kitson and Cognitore state how fortunate they are to have soldiers that still give back to their communities. One of these veterans is Bay Shore resident Ralph Zanchelli. After graduating from high school in 1962, Zanchelli immediately enlisted into the U.S. Naval Reserves. With the war escalating in Vietnam, he was deployed to the USS Bennington CVS 20, which operated in the South China Sea. This aircraft carrier guarded against the North Vietnamese torpedo boats that attacked American shipping off the coast of this communist nation.

From left, Richard Kitson, Clarence Simpson, Barry Gochman, Jimmy O’ Donnell and Bill Fuchs. Photo from Jennifer Pohl
From left, Richard Kitson, Clarence Simpson, Barry Gochman, Jimmy O’ Donnell and Bill Fuchs. Photo from Jennifer Pohl

Zanchelli was a Hot Case-man gunner who caught the rounds as they were fired. This job ensured that discharged armaments would not start any fires within the ship during combat operations. The carrier served 30-day intervals off the coast of North Vietnam, and Zanchelli observed the earliest moments of this war. For Memorial Day, he would like everyone to say a short prayer for those currently protecting this nation.

Gill Jenkins from Post 6249 is another local citizen who goes about his business in a quiet and friendly manner. He lives by the credo that all veterans, regardless of when they served, must be respected. During the height of the Tet offensive in 1968, Jenkins was a plumber and handyman on the USS Intrepid, which operated off the coast of South Vietnam.

This naval veteran served for four years, and he vividly recalled the launch and recovery efforts of this historic carrier to attack the enemy and to locate those airmen that were shot down. During his naval years, Jenkins traveled around the world on the Intrepid. He recalled how the vessel was hit by a typhoon as it was traveling around the tip of the Cape of Good Hope.

One of the nearly 600,000 armed forces members who were sent to Vietnam in 1968 was Tom Semkow from Center Moriches. Currently the main photographer for Post 6249, Semkow was a Special Forces medic in the Mekong Delta for 10 months. During the height of Tet, he remembered how the enemy made their presence felt by firing mortars and attacking the American military squads that operated in the area. He recalled operating in the flooded areas of this country and receiving air boat rides from Chinese operators who transported them into combat areas. Semkow enjoys the camaraderie of this post and likes to attend the Memorial Day services at Calverton National Cemetery each year.

Memorial Day is a moment when our nation welcomes the warm weather, watches a ball game and barbeques. But we Americans need to take a brief time-out of our schedules to honor and recall those Americans who have protected us during every conflict in our history. Thank you to all those service members, especially to the Vietnam Veterans we “Welcome Home” on this national day of remembrance.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College. He was a staff sergeant in the New York Air National Guard 106th Rescue Wing in Westhampton Beach.

by -
0 1224
Port Jefferson Village Hall. File photo by Heidi Sutton

Port Jefferson government will have at least one new face this summer.

Three seats on the village board of trustees are up for election in mid-June, including those of the mayor and two trustees. Mayor Margot Garant is running for a fourth term and faces a challenge from resident Dave Forgione. Trustee Larry LaPointe is on the hunt for his third term on the board, running against resident Matthew Franco and Stan Loucks, chairman of the County Club Management Advisory Council.

Trustee Adrienne Kessel, whose third term is ending this year, is not running for re-election. In a phone interview, she called being on the board “a tremendous commitment.”

“I just felt that after 6 years, I’m hoping that some good candidates step up,” she said. It’s “time to kind of reclaim a little more time for myself.”

She said she would continue to serve on the village’s architectural review committee and as the head of the committee involved in upgrading Rocketship Park in downtown Port Jefferson. Kessel has been a driving force in fundraising and design for the park project.

Kessel advised whoever succeeds her to take the job seriously and make decisions based on what is best for the village as a whole.

“Many, many things come into view when you become a trustee,” she said. “You begin to see an entirely new picture of the village where you live.”

Voting is on Tuesday, June 16, at the Village Center, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Mayor
Garant said she is not ready “to turn over the keys.”

She said she is still working toward getting the aging local power plant upgraded — or repowered — so it continues operating and thus remains a source of property tax revenue for the village. The incumbent is also focused on completing Port Jefferson’s comprehensive plan, which outlines recommendations for development throughout the village, and on pushing for revitalization in the uptown area, which has issues with vacant buildings and crime.

“The first several years of my administration I felt that I was doing a lot of corrective work,” Garant said, between fixing infrastructure that had been long neglected and stabilizing the budget. “We’re finally moving, I feel, in a very, very positive direction.”

She is also advocating to get a Town of Brookhaven jetty in Mount Sinai repaired, as the jetty, which is between Port Jefferson’s East Beach and Mount Sinai Harbor, in its damaged state allows currents to carry sand away from the village beach, causing erosion.

“We have a really good rhythm and I’d really hate to see that interrupted or, worse, for us to take a step backward,” the mayor said. With another two years, “I will work as hard as I have for the last six.”

Her challenger, Forgione, who has lived in the village for 15 years and operates a billing and accounting business in upper Port, said he threw his hat in the ring because “our village deserves a choice.”

He wants to more tightly control village taxes and help financially prepare the village in the event that the community loses property tax revenue from the Port Jefferson power plant. Forgione would also like to call on the state and the Long Island Rail Road to upgrade the crossing in upper Port to relieve traffic congestion, and work with the Suffolk County Police Department and village code enforcement officers to reduce crime in that area.

Another issue for the challenger is transparency — he said he would like to upgrade the village website to collect more public opinions on government proposals.

Forgione, a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserves and the National Guard, said his current and past experience in business and finance, on the local board of assessment review, on the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee, on the school district’s budget advisory committee, and as a fiscal manager for a cancer screening program with the county health department would help him lead the village.

“I want to maintain that small-town feel with the residents and the business owners while encouraging growth in the 21st century.”

Trustees
LaPointe said he is running for re-election because there is “unfinished business” in the form of projects he wants to see through.

The incumbent, a retired attorney, has been working on renovations in the village’s downtown parking lots and on improving security by strengthening a network of cameras in commercial areas, among other projects.

“So we have a lot on our plates,” he said.

The trustee said he is proud of his work to increase police presence in lower Port — improving safety particularly on weekend nights during the village’s peak summer season — and of his role in renovating the country club golf course and maintenance building.

He also said the village now has a club “that’s second to none.”

“After a lot of hard work, the village is finally starting to get into a good place — a place where we’re economically secure, a place where we can look forward to a bright future,” LaPointe said when asked why residents should vote for him.

One of his challengers, Loucks, has lived in the village since 1981 and is a retired athletics teacher and administrator in Plainview-Old Bethpage. He is running for the village board because after volunteering on the CCMAC for a number of years, “I feel I have so much more to offer to the village than just working with the membership up at the country club.”

Loucks said he wants to work toward repowering the Port Jefferson power plant, revitalizing upper Port and broadening the village’s tax base.

“I also want to get involved … in making a better relationship between the schools and the administration downtown.”

He said the village and the school district should work more closely, partnering more on things like recreation programs.

Loucks said one of his strong points is budgeting, after working as a school administrator. At Plainview-Old Bethpage, “I was handling budgets larger than the village budget. … And I was always able to make ends meet.”

He said people should vote for him because he is good at listening and organizing.

“Along with the budgeting I think my strong point is my ability to get along with everyone.”

The third candidate for a trustee seat, Franco, has lived in the village for 10 years and is a pediatric occupational therapist for Nassau BOCES. He is running for a trustee position because he thinks taxes are too high and there is “very little transparency” in the village government.

“The biggest thing that we need to do … is inform the community of what’s going on,” he said in a phone interview. “There is no openness to this government. … They should be entitled to all the information that’s going on in the village.”

Franco also has concerns about the village’s efforts to revitalize upper Port — he said the level of development that the village’s proposed comprehensive plan would allow there would congest Main Street.

“They’re not really addressing the traffic issue and that is an ambulance route,” he said.

According to Franco, the village could use incentives like tax credits to get local business owners uptown to redo their facades, or other similar methods of enhancing upper Port.

“Our small businesses are an invaluable component to our village and I don’t think they’re being dealt with in an effective manner.”

by -
0 1182
The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat ferry company is temporarily operating with a significantly scaled down schedule. File photo

Port Jefferson hopes to become a hub for weekend travelers with the launch of a new ferry service connecting the village to New York City and New Jersey.

The Seastreak ferry will start running on May 22, according to a press release, in partnership with other travel companies that already link the village to Connecticut and the Hamptons.

Port Jefferson will operate as the center of the new Sea Jitney service, with the high-speed Seastreak ferry running between Highlands, N.J., Manhattan’s East River ferry terminal at 35th Street and Port Jefferson; the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry running across the Long Island Sound between Connecticut and Long Island; and the Hampton Jitney bus service driving between the village and the Hamptons and other locations on the East End.

The three transportation companies will coordinate service between the branches.

“This powerful partnership has an extremely low impact on our infrastructure while introducing visitors to our beautiful, historic village,” Port Jefferson Mayor Margot Garant said in a statement.

According to the press release, one-way fares change based on where passengers start and finish their trip, but range from $33 to $50.

Reservations are required for the trips, which will focus on travel toward Long Island on the weekends, with departures from New York City and Connecticut on Fridays and Saturdays and from the East End on Sundays.

“Sea Jitney is a game changer for people who travel between Connecticut and the Hamptons,” Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry General Manager Fred Hall said in a statement. “At two and [a] half hours from Bridgeport to Southampton, it’s shorter than going through NYC and much less stressful.”

The ferry between the city and Port Jefferson takes about two hours, the press release said, while the bus from the village to the Hamptons takes another hour.

Visit www.seajitney.com for more information.

Indebted
A Pagnotta Drive resident in Port Jefferson Station reported on May 11 that somebody used her debit card to make unauthorized purchases.

Punches and pies
A man reported a person hit the back of his head without reason while at a Port Jefferson pizza parlor on Main Street on May 16 at around 3:18 a.m. Police said the man suffered a minor laceration and was transported to St. Charles Hospital for treatment.

Possession and public lewdness
A 49-year-old Huntington Station woman and a 45-year-old Port Jefferson Station man were arrested in Port Jefferson on May 15 on public lewdness charges. According to police, the man was touching the woman’s breasts in view of the public. The woman was also charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, the muscle-relaxer carisoprodol.

Sharp objects
An unknown person used a sharp object to damage a 1994 Saturn while it was parked in front of an Ashland Street residence in Mount Sinai between May 13 and May 14.

Rolling
A Huntington Road resident in Sound Beach reported that between May 12 and May 13 a person took tires from his backyard.

Just leafy
A Sunburst Drive resident in Rocky Point reported a verbal dispute between himself and a neighbor, who pushed the complainant to the ground on May 15. According to police, the dispute was over leaves and the complainant wasn’t injured.

Graffiki Action Park
An unknown person spray-painted graffiti in Tiki Action Park on Middle Country Road in Centereach on May 14.

Knock, knock
A Gould Road resident in Centereach reported that on May 13 two males in their early 20s assaulted him after he answered his door. The suspects took cash from the complainant and fled. It was unclear if the victim required medical attention.

Window rocked
A Hammond Road resident in Centereach reported that unknown people threw rocks at her home’s window, shattering it, on May 11.

Tit for tattoo
A 57-year-old Centereach man was arrested for second-degree harassment, third-degree criminal mischief and acting in a manner to injure a child. Police said the man smashed a window, a lighted neon sign and a cigarette bucket at a Centereach tattoo shop during a May 11 incident.

Checked out
A Strauss Avenue resident in Selden reported on May 17 that an unknown person withdrew money from his checking account without permission.

Came out swinging
A man walking on Boyle Road in Selden on May 14 reported that another man got out of his vehicle and started to swing his fists at the complainant.

Sick and tired
A Firestone Complete Auto Care manager in Selden reported damage to the shop’s garage door and window, which occurred between May 12 and May 13. No property was stolen from the store.

My sediments exactly
The owner of a 1998 Jeep reported the driver’s side window was shattered by a rock found in the front seat on May 11. The car was parked on College Road in Selden and no items were taken from the vehicle.

Buzzed driving
A 44-year-old man from East Patchogue was arrested in Stony Brook and charged with driving while intoxicated and first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Police said on May 17, the man was driving a 1990 Mercedes Benz in Stony Brook with a suspended license while intoxicated, and he was involved a motor vehicle crash at about 3:39 a.m.

Shopping spree
Police arrested a 20-year-old woman from Central Islip on May 15 and charged her with petit larceny. Police said she stole women’s accessories from a store at the Smithhaven Mall that day. She was arrested at 2:45 p.m.

Bottoms up
A 55-year-old woman from Centereach was arrested May 15 in East Setauket and charged with operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 of 1 percent, and driving while intoxicated. Police said the woman was driving a 1994 Honda westbound on Route 347, east of Arrowhead Lane in Setauket at about 4:50 p.m. when she rear-ended a van.

Get out of the way
Police arrested a 29-year-old Holtsville man on May 18 and charged him with second-degree reckless endangerment in a case of road rage. Police said he was driving a 1999 Jeep and followed a woman driving a 2014 Hyundai after she got off the Long Island Expressway and headed north on Nicolls Road. She changed lanes and he started tailgating her and honking his horn at her. When she changed her lane, police said the victim told them the man drove up next to her and threw a beer can at her window. Police also said the man pulled in front of her car, stopped abruptly and forced the woman to brake suddenly and drive onto the shoulder of the road. He was arrested at 6:55 p.m. at Nicolls Road and Portion Road in Farmingville.

Window smashed
An unknown person broke the driver-side front window of a 1995 Toyota parked on Stuyvesant Drive in East Setauket on May 17, sometime between 1:15 and 7 a.m.

A bat tip
Someone stole the tip jar next to the register at Se-port Delicatessen on Route 25A in Setauket at 1:25 p.m. on May 12.

Crime spree thwarted
A 21-year-old man from Islandia was arrested at the 4th Precinct on May 17 and charged with two petit larcenies, three grand larcenies and criminal possession of stolen property. Police said the charges stem from crimes that occurred from May 5 to May 17 in Islandia. Police said those crimes included: taking the middle console of an unlocked 2012 Ford F-150; taking a Nintendo game console and three games from an unlocked 2002 Saturn; stealing a Home Depot credit card from a 2005 Chrysler; stealing wallets containing identification and several credit cards from two separate cars; and possessing a stolen Apple iPod. He was arrested on South Bedford Avenue in Islandia.

Busted with heroin
Police arrested a 30-year-old woman from Patchogue on May 15 in Smithtown on Brooksite Drive and charged her with loitering and unlawful use of a controlled substance. Police said that she was loitering at the location at about 11:10 p.m. and she possessed heroin.

Golden arrest
A 60-year-old man from Nesconset was arrested in Smithtown and charged with seven counts of criminal possession of stolen property for various jewels he pawned off at a number of locations dating back to July 24. Police said he pawned off a number of chains, several bracelets, a beaded necklace, earrings and rings at Center Gold Pawn Shop on Middle Country Road in Centereach and Empire Pawn of Suffolk in Bayshore. He was arrested at the 4th Precinct on May 13 at 8 a.m.

Shopping flee
An 18-year-old from East Northport was arrested on May 15 and charged with petit larceny. Police said the man took assorted auto equipment, tools and food from Walmart on Crooked Hill Road in Commack, placed it in a shopping cart and fled the store. He was arrested at the 4th Precinct at 2 p.m.

Not that into you
Police said a 68-year-old woman from Kings Park was arrested in Kings Park on May 15 at 7:35 p.m. and charged with fourth-degree stalking, causing fear. Police said the woman mailed 10 cards and seven gift packages to another woman from Huntington Station sometime between Feb. 1 and May 5. She also hand-delivered three flower arrangements and drove past the woman’s home at least one additional time.

Fishy
Police arrested a Farmingville man on May 18 at 8:10 a.m. at the 4th Precinct and charged him with second-degree burglary. Police said the man entered a West Main Street apartment in Smithtown, smashed the door to the apartment, broke a fish tank, damaged the television and door jam and stole cash.

Wheeled away
An unknown male took a woman’s wheelchair left on the sidewalk in front of her home on Rogers Lane in Smithtown sometime between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. on May 12.

Car-less
Someone stole a 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee from the driveway of a Cherry Lane home in Smithtown sometime between May 13 at 5:50 p.m. and May 14 at 5:50 a.m.

Found with needle, pills
A 48-year-old man from Smithtown was arrested on May 16 in Smithtown on Brooksite Drive at 7:20 a.m. on May 16 and charged with possession of a hypodermic instrument and criminal possession of a controlled substance. Police said the man possessed a needle and Vicodin pills.

Failed escape
An 18-year-old man from Huntington was arrested at the 2nd Precinct on May 14 and charged with escape from a detention facility. Police said the man attempted to escape the precinct after being arrested, but cops couldn’t say what the warrant covered. Police said he was also charged with resisting arrest for pulling away from the officer in a violent manner while the officer was trying to arrest him on Broadway in Huntington at about 1:33 p.m.

Be right back
Police said a 30-year-old woman from Bethpage was arrested in East Northport and charged with operating a 2009 Pontiac G6 southbound on Stony Hollow Road and leaving the scene of an accident. Police said the woman struck a tree at Clay Pitts Road and Stony Hollow Road in East Northport on May 16, causing property damage, and left the scene without reporting it, at about 11 p.m.

Trespasser trounced
A 25-year-old man from East Northport was arrested in East Northport and charged with third-degree criminal trespass on May 16. Police said the man placed a metal pole against a fence enclosing Mother Earth’s Landscape & Masonry Supplies on Elwood Road in East Northport and climbed the fence on April 30 at 9:45 p.m. He was arrested at his home on May 16 at 4:01 p.m.

Sprite split at Sev-a-Lev
Someone stole a two-liter bottle of Sprite soda from 7-Eleven on Main Street in Huntington at 6 p.m. on May 16.

Caffeine crash
Police said an employee at Gulf Gas on East Main Street in Huntington reported he was punched near his left eye after telling a teenager who was with three other teens that a coffee cup was not for sale. The incident was reported to have occurred on May 15 at 8:54 p.m.

Bong bong into the room
Two unknown men wearing dark clothing and masks kicked in a side apartment on Tanyard Lane in Huntington at 4:31 p.m. on May 12, and when confronted by the male complainant, fled with cash and a pink bong.

Purse taken
A woman told police her purse was taken from the floor of the passenger side of a Hyundai Accent parked on Truesdale Court in Fort Salonga on May 12 sometime between 12:45 and 3:30 p.m.

Piercing
Police arrested a 19-year-old man from Huntington on May 14 in Huntington and charged him with first-degree criminal contempt and assault with intent to cause physical injury with a weapon. Police said the man stabbed another man with a knife in the stomach at a home on Lindsay Street in Huntington at 8:30 p.m. The victim required medical attention.

by -
0 706

Port Jefferson, Comsewogue budgets pass

Vincent Ruggiero goes in for a handshake after being re-elected to the Port Jefferson school board. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Two write-in candidates will become Port Jefferson school board members in July, after Tuesday night’s trustee election and budget vote ended a month of uncertainty about the future of the board.

Three seats were up for election this week but only one candidate, incumbent Vincent Ruggiero, turned in paperwork to appear on the ballot by an April 20 deadline — Trustee Mark Doyle and Vice President Jim Laffey did not, nor did any other district residents. But in the face of a deficit of candidates, Doyle announced a write-in campaign for re-election, and newcomer Tracy Zamek one for first-time election.

Tuesday night, Ruggiero was returned to the board with 468 votes, and Doyle with 178 write-in votes. Zamek was elected with 246 votes.

In an interview after hearing the poll results, Zamek said she is “honored to be a voice for our children here in Port Jefferson and my plans are to really work collectively with this team to provide the best educational experience for our students in Port Jefferson.”

Doyle said he is looking forward to his third term on the school board.

“I wanted to stay on the board and I’m happy to serve another three years.”

While Ruggiero expressed excitement about working with Doyle and Zamek in the next school year, he said he would miss having Laffey on the board of education.

“He was tremendous — a hard worker, dedicated parent and member of this community.”

School board member Mark Doyle is all smiles after being re-elected by write-in votes on Tuesday night. Photo by Desirée Keegan
School board member Mark Doyle is all smiles after being re-elected by write-in votes on Tuesday night. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Aside from the two winning write-in candidates, there were other write-in candidates who received a minimal number of votes and thus fell shy of securing Port Jefferson school board seats. The largest of that write-in group was former board member Dennis Kahn, who garnered 58 votes.

Also on Tuesday night, Port Jefferson voters approved a $42.4 million budget for next year, with 491 votes in favor to 130 against. A second ballot proposition, to create a new capital reserve fund that would help fund roof replacements throughout the district, also passed, with 467 votes in favor and 122 against.

“We’re extremely pleased with the results of the vote,” Port Jefferson Superintendent Ken Bossert said. “We’re very happy to see such an overwhelming level of support from the community.”

Over in the Comsewogue School District, voters approved an $85.2 million budget, with 1,024 votes in support and 204 votes against. That district’s second proposition, to expand bus service to include 38 more John F. Kennedy Middle School students, also passed, with 1,096 votes to 134.

Three candidates ran unopposed for the Comsewogue Board of Education: board President John Swenning was re-elected with 1,058 votes; Trustee Rick Rennard was re-elected with 1,010 votes; and newcomer Louise Melious was elected with 978 votes.

Desirée Keegan contributed reporting.

The cover jacket of Jack Kohl's book, That Iron String. Photo from Kohl

By Stacy Santini

“Call me Portsmouth” … so the opening line of Jack Kohl’s new book, “That Iron String” could read. Faintly echoing thematic visions from “Moby Dick,” Kohl’s character, Portsmouth, narrates a sophisticated storyline much as Ishmael does in Melville’s world-class epic novel. Not for a very long time has Long Island birthed an author who unabashedly delivers a tale so worthy of recognition. “That Iron String” cannot be called an easy read, but it is not meant to be. Its intricately woven plot certainly entertains, but its value lies in the book’s prodigious subject matter, esoteric themes and philosophical questions.

Author Jack Kohl. Photo from Kohl
Author Jack Kohl. Photo from Kohl

A Northport native, Kohl’s adoration for the picturesque towns that hug the Long Island Sound is apparent. There is a fond innocence for the town that has claimed him and this easily translates in “That Iron String,” which is set in a fictional small water-side enclave on Long Island called Pauktaug. Describing his utopic passion for Long Island, Kohl states, “As I walk along the beaches of the north shore, I see Long Island in the light of the tremendous shadow of New England. It is right there across the water; almost as if New England is a giant hen that laid an egg which became our home.” With main character names such as Portsmouth and Boston, his affinity for all things New England is also appreciable, and theoretical relevance from authors such as Emerson, Thoreau and Hawthorne play a prominent role in development of the novel’s copious themes. The title itself, “That Iron String,” is a derivative from the famous Emerson essay, “Self-Reliance.”

Identification as author joins Kohl’s prestigious resume and is aligned with pianist, musical director, conductor and scholar. Classically trained, Kohl commenced his piano studies as a child under Marie Babiak; he went on to attend the pre-college division of The Juilliard School, completing his educational tenure with a doctor of music arts degree in piano performance. Currently associate musical director at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, Kohl has accompanied numerous theatrical productions over the decades and continues to perform as a solo pianist in both the classical tradition and jazz. It is not surprising that his novel draws deeply from his experience in those genres.

The piano is at the forefront of “That Iron String,” and both the instrument and the music that emanates from it are personified and central to the plot. When discussing one of the driving forces that inspired him, Kohl speaks of Moby Dick. “Of all the interpretations of Moby Dick, I most related to the analysis that was a hyper-burlesque of Emersonian Transcendentalism.” Kohl has an erudite vernacular, and one often feels they are in a Victorian tea parlor when speaking with him. However, do not let the dogma of this inspiration frighten you because the book unwraps itself beautifully and has all the components that will keep a reader’s attention. Murder, mystery, intrigue, competition, love, and family values are all interwoven within the philosophical, amorphous boundaries.

The Pianist plays to a different audience with an intensely thought-provoking tale of passion, achievement
and murder.

The book is essentially about two cousins, Portsmouth and Boston, who are raised in Pauktaug by close relatives. Growing up under sweeping elm trees, the Calvinistic idealism of their youth seems to be grounding for one and muddying for the other. From an early age when they were not skinning knees running through woods and frolicking about on the local beaches, they both studied classical piano. Eventually, the pair parted ways as they individually moved away from Pauktaug to complete collegiate studies and become concert pianists.

Although both did exceptionally well, it is overwhelmingly apparent that one of them is more than gifted with infinite skills and supernatural ability. This ability drives him further and further into isolation and forces self-introspection that is revealed throughout the novel in a series of letters. The plot unfolds slowly as they return home to practice for a competition for which they have both qualified after many, many years of not seeing one another. There are numerous surprises along the way as well countless representations of beautiful imagery.

Longing to debunk clichés, Kohl knew the book would have to be much more substantial than a storyline about a pianist who struggles and would eventually have some kind of victory over those struggles. Kohl wanted something more for his potential readership than the unoriginality of that type of theme. While sketching notes, Kohl examines how he started to unravel a deeper image of that concept, “I thought what if I had a pianist who knows there is nothing he can do to be playing better than he is and is still very idealistic about his fellow man. He wants to persist and keep playing but his career begins to wane in competitions according to the judges and he doesn’t understand why; who or what is to blame? He starts to develop this anger and it builds up and builds up, where is this anger to go? This was my jumping off point for the plot.”

When conversing with Kohl, one will find that one of his favorite words is “balderdash,” which can be translated to mean “senseless talk or writing,” ironic for an author who has written a novel that is anything but.

“That Iron String” is available for purchase at www.amazon.com.

Gene and Edna Gerrard are surrounded by their grown children — from left, Christine, Pam, Ann, Patricia and Paul — on their 50th wedding anniversary. Photo from Kerri Ellis

Edna Gerrard, a longtime resident with a knack for community service and a mind for business, died on May 16 at age 86.

A 57-year resident of Brookhaven Town and the wife of former town councilman Gene Gerrard, she died of complications related to esophageal cancer, her daughter Pam Ruschak said in an interview on Tuesday.

Edna Gerrard had lived in Mount Sinai, Port Jefferson and Middle Island with her husband, to whom she was married for 65 years. The couple raised five children together.

Gene and Edna Gerard were married for 65 years. Photo from Kerri Ellis
Gene and Edna Gerrard were married for 65 years. Photo from Kerri Ellis

The pair’s surname was perhaps most well-known through the printing shop they owned in Port Jefferson Station, St. Gerard Printing, where Edna worked until last year, when the Gerrard family sold the local business.

But “her big love was community service,” Ruschak said.

Gerrard had worked with many organizations throughout the area over the years. She was a past president of the Port Jefferson Station and Terryville chamber of commerce; a founding member and past president of the networking group Decision Women in Commerce and Professions; a former vice president of the Mount Sinai Fire Department’s Ladies Auxiliary; and a former Long Island Power Authority trustee.

Former LIPA Chairman Richard Kessel called Gerrard a “valuable asset to the board.”

“Soft-spoken but challenging, cared greatly for ratepayers and the environment,” Kessel said. “She’ll be missed.”

Ruschak said her mother found a way to raise a family and still be involved in her community, something that makes her proud.

“She was just a beautiful, dynamic, classy, graceful woman,” the daughter said.

In addition to husband Gene, daughter Pam and Pam’s husband, Richard Ruschak, Edna Gerrard is survived by her son, Paul Gerrard, and his wife, Pam; her daughter, Patricia Leffke, and husband Gary; her daughter, Ann Dunn, and husband John; her son-in-law, Edward McKenna; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Her daughter, Christine McKenna, preceded her in death.

Moloney’s Port Jefferson Station Funeral Home handled arrangements and a Mass was held at St. Frances Cabrini R.C. Church in Coram on Wednesday.

“There will be tough shoes to fill,” Pam Ruschak said. “There will be a real void in this community.”

This version corrects the spelling of the Gerrard family name.

by -
0 651
Photo from Kirk Cronk

Matt Lauer, a host on NBC’s Today show, made a stopover in Port Jefferson Station Tuesday during his four-day bicycle ride from Boston to New York City, a trek he is undertaking for Red Nose Day on May 31.

Red Nose Day supporters raise funds and awareness for kids and young people living in poverty.

Lauer visited the Boys & Girls Club of Suffolk County during a stop on his bike trip, at the clubhouse on Jayne Boulevard.

Also at the event were Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright and representatives of Island Harvest.

Cold Spring Harbor
Voters passed a $64 million budget, 335 votes to 130. Proposition 2, to spend capital reserve money on various projects, passed 318 to 107. Proposition 3, to establish a new capital reserve fund, passed 314 to 114. Board President Anthony Paolano and Trustee Ingrid Wright ran unopposed for re-election and received 366 and 359 votes, respectively.

Commack
Community members passed Commack’s $185 million budget 1,927 to 575.

Comsewogue
The district’s $85.2 million budget passed, 1,024 to 204. Proposition 2, to add bus service for 38 John F. Kennedy Middle School students, passed 1,096 to 134. Three people ran unopposed for board seats and were elected, board President John Swenning, Trustee Rick Rennard and newcomer Louise Melious.

Harborfields
An $80.5 million budget passed with 82.5 percent voter support. Voters also supported a proposition on the ballot to establish a new capital reserve fund, with 79.4 percent in favor. Incumbents Donald Mastroianni and board President Dr. Thomas McDonagh were returned to the board, and voters elected newcomer Suzie Lustig. Candidates Chris Kelly and Colleen Rappa fell short.

Hauppauge
Voters passed the district’s proposed budget, 1,458 to 442. Michael Buscarino and Stacey Weisberg were elected to the board with 1,098 and 1,122 votes, respectively. Candidate Susan Hodosky fell short, with just 984 votes.

Huntington
A $120.3 million budget passed, 1,228 votes to 301. Proposition 2, to spend just over $1 million in capital reserve monies to pay for state-approved projects, passed 1,252 votes to 251. Four people ran unopposed for re-election or election: board President Emily Rogan got 1,193 votes, board members Xavier Palacios and Tom DiGiacomo received 1,139 votes and 1,185 votes, respectively, and newcomer Christine Biernacki garnered 1,189 votes. Rogan, Biernacki and DiGiacomo won three-year terms. As the lowest vote-getter, Palacios will serve the remaining two years on a term of a vacated seat.

Kings Park
Voters passed an $84.7 million budget, 2,065 to 577. A second proposition on the ballot, regarding a school bus purchase, passed 1,998 to 542. A third proposition, regarding a capital project to replace the high school roof, passed 2,087 to 455. Incumbent Diane Nally was re-elected to the board with 1,821 votes, while newcomer Kevin Johnston was elected with 1,886 votes. Incumbent Charlie Leo fell short in his re-election bid, garnering 1,108 votes.

Middle Country
Middle Country’s $236 million budget passed, with 1,863 votes in favor and 579 against. All three school board incumbents — President Karen Lessler and Trustees Jim Macomber and Arlene Barresi — were running unopposed and were re-elected to their seats.

Miller Place
Newcomer Keith Frank won a seat on the school board, edging out candidate Michael Manspeizer, 781 to 287.
“I’m just looking forward to the next three years,” Frank said. “I have big shoes to step into.”
Residents also passed the district’s $70 million budget, with 964 voting in favor and 262 voting against.
Board President Michael Unger said voter turnout was low “as a result of a good budget and good candidates.”

Mount Sinai
Voters approved the $56.7 million budget with 1,241 in favor and 316 against. Newcomer Michael Riggio was elected to the board with 993 votes, followed by incumbent Lynn Capobiano, who garnered 678 for re-election to a second term. John DeBlasio and Joanne Rentz missed election, receiving 624 and 321 votes, respectively.

Northport-East Northport
The $159.6 million budget passed, 3,281 to 788. Proposition 2, to spend $1.2 million in capital reserves, passed 3,561 to 504. Incumbent David Badanes, former trustee Tammie Topel and newcomer David Stein were elected to the board, with 2,446 votes for Badanes, 2,130 for Topel and 2,548 for Stein. Incumbent Stephen Waldenburg Jr. fell short of re-election, with 1,290 votes. Newcomers Peter Mainetti, Josh Muno and Michael Brunone missed the mark as well, with Mainetti garnering 1,018 votes, Muno receiving 542 votes and Brunone getting 1,039 votes.

Port Jefferson
Voters passed a $42.4 million budget, 491 to 130. Proposition 2, to create a new capital reserve fund that would help replace roofs throughout the district, passed with 467 votes in favor and 122 against.
Trustee Vincent Ruggiero was re-elected to the board with 468 votes. Write-in candidates Tracy Zamek, a newcomer, and Trustee Mark Doyle were elected with 246 and 178 votes, respectively. There were a number of other community residents who received write-in votes, including former board member Dennis Kahn, who garnered 58 votes.

Rocky Point
The $78.7 million budget passed with 788 votes in favor and 237 against. Board Vice President Scott Reh was re-elected to a third term, with 679 votes. Newcomer Ed Casswell secured the other available seat with 588 votes. Candidate Donna McCauley missed the mark, with only 452 votes.

Shoreham-Wading River
The school budget passed, 910 to 323. Michael Fucito and Robert Rose were re-elected to the school board, with 902 and 863 votes, respectively.

Smithtown
Smithtown’s $229.5 million budget passed, 2,582 to 762. School board President Christopher Alcure, who ran unopposed, was re-elected with 2,295 votes, while newcomer Jeremy Thode was elected with 2,144 votes. MaryRose Rafferty lost her bid, garnering just 860 votes. A second proposition on the ballot, related to capital reserves, passed 2,507 to 715.

Three Village
Voters passed a $188 million budget, 2,401 to 723. Incumbents William F. Connors, Jr. and Deanna Bavlnka were re-elected, with 2,200 and 2,052 votes, respectively. Challenger Jeffrey Mischler fell short, garnering only 1,095 votes.

A horseshoe crab no more than 4 years old. Photo by Erika Karp

With its horseshoe crab population dwindling, Town of Brookhaven officials are calling on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to ban harvesting within 500 feet of town property.

At the Mount Sinai Stewardship Center at Cedar Beach on Tuesday, Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) announced the Brookhaven Town Board is poised to approve a message in support of the ban at Thursday night’s board meeting.

A horseshoe crab no more than 4 years old is the center of attention at a press conference on Tuesday. Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine is calling on the state to ban the harvesting of the crabs within 500 feet of town property. Photo by Erika Karp
A horseshoe crab no more than 4 years old is the center of attention at a press conference on Tuesday. Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine is calling on the state to ban the harvesting of the crabs within 500 feet of town property. Photo by Erika Karp

Horseshoe crabs are harvested for bait and medicinal purposes, as their blue blood, which is worth an estimated $15,000 a quart, is used in the biomedical and pharmaceutical industries to detect bacterial contamination in drugs and medical supplies, due to its special properties.

While there is already a harvesting ban in place for Mount Sinai Harbor, Romaine is seeking to expand the restriction across the north and south shores so the crabs have a safe place to mate.

The crabs take about nine years to reach sexual maturity.

“We think it is time not to stop or prohibit the harvesting of horseshoe crabs … but instead to say, ‘Not within town properties,’” Romaine stated.

Brookhaven’s Chief Environmental Analyst Anthony Graves and clean water advocacy group Defend H20’s Founder and President Kevin McAllister joined Romaine at the Tuesday morning press conference.

Graves said the ban would help preserve the 450-million-year-old species’ population.

Preserving the species affects more than just the crabs: If the population continues to shrink, other species — like the red knot bird, which eat the crab eggs — will suffer.

“They are in some ways an ecological keystone species,” Graves said. “That means that they serve a function beyond their individual existence.”

East Coast waterways are the epicenter for the crabs and, according to McAllister, states like New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia have already enacted harvesting limits. The crabs’ nesting season starts in mid-May and lasts until the end of June. Officials said the crabs are oftentimes harvested at night and illegally.

Romaine said he has asked all of the town’s waterfront villages to support the measure. If the DEC moves forward with the ban, Romaine said the town could help the department with enforcement by establishing an intermunicipal agreement.

A DEC representative did not immediately return a request for comment.

Social

9,213FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,129FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe