Port Times Record

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Suffolk County police car. File photo
Security footage of man who allegedly robbed PJS Family Dollar. Photo from SCPD

An employee of a PJS Family Dollar was assaulted and the store robbed early this May.

A man assaulted an employee of Family Dollar, located at 526 Jefferson Plaza, May 2 at approximately 10:40 a.m. The man fled with a cash register drawer that contained approximately $200.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 800-220-TIPS (8477) or texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637). All calls and text messages will be kept confidential.

Location is largest of its kind in the United States

LGBT Network President David Kilmnick and state, county and town officials help cut the ribbon on the new 15,000 square-foot Hauppauge facility. Photo from DuWayne Gregory’s office

For Long Island’s LGBT community, a new 15,000 square-foot center is hoping to become the go-to center for helping those in the gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

“Twenty-five years later that need is just as great, if not even greater considering the climate we live in today — hate crimes are on the rise.”

— David Kilmnick

On May 31, on the eve of Pride Month, community members and elected officials gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the nonprofit association LGBT Network’s new facility at 125 Kennedy Drive, Suite 100, Hauppauge. 

The new center will feature 7,500 square feet of community space which includes a café and workforce development program for young people. The Hauppauge facility will be the nation’s largest suburban LGBT center yet.

When LGBT Network president and CEO, David Kilmnick, began the organization 25 years ago, individuals were simply looking for a place to be themselves. 

“Twenty-five years later that need is just as great, if not even greater considering the climate we live in today — hate crimes are on the rise,” he said.

The organization started during Kilmnick’s time as a graduate student. As part of a project, he conducted a workshop in several school districts throughout Long Island, talking to students about growing up LGBT in the suburbs.

He said after every workshop a few individuals would come up and ask him if there was a place to go where they could meet people like themselves. 

“When I heard this from kids across the Island, I knew this project had to turn into something more,” he said. 

The new site will include meeting and conference facilities, expansive health and human service programs including drop-in HIV testing five days a week, year-round arts and cultural programs, as well as additional services for LGBT-headed families and LGBT immigrants. The LGBT Network will employ more than 55 full-time staff at the new facility, making it one of the top 10 percent of employers in the region.

The LGBT Network president said he has heard from numerous individuals that if it wasn’t for the organization they don’t know if they’d be alive. 

“Now there is a safe place for our youth and others to go.”

— DuWayen Gregory

“Our centers are saving lives every day, and this center will continue to do that for now and the next generations,” he said. “So today we begin a new chapter in helping all Long Islanders to be themselves, stay healthy and change the world.” 

Suffolk County Legislature Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) shared his personal experiences of being a parent to his son, who came out to him as gay when he was 12 while they were getting ice cream. 

“At first I was concerned, you don’t want your child to be a target,” he said. “Now there is a safe place for our youth and others to go.”

Gregory said he has supported the organization for quite some time and is glad the new site is finally open. 

“This center will be great for future
generations,” he said. 

The nonprofit’s reach extends now into Long Island City all the way to the East End. The organization is supporting an initiative called Teach LGBT NY, which is a bill that will require LGBT history to be required curriculum.

Also, in a couple of months, shovels will go into the ground in Bay Shore at the organization’s former center location to build 75 units of LGBT and LGBT-friendly affordable senior housing.

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) during a press conference at Port Jefferson Harbor. The LIPA power plant can be seen in the distance. File photo by David Luces

As the federal government under the current presidential administration has scaled back environmental measures — and at points denied the science behind climate change —members in the New York State Legislature are trying to go about it without the leadership of Uncle Sam.

That is, if it can pass before the end of legislative session.

“New York has to help lead the way, because we’re not getting any leadership at the federal level,” said Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket). 

“You can just look at the weather reports for the nation — last year California burned, this year Texas is drowning. The amount of rain we’re getting is a result of an overheated ocean relaying more rain to the atmosphere. And on it goes.”

— Steve Englebright

Englebright, the chair of the environmental conservation committee, is sponsoring the Climate and Community Protection Act, which would establish a New York State Climate Action Council. It would contain 25 members made up of state agencies, scientists and those in the environmental justice, labor and other regulated industries. The council would be able to make recommendations to the state Department of Environmental Conservation to limit greenhouse gases. It would also be asked to report on barriers to and opportunities for community ownership of services and commodities in certain communities, particularly for renewable energy.

“An advisory committee that will have meaningful powers to make recommendations as we go forward — the stakes are so high on this issue,” Englebright said.

In addition, the bill would require the DEC to establish greenhouse gas reporting requirements and limits on emissions.

The bill was passed in the environmental committee and was referred to the ways and means committee in February.

The idea of an advisory committee is not new. A similar advisory panel was suggested in the New York State 2019-20 budget, but it was removed in the final version because some legislators disagreed with the number of people on the board and who would sit on it.

“Instead of 25, [Cuomo] had nine appointees; six of them are his cabinet members,” Englebright said.

In January during the process for crafting the budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) incited a “Green New Deal,” which would have been “comprised of the heads of relevant state agencies and other workforce, environmental justice and clean energy experts,” according to a January press release. The governor has set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in New York State by 80 percent below the levels emitted in 1990 by the year 2050.

A spokesperson from the governors office said the governor is continuing to collaborate with the legislature on climate policy proposals.

Cuomo appeared on city radio WNYC’s show hosted by Brian Lehrer June 3. When the new climate change legislation was brought up, he said he was looking to attack the issue while not pretending change will happen all at once.

“I believe this is the most pressing issue of our time, but I don’t want to play politics with it and I don’t want to tell people we can move to a carbon free economy in a period of time that I know that we can’t.”

The end of this legislative session is June 19, and Englebright said he is crossing his fingers the bill can pass both assembly and senate before time runs out. 

He said the bill is especially important with the current administration in Washington. The New York Times reported June 3 that 84 environmental rules and regulations are being phased out by Trump and his appointees.

“We are seeing the effects of increased carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere on a daily basis,” he said. “You can just look at the weather reports for the nation — last year California burned, this year Texas is drowning. The amount of rain we’re getting is a result of an overheated ocean relaying more rain to the atmosphere. And on it goes.”

By David Luces

For the fourth year running, the “greatest show and tell on Earth,” the Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire, returns to the Village of Port Jefferson on June 8 and will once again be the epicenter of innovation, experimentation and lots of fun.

The Maker Faire, hosted by the Long Island Explorium, will take place in the explorium’s building, all three floors of the Port Jefferson Village Center and spill outside onto the nearby Jeanne Garant Harborfront Park. Makers from Long Island and beyond will congregate at the faire to showcase innovative robotics, kinetic and interactive art, fine sculptures and woodworking among others that will celebrate the boundary pushing worlds of science, technology, engineering, music, art and math. 

Last year over 100 makers and 2,000 visitors of all ages participated in the faire. Lisa Rodriguez, digital media manager for the explorium, said they expect more visitors this year and currently have 92 makers and counting as well as 13 roaming scientists.

“Anybody who is a maker will be there,” said Rodriguez in a recent phone interview. “It will be amazing [for visitors and makers] to be able to interact with so many different walks of life.

Angeline Judex, executive director of the explorium, said the faire is a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity and resourcefulness. “It allows the community to experience firsthand how textbook science can translate into innovative solutions that can solve future challenges,” she said.

A featured performer this year will be lifetime professional physics demonstrator David Maiullo of “That Physics Show” who looks to bring his scientific “magic” to Port Jeff from his Off-Broadway performances in New York City. Maiullo’s performances are dubbed as a scientific cross between the Blue Man Group and The Gazillion Bubble Show.

The collective trio of Dirt People Studios will also make an appearance at this year’s faire to showcase a 10-foot, 2,000-pound bear with a heart, circulatory system, lungs and stomach. The anatomically correct statue was built by recycling and reusing a combination of organic and inorganic materials and putting them together like puzzle pieces. 

For the younger crowd, Rizuki Cosplay will feature favorite science fiction characters and offer classes on makeup, wigs, posing and much more. Also returning this year will be the Endor Temple Saber Guild to teach kids and adults the art of lightsaber choreography. 

Judex said the faire allows visitors to experience firsthand the importance of STEAM as well as inspire future makers of tomorrow. “It is important to inspire the future generation and help them see their education as a means of making the world a better place to live,” the executive director said. “The community is beginning to realize, appreciate and embrace how STEAM is an integral part of our society, environment and way of life.”

Judex said the best part of the event in her opinion is the fascination and wonder you can experience from interacting with the maker and fellow visitors. “It’s a full day of fun and learning that is transformative for both the young and the not so young,” she said.

The Eastern Long Island Mini Maker Faire 2019 will be hosted by the Long Island Explorium, 101 East Broadway, Port Jefferson on Saturday, June 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $10 per person at the door. The event is held rain or shine. For more information, call 631-331-3277 or visit www.longislandexplorium.org.

Photos courtesy of the Long Island Explorium

Local residents help clean up; from left to right, Donna Denner, Susan Guerin, Debbie Bush, Pete Giery, Danielle Ray, Laura Rizzo, Christina Heaney and Claudia Capie-Friszell. Photo courtesy of Audrey Asaro

For the first time, Comsewogue Public Library participated in helping to clean up Brookhaven town.

As part of the 12th Annual Great Brookhaven Cleanup, staff and patrons from the library started early May 17, on the northern section of Terryville Road, cleaning up garbage along the wooded areas. They collected over eight large bags of garbage, two hub caps and a lot of plastic and glass bottles. 

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Port Jefferson junior Aidan Kaminski rips a shot on goal in the Suffolk Class D County final against Mattituck May 28. Photo by Bill Landon

Port Jefferson’s boys lacrosse team, the No. 2 seed, trailed most of the way against Mattituck in the Class D County final at Farmingdale State College May 28, and surged late in the game to make a three-goal game. Mattituck showed why it’s the top seed in the division, keeping the Royals at bay to take the Suffolk title 14-10.

Port Jeff junior Aidan Kaminska topped the scoring charts for the Royals, netting four goals. Sophomore Gage Jampol along with sophomore teammate Daniel Koban each scored twice, and senior Jonathan Moshe and junior Colton VanOverberghe both stretched the net. Freshman keeper Peter Murphy had eight saves on the day. The Royals conclude their season at 8-7 in the division, 10-7 overall.

Firefighter Cliff Lesmeister greets Selden resident Bob Short for the second time at SBU Hospital. Photo by David Luces

“It means everything that he was there — he knew,” Bob Short, a Selden resident said of Cliff Lesmeister, a Port Jefferson Station resident and New York City firefighter. The man had rushed to his aid after he crashed his car and stopped on a lawn in Selden and went into cardiac arrest Feb. 25. 

Lesmeister and Olivia Hoerner were presented with a community award. Photo by David Luces

Four months later, Short and Lesmeister reunited for the first time since the incident at Stony Brook University Hospital May 28. The 28-year veteran of the FDNY and Olivia Hoerner, an EMT from the Selden fire department, were presented with the Stony Brook University Heart Institute’s HeartSaver Community Award. 

Lesmeister was off-duty and was parked on the other side of the road taking a phone call when he witnessed Short’s car crash. He and a bystander ran across a street, called 911, broke the car window to rescue Bob and started performing CPR. In a short time, the Selden EMS/fire department responded, and Bob was taken to the Heart Institute. After 15 days of treatment, which included a protected percutaneous coronary intervention procedure, Short was released March 12. 

When asked if he remembered anything from that day. Short said he doesn’t remember a thing and when he regained consciousness his wife told him he had suffered a heart attack. 

Lesmeister and Short’s wife Dawn embrace. Photo by David Luces

“Something was wrong — I had to act, and I was just happy I was there,” the FDNY firefighter stationed in Astoria said. 

Short stated he didn’t know what he could say to the firefighter and said he didn’t know if he’s supposed to be here or not supposed to be here after all that has happened. 

“You are supposed to be here,” Lesmeister reassured him. 

Recipients of the HeartSaver Community Award are recognized for delivering exemplary cardiac care to the community at large by the Heart Institute’s Chest Pain Center and Door-to- Balloon Committee.

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Giving back and paying it forward. That is what Comsewogue High School teacher Andrew Harris wants his students to get out of the second annual Joe’s Day of Service. Students and staff participated in this year’s event on May 29 and throughout the day engaged in acts of kindness throughout the community.

Harris said the idea of a full day of community service projects came about last year, when students in his classes made pitches on how the student body could spend the day. 

Two students, Julia Ratkiewicz and Rachel Plunkett, proposed the idea of visiting Calverton National Cemetery, where members of the United States armed forces are laid to rest, to spend the day cleaning gravestones and straightening flags. 

Harris immediately took to the idea, and for the second straight year nearly 200 Comsewogue High School students journeyed to Calverton cemetery. 

Joe’s Day of Service was named after Superintendent Joe Rella, who Harris said showcased a belief that students and community members can improve their lives and the lives of others by working together. 

“I wanted the students to know that what they do can impact and benefit so many people,” he said. “Also, I think it’s important to get involved and step up to the plate.”

While the high school students were at Calverton, other Comsewogue kids throughout the district were doing their part. Middle schoolers participated in a beach clean-up at Cedar Beach, elementary school kids at Norwood Elementary School sang songs to senior citizens and others painted rocks as part of the Kindness Rocks Project, an initiative which calls on people to paint inspiring messages on rocks and leave them in places where they will be found by someone in need of an emotional boost.

Students and staff honored Dashan Briggs, a member of the National Air Guard 106th from Port Jefferson Station, who died last year in a helicopter crash in Iraq, along with several members of his unit. The high school chorus serenaded Briggs’ wife Rebecca Briggs and his children, Ava and Jayden, who will be attending district schools next year. Comsewogue student Ava Pearl presented the family with a portrait she painted of the late Briggs, which will be placed in the district schools. 

“We wanted them to feel part of our family,” Harris said. 

The students joined the Briggs family and others at the Calverton National Cemetery to visit Dashan’s gravesite. Once there, they gave the family flowers and painted socks with encouraging messages. Also, this year, students straightened and put flags on gravesites throughout the cemetery. Students took the time to escort family members of veterans as well, who were coming from around the New York metro area, to visit the graves of their fallen family member. 

“It is so nice to see how many kids were able to come out and help,” John Quartararo, a senior at Comsewogue High School, said. “For them to give up a day of school to come out and do this just shows how much a community that Comsewogue really is.”

For the high schooler, to be able to honor Dashan Briggs’ memory in front of his wife and children meant a lot to him personally. 

“I lost my father when I was younger, and just knowing that we are making an impact and showing that we are always there for them means a lot,” he said. “The motto for us has always been to help someone out — ‘once a warrior, always a warrior’ and I feel like that resonated on this whole day.” 

Along with the cemetery visit, teachers and students participated in a track walk to fundraise for a fellow student battling leukemia and whose family is having financial distress due to the treatment costs.

Harris praised the students for what they did on this day.

“I just want you guys to know that you have made a huge impact to the community and the Briggs family. You should be proud of yourselves,” he said.

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For close to a month, Tom Butera, a mason in Port Jefferson village, laid the bricks down for the new Armed Forces Tribute in front of the Port Jeff High School. Though he had been laying bricks for over 40 years, bending over, picking them up, planting them in the ground, to him, every brick represented a family and a sacrifice.

“These we’re the heaviest bricks I ever laid,” he said.

On May 30, veterans cut the ribbon on the new tribute surrounded by well more than 100 local residents. The center of the memorial is a large stone with a plaque on it surrounded by bricks donated by local residents with notes of names of family members who were involved in the armed services. By the end, the memorial looks remarkably like the sketch by high school student Jillian Lawler produced in January, when the brick drive was first announced.

While many donated $100 for each brick, others in the community came out to support the new memorial. Gabe Zoda, 17, a senior at the high school and a member of Boy Scouts of America Troop 45, donated benches to the project, each emblazoned with the fleur-de-lis of the Boy Scouts. Zoda expects to move on to Hofstra University after graduation where he will study broadcast journalism.

The idea for the project spawned from local Vietnam veteran Jim Henke, who had originally approached the district several years ago about building the memorial. It would take years, but the district helped form an Armed Forces Tribute committee in 2017, with local veterans and residents as members, who helped get the project rolling at the beginning of this year.

“Most of these veterans I knew myself from the Vietnam era,” Henke said. “We played ball together, we had a good time in the 60s, and we lost so many of those lives that I thought this was just fitting.”

Though it took time for the project to take root, he said it was the efforts of the school administration and Superintendent Paul Casciano.

“I want to thank the entire Port Jefferson School District community that raised enough brick sales to support the project without any assistance from the school district,” Henke said.

Local residents stooped down to take pictures of bricks donated by friends and family, and the Port Jefferson art staff was on call if people looked to get a rubbing of their bricks.

“I would like to say thank you for the names of the men and women engraved on the walkway,” said high school Principal Christine Austen. “My hope is that this tribute stands as a reminder to all the youth that Port Jefferson veterans are heroes that will always be close to our hearts.”

Butera feels a deep connection to the new veterans tribute. It’s his father’s name, Technical Sergeant Tony Butera of the U.S. Army Air Corps, that is inscribed in one of the bricks. His father was shot down during WWII over Hamburg, Germany, flying in a B17 bomber. His plane landed on a field of sheep, what they called a “fleece-lined landing,” and he and his compatriots were held at gunpoint on their knees by several disgruntled farmers. He became a prisoner of war on Jan. 17, 1945, and he was held for 134 days in a POW camp before it was liberated by troops led by Gen. George Patton. It was with his father that Butera picked up and laid his first brick.

While he looks fondly back on the stories of his father, he sees the different side of war with the record of his son, Greg, a veteran of two tours in Afghanistan. There was a time where Butera had no communication with his son for three months, though now Greg is home, and has a wife and a daughter.

“When it got hard to work, I told myself ‘shut up — these people were in a much harder spot,’” Butera said. “It was such an honor to do it.”

Jim Henke’s name was changed May 31 to correct the spelling of his last name.

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Suffolk County Police 6th Precinct officers are trying to identify and locate two people who allegedly entered a marina illegally and untied boats in Port Jefferson back in April.

Two women allegedly climbed over the fence at Port Jefferson Marina on West Broadway and untied two boats sometime between April 25 at 6 p.m. and April 26 at 7 a.m.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 800-220-TIPS (8477) or texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637). All calls and text messages will be kept confidential.

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