Port Times Record

Family is the most important thing in Mario's life. She celebrated her 108th birthday in February. Photo from Elaine Campanella

Much has changed since Anna Mario lived in her first-floor Brooklyn apartment back in the 1920s.

In those days, people were friendlier, they said hello to each other, and they were more attached to their friends and neighbors, according to the 108-year-old, who now lives in St. James Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.

“People are more independent now. They don’t help each other, they think they are better than you,” Mario said. “I don’t want to be better than anyone, I want to be what I am and I’m happy,” she said.

A positive outlook has always played a part in her life, according to Mario’s daughter Elaine Campanella of Hauppauge.

“She’s got a good attitude,” Campanella said. “She believes that anything you do, you do with happiness. She says if you smile, the world smiles back at you.”

One of seven children, Mario was born in New York City in 1907. She worked in the garment industry as a machine operator in a factory that made pajamas.

“I worked most of my life and I loved every minute of it,” she said. “We made the most beautiful nightgowns.”

Mario’s husband passed away in 1975, but she stayed in Brooklyn until 1990 when she moved out to Port Jefferson Station. Campanella said her mother remained active after the move, taking bus trips to Atlantic City and participating in senior clubs, even becoming president of one.

According to Campanella, no one in Mario’s family has lived past 100 years old, let alone 108. Mario’s father died when he was 80 and her mother at 62.

Campanella doesn’t think there is a secret to her mother’s longevity, but she did say she always cooked well and she rarely took medication except for the occasional dose of Tums. Her faith always remained important to her.

“If anyone was in trouble or sick she would say a prayer and say it was in God’s hands,” Campanella said.

She said her mother always lived a simple life, never shying away from crises but always handling it as best she could.

“She always tells everyone that if you have a problem, you deal with it. If there is nothing you can do, then you move on.”

Mario lived on her own until she was 106 years old, doing all of her own cooking and cleaning. Heart problems that year put her in the nursing home, where she has been ever since.

“I have a nice life here,” Mario said of the nursing home. “Everyone is friendly and I have a nice time. If I can’t be home, this is the place to be. They make me feel at home.”

She occasionally leaves the nursing home to join her family for holidays and special events, she said.

According to Lori Sorrentino, recreational therapist at St. James, Mario keeps busy practicing tai chi, socializing with friends, dancing in her wheelchair at facility dance events and playing Bingo, one of her favorite pastimes.

Sorrentino called Mario “very spunky,” adding that she has had a great attitude since coming to the facility over a year ago.

“She is very funny and very inspirational. She is just full of life and age does not stop her,” Sorrentino said. “She always says that its good friends and family that keep her going.”

Mario’s family includes four grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. Campanella said her mother hates to see the younger generation glued to iPods and cell phones.

“It’s just not social — she sees it as detachment,” Campanella said. “It hurts her.”

At her 108th birthday celebration last month, Mario made a toast to her family, urging them to avoid that detachment.

“She made everyone cry when she said how much she wanted the family to stay together,” Campanella said. “Family is what she loves about life. That is her philosophy.”

State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Melville) is calling on Albany to increase the amount of financial aid it awards college students through the New York State Tuition Assistance Program.

The hike is needed, Lupinacci said, because there’s been no significant increase to the maximum TAP award in more than 10 years. Lupinacci is calling for a 25 percent increase in the maximum grant amount.

TAP funding is a grant that is intended to help cover tuition costs at New York State universities and colleges. The minimum TAP grant awarded per school year is $500 and the maximum is $5,165, according to the program’s website. Lupinacci wants to raise the maximum TAP award to $6,470 and increase the maximum household income for TAP eligibility from $80,000 to $100,000.

“As a college professor, I see every day how important TAP is for thousands of students,” he said in a recent statement. “An increase in funding would give students the relief they need to hit the ground running after graduation.”

TAP is awarded annually to New York State residents who study at full-time colleges within the state. Students who receive the grant must stay in good academic standing and meet the income requirement. According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) website, nearly 400,000 students across the state received a TAP grant in 2013.

Assemblyman Andy Raia (R-East Northport) has signed on as a co-sponsor to Lupinacci’s bill and said an increase in the funding and eligibility is definitely needed for students across the state.

“The price of public education has gone up tremendously in 10 years,” Raia said in a phone interview.

Raia said while $80,000 seems like a lot of money, given the cost of living it is not as much for a family of four living on Long Island when compared to the same family of four living upstate. He said the cost of living is higher here and the increase in a maximum award is greatly needed.

Lupinacci, who currently teaches at Farmingdale State College, said it is important to have this increase in an effort to ease the financial burden on students. He said it would help cover significant portions of tuitions at State University of New York and City University of New York schools, and whatever it could for private schools’ tuitions.

Currently, the bill that was introduced on March 5 is being referred to the Assembly’s Higher Education committee, where Lupinacci is a ranking member. If this bill is approved, Lupinacci hopes the increase kicks in beginning April 1, 2016.

The most recent TAP increase was for $165 back in 2014. Cuomo announced the increase, nearly 15 years after the last one. The bill also has a state Senate sponsor, State Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), who has not seen the bill, said he favors a TAP increase.

“I think it’s a great investment in young people, who are the future of our state,” he said in a phone interview.

Just do it
A 35-year-old Bay Shore man was arrested in Stony Brook on Nesconset Highway on March 21 at about 4:43 p.m. and charged with petit larceny. Police said the man stole two pairs of Nike sneakers from Sports Authority.

You’ve got mail
Police said a 28-year-old man from Brooklyn was arrested in Setauket-East Setauket on March 17 at Brewster Lane and charged with two counts of petit larceny. Police said the man, who was arrested at about 1:15 p.m., stole two pieces of mail from a mailbox on Brewster Lane.

Hit the gas
A driver made off without paying for gas after fueling up at a BP gas station on Route 25 in Setauket-East Setauket sometime around 8:54 p.m. on March 22. Police described the car as an older, dark-colored Toyota.

A hairy situation
Police said someone broke into a Cactus Salon on Nesconset Highway in Setauket-East Setauket just after midnight on March 19. A piece of cement was thrown at a rear glass door and a suspect walked through, but police said nothing was taken.

Off the grid
A resident of Patchogue Road in Port Jefferson Station reported an unknown person had cut cable wires at their residence on March 20 at approximately 2 a.m.

Clean sweep
A ring was stolen from a 2005 Toyota Land Cruiser while it was at a Port Jefferson Station car wash on Route 347. The grand larceny occurred on March 19 at 11 a.m.

Cash station
An employee at a Port Jefferson Station gas station on Route 25A reported a white male had attempted to purchase cigarettes, but then demanded and stole cash from the cash register. He then fled from the scene. According to police, the incident occurred on March 17 at around 8 a.m.

Not very loyal
A gold claddagh ring and other items were stolen from a North Bicycle Path residence in Port Jefferson Station sometime between 8:30 p.m. on March 16 and 5 p.m. on March 17.

Brawling
A person was taken to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in the early morning of March 22 after an altercation at Schafer’s in Port Jefferson. According to police, the victim was punched in the face and no arrests have been made.

A taxing crime
A Port Jefferson resident fell victim to an IRS letter scam on March 16. According to police, the Longfellow Lane resident mailed a check in response to a fraudulent letter.

Cat burglar nap
A 23-year-old Miller Place man was arrested in Port Jefferson Station for criminal mischief and burglary on March 20 after he broke into a commercial building on North Country Road in Port Jefferson by breaking the window and fell asleep inside.

Cheap ride
A 31-year-old Holbrook woman was arrested in Port Jefferson after she refused to pay for a cab service on March 20.

Sneaky critter
An unknown individual damaged the basement door of the Miller Place Animal Hospital on Route 25A on March 17 at around 2:30 a.m. Police said the suspect broke the door’s windowpane.

To the max
The RE/MAX Alliance office in Miller Place was robbed of laptops, office furniture and cash between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. on March 17.

Airing his dirty laundry
An unknown man entered the Rocky Point Laundromat on Broadway and demanded money on March 22. He then fled the business without taking anything.

When a stranger calls
A resident of Sunburst Drive in Rocky Point reported receiving threatening phone calls from an unknown person on March 19.

Can’t Beats the police
A Ridge man was charged with petit larceny on March 19 for stealing two Fitbit watches and two Beats headphones from the Rocky Point Kohl’s.

Space opens up
An unknown person forced their way into an ExtraSpace Storage unit in Centereach and removed three motors and parts on March 21, shortly after 3:30 a.m.

Carjacked
A 1999 Honda Civic parked on North Coleman Road in Centereach was stolen between 7:15 p.m. on March 19 and 9 a.m. on March 20.

Ganged up on
A man was punched by an unknown number of males at a BP gas station in Selden on March 21 shortly before 2:30 a.m. It was unclear if the man needed medical attention, and the group of assailants fled.

Scratched
An 18-year-old Selden man was arrested in Selden for criminal mischief after he scratched the passenger side door of a 2014 Toyota Camry on March 22.

The 2015 Women's Recognition Awards honorees. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Brookhaven Town celebrated some of its most dedicated women at the town’s 29th Annual Women’s Recognition Night on March 19. Twelve women were honored at the reception for their commitment and excellence in their respective endeavors.

Every year, Brookhaven residents nominate women who either live or work in the town to receive the award. Members of the town’s Women’s Advisory Board then select the honorees based on resumes and letters of recommendation. Winners are selected in a variety of areas and professional fields including business, community service and health care. Below are the 2015 honorees.

Business: Lorice Belmonte, Patchogue, The Colony Shop owner
Community Service Professional: Linda Bily, Selden, Stony Brook Cancer Center director of patient advocacy
Community Service Volunteer: Michelle L. Benincasa, Patchogue, South Country Ambulance Co. emergency medical technician
Education: Deborah A. Lang, Middle Island, Longwood Central School District educator
Government: Sophia Serlis-McPhillips, Stony Brook, Middle Country Public Library director
Health Care Provider: Pamela Koch, Yaphank, Stony Brook University Hospital certified nurse midwife and clinical instructor
Law: Karen M. Wilutis, Miller Place, Suffolk County District Court judge
Law Enforcement: Gail P. D’Ambrosio, Port Jefferson Station, Suffolk County senior probation officer
Medicine: Dr. Alice J. Kolasa, Mount Sinai, John T. Mather Memorial Hospital director of palliative medicine
Religion: Grace G. LoGrande, Selden, St. Margaret of Scotland Roman Catholic Church volunteer
Science: Dr. Nancy C. Marshall, Port Jefferson, Stony Brook University professor
Visual and Performing Arts: Judith Levy, Stony Brook, Gallery North director

Geoffrey Girnun hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Photo from Girnun

By Daniel Dunaief

He hopes to use their addictions against them. By taking away what they depend on for survival, he would like to conquer a disease that ravages and, all too often, kills its victims.

Geoffrey Girnun, an associate professor in the pathology department and the director of cancer metabolomics at Stony Brook University, is looking closely at the addictions cancer has to certain pathways that normal cells do not. “It is really about starving the cancer,” he explained. “Perhaps what you feed the patient can starve the cancer.”

Cancer has a ramped-up metabolism that handles nutrients differently, Girnun explained. Differences between normal cells and cancer can provide scientists and doctors with opportunities to develop selective treatments.

Using mouse models, Girnun is exploring the role of different proteins that either promote or prevent various cancers. Recently, he has been studying one particular protein in the liver cell. This protein classically regulates the cell cycle, which is why finding it in the liver, which has non-dividing cells under normal conditions, was unusual.

Girnun discovered that it promotes how the liver produces sugar, in the form of glucose, to feed organs such as the brain under normal conditions. In diabetic mice, the protein goes back to its classic role as a cell cycle regulator.

“We’re using genetic and pharmaceutical mechanisms to dissect out whether increases in liver cancer associated with obesity in diabetics is dependent on this protein,” Girnun said. If he and other scientists can figure out how the protein that functions in one way can take on a different role, they might be able to stop that transformation.

“It’s like a linebacker becoming a quarterback,” Girnun said. He wants to figure out “how to turn it back” into a linebacker.

Girnun is exploring the metabolic pathways and signatures for liver cancer. If doctors are targeting one particular pathway, they might develop “personalized therapy that would help avoid treatments that wouldn’t be effective.”

Girnun’s peers and collaborators said he has contributed important research and insights in his laboratory.

Girnun is “considered a rising star, especially in the area of the downstream signaling events that modulate gluconeogenic gene expression,” explained Ronald Gartenhaus, a professor of medicine and co-leader of the Molecular and Structural Biology Program at the University of Maryland Cancer Center. Gartenhaus, who has known Girnun for seven years and collaborated with him, said metabolomics is “rapidly exploding with novel insights into the perturbed metabolism of cancer cells and how this information might be exploited for improved cancer therapeutics.”

What encouraged Girnun to consider the professional move to Stony Brook was the opportunity to create something larger. “I want to build a program in cancer metabolism,” he said. “I want to build something beyond my own lab.”

When he first spoke to the leadership at Stony Brook, including Ken Shroyer, the head of the pathology department, Yusuf Hannun, the director of the Cancer Center, and Lina Obeid, the dean of research at the School of Medicine, he felt as if he’d found a great match.

Girnun has been so busy working with other researchers that managing collaborations has become a part-time job, albeit one he finds productive and exciting.

Hannun said Girnun has identified “key investigators who are working on developing the field of nutrition and metabolomics.” Girnun is heading up a symposium on May 13th that focuses on innovations in basic and translational cancer metabolomics. The keynote speaker is Harvard Professor Pere Puigserver.

While Girnun changed jobs, he hasn’t moved his family yet from Baltimore. Every week, he commutes back and forth. Girnun and his wife Leah have five children, who range in age from preschool to high school. He hopes his family will move within the next year or so.

Girnun enjoys Stony Brook, where he said he has an office that overlooks the Long Island Sound and where he can run. When he’s hiking on Long Island, he said he has a chance to “think through my experiments.”

His commute from several states away shows “how much I was sold on Stony Brook,” he said. “We believe Stony Brook is moving up to the next level.”

He remains focused on the applications of his research toward people. “Something may be cool mechanistically, but, unless it’ll have a biologically meaningful result and affect how patients are treated or diagnosed, to me, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

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Jake MacGregor prepares to send the ball into play. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Comsewogue boys’ lacrosse players are returning a year wiser and are looking to avenge a bitter loss from the end of last season.

Despite starting a lot of underclassmen last year, the team made it to the Suffolk County Class B semifinals, where the Warriors fell to Miller Place, 6-5.

“We wanted to win the county championship, so I think it gives the returning players a little bit more of an edge this year to achieve that goal,” junior defender Matt Spahr said. “Every practice everyone comes out with a lot of intensity and energy. It makes everyone really compete for a spot. No one is ever complacent and everyone is always on their toes.”

Matt Spahr reaches for the ball. File photo by Bill Landon
Matt Spahr reaches for the ball. File photo by Bill Landon

The Warriors have benefited from a clean turf field this preseason. Persevering through the tough winter, the boys have shoveled snow off the field three times and haven’t missed an outdoor practice, which will get them off to a good start.

“It’s a lot better for us to be out there on the turf because some of the other teams don’t have the opportunity to play out there, so we’re getting a lot of touches and open field looks,” junior goalkeeper Jake MacGregor said. “It’s better than being in the gym and having all of those tight spaces where we can’t run and stretch our legs out a lot.”

According to Comsewogue head coach Pete Mitchell, the improvements the team made last year should carry over into this season and the Warriors are returning some strong players on defense, which is the heart of the team.

“Defense at Comsewogue is always a focal point,” MacGregor said. “We rely mainly on our defense. I feel like we could push lots of transitions and score lots of goals off our defensive turnovers.”

Mitchell will be leaning on three-year starters MacGregor, an All-County player; Spahr, who recently signed to play with the University at Albany; senior faceoff specialist Zach Deutsch; and junior defenseman Stephen Reed, who is also All-County.

All of those defensive returners will be crucial to pulling the team together to start the season, as the young offense continues to progress in outdoor practices.

“Our defense creates a lot of offensive opportunities for us, but we have to be able to score,” Mitchell said. “We’ve been working a lot with the offense, trying to hone their junior varsity skills into varsity skills. We’re still very young on that end, so there are going to be some growing pains at the beginning of the year.”

Zach Deutsch wins the ball off the faceoff in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon
Zach Deutsch wins the ball off the faceoff in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon

Another adjustment for the team will be new competition in Hauppauge and Kings Park, as a result of a league realignment. Comsewogue and the other Class B schools are now in League 3.

“I think the Class Bs are very, very good,” Mitchell said. “Our [league] is, I think, very diverse, and there are 10 teams that could be county champs this year. It’s very balanced, and it’s good for lacrosse — there should be a lot of exciting lacrosse games.”

MacGregor said although there will be a bunch of tough matchups, the guys are taking it one game at a time, with the first coming on Thursday, at Mount Sinai at 7 p.m.

“I’ve been playing with these guys since I was in third grade, so we know each other really well — we have good connections and chemistry,” he said. “I feel like it’ll transfer well into game-time situations. We have a lot of good players that can make some great plays, and we’re just focusing in on Mount Sinai right now.”

Port Jefferson Village Treasurer Don Pearce, above, worked with the board of trustees on Monday night at Village Hall to reduce the budget for 2015-16. File photo

Port Jefferson officials are whittling down the village’s budget proposal for 2015-16.

During a budget workshop at Village Hall on Monday afternoon, the board of trustees slashed almost $300,000 from department funding requests, to get the preliminary spending plan down to about $10.34 million.

One of the pricier items the trustees removed was a generator for the Department of Public Works — something that had also been an issue during last year’s budget process. On Monday, the trustees agreed that the generator, being a one-time capital expense, would better belong in the capital budget, rather than the operating budget. The board was also looking at the generator as part of a larger capital project: its proposed emergency operations center.

Due to safety concerns and power complications during storms like Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and Winter Storm Nemo in 2013, officials have set up shop at the Mount Sinai headquarters of the Port Jefferson Volunteer Ambulance Company during weather emergencies. But the village is seeking to build an emergency operations center, which would include a generator, at the village government building on North Country Road that houses both the public works and building and planning departments. That operations center could receive state aid to be built.

The draft $10.34 million budget for next year — as compared to the current $10 million budget — would increase the tax rate by a little more than $1.50 for every $100 of assessed value.

However, the trustees are still reviewing both the revenue and spending sides of the budget, including items like trustee salaries and the number of code enforcement work hours.

The board will hold a public hearing on possibly piercing through the state-imposed cap on tax levy increases in Village Hall on April 6, and then will hold a public hearing on a finalized budget proposal on April 15.

Bellone signs Anker's legislation into law

Sarah Anker introduced the legislation to require the warning signs last year. File photo by Erika Karp
Suffolk County retailers who sell liquid nicotine will now have to display a sign warning customers of the possible dangers associated with the product.

On Monday, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) signed the legislation into law, which officials say is the first of its kind in the nation. The bill was sponsored by Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and seeks to educate consumers about liquid nicotine — an ultra-concentrated nicotine substance used in e-cigarettes. The product could be poisonous if swallowed, inhaled or if it comes in contact with skin. Anker pitched the legislation in December following the death of a Fort Plain, N.Y., one-year-old who ingested the product.

“This potent and possibly toxic product requires regulation, and without leadership from the federal Food and Drug Administration, Suffolk County must move forward to protect our residents with the required warning sign,” Anker said in a press release.

Calls to poison control centers regarding liquid nicotine poisoning have increased throughout the last few years, according to the press release. In 2012, there were fewer than 100 cases of nonlethal liquid nicotine poisoning; in 2013, the number rose to 1,300; and in 2014, the number jumped to 4,000.

The Suffolk County Department of Health Services will enforce the law and provide the downloadable warning signs. The law will take effect 90 days from filling with the Office of the Secretary of State.

Businesses in violation of the law could receive an up to $250 fine for a first offense. Fines increase to $500 for a second offense and $1,000 for a violation thereafter.

Last year, the county prohibited the sale of e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine to anyone younger than 21 years old.

Legislator Kara Hahn, center, speaks about her domestic violence bill as officials look on. Photo by Phil Corso

This story was last updated on March 25.

The Suffolk County Legislature stood united Tuesday as it approved a new bill that will change the way police and advocacy agencies approach domestic violence by taking a new look at different risk factors.

The bill, which County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said he will sign into law, emphasizes a three-pronged approach: directing county police to assign grades of recidivism risk to offenders, providing domestic violence victims with self-assessment opportunities, and linking them up with advocates to deliver more resources. County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who introduced the bill, plugged the measure alongside Bellone, Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) and other Suffolk leaders just hours before the Legislature voted Tuesday evening, with 16 legislators in favor and one absent at the time of the vote.

“One out of four women in the United States will experience some type of domestic violence during her lifetime, and every year more than 1,500 of these women will be killed by their abusers,” Hahn said. “Key to addressing this issue is to realize that over half of domestic violence victims who are murdered, or are the victim of an attempted murder … did not accurately perceive his or her risk.”

According to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, 38 domestic violence-related homicides have been reported in Suffolk County between 2009 and 2013.

The legislation plays off of a Portland, Ore., police initiative that assesses risk for intimate partner violence — an initiative that Suffolk police used on a limited basis. The 20-question assessment, lawmakers argued, helps victims see how much danger they are in while also linking them up with advocacy groups near them.

As far as the offenders go, Bellone and Sgt. Kelly Lynch, commanding officer for the Suffolk County Police Department’s Domestic Violence Bureau, said cops will use a new danger assessment tool to identify at-risk victims and assign a level of risk to previous offenders on a scale of one to 13, with the highest number meaning they are most likely to repeat an offense.

“This computer program automatically collects and analyzes data from internal police records and produces a score that will identify offenders who are most likely to ‘recidivate’ in domestic violence offenses,” Lynch said. “Domestic violence officers will use this tool to contact the victims and families who are associated with these high-risk offenders.”

Bellone called the legislation both a personal and professional endeavor for Hahn and described domestic violence as one of the most important issues facing the county.

“As the police are some of the first people to come into contact with victims of domestic violence, it is important that they have access to proven assessment tools and the most effective resources to best serve and protect victims,” he said. “This legislation will do just that.”

Laura Ahern, executive director of the Crime Victims Center at Parents for Megan’s Law, said the 20-question self-assessment will better identify certain risk factors, making violence more predictable and preventable. She said lawmakers must pay close attention to the victims of such crimes and help empower them to prevent future incidents.

“This is an enormous step,” Ahern said. “All three components of this bill empower domestic violence victims. The police department will then use objective means to assess, identify and help these victims.”

Human remains were found along the Greenway Trail in Setauket. Photo by Phil Corso

Skeletal remains were spotted in Setauket on Sunday, prompting a police investigation, officials said.

Suffolk County police were seen investigating the human remains soon after they were found, around 4 p.m. on Sunday near at a stretch of the hiking and biking Greenway Trail off of Gnarled Hollow Road, police said. The cause of death was unknown, and it was still unclear whether the remains belonged to a male or female, cops said.

The medical examiner’s office is still determining the cause of death, police said.

The Greenway Trail runs 3.5 miles between Setauket and Port Jefferson Station. It starts at Limroy Lane on the western end and goes to the state department of transportation’s Park and Ride lot near Route 112.