Times of Huntington-Northport

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Community gathers at Northport Middle School for 'sickout' . Photo by Donna Deddy

On the sidewalk in front of the Northport Middle School on Thursday, Nov. 7, protesters held up signs as the morning traffic passed by.

“Answers Required,” their posters and T-shirts read.

As people shared their personal stories with reporters, it became evident that something is awry with many community members clearly lacking a peace of mind. 

As the district attempts to address all of the concerns, it’s still unclear who or what government agencies or which experts will give them all the answers to all the questions that they are looking for. The district, town, county and state all have different areas of expertise and have also contacted outside authorities.

“My son was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 20,” said Lawrence Belk. “Within 18 months of his diagnosis in 2009, we learned that two other students were also diagnosed with the disease.”

Belk also said that he has coached soccer and “half of the kids use nebulizers.”

The district reports that the school’s air quality tests normal.

Several parents during the sickout said that their child has been diagnosed with carboxyhemoglobin, an ailment caused by carbon monoxide exposure from auto exhaust and cigarette smoke exposure. 

Small amounts of carbon monoxide exposure can dramatically reduce the blood’s ability to transport oxygen, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Common conditions induced by carbon monoxide exposure include headaches, nausea, rapid breathing, weakness, exhaustion and confusion. 

The district uses the site as its bus depot and stores bus fuel in two underground 4,000-gallon diesel tanks, according to former board member Tammie Topel. Inspection information on the tanks are the responsibility of Suffolk County, according the New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation press officer.

The county’s report on the tanks were unavailable before press time. The district did not say if the building is constantly monitored for carbon monoxide.

Several parents with children with carboxyhemoglobin said that their requests to be relocated for health reasons were denied because the districts air tests did not detect unsafe carbon monoxide levels.

 “Brown water came out of the water fountain,” said student Lucas Yule. 

The district said the discoloration was caused by an iron buildup. Yule’s mother Tracy Muno said that the school sent home a letter explaining that it was flushing out its drinking water pipes.

Yule also attended classes in the K wing, where foul odors were most recently reported. 

“It smelled like puke,” he said.

Other people complained that the building smells like mold the minute you walk in the front door. The hallways in the school are known to flood. 

A letter dated Aug. 17, 2018, from New York State to the district superintendent has identified the chemical pesticide chlordane, which was banned 30 years ago, around the buildings perimeter. The state concluded, based on information from 2000, that it did not adversely impact air quality inside the school. Though two dust samples on windowsills in classrooms detected it in “low levels,” subsequent cleanings eliminated the chemical found on the windowsill. 

As previously reported [“Northport Families Plan ‘Sickout’ in Protest,” The Times of Huntington, Nov. 7], parents have identified 18 children diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and aplastic anemia in the last 10 years. Former teachers have surveyed former staff and found 33 with cancer. 

A state public health assessment on the Northport Middle School was requested by Assemblyman Raia.  State health officials could only confirm that a study requested in spring of 2019, is being conducted on recent Northport High School graduates. The health department also stated in an email that community members are welcome to contact the Department at 518-473-7817, or via email at canmap@health.state.ny.us to discuss their concerns and provide detailed information.

The district said that it understands how issues surrounding environmental matters are unsettling. Since all testing has indicated that the building is safe, the district said in a letter to parents that its subcommittee will address the more important task of bringing people together. 

The district did not return phone calls and email inquiries about hallways flooding and the relocation of the districts bus depot.

 

Students and parents address the board during a standing-room only board meeting Nov. 7, after air quality issues have resurfaced at Northport Middle School. Photos by David Luces

A day that began with over 60 parents and children participating in a “sickout” protest in front of Northport Middle School ended with a public meeting later that night, where the seven-member board of education unanimously voted to begin soil testing at the school. 

A packed crowd at the boarding meeting Nov. 7. Photos by David Luces

A crowd of concerned parents and community members packed into the standing room only public meeting at the William Brosnan School. Many parents voiced dissatisfaction about how the school district has been handling recent incidents with foul odors at the middle school, saying that soil and groundwater testing are long overdue.

Many people blamed illnesses, such as cancer, headaches, nosebleeds, mold infections and other serious diseases, on the school’s long history of air quality issues. 

Board President David Badanes and Superintendent Robert Banzer both reiterated to the crowd that according to experts, the middle school is safe for operations.

“Since 2017, we have made major capital and personnel improvements to the school and have corrected issues found in a 65-year-old building, as well conducted environmental testing and engaged experts from the Department of Health, the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Center of Long Island and the Icahn School of Medicine,” Banzer said. “In their professional assessments, all have indicated that the middle school is safe for occupancy. Without the assurances of these professionals we would have not occupied the school.”

“In their professional assessments, all have indicated that the middle school is safe for occupancy. Without the assurances of these professionals we would have not occupied the school.”

– Robert Banzer

The district expects that soil testing and the creation of a subcommittee will quell any remaining concerns and help bring a divided community back together. 

The subcommittee will be made up of 10 members, which will include board trustees, parents, district staff and professional experts. Together they will work on an analysis and come up with parameters of the soil testing. 

The timetable for the subcommittee’s actions has already been established. On Dec. 12, recommendations will be given to the board identifying experts that will conduct soil testing and additional analysis. December through January, soil testing begins. January-February, assessment of soil testing results. By March, the district expects a final report, which will include recommendations given to the board.  

Parent Lauren Handler called on the board to stop utilizing the services of Hauppauge-based firm J.C. Broderick, which has come under scrutiny for some of its previous reports and findings at the middle school. 

She also asked for a comprehensive review of all previous testing done at the school, additional groundwater testing, cesspool testing, and investigating the environmental impact of the VA Hospital and Covanta among other things. 

“If any part of this testing cannot be completed, or if testing is completed and the source of the result cannot be identified and remediated, than this building should be closed,” Handler said. “If this request cannot be met, I’m asking the superintendent and board members to step down.”

 A number of speakers called on the board to consider appointing an independent broker to select the consultant and experts that will be on the committee. 

Tammie Topel, a former board member who served for six years, said she previously brought up health concerns to the board.

A Northport Middle School student addresses the board Nov. 7. Photos by David Luces

“I am a former board member and when I was on the board two years ago, I requested for soil testing more than once,” she said. “Especially during one of my final board meetings, when I learned two former students had developed aplastic anemia.”

Topel, a nurse by profession, said proposals to approve soil testing at the middle school were voted down twice during her tenure. 

“Why didn’t we do this two years ago?” she asked. 

A number of parents also accused the board of not being up front with information about student illnesses at the school.

“I’m alarmed and disgusted by some of these things I just learned recently,” Michael Figeroura, an emergency medical technician for the New York City Fire Department and parent, said. “I find it disgusting when kids are complaining that they have headaches or smelling metallic things, they go to the nurse and all that gets done is that they check their temperature.”   In addition, Figeroura criticized Timothy Hoss, Northport Middle School Principal, for his handling of the situation.

“Who tells them [the students] after he comes into the room that there’s nothing there … But miraculously 30 minutes later there’s an email, a text message and a phone call — that yes there was some type of smell in the air and that they are working on the ventilation systems,” he said. “I want something to be done, we absolutely need more testing now and later.”

He also called for better trained medical staff in the schools. 

“For a nurse to check the temperature of a child after they complained about metallic smells, it is unacceptable,” Figeroura said. 

Timothy Heck, an accountant and community member, was one of a number of individuals that proposed the idea of moving the middle school students to another building in the district, arguing that the district has the available space due to declining enrollment. 

“I did a rough estimate myself and I figured from the administrative and operation costs, it costs around $2.5 to $5 million to keep one of the schools open,” he said. “What makes sense to me is that you could close one of the schools down and move the kids to this building or one of the grade schools.”

Heck cited a 2015 demographic study done by the district, where they projected that about 502 students were expected to be enrolled in the middle school in 2024 compared to 2007 when it had a peak of 908 students. 

Similarly, at a board of education budget meeting in January, the district projected that the schools have lost nearly 1,165 students since the 2011-12 school year. 

It’s unclear if board members are considering that option. 

Three board of education trustees have been appointed to the committee: Vicky Buscareno, Larry Licopoli and Tom Loughran. If you are interested in being considered for the subcommittee please send an email to: boe@northport.k12.ny.us.

 

Huntington Hospital will honor the owners of The Paramount — pictured from left, Brian Doyle, Jim Condron, Stephen Ubertini and Dominick Catoggio — at The Social, an event supporting the hospital and its future cancer center on Nov. 21.

“The Paramount has blossomed into a cultural center and economic engine for the Town of Huntington, a venue the community can be proud of,” said Dr. Nick Fitterman, executive director of Huntington Hospital. “They have reinvented and improved the cultural experience of downtown Huntington. I know that employees and patients alike excitedly look forward to attending performances at The Paramount.”

“It’s a great experience thanks to these gentlemen, who brought world class entertainment to our doorstep. Their artistic vision and community spirit are among the reasons we are excited to honor them at this year’s gala,” Fitterman said.

For more information, including sponsorship opportunities, contact Dolli Bross at 631-470-5204 or email dbross2@northwell.edu.

Photo from Huntington Hospital

County officials and environmental activists look at designs for new water system at the Vanderbilt Museum.

Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum has installed two innovative systems for processing wastewater that significantly reduce the harmful impact of nitrogen pollution in the Northport Bay. The new technology builds on the county’s efforts to address excess nitrogen from wastewater leaching into local waters, which once the epicenter of the region’s red tide. 

New water system at the Vanderbilt museum.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and county Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) announced the installations at an Oct. 30 press event at the museum. 

“The science is clear and the solution has been established,” Bellone said. 

He noted that it is necessary to replace outdated technologies that do not reduce nitrogen pollution with new technologies that do.

“We have a $6.1 billion tourism economy that is underpinned by water,” Bellone added. “With strong support from academia, business leaders and the environmental community, our region is no longer kicking the can down the road, but is taking aggressive action to reverse the water quality crisis to better protect our waterways for future generations.”

More than 115,000 people visit the park each year and the upgrade will benefit local waterways by reducing nitrogen discharge at the site by approximately 164 pounds annually. 

To date, the county has installed advanced wastewater treatment systems at Lake Ronkonkoma and Meschutt Beach, and is currently in the process of installing 13 additional systems at other parks. 

The major contributor to water quality issues, Spencer said, is nitrogen discharges from more than 360,000 antiquated cesspools in Suffolk. 

“I am so pleased to see this technology brought to our county parks, specifically the Vanderbilt Museum, which sits directly beside a water body that we have worked so hard to restore,” Spencer added. He said upgrades to Northport’s sewage treatment plant resulted in a massive reduction in nitrogen discharge, and produced tangible benefits including the absence of red tide and the reopening of a permanently closed Centerport beach.

The investment at Vanderbilt is expected to progress, improve and protect the region’s natural resources, Spencer added. 

Officials also announced at the press event that during the month of October alone, more than 100 residents have applied for grants through the county’s septic improvement program, and that next year the county plans to install 1,200 nitrogen-reducing wastewater treatment systems, doubling the amount currently installed. 

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, applauded the progress and collaborative efforts of everyone involved. 

“This is what change looks like, one installation at a time,” she said. “Good science, good advocacy and good elected officials give us good policy, and fortunately that’s what we have seen on the water quality issue in Suffolk County.”  

The installation of the new systems is part of the county’s Reclaim Our Water initiative, which seeks to reduce nitrogen pollution of surface and groundwaters. 

Homeowners outside of a sewer district are encouraged to apply for grant funding and low interest loans to assist in paying to upgrade to an innovative system. Visit www.reclaimourwater.info to find out more.

By Melissa Arnold

Brittany Schiavone has a long list of things she loves to do, including acting, singing, dancing and riding horses. But these days, her biggest passion is giving back to others.

Schiavone, 30, is among more than 400,000 people in the United States living with Down syndrome. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21. Down syndrome can lead to learning, muscular, cardiac and digestive problems, to name a few.

Today, one in every 600 babies in America is born with Down syndrome. Since 2016, Brittany has sent care packages to families around the country that welcome babies with Down syndrome to let them know they’re not alone. Her organization, Brittany’s Baskets of Hope (BBOH), has delivered more than 800 baskets to families in 49 states and Puerto Rico.

Brittany’s mother, Sue Schiavone, remembers struggling firsthand with the reality of Brittany’s diagnosis and uncertain future.

“Everything about my pregnancy and delivery with Brittany was typical,” said Sue, who lives in Huntington and also has an older son. “At the time, screening for Down’s wasn’t as advanced as it is today, so I didn’t have a diagnosis for Brittany prior to her birth. I knew something was wrong right away — she was adorable, but very floppy.”

Sue added that while she worked as a special education teacher, she had limited experience with Down syndrome at the time. “We learned pretty quickly that Brittany had Down’s, and it put us on a totally different road. I want to say we weren’t devastated, but we were. We took some time to come to terms with it, but ultimately we rallied and worked to help Brittany be the best person she could be.”

The Schiavone family became a part of the broad-reaching but tight-knit Down syndrome community, where Brittany was connected to early intervention therapies and other resources. As time went on, she blossomed into an outgoing, bright and happy girl who loved performing. Later on, as part of her own self-directed care program, Brittany went to work part-time at a clothing boutique. She liked the job, she said, but would soon be inspired to try something new.

“I was on a break at my job and I watched a video about people helping babies with Down’s. I wanted to do that,” Brittany said.

At home, Sue said Brittany became insistent about doing something to help families like theirs. “She just wouldn’t let the idea go.”

In 2014, Brittany founded BBOH as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. With help from talented family and friends, legal paperwork was filed and social media websites took shape — all with Brittany calling the shots.

Each care package is either personally delivered or mailed by Brittany and contains a hand-crocheted baby blanket, a Down Right Perfect onesie, some pampering products for new parents, Brittany’s story in her own words and educational material about Down syndrome.

 BBOH has exploded in popularity recently, primarily through word of mouth. Thanks to a nomination from family friend and BBOH team member Ashley Asti, Brittany was selected as one of 10 finalists in the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth national competition. The internationally known makeup company, L’Oreal Paris, began the Women of Worth event to honor those who go above and beyond, selflessly volunteering their time to empower others. 

Asti got to know the Schiavone family when Brittany hired her to work on healthy eating and good nutrition. “Brittany was 25 at the time, and I really admired how driven she was,” Asti said. “How many people at 25 know their purpose and have the courage to live it so fully?” 

She eventually stopped working for Brittany, but the two remained close friends. Earlier this year, Asti saw an ad for Women of Worth while scrolling through her Facebook news feed. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is a big deal,’ and I really felt called to nominate Brittany. When I stopped to consider what a Woman of Worth should be, she immediately came to mind,” she said.

Brittany received a $10,000 prize for being chosen as a finalist and is now enjoying some time in the spotlight.

“I was so excited when I found out,” she said. “There were lots of interviews, and L’Oreal sent a camera crew. I wasn’t nervous about it; I just said, ‘Let’s do it!’ We got our makeup done, it was a lot of fun.”

Now, Brittany is looking for the community’s support to help her win the grand prize of $25,000 by voting for BBOH online now through Nov. 14. The winner will be announced on Dec. 4 at a star-studded gala in New York City.

All of the prize money will be used to benefit BBOH by covering the cost of care package materials and shipping, as well as the creation of a dedicated office space for BBOH in the Schiavone’s home. They are also working toward helping families outside of the U.S. receive baskets, which is in great demand but still too costly for the organization, Sue said.

“Brittany’s Baskets of Hope gives people that have babies with Down syndrome hope and joy, and it makes me really happy to help them,” Brittany said. “I want everyone to know that people with Down syndrome can do anything — really, really anything.”

To vote for Brittany, visit www.lorealparisusa.com/women-of-worth. To learn more about Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, donate to the cause or to request a care package, visit www.brittanysbasketsofhope.org.

Photos by Nilaya Sabnis

 

Neighbors near the Del Vino Vineyards on Norwood Road in Northport are struggling with traffic congestion and other concerns related to vineyard operations. Photo from Norwood Community Watch Group

After numerous residents complained about parking, traffic congestion and safety concerns on neighborhood streets around the Del Vino Vineyards in Northport, officials unanimously voted at an Oct. 16 board meeting to adopt parking restrictions to certain residential streets.

Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (R), who co-sponsored the resolution, said they recently met with the vineyard’s neighbors to discuss the parking problems in their neighborhood. 

“This is something we wanted, but now what do we do about street parking for us.”

— Tom Ryan

“The no-parking signs should be installed by the end of the month and we are hopeful that the signs will be effective in addressing these issues,” Cuthbertson said. 

The restrictions prohibit parking around the vineyard on both sides of Norwood Road between Starlit Drive and Russell Court as well as both sides of Starlit Drive 700 feet south of Norwood Road. The no-parking zones, which officially take effect as soon as the signs go up, will be enforced Monday to Friday from 4 to 11 p.m. and weekends from 1 to 11 p.m. Also, parking on Sound Court is prohibited at all times. 

Tom Ryan, who has lived on Norwood Road for the past nine years, and has advocated for parking restrictions along with other neighbors, said the approved changes are the lesser of two evils. 

“This is something we wanted, but now what do we do about street parking for us,” he said. 

Ryan said the new arrangement was the best option to tackle the problem, because the traffic and parking situation on residential streets has gotten completely out of control with numerous tour buses coming and going as they drop off patrons near the vineyard. A steady stream of Uber and Lyft vehicles also clog local streets.

Anthony Guardino, a Hauppauge-based attorney and representative for the vineyard’s owner Frederick Giachetti, did not respond for comment on the approved restrictions by press time. He previously said at a Sept. 17 public hearing that the restrictions were unreasonable, and it would be only fair to adopt a resolution that bans all parking on those streets regardless of the time.

“We’re anxious for the signs, as of now we have resorted to putting up garbage cans, traffic cones and caution tape to deter people from parking on the street,” Ryan said. 

The tactic seems to be working, they say. However, neighbors on Starlit Drive, who are located closer to the vineyard, have had patrons disregard the obstacles and when asked to not to park in front of homes, they’ve countered that it is a public street. 

In the aftermath of the approved parking restrictions, residents who live further back from the no-parking zones are worried that the parking problem will shift closer to them. 

Ryan expects that the shift will happen. Residents outside the immediate perimeter of the new restrictions have already reached out to town officials to add additional no-parking zones to avoid pushing the congestion deeper into the neighborhood.    

Ryan said this is just one chapter of many other chapters going forward in regard to the vineyard. 

He and other neighbors are now concerned about additional capacity problems at the vineyard, since the business was approved to build a second-floor deck by the town planning board in September. 

Additionally, the owner has proposed in the past about adding 60-80 additional parking spots at the vineyard, which would increase the lot size from 120 spaces to up to 200. 

The vineyard has been a thorn in the side of many residents since it first opened in November 2018. Neighbors have said that the core issue is that Del Vino lacks adequate on-site parking, which caused the problems.

Ryan said it could alleviate some of the parking problems, but it wouldn’t relieve the patron and traffic congestion in the area. 

“The owner is someone who just continues to push the envelope,” he said. 

Some roads near the vineyard have become so crowded, residents said, that it only can accommodate one-way traffic. They have also complained that vineyard patrons pass-out on lawns and urinate in public. 

Researchers regularly gather at the Banbury Center at Cold Spring Harbor to share ideas about to counteract Lyme Disease.

Lyme disease, the increasingly common tick-borne disease, may soon be preventable. 

Experts from academia, government and industry have been discussing at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Banbury Center the benefits and scientific feasibility of developing a vaccine that would essentially stop the infection in humans. 

The highlights of those discussions are summarized in a new study published Oct. 17 in Clinical Infectious Disease. Its conclusion: 

“We are now positioned at a crossroad where advanced technologies allow for application of new genetic strategies for immunizations, possible identification of new immunogens, and repurpose of proven vaccine candidates not only for humans but also for domestic animals and environmental reservoirs.” 

In laymen’s terms: New techniques are there, it’s creating a lot of excitement and there’s hope. 

The study is the culmination of more than 3 years of meetings held at the lab, where the most promising strategies for counteracting the infection were discussed. 

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. Traditionally, vaccines have been used to treat infectious diseases and rely on human antibodies to attack the germ. One of the new vaccines, which might be used in combination with traditional techniques, actually impacts the tick.

“What was discovered several years ago, to everyone’s surprise, a Lyme vaccine worked inside the tick itself and inactivated the Lyme bacteria. Newer vaccines are being designed to disrupt the mechanism for transmission of the Lyme bacteria from tick to human,” said Dr. Steven Schutzer, one of the study’s lead authors. 

Researchers cannot speculate when the vaccines will become publicly available, but they said they feel encouraged that they are in the pipeline with some trials underway.

Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, such as doxycycline, and is most successfully eradicated with early diagnosis. The only preventative measure to date, the researchers note, is to simply avoid tick bites. That strategy, though, has been ineffective at stopping the disease’s prevalence. Each year, more than 300,000 people are diagnosed with the disease. In Suffolk County, 600 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease, the highest rate in New York State. 

Lyme disease symptoms include fever, fatigue and headache, symptoms that often mimic other illnesses. It is often diagnosed by its characteristic bullseye skin rash, but not all cases present with a rash. Left untreated, the disease can infect the joints, heart and nervous system. Some people suffer from a post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome and have trouble thinking six months after they finish treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Former Suffolk County Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher was recently diagnosed with meningitis, induced she said, by a severe case of Lyme disease. After hearing other people’s stories about how Lyme disease can cause major illnesses, even a heart attack, she said a vaccine would be welcomed. 

During the Cold Spring Harbor meetings, a recognition emerged among participants that an effective vaccine was an important public health tool and the best path to follow to counteract the disease. 

Schutzer emphasized, though, that getting vaccinated for Lyme disease, a noncontagious disease, would be a personal choice, rather than a public health mandate. 

“When the pathogen is highly contagious, vaccines are most effective when a large population is vaccinated, creating herd immunity, and leading to the protection of the individual and of the community,” the researchers state in the study. “A vaccine directed against the causative agent B. burgdorferi, or against the tick vector that transmits this bacterium, will only protect the vaccinated person; thus, in this case, herd immunity does not apply toward protection of the community.” 

Stony Brook University researcher Jorge Benach participated in the meetings and noted Lyme vaccines are currently available for dogs but not appropriate for humans. 

“There’s clearly a need,” he said. “A lot of things need to be considered before an approval of a vaccine.”

One of those factors: 25 percent of ticks carrying the Lyme bacterium also carry other infectious organisms. 

Both researchers said they valued the rare opportunity to commingle, discuss and share expertise about a certain aspect of science under one roof during the Banbury Center’s meetings on Lyme disease.  

Dr. Rebecca Leshan, executive director of the Banbury Center at Cold Spring Harbor Lab, is proud that the meetings can impact the wider community. 

“I can’t overemphasize the importance of the small meetings convened at the Banbury Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory,” she said. “They provide a truly unique opportunity for experts to engage with counterparts they may never otherwise meet and stimulate new ideas and strategies. And the beautiful Lloyd Harbor setting may provide a bit of extra inspiration for all those who participate.”

The first meetings of the group resulted in improved diagnostics that has already had major effects, with FDA approval of a number of tests. Outcomes from the most recent meetings, she said, continue to set the right course of action. 

Greenlawn Memorial Park will host a Veterans Day Ceremony on Nov. 11.

November 11 marks the annual observance of Veterans Day, a day on which we honor the millions of brave men and women who have served in the Armed Forces. The following towns on the North Shore will pay their respects:

 

Greenlawn

Join the American Legion Post 1244 for a Veterans Day Ceremony at Greenlawn Memorial Park, 107 Broadway, Greenlawn on Monday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. The ceremony will be attended by many veterans, government officials and members of the public. Call 516-458-7881.

Huntington

The public is invited to join Town of Huntington officials, the Veterans Advisory Board and local officials for a Veterans Day Ceremony on Sunday, Nov. 10 at 11 a.m. on Veterans Plaza in front of Huntington Town Hall, 100 Main St., Huntington. Call 631-351-3012.

Kings Park

A Veterans Day Parade will be held in Kings Park on Monday, Nov. 11. Kick off is at RJO Intermediated School, 99 Old Dock Road, Kings Park at 10:15 a.m. and ends at Veterans Plaza in front of the Kings Park Library and 1 Church St. Hosted by VFW Post 5796. Call 631-663-3092 for more information.

Mount Sinai

Heritage Park, 633 Mount Sinai-Coram Road, Mount Sinai invites the community to walk down the Parade of American Flags along the Avenue of the Americas on Monday, Nov. 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 100 National, state, territory and local flags will be displayed exhibiting the growth of our nation. Walking between these flags and reading about our history will lift your spirits, promote pride in our country and remember those who have served our nation. Free. Inclement weather cancels. Call 631-509-0882.

Rocky Point

VFW Post 6249, 109 King Road, Rocky Point invites the community to a Veterans Day Ceremony on Monday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. Light refreshments will be served. Call 631-744-9106 for further details.

Setauket

VFW Post 3054 holds a Veterans Day Ceremony at Setauket Veterans Memorial Park, Route 25A, Setauket (next to Se-Port Deli) on Monday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. All are welcome. Call 631-751-5541.

Sound Beach

The Sound Beach Civic Association invites all to its annual Veterans Day services at the Sound Beach Veterans Memorial Park on New York Avenue (across from the Sound Beach post office) in Sound Beach on Monday, Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. For further information, call 631-922-3773.

Army veteran Eugene Casper with his POW/MIA tattoo Photo by Chris Cordone/Foxlight Studios

By Melissa Arnold

Each Veterans Day, the country pauses to recognize the men and women who have served as members of the military. For some, it’s a day of pride and they’re humbled to be recognized. Others live with trauma, injury or regret and prefer not to talk about their service years.

Regardless of their circumstances or histories, the Northport-East Northport Public Library is honoring all veterans with a unique photography exhibit for the month of November.

The exhibit, titled Ink Stories: Symbols of Service, focuses on sharing veterans’ memories and experiences through photographs of their tattoos.

Army Veteran John Baptisto Fiore. Photo by Chris Cordone/Foxlight Studios

“My father was a Vietnam veteran who had tattoos. When he returned from Vietnam, he struggled to find acceptance in the community [because he was in the war],” said Kathryn Heaviside, community services librarian at the Northport-East Northport Public Library. “Hearing stories from his service and the stories behind the tattoos, I felt confident I would be able to find others who were willing to share.”

Heaviside said that art exhibits focusing on tattoos have been held in other places around the United States and believed the concept would be a great fit for the library because of its commitment to veteran outreach and proximity to the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The exhibit took nearly a year to plan, with flyers, email blasts, social media posts and word of mouth used to find local veterans.

“It was slow going at first, but once the word started to get out, we had more and more responses. The concept was really well-received by the veterans,” Heaviside said.

In all, 34 veterans came forward to participate in Ink Stories. They include 33 men and one woman from all branches of the military. The majority served in Vietnam, while others were involved in the Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion or the modern conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among them is Eugene Casper, a 69-year-old Vietnam veteran from Ronkonkoma. Casper didn’t want to go to college and enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school in 1968.

“I knew I was going to end up in Vietnam, but I wanted to see what it was all about. I was 18, young and dumb,” Casper recalled. He spent one year in Vietnam, where he was exposed to Agent Orange and now lives with cancer and other health issues.

While many of Casper’s fellow soldiers got their first tattoo during basic training, it took decades for him to get inked. 

Army veteran Eugene Casper has his tattoo photographed by Chris Cordone/Foxlight Studios. Photo by Nora Nolan

“When I got back from the war, I had a bad taste in my mouth and pushed a lot of my feelings and experiences aside. But years later, this stuff will always catch up to you. I reached out for help at the VA and decided to get my first tattoo when I was 50.”

That first tattoo, the POW/MIA symbol on his left shoulder, was eventually followed by an eagle with an American flag background and his dates of service. Most recently, his granddaughter opened her own tattoo shop and did a piece on Casper’s forearm depicting a helmet, boot and rifle with the phrase “All gave some; some gave all.”

Casper and the other veterans came to the library over several scheduled days, where they filled out questionnaires about their experiences before posing for photos. Chris Cordone, a Huntington-based wedding photographer, volunteered to photograph the veterans for free.

“They would enter the room to be photographed and just totally open up. Some would cry,” Heaviside said about the photo sessions, which she described as emotional and moving. “The vets were thrilled to talk about their tattoos and share their stories. For some of them, it was the first time they had spoken about their history in 40 years. Some of them were hesitant, but once they started to share, they didn’t want to stop. I’ve formed a real bond with each of them through this experience.”

Army Veteran John Baptisto Fiore. Photo by Chris Cordone/Foxlight Studios

The exhibit is comprised of individual 24-by-36-inch framed posters featuring photos of each veteran, his or her tattoos and some of their own reflections as written and designed by Heaviside. Each veteran will also be presented with a blanket made by the library’s teen volunteers.

Casper was thrilled to be a part of the project after seeing an ad for it in a local newspaper. “I thought it would be a good thing to do. The more people that get to see what we went through, the better,” he said. “I’m 69 years old now, I have nothing to hide and I don’t care what anyone thinks. I’m proud to be a Vietnam veteran.”

He added that seeking support at the VA made all the difference for his well-being. “There is help out there for everything, but you have to look and you have to reach for it. Talk to your friends, talk to your neighbors, tell people what’s going on,” he said. “You don’t have to deal with things alone.”

Ink Stories: Symbols of Service is on view at the Northport Public Library, 151 Laurel Ave., Northport and the East Northport Public Library, 185 Larkfield Road, E. Northport through Nov. 30. Identical exhibits are found at each library. 

The public is invited to an opening reception at the Northport Public Library this Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. For library hours and more information, call 631-261-6930 or visit www.nenpl.org.