Times of Huntington

Northport Middle School closes after decades of contamination concerns.

Northport-East Northport Union Free School District Superintendent Rob Banzer has decided, effective immediately, to close Northport Middle School for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year after P.W. Grosser Consulting, the environmental firm who has been testing soil around the school property, found on Saturday elevated levels of benzene in two separate septic systems on site.

Classes for the Northport Middle School students were cancelled for Tuesday, Jan. 21 and Wed. Jan. 22, and will resume on Jan. 23 in new locations.

“It is important to note that preliminary air testing indicated no observable detection of volatile organic compounds or VOCs, which includes benzene, inside the building, or from soil samples, as well as at the source of the septic tanks,” Banzer said in an email notice to parents sent at 4:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon. “However, in the best interest of students and staff and in consideration of ongoing testing and remediation, the building will be closed for the balance of the school year.”

During an unscheduled workshop with board members Wednesday,  Jan. 15, Banzer presented and reviewed a decisive contingency relocation plan for Northport Middle School students that ultimately became necessary to implement just days later.

The plan, developed with goals identified by all stakeholders, maintains the school’s curriculum, allows for spring sports, and enables students to access science labs. It was considered the best, least disruptive option.

As discussed during the workshop, transportation is feasible, but may require that some students change buses at the William J. Brosnan School building on Laurel Avenue. Additional drivers and buses might alleviate the need for transferring, Banzer said, but could be tough to secure.

“Although a great deal of the plan is already in place, we will need Tuesday and Wednesday to refine the logistics for staff and students, including scheduling, transportation and food service,” Banzer stated in his note to parents.

As explained to parents and reviewed in the Jan. 15 workshop:

  • Northport Middle School 8th graders will relocate to a special wing of the high school.
  • Northport Middle School 7th graders will relocate to East Northport Middle School.

Originally, Northport Middle School 6th graders were expected to be relocated to either Norwood Avenue or Bellerose Elementary schools. But, as explained in a letter sent to parents Jan. 20, the district opted to keep all of the 6th graders together at Norwood Avenue school. The gifted and talented program will instead be relocated to Bellerose

Suffolk County Department of Health Services requires that the site be remediated to remove the benzene. The health department also requires remediation for high levels of mercury and silver found in the leaching pools outside of the schools G-wing. Remediation plans are still under development.

Many parents have been conflicted about sending their children to the school. Students and staff have complained about unidentified foul odors that regularly surface inside the building. Some parents, retired teachers and community members blame chemicals previously identified on school grounds as a potential cause for their illnesses. As the environmental investigation continues, some parents are breathing a sign of relief.

“We are happy to know that the testing can be completed with the children and staff relocated to safe locations,” said Bethany Watts.

Former WALK/97.5FM radio host Mark Daniels is recording a podcast from his East Setauket home. Photo from Daniels

Despite a recent setback, mornings still look bright for one East Setauket resident.

A familiar voice on Long Island radio for more than 30 years, Mark Daniels was notified he was being let go as co-host of WALK/97.5FM’s “Mark and Jamie Mornings” right before Thanksgiving. 

But with the start of a new year, the radio host embarked on a new adventure Jan. 2, launching the podcast, “Breakfast with Mark Daniels,” right from his East Setauket home.

Daniels said the 10-minute installments will be Long Island focused and told in a storytelling format. Subjects will range from pizza to the railroad.

“I always try to relate something to Long Islanders that Long Islanders call their own, and I think keeping it that way and keeping it local provides that relatability that folks in Nassau and Suffolk have to one another and to living here,” Daniels said.

A recent podcast featured the radio host’s recent adventure into the city on a day when the Ronkonkoma Branch railroad line was undergoing construction. He said he and his family headed to the Babylon station, “but so did the rest of the planet east of Babylon.” Fortunately, they were able to get a parking spot.

The idea of a podcast came about when some friends suggested he reinvent himself. In the future, Daniels said he hopes to build a big enough base to attract advertisers.

“It’s evolving every day,” he said.

An East Setauket resident for 21 years, Daniels and his wife Marianne have three children, Mark, Brian and Allison, who have grown up in the Three Village school district.

The radio host originally commuted to Patchogue for his on-air duties for WALK, and then after Connecticut-based Connoisseur Media purchased the station, he traveled to their Farmingdale studios.

While the commute may have been longer for Daniels once the studio was moved to Farmingdale, it was a job he always enjoyed.

“It is a lot of fun to be on the air and to talk to your co-host about topics, and the immediate listener response is just incredible,” he said. “It’s just so much fun. It was like a playdate every time I was on the air. I’m trying to keep that going on the podcast.”

He said among his favorite memories is collecting donations for the food bank Long Island Cares, where listeners would often contribute so much there was no room to store the contributions at the station. He also loves appearing in The Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Walk for Beauty in October. He said the community’s response to such causes is overwhelming.

“To me, that’s what radio is really about,” the broadcaster said. “It’s about people. When you put out a call to attend and support, people show up, and people show up in large numbers.”

While Daniels said he is not at liberty to comment on his exit from WALK/FM, he added he wasn’t surprised when he heard at the end of the year that WALK would broadcast the same morning show as Star 99.9, “The Anna & Raven Show,” which is broadcast from Connecticut. 

“It’s a business decision and that’s what they chose to do, and that’s what I have to live with, and I have to pick up and move on,” he said.

This week Connoisseur Media also announced Daniels’ most recent co-host, Jamie Morris, will now head K-JOY’s morning show.

Daniels said he couldn’t believe the amount of support he received on social media after the news of his dismissal was announced, and he admitted it gave him goose bumps.

“I really only think of myself as just a guy that goes in, does a job and has a lot of fun with it and enjoys it, and then I’m home,” he said.

The radio host said his podcasts can be found every weekday on the “Breakfast with Mark Daniels” Facebook and Instagram pages, Spotify, Apple podcast and Buzzsprout.com.

N.Y. State Sen. Jim Gaughran in Albany with his daughter for the 2020 legislative session.

NY State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) is heading to Albany for the 2020 legislative session, and after a productive first year in office, he said he’s determined to again tackle a long list of issues. With Andrew Raia stepping down as assemblyman as of Jan. 1 to fill the role of Huntington town clerk, Gaughran will be the area’s only representative in the state house unless a special election is held. 

With a state budget of $179 billion and budget deficit of $6 billion, ethical reform and corruption, he said, are at the top of his to do list. 

The Times of Huntington sat down with Gaughran Jan. 12 to get an overview of his agenda. 

In the new year, citizens can look forward to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) energy initiative. He’s formulating an environmental bond for voter approval in November designed to address climate change. Gaughran doesn’t know how it will work. Details will be unveiled with the governor’s pending budget, he said. 

He plans to support sewage treatment plants and is behind plans to address clean water initiatives for the Long Island Sound and the groundwater, which is the sole source of Long Island’s drinking supply. 

On the topic of taxes, Gaughran said that he’s opposed to raising taxes on the middle class and notes that half of all state revenue comes from the wealthiest 3 percent of residents. Those taxpayers, however, are declaring legal residencies in other states to escape New York’s tax burden. According to President Donald Trump (R), that’s why he declared Florida as his legal residence. That situation is compounding the state’s budget woes. 

Lost Medicaid revenue is also a fiscal concern. Of the $6 billion deficit, $4 billion is lost federal funding to cover Medicaid costs. 

“People are living longer,” Gaughran said. “More advanced technology translates into higher health care costs.”

Overall, Gaughran suggests that citizens pay attention, as many already do, and to demand transparency in government. Toward that effort, he said he will continue to host town hall meetings with constituents. He expects to schedule an upcoming town hall on Long Island Rail Road issues. 

To address ethics issues, Gaughran is supporting a law that limits lawmakers’ outside income to 15 percent of their annual $110,000 salary.

Gaughran is also pushing for election reforms. Last year’s early voting initiative was an initial success. But he said communities need more polling places. One polling place in each town is too few. He’d like to see one voting place for every 50,000 citizens. He said he’s opposed to schools being used for early voting. 

Bail reform is another troublesome issue for Gaughran. If he had not voted for last year’s budget, which included the bail reform legislation, it would have cut state aid to schools. So, this year he’d like to restore judicial reviews for 64 crimes and set bail as needed. Bail should not be waived for hate crimes, he said. He said other senators are supporting his initiative and he continues to get calls about it. 

He also wants to help drug addicts with arrests find treatment and is alarmed that Long Island real estate agents discriminate, as reported in a recent Newsday expose. He is supporting legislation that suspends or revokes a broker’s license when they are found to discriminate against minorities. 

Gaughran has been a proponent of better laws that crack down on unsafe driving for limousines. U-turns, blamed for a deadly crash in Cutchogue in 2015, will soon be illegal. That crash resulted in the death of four young women from Kings Park, Commack and Smithtown. On Tuesday, Jan. 14, Gaughran introduced nine bills to address the problems. 

“I so admire these families that have channeled their grief into something positive,” Gaughran said.  

With regards to the Long Island Power Authority, he’s waiting on the courts to see how the case unfolds and is following the Town of Huntington to see what it will do. He plans to reintroduce legislation this session to prevent LIPA from collecting back taxes through tax certiorari suits. LIPA’s aggressive lobbying in the assembly derailed the initiative last year, after his senate bill passed with overwhelming support. The costs behind LIPA’s lobbying and public relations campaigns need to be reined in, he said, and need more oversight. 

“Citizens have no consumer protection with LIPA,” Gaughran explained. 

His plan is to authorize regulatory oversight of LIPA to the New York Public Service Commission and require annual audits. Currently, if fraud or misrepresentation is found, he said the state can’t take action. He’d also like to better understand the relationship between LIPA and PSEG. 

Mindy Grabina of Smithtown, who lost her daughter in a 2015 limo accident, speaks in Albany after new limo safety bills pass.

Senator Jim Gaughran (D-Northport), together with the Senate Majority Conference, passed legislation Jan. 14 that will help better protect New Yorkers from limousine crashes. The bills were created together with Assembly Democratic majority colleagues based on testimony from families of victims involved in tragic crashes. This package of limo regulations will better protect passengers, ensure higher standards for professional drivers, improve passenger communication options and increase penalties for bad actors who put public lives at risk.

“Today we are taking action on important limo safety legislation that will protect passengers and drivers alike. These bills, including mandatory seat belts and cracking down on illegal U-turns, are critical safety measures that will prevent tragic crashes like the one just a few years ago in Cutchogue, from happening again. I thank the brave and tireless advocacy of the families of the Cutchogue and Schoarie crashes for being the driving force behind today’s bills and fighting for safety.”

The additional limo regulation reforms passed by the Senate Democratic Majority includes:

▪Customer Service Resources: This bill, S.6185B, sponsored by Sen. Rachel May (D-Syracuse), requires maintenance of a hotline and website for New Yorkers to report safety issues with stretch limos, and requires the information to be conspicuously posted in vehicles for passengers. 

▪Drug and Alcohol Testing: This bill, S.6186B, sponsored by Sen. Jen Metzger (D-Rosendale), requires pre-employment and random drug and alcohol testing in large for-hire vehicles.

▪Commercial GPS Requirements: This bill, S.6187C, sponsored by Gaughran, requires stretch limousines to use commercial GPS devices to assist them in using roads that are best suited for their vehicles.

▪Increased Penalties for Illegal U-Turns: This bill, S.6188B, sponsored by Gaughran, expands the U-turn ban to stretch limousines capable of carrying nine or more passengers including the driver, and increases the financial and criminal penalties for drivers making illegal U-turns.

▪Creation of Passenger Task Force: This bill, S.6189C, sponsored by Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck), creates a passenger safety task force to study and make recommendations on additional safety measures for stretch limousines such as anti-intrusion bars, rollover protection, emergency exits and improved coordination between the DOT and DMV.

▪Seatbelt Requirements: This bill, S.6191C, sponsored by Sen. Tim Kennedy (D-Buffalo), requires stretch limousines to be equipped with seat belts for every passenger for which the vehicle is rated. This includes a requirement for stretch limousines to be retrofitted with seat belts no later than Jan. 1, 2023, and for any stretch limousine modified on or after Jan. 1, 2021 to be equipped with seat belts.

▪Commercial Driving License Requirement: This bill, S.6192A, sponsored by Kennedy, requires limousine drivers operating vehicles capable of transporting nine or more passengers to have a passenger-endorsed commercial driver’s license. 

▪Immobilization of Defective Limos: This bill, S.6193C, sponsored by Kennedy, authorizes DOT to immobilize or impound a stretch limo with an out-of-service defect.

▪Website Requirements: This bill, S.6604B, sponsored by Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Jamaica), requires DMV to update its website regarding motor carrier safety information, and requires annual verifications on stretch limousine driver files with respect to disqualifying offenses, out of service defects and crashes. 

▪Seatbelt Requirements: This bill, S.7134, sponsored by Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-New York City), expands seatbelt use requirements in for-hire vehicles.

Compiled by Donna Deedy

Parents listen as consultants from an environmental testing firm explain their findings to date and their future testing plans at a school board meeting on Jan. 9. Photo by Donna Deedy

In the early morning hours of Jan. 10, at 12:35 a.m., after an exhaustive five hours of presentations and comments from board members and the public, much of it heated and emotional, the Northport-East Northport school board members revealed that they are in fact considering closing the Northport Middle School, not necessarily immediately, but in September 2020.

Declining enrollment and the Long Island Power Authority tax certiorari case, they said, are driving the decision. The site’s ongoing contamination concerns, they added, are an underlying factor. The decision, they noted, is still exploratory. 

A weary crowd welcomed the comment but still wondered what plan, if any, the district has in place, if the environmental consulting firm it hired, P.W. Grosser Consulting also known as PWGC, continues to find toxins on-site.

Superintendent Robert Banzer explained to the community that while the school has options, none of the choices are ideal. Split sessions, consolidation and relocating students to other districts that have offered space were mentioned as potential temporary solutions to a “code red” situation.

Board member Larry Licopoli asked the superintendent to outline a plan to present at the next board meeting. 

So far, PWGC has found unsafe levels of arsenic on a sports field and extraordinarily high levels of mercury and silver in a leaching pool 10 feet underground and just outside science classrooms in the G-wing. Mercury levels of 632 ppm were detected there. The county requires action at 3.7 ppm. 

The consultants said, when asked by parents, that they did notice an unusual odor in the building. So far, though, none of their air quality tests detected a presence of contaminants in the building that would warrant its closure. 

An Abundance of Caution

The overarching public debate of the Jan. 9 board meeting centered on the seemingly relative nature of risk assessment. 

After finding the toxic chemicals on-site, the district determined that it would close three classrooms, G-51, G-52 and G-53. Those three classrooms, the environmental consultants explained, were science rooms with sinks that drain into the leaching pool, where the chemicals were found. Odorless fumes could potentially migrate through the piping into classrooms, but the drain systems rely on P traps that prevent that from occurring, they said. While the results of air quality tests were completed, the district closed those classrooms out of “an abundance of caution.” Air quality results in the G-wing classrooms were later found to be normal. But many families said the cautionary closure didn’t go far enough. 

The consulting firm explained that building evacuation would be justified only after pathways of exposure were identified when unsafe levels of a toxin are found on-site. Since no mercury levels were detected in the hallways, closing other portions of the school were unwarranted. 

 The consultants explained that toxic vapors could potentially rise from contaminated ground under a concrete foundation beneath classrooms. So far, the consultants said, they have not found any unsafe measurements in the school building to suggest that vapor migration is an issue. Testing is ongoing. The consultants could not say how far or wide the high concentrations of mercury would be found. The G, L, K and H wings could potentially be impacted, the consultants said. If it’s under the building, demolition may be called for, they said. 

Some parents were outraged. The strategy lacked sufficient level of precaution for their comfort. As the investigation continues, they said students should be removed, since unsafe exposure levels might later be found. Some kids feared going to school while others resented their parents for not sending them. Many people said they could not sleep at night. The social and emotional effects of the situation weighed heavily on most people who spoke, including some board members and residents who recently bought homes in the community. 

No current teachers addressed the board, but a retired teacher did.

John Kobel describes his experience with contamination during Jan. 9 school board meeting.

“That’s the classroom that poisoned me,” said former science teacher John Kobel, who addressed the consultants during the meeting. “That’s the classroom I was carried out of and taken by ambulance to Huntington Hospital.”

Kobel said that he was diagnosed with heavy metal poisoning from mercury and lead and suffers from occupationally induced asthma. He said he witnessed the removal of contaminated soil 20 years ago, when contaminants were found in the same location. Kobel said that he has identified 48 teachers who are sick and 34 diagnosed with some form of cancer, 20 of them have died. 

Parent groups have identified 18 students diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and other rare blood diseases over the last 10 years. 

Parents asked the consultants if their investigation included reviewing the data of sick kids. They said “no” but would consider it going forward. 

“This is not my community, but I will fight if I feel there is a problem,” said Heather Moran-Botta, a representative from PWGC.

Consultants could not say where the contamination was coming from but speculated that it could be from improperly disposed thermometers. A remediation plan is being developed they said. Ongoing testing would dictate the scope of the plan. 

Several parents said that they were not sending their students to school under the circumstances. Board officials, when pressed, advised families that keep their kids home from school to call the absence “parent sanctioned.” They advised anyone with contamination concerns to discuss having their child’s urine and blood tested with their pediatrician.  

Out of the three potential exposure pathways — ingestion, inhalation and dermal contact — the most likely scenario that could impact students and staff at the school was inhalation, according to the consultants.  

On Saturday, Jan. 11, PWGC continued testing. Results have not yet been reported. 

On Monday, Jan. 14, parents held another sickout. The district did not respond to requests for information about absenteeism in the school, since mercury, silver and arsenic was detected Jan. 6.

Suffolk County Health Department said that school boards have jurisdiction over the issue, but noted that their toxicologists are answering questions from families in the community at the request of the state health department. The New York State Department of Health said that school boards ultimately have jurisdiction over air quality concerns. 

N.Y. State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport)has requested the involvement of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to help with the investigation.  

Sen. Chuck Schumer with Jerry Chiano's family surround a photo at the Long Island Veteran's home in Stony Brook Dec. 20.

Before Vietnam vet Jerry Chiano of Valley Stream died in 2017 after battling a rare form of bile duct cancer, he fought to raise awareness by urging Vietnam vets to get tested for liver fluke exposure. The tiny worm, found in Southeast Asia, can be transmitted to humans after they eat raw or uncooked fish. The parasite lives in the biliary system and is the known cause of bile duct cancer. 

“It’s such a crazy disease,” said Chiano’s daughter, Jennifer Paglino. “My father wanted other people to know about it, so they’d get the treatment and benefits they deserve.” 

Chiano’s awareness campaign garnered the support of researchers at the Northport VA Medical Center, who concluded that same year in a pilot study that one in four local Vietnam vets who ate raw or uncooked fish while deployed were exposed to the parasite. 

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sounded alarms in late December, stating the study remains largely unused. He’s urging the VA to look seriously at the issue and Northport VA’s work, noting that benefit claims for the disease have increased sixfold since 2003, while 80 percent of the claims submitted in 2015 have been denied.

The VA is conducting the Vietnam Era Veterans Mortality Study, a national effort that will look at data from everyone who served in the military during the Vietnam era, from Feb. 28, 1961 through May 7, 1975, and compare mortality rates for all ailments, including bile duct cancer. Results for that study are pending. 

The agency did not say if that study would dictate whether or not bile duct cancer is considered a service-related disease. 

Representative Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) said he hopes the VA’s new large-scale research mission “will pave the way for infected veterans to receive the treatment they have earned.”

Schumer is demanding that the Northport research be used. 

He noted that the situation raises questions about the VA process for acknowledging service-related illnesses and how its researchers use the statistically based science of epidemiology, which links exposure to disease. 

The VA website clearly states that liver fluke exposure can cause bile duct cancer. Yet, a VA spokesperson said in an email that the Northport research is flawed, while discounting the risks. 

“The VA is not aware of any studies that show that bile duct cancer occurs more often in U.S. Vietnam veterans than in any other group of people,” he stated. 

Schumer pointed out how the VA initially found in 2009 limited evidence to suggest that exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides during the Vietnam War caused Parkinson’s disease. Months later, it reversed its decision and added the disease to the list of covered conditions connected to exposure to herbicide agents. 

Schumer and the entire Long Island congressional delegation — Zeldin, Tom Suozzi (D-NY-3), Peter King (R-NY-2) and Kathleen Rice (D-NY-4) — have urged the VA to study the issue. 

“Local vets, some of whom are already sick, need reassurance that these studies lead to answers on service-related health claims, while others have passed away while fighting for awareness and VA testing,” Schumer stated. 

As the VA embarks on another large-scale research mission on toxins and environmental exposure, Schumer underscores the importance of using the Northport data. 

“We have samples, antigen markers and more; there’s good stuff here from this smaller study, but it is largely sitting on a shelf, as we are here today to say: use what’s useful,” he said. 

However, the VA bluntly states: “No future VA studies will utilize data from the Northport VA Medical Center’s pilot Liver Fluke study …” 

In an email, the VA spokesperson explained that the Northport VA liver fluke study relied on a test used in Asia, where the disease is prevalent, which is not FDA approved. It also noted, among other things, that the Northport VA study lacked control groups. Plus, he said, none of the patients who tested positive for liver fluke exposure actually suffer from bile duct cancer. 

Gerald Wiggins a Vietnam vet from Port Jefferson Station took part in the Northport VA liver fluke study and was one of 12 veterans found to have been exposed to the parasite. He does not have bile duct cancer, but he said he had two bile duct cysts removed in September 2017 at Sloan Kettering. 

The disease, he said, is a ticking time bomb. He can’t understand why the government isn’t supporting veterans. At 71 years old, he said it’s late for him. But he believes every veteran who served in Southeast Asia and areas prone to the parasite should be tested. 

“Ten people came down with Zika virus in Florida and within two weeks the federal government gave $600 million to fight it,” he said. “As a vet, I laid my life on the line and got nothing.” 

He submitted a VA claim, which he said was denied. His other insurance picked up the tab.

George Psvedos, an infectious disease specialist and a Northport VA physician, conducted the study. The Northport VA was unsuccessful in gaining clearance for an interview from the VA. But, as noted in his research conclusion statement, his study was the first to show evidence of exposure to liver fluke in U.S. soldiers deployed in Vietnam. He called for more research to examine the link between a Vietnam exposure and the likelihood of veterans developing bile duct cancer.  

Currently, no validated test for liver fluke infection is available for clinical use in the United States, according to the VA website. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is not recommending serological testing for exposure, the VA said. 

The Northport VA said that if veterans express concerns or symptoms of bile duct cancer, the VA screens them right away. 

Meanwhile, the prognosis for bile duct cancer is poor, with a 30 percent five-year survival rate, according to the American Cancer Society.

Jerry Chiano stands in front of an American flag dangling his dog tags.

As for Chiano, he ultimately died of an esophageal bleed, his daughter said, caused by throat cancer induced by exposure to Agent Orange.

“He thought he was going to die of bile duct cancer,” said Paglino. “We thought [his dying of Agent Orange exposure] was his way of making sure that my mother received VA benefits after he died.”

Survival benefits for veteran’s families are extended when a veteran’s disease is considered service related. Veterans enrolled in VA health care are eligible for VA-provided cancer care, the agency said. 

“VA encourages all veterans who feel their military service has affected their health to submit a claim, which will be adjudicated using the latest scientific and medical evidence available,” said VA spokesperson Susan Carter.

Suozzi is also still following the issue.

“At minimum, we owe Vietnam veterans answers on whether they were exposed to cancer-causing parasites while serving, and the Northport VA’s study nearly two years ago was an important step in confirming that,” he said. “This data could prove instrumental in ensuring affected veterans are taken care of nationwide. I strongly urge the Veterans Administration to include this important study in their future research or, at least explain in detail why they will not.” 

Photos from Jennifer Paglino

Dr. David Fiorella and Dr. Eric Niegelberg are spearheading the Mobile Stroke Unit Program. Photo provided by Stony Brook University

By Daniel Dunaief

In June, Diana Squitieri of Holbrook wasn’t making sense. Her son Joe noticed that she was also stumbling while her face was drooping.

When he brought her to his car to take her to the hospital, she became so disoriented that he asked his wife, Erin, to call 911. That decision, and the new vehicle that arrived, may have saved her life.

A Stony Brook University Hospital mobile stroke unit, which went into service two months before Squitieri’s symptoms developed, immediately started assessing her symptoms.

Each of the two units is a mobile stroke emergency room, which allows Stony Brook doctors to determine whether the patient has a blocked vessel or bleeding in the brain.

If the process of getting to the hospital and determining her condition had taken any longer, Joe Squitieri is convinced he “could have been burying her.”

For bringing these two stroke units to Suffolk County, the TBR News Media is pleased to recognize the team of medical professionals at Stony Brook Medicine who provide life-saving care for stroke victims.

The Squitieri family. Photo provided by the Squitieri family

Suffolk County is “one of only a few places in the entire United States to have these units,” said Dr. David Fiorella, the co-director of the Stony Brook Cerebrovascular Center.

Stony Brook hopes to add a third unit within the next year.

Through the end of September, the two units had received 550 calls. Of those, about half of the patients had a stroke. Some received anti-clotting drugs while in transit to the hospital, while an evaluation of others en route alerted surgeons to the need for rapid intervention.

Every minute during a stroke could endanger as many as two million brain cells, Fiorella said. That means cutting down on the time to receive medicine or to have surgery potentially saves millions of brain cells, which can improve the quality and quantity of a person’s life.

Squitieri is one of 23 people transported in the stroke unit who had an emergency surgical procedure to remove the clot.

Numerous people contributed to bringing these mobile units to Stony Brook, including Eric Niegelberg, the associate director of Operations for Emergency Services and Internal Medicine; Michael Guido, the co-director of the Stroke Center; Eileen Conlon, the RN coordinator of the stroke unit; and Carol Gomes, the interim CEO of Stony Brook Hospital.

Niegelberg appreciated Fiorella’s efforts.

“It was only through [Fiorella’s] leadership and perseverance that we were able to launch this program,” Niegelberg said in an email. Fiorella spent considerable time meeting with county legislators, EMS committees and EMS agencies to rally support for this program.

Fiorella appreciated the joint effort that made this lifesaving service possible. He was grateful that Gomes “saw the value” of this service. “Without her dedication, this would never have happened.”

Gomes believes the stroke units provide “an extraordinary medical service” while improving the quality of life for the community, she wrote in an email.

The mobile stroke units, which have four specialized personnel on board, are equipped with technology that allows Stony Brook neurologists to examine and diagnose each patient.

The outcomes for patients are better because of the earlier delivery of care, Fiorella said. Hospital stays are also shorter, lowering the cost of care.

Squitieri and her son Joe are thankful that the mobile stroke unit arrived at her home when it did.

Diana Squitieri recalled being scared during her stroke and said the crew took “wonderful care of me.”

Joe Squitieri called the stroke unit a “godsend.”

 

 

Government officials, Town of Huntington Public Safety officers, the Town of Huntington Fire Marshall and members of the Huntington and Dix Hills Fire Departments came together to announce that the Town of Huntington will be cracking down on people who choose to violate the law and park in marked handicapped spaces and fire zones. The town will be ramping up their efforts and will be out making sure to check that all cars parked in handicapped spaces have valid permits.

“The holiday season is here and parking lots are full. When there is an unoccupied handicapped parking space, it is tempting to park there for just for a few minutes to quickly run into a store. Parking in handicapped spaces violates the law. Valid permit holders must then park further away forcing them to walk longer distances endangering their health or they return home unable to do their shopping. We must remember that only those that have a valid New York State permit are permitted to park there.” stated Councilman Cuthbertson. “Parking in marked fire zones puts everyone at risk by obstructing those areas that are reserved for first responders in case of emergencies or evacuations. Please consider people’s needs before you park in a place that inconveniences another person or puts lives at risk just to park closer to the entrance of the store”

For anyone who chooses to park illegally in a handicapped parking space will receive a minimum fine of $230. If you park in a fire zone you can expect a minimum fine of $200. Both carry maximum fines from $600 to $630.

Supervisor Lupinacci stated “The Town is doing everything it can to ensure accessible parking is available for those who need it. This year, we made substantive amendments to the Traffic Code that introduces real consequences when there is a failure to respond to a parking ticket, which is making drivers think twice about parking in handicap spaces.”

“It is imperative to remember to respect the designated handicapped parking spaces and those who need them, especially this time of year. The Town of Huntington will be enforcing parking restrictions and any infractions will be met with a high fee. Park a little farther away during your trips around town and enjoy the crisp holiday air” said Councilman Edmund Smyth.

For anyone that would like to request a New York State Disability Parking Permit application can contact to Town Clerk’s office at 631-351-3206 or online athttp://www.huntingtonny.gov/disability-permits

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

Northport Middle School students were once again evacuated from several classrooms on Monday Dec. 9 and Tuesday Dec. 10 in response to foul “rotten-egg” odors. The school’s new heating and ventilation system is being blamed. 

“There are a number of factors that can lead to odors in a school building,” said Superintendent Robert Banzer. “We believe the source of the latest indoor air quality issue at NMS may be related to the substantial amount of rain over the past few days.”

The district has hired an outside consultant to review the latest situation and will provide an update to the community once it is complete.

The district has said that laws prevent it from providing information on student health visits, but one parent on social media stated that five kids in one class went to the nurse’s office in response to the odors, according to the child’s account. 

Just last month parents and former teachers held protests, called sick-outs, demanding that the 65-year-old building be closed to address ongoing serious health concerns.

One of the classrooms involved in this week’s evacuation is a newly renovated science room G-51. In 2017, the room was found to sit above a storage area for hazardous chemicals, which have now been removed.

No formal health studies have yet to be initiated, to potentially link the school environment to disease, though Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) has requested that the state’s health department conduct a longitudinal study of students and teachers at Northport Middle School. 

More than 18 Northport Middle School students over the last 10 years, according to parent groups, have been diagnosed with rare, environmentally induced diseases, including blood cancers. Retired teachers have also conducted an informal survey that they say raises serious questions about the building’s safety. These health studies, state health officials have said, are often inconclusive. 

For decades, contamination issues have been the subject of ongoing concerns at the school, which has a history of storing hazardous chemicals, in some cases improperly.

Residents are invited to attend the Dec. 12 school board meeting, where Banzer will provide details about relocating the district’s bus depot and refueling station, which is located on the middle school grounds. 

Board member Larry Licopoli has been appointed to a subcommittee comprised of board and community members that is looking to test the soil for an array of chemicals. The subcommittee will be presenting some recommendations during the Dec. 12 board meeting. 

The Community Food Council on East 5th Street in Huntington Station needs help. 

Over the last three months, the food pantry has seen a 33 percent increase in demand for groceries. 

The nonprofit, all-volunteer organization has been feeding the hungry of Huntington Township since 1972 and expects to provide over 40,000 meals this year. 

They need more volunteers, to pick up bread from Stop & Shop once a week on Tuesday and to work at the pantry. Typically, volunteers help for about two hours at least one day a month.  

If you and your club or organization want to help restock the shelves, the council is in particular need of chicken soup, peanut butter and jelly, pasta, sauce, toilet paper, etc. 

Religious organizations in the area, as well as a couple of food markets and restaurants, provide food or support to the pantry. The group is a member of Long Island Cares and Island Harvest, which both also provide food to  for the hungry. The council is looking for additional support. 

The pantry is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 noon to give out food and receive donations.

For more information contact Jackie or Steven at 631-351-1060 or email the council at volunteer@comfoodcouncil.org or visit www.comfoodcouncil.org.