Times of Middle Country

The Northport Tigers looked to continue their winning ways against the visiting Newfield Wolverines who were on a five-game winning streak and win they did, with a 75-36 victory Jan. 16 to remain atop the League III leaderboard.

Northport senior co-captain Danielle Pavinelli led the way in scoring for the Tigers with four from the floor, four triples coupled with six rebounds to lead her team with 20 points. Senior Kelly McLaughlin, also a co-captain, netted 18 and teammate Sophia Bica banked 10.

Newfield sophomore Megan Spina sank five from the floor along with a triple for 13 points, and Raiyah Reid, the eighth-grader, tacked on 10.

The win lifts Northport to 7-0 in league, 12-3 overall, with six games left before postseason play. The loss drops Newfield to 4-3 in league, 9-3 overall with eight games remaining.

 

Local officials and health professional are urging residents to get this year's flu shot. Stock photo

State, county and area hospitals are bracing for this year’s flu season following reports of a sharp increase in recent weeks in the number of flu cases in New York state.

About 11,000 confirmed cases of influenza were reported by the New York State Department of Health for the week ending Jan. 11. That’s an increase of 10 percent over the previous week, according to the New York State Flu Tracker. There were 641 new cases in Suffolk County. The statewide total this season stands at almost 44,000. 

Similarly, “widespread”’ flu activity was reported by health departments in 46 states as of the last week of December, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Stony Brook Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Sharon Nachman, division chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases and professor of Pediatrics, said currently the hospital is in the midst of handling an influx of influenza cases.

“We are dealing with the children’s hospital being quite full,” she said. “We have a number of infants with the flu, and we are concerned about it.” 

“Community protection is everyone’s job.”

– Sharon Nachman

The hospital hopes to see an improvement in the next couple of weeks.

Nachman points to a number of reasons why we have been seeing more flu cases in the state: People unwilling to get vaccinated; individuals believing that they are safe from getting sick if they haven’t in the past; a belief that cold and flu medications are better than the shot, among other things.

“I ask patients, ‘Is there a legitimate reason why you don’t want to be vaccinated?’” Nachman said. “You have to think of who is also living in your household, like young people and the elderly. Community protection is everyone’s job.”

The division chief said if everyone got their flu vaccine there would be less people to treat.

“You are 100 percent at risk without the vaccine,” Nachman said. “The vaccine will not prevent someone from getting the flu, but it can lessen the severity of it and shorten its duration.”

She said despite some misconceptions, you can’t catch the flu from the vaccine as it does not contain a live virus. If you happen to get sick after getting a flu shot, it’s a coincidence as there are a lot of viruses and illnesses circulating during the winter months.

In an effort to curb flu cases in Suffolk County, officials announced recently that the county would be offering free influenza immunization to residents 6 months of age and older who are uninsured or whose health insurance does not cover flu immunization.

“The health and wellness of our residents is of utmost importance,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) in a statement. “The flu has been on the rise, and we want residents to know it is not too late to protect yourself and your loved ones from what can turn into a debilitating disease by getting immunized as soon as possible.”

The county’s health department has been providing flu immunizations at a number of locations including Suffolk County Department of Health Services at Great River in the Town of Islip and at Riverhead Free Library.

Nachman said it is important to constantly wash your hands and if you are sick, stay home to avoid exposing others to the illness.

Flu shots are also available at local pharmacies, pediatrician and health care provider offices, as well at county-affiliated health centers.

People who are having difficulty finding flu shots or community groups serving those who are in need of flu shots are advised to contact the county Department of Health Services Bureau of Communicable Disease Control at 631-854-0333.

 

John Feal, president and founder of the FealGood Foundation, has been a long-time advocate for first responders. Photo by Kyle Barr

Families, first responders, survivors, and the families of anyone who died in the past 18 years due to 9/11 related illness now will have more time to re-apply and file a claim after the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund extended its deadline for another year.

Individuals will have until July 29, 2021 to file a claim.

The new rule change gives the families of all 9/11 first responders or downtown workers, residents and students who died more than two years ago, from 2002 until the present, the chance to receive an award from the VCF. The VCF is also reviewing past submitted wrongful death claims and will make awards to the families whose wrongful death claims were denied due to missing the old two-year deadline.

Previously, the VCF required that the families of people who died from a 9/11-related illness to register their claim within two years from the date of death. The harsh old “two years from the date of death” deadline caused the denial of many VCF wrongful death claims for not meeting the two-year deadline. According to Ronkonkoma-based Turley Hansen & Rosasco, LLP, a 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Specialty Law Firm, only 2 percent of eligible families have filed for this benefit.

“We have many clients that missed this deadline, because they did not know that a cancer (or other death causing disease) was 9/11 related, did not know that the VCF applies to non-first responders or were wholly unaware of the VCF program until the recent news — when it was too late,” said attorney Daniel Hansen, of the firm.

According to a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), about 410,000 people were exposed to the 9/11 related toxic dust released into the air in lower Manhattan in the area surrounding the World Trade Center site. An estimated 67,000 of those 410,000 exposed people have died since 2001.

Out of the 67,000 exposed people who have died in that time, only 1,173 families have filed wrongful death claims.

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.

The PFAS Action Act of 2019 (H.R. 535) would regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and assist local communities in cleaning up water contamination. File photo by Giselle Barkley

Water quality has been an important issue on Long Island as new containments continue to emerge. A piece of legislation passed Jan. 10 by the House would help mitigate a group of man-made chemical substances. 

The PFAS Action Act of 2019 (H.R. 535) would regulate per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and assist local communities in cleaning up water contamination. 

“When it comes to our communities’ drinking water, there is no room for error,” said U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1), a member of the Congressional PFAS Task Force, in a statement. “With Long Island identified as the area with the most amount of emerging contaminants in our drinking water compared to the rest of New York State, all levels of government must act with urgency to help protect local families’ drinking supplies. “

The bill would also direct the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to designate the chemicals as a hazardous substance to prevent further environmental contamination and require cleanup of contaminated sites, set air emission limits for the hazardous substances, prohibit unsafe incineration of PFAS, limit the introduction of new PFAS chemicals into commerce, identify health risks by requiring comprehensive health testing and monitoring for PFAS in drinking water, require a drinking water standard for at least PFOA and PFOS that protects public health and provide funding through the PFAS Infrastructure Grant Program to assist local communities with impacted water systems.

Peter Scully, deputy Suffolk County executive and water czar, said the legislation is vital. 

“The new law is important in that it recognizes the urgency of the need for EPA to act quickly to address the potential health risks associated with these emerging contaminants, while at the same time acknowledging the cost impact of more stringent regulation on public water suppliers and, by extension, on people they supply water to,” he said. 

Scully added the law addresses the cause of the problem by requiring manufacturers to submit reports about how much PFAS they produced and by requiring the EPA to add pots, pans and cooking utensils that do not contain PFAS to its Safer Choice Program. 

“The bill could be a huge step forward in the effort to get ahead of his problem if it is fully implemented,” Scully said. 

 

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

The Pier 1 in Commack is already promoting storewide sales. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Home decor and furniture retailer Pier 1 Imports announced on Jan. 6 that it intends to shut down up to 450 of its 936 locations “in order to better align its business with the current operating environment.”

“Although decisions that impact our associates are never easy, reducing the number of our brick-and-mortar locations is a necessary business decision,” said CEO and CFO Robert Riesbeck. “We thank our team of hard-working associates for their commitment to Pier 1 and to serving our customers.”

The company also plans to close some distribution centers and reduce corporate expenses, including a reduction in corporate employees. 

Pier 1 has 11 locations on Long Island. Although the company did not reveal which locations may close, stores in Commack, Huntington Station, Bay Shore, Carle Place, New Hyde Park, Riverhead and Long Beach were listed as having “storewide” sales where customers could “save on everything.” Those locations also said they could not accept store pick-up orders, “due to the unique nature of this store.” 

Stores in Lake Grove, Massapequa Park, Rocky Point and Freeport did not list sales. 

The moves had some investors wondering if a bankruptcy filing was imminent.

In response to an unprecedented number of customers visiting Department of Motor Vehicle offices in the five boroughs of New York City and on Long Island, the NYS DMV is now offering appointments for Saturday at several locations in New York including two on Long Island − Garden City and Medford. In addition, all offices on Long Island are now opening at 7:30 a.m., an hour earlier than the previous opening time. The announcement was made in a press release on Jan. 11.

“Just this week, we deployed additional staff to help with communication and customer service and saw an immediate impact,” said DMV Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder.

“We have seen a large reduction in the lines outside most offices, and nearly twice as many customers are receiving expedited service through Saturday appointments. We are continuing to make adjustments and hire more staff to further improve the service to our customers,” he said.

To prepare for the anticipated increase in customers, the DMV hired more than 300 new employees and are still actively recruiting new staff. Office space was reconfigured, new work spaces were added and flex space, like conference rooms, were converted to permit testing rooms to maximize the number of customers who could be served at one time. 

According to the press release, the DMV also purchased new office equipment and document authentication devices to help expedite license and permit transactions. If there is a wait, customers are being offered return tickets to come back to the office at a specific time later in the day so they can avoid waiting in the office.

The reservation system has also been upgraded and the number of reservation slots available to customers Monday through Friday was increased. 

Customers, especially those needing a permit test, are encouraged to make a reservation, which they can do on online at: https://dmv.ny.gov/reservation. Reservations can significantly reduce a customer’s wait time. To ensure customers are prepared for their visit, staff is proactively providing study materials, forms and other helpful information while customers wait to complete their transaction. Staff will also review a customer’s documentation to make sure they have what they need.  

The DMV also directs customers to use the in-office kiosks or the DMV website for any transaction that can be completed online.

For more information about DMV, visit www.dmv.ny.gov.

Battling for second place in the league, Smithtown West had the measure of Newfield at home, holding off the Wolverines late game surge to win it, 69-56, Jan. 11.

Matt Behrens led the way for the Bulls, hitting six field goals and four from the line for 16 points. Brandon Rivera netted four from the floor, a triple and a free throw along with teammate T.J. Smith who didn’t miss from long distance, draining four treys for 12 points apiece.

Newfield senior guard Colin Cassara went eight for eight from the charity stripe along with two triples and a pair of field goals for a team high 18 points.

The win lifts Smithtown West to 4-1, 11-2 overall, one game behind Northport who sits atop the League III leaderboard.

The loss drops Newfield to 2-3, 6-6 overall.

Both teams were back in action Jan. 14 when the Bulls hosted Half Hollow Hills East and Newfield hit the road to take on Huntington. Results were not available at press time.

 

Geoffrey Girnun hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Photo supplied by Geoffrey Girnun for a previous article

Federal prosecutors announced Jan. 14 that Geoffrey Girnun, 49, a former professor at Stony Brook University, has pled guilty to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in government funds from cancer-related research grants.

At federal court in Central Islip, Girnun, of Woodmere, pled guilty to stealing $225,000 in those grant funds. The ex-professor issued fraudulent invoices for research equipment to SBU from sham companies he created to conceal his theft of funds from cancer-related research grants issued by the National Institutes of Health and SBU. Prosecutors said this went to pay for things like Girnun’s mortgage.

Prosecutors said Girnun faces up to 10 years in prison as well as restitution, forfeiture and a fine, which are all to be determined by the judge at that time.

U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donaghue said the ex-professor is being held responsible.

“With today’s guilty plea, Girnun has been held accountable for his unconscionable scheme to embezzle for his personal use hundreds of thousands of dollars in government funds that were intended to help find a cure for cancer,” he said in a release.

The professor had been arrested in September last year and was charged in a seven-count indictment with theft of state and federal government funds, wire fraud and money laundering. 

Girnun was featured in a March 25, 2015, TBR News Media article. At the time, the researcher was exploring the role of different proteins that either promote or prevent various cancers. The one particular protein in the liver cell he was studying is one that classically regulates the cell cycle, according to the article.

Girnun discovered that the protein 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.

Girnun made the move to SBU from the University of Maryland in 2013 and said at the time he was inspired by 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.”

An attorney for Girnun did not immediately respond to requests for comment.