Times of Middle Country

Photo courtesy of Herb Herman

It’s official — the boating season starts on Memorial Day, May 27. Here’s some tips for you before taking your vessel crashing over
the waves.

You get the family in the car and go to the marina, but being a responsible boater, first of all you check the weather forecast and make sure that you won’t face any surprises out on the water. You get to the boat and go through the required check-off items: the fuel level, check oil, Nav-lights in order, see that the personal flotation devices are in the right place — at least one per person and easily accessible in an emergency, set up the anchor for easy deployment, flares and other emergency items in order and handheld VHF radio charged and readily available. You will have an up-to-date first aid kit on board. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list.

Assuming you are a responsible boater, the final thing to do before you cast off is to inform the passengers and crew as to where the emergency items are and where and how to don the PFDs. And if you are a diligent boater, you file a float plan with friends, so that in the eventuality you aren’t where you’re supposed to be in the coming days, they can inform the Coast Guard of a potential problem.

All of the above seems like a lot of hard work to go out for a day trip to the local anchorage, but with some experience and perhaps some nasty events you will tend to do these things automatically. Better yet, have an actual check-off list so you forget nothing. Then you’ll have a fine day to go boating.

Added to the above list should be what the Coast Guard teaches — rather preaches — to its boat crews and to the Coast Guard Auxiliary as well:

The USCG boating statistics for the U.S. in 2017 are as follows:

• Fatalities: 658 

• Drownings: 449 

• Injuries (requiring medical treatment beyond first aid): 2,629 

• Boating accidents: 4,291 

• Property damage: Approximately $46 million 

• Number of registered recreational boats in the U.S.: 11,961,568 

Situational awareness, that is, what’s going on around you. In the parlance of the local guru, it’s called mindfulness, or the state of knowing the environment in which your boat plows. These include water state, weather — both now and what’s coming — wind, other boats and buoys, and all the impediments that exist on local waters. It’s important to have a designated lookout in case someone falls overboard. 

Above all, know the rules of the road, or the elements that dictate, mainly through common sense, what to do when boats approach one another. This covers a myriad of circumstances in which both professionals and amateurs alike find themselves. These regulations, also known as COLREGS, are devised to avoid collisions at sea. The main elements should be learned either by way of courses given by various authorities, such as the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, or through a variety of books and videos. The Port Jefferson auxiliary gives a Safe Boating Course as well as a course entitled Suddenly in Command, conveying essential know-how when the second-in-command must take over the running of the boat.

You will, of course, have a nautical chart available for the waters in which you wish to sail. The chart, unlike a land road map, gives you broad swaths of safe passages and also tells you which regions to avoid due to shallow depths, rocks and a wide range of impediments. One can navigate using charts — themselves marvels of information collected over years of careful observations by mainly government vessels — your key to safety and enjoyment on the water, whether you’re out for a day or on a longer passage. 

If you’re a power boater or a sailor with an accessory motor, you should know something about the innards of the beast. Have you enough fuel for your planned voyage (boats frequently have notoriously inaccurate fuel gauges). Will you check the oil dip-stick, or do you assume that the marina personnel does that for you? Note they won’t unless you ask them to. Are all your oil, water, fuel and water filters clean and can you change-out a clogged filter? Water cooling sea cocks open? Can you troubleshoot easy problems and do you have the essential tools for such work? Most aspects of inboard and outboard motors can be handled by a layman with a little study. A quick course on troubleshooting your power plant by the marina mechanic can really payoff. Don’t forget that emergency “road side” help from Sea Tow or Boat US can save the day.

Paddle craft safety is of growing concern to the Coast Guard, with over 20 million Americans enjoying the sport. According to industry figures, some 100,000 canoes, 350,000 kayaks and an increasingly large number of stand-up paddlers are sold annually. A tragic consequence of these large numbers is that as of 2015, 29 percent of boating deaths were related to paddle craft. In response, the USCG has generated a Paddle Craft Vessel Safety Check, which is administered free by a USCG-approved vessel examiner, such as Coast Guard auxiliary personnel. Paddle crafters should wear PFDs and have a sound producing device, such as a whistle.

Herb Herman is the flotilla staff officer for public affairs, Port Jefferson Auxiliary Flotilla 14-22-06.

District Attorney Tim Sini (D) pointing to a photo of one of the defendants, Guillermo Linares Alvarez, showing an 18th Street gang sign. Photo from DA’s office

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) and Homeland Security Investigations of New York announced May 14 the indictment of three 18th Street gang members for allegedly conspiring to murder two individuals they believed were MS-13 gang members.

 “This is one of many cases where my office and Homeland Security worked together to not only bring bad actors to justice, but to actually prevent violence,” Sini said. “We are no longer responding or waiting for tragedy to strike; we are taking a proactive approach, and due to excellent law enforcement work, we are preventing murders.”

 Wilber Campos Chicas, know as “Troya,” 25, of Port Jefferson Station; Guillermo Linares Alvarez, known as “Extrano,” 19, of Huntington Station; and Isidro Aguirre Canelas, known as “Chino,” 26, of Centereach, are each charged with one count of conspiracy in the second degree, a felony.

 Chicas and Canelas have been identified by law enforcement as members of the Tiny Locos clique of the 18th Street gang, which is based in Port Jefferson Station; and Linares Alvarez has been identified as a member of the Shatto Park Locos clique, located in Huntington Station.

 An investigation by the district attorney’s office and Homeland Security that began in March revealed intelligence that Chicas, Alvarez and Canelas allegedly conspired to murder two victims who they believed were members of MS-13, which is 18th Street’s rival gang.

Between March 15 and April 24, the defendants allegedly took several steps in furtherance of the murder conspiracy, including sharing photos and descriptions of the two targets and their whereabouts. The defendants were allegedly going to use two machetes, which were owned by Alvarez, to murder the two victims. They also allegedly discussed obtaining a car to use while carrying out their attacks.

“But for the dedication and professionalism of Homeland Security, these murders likely would have occurred.”

— Tim Sini

The three defendants, all of whom entered the United States illegally, were apprehended by Homeland Security agents in April.

“Working quickly, agents were able to take all three defendants into custody before they were able to execute their plan,” Sini said. “But for the dedication and professionalism of Homeland Security, these murders likely would have occurred.”

 “Homeland Security and Suffolk County will not stand for violence at the hand of any gang member,” said Gerald Handley, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security New York. “Whether the intended victim is innocent or a known member of a gang, we pay the same attention to the details and remain as proactive as possible to stay in front of the violence. We will stand united with our law enforcement partners and continue to arrest and seek prosecution of gang members.”

 The three defendants were arraigned on the indictment on March 13 by Suffolk County Acting County Court Judge Karen M. Wilutis and were remanded without bail.

 If convicted of the top count, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of eight to 25 years in prison. Chicas, Alvarez and Canelas are due back in court respectively on May 29, 30 and 31. 

 “Today is the latest example of Suffolk County law enforcement using the conspiracy statutes under New York State law to prevent violence,” Sini said. “We are collecting intelligence, analyzing that intelligence and disseminating it in a way that is allowing us to prevent violence and hold dangerous gang members accountable. None of this would be possible without the partnership between my office and Homeland Security as well as other law enforcement agencies.”

The Ward Melville girls lacrosse team kept pace with Middle Country for the first 25 minutes of play, but the Mad Dogs went on a scoring tear outscoring the Patriots 10 goals to 4, to put the game away, 16-9, in a Division I matchup May 10.

Jennifer Barry and Sophie Alois topped the scoring chart for the Mad Dogs with Barry’s two goals and four assists along with Alois’ assist and five goals. 

With the win, Middle Country wins the division with a record of 13-1, 14-2 overall. The Patriot loss is only their second of the season. They finished third with a 12-2 record one game behind Northport.

Both teams earned a bye in the opening round of the playoffs and are back in action May 20 where Middle Country will host the winner of the May 17 Sachem East vs. Bay Shore game, and the Patriots will be at home to take on either Sachem North or Smithtown West. Game times have yet to be determined.

Town of Smithtown officials and St. James veterans give their respects at the rededication of the Vietnam War memorial Nov. 21, 2018. File Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

After a successful statewide lobbying campaign resulting in the restoration of nearly $4 million in funding for a veterans peer support program some have called vital, and given an additional $300,000 for expansion, New York State officials introduced bipartisan legislation April 22 to expand the program nationally. 

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) introduced the PFC Joseph P. Dwyer Peer Support Program Act (H.R.1749), which would expand the peer-to-peer support program nationally for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological and physical traumas. The Dwyer bill was co-sponsored by NYS Representatives Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville), Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City), Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), Peter King (R-Seaford) and others. 

“The program has worked on a local level — it’s an amazing feeling to see that these peer-to- peer groups seems to be doing well.”

— Joe Cognitore

“Expanding nationally the Dwyer program, which is currently operating in both Nassau and Suffolk counties, eventually to all states in the U.S., will ensure that every veteran can have access to a peer-to-peer support group,” Zeldin said in a statement. “With the [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] reporting that an estimated 22 veterans a day commit suicide, this national expansion is long overdue.”

This is the second time Zeldin has introduced legislation to expand the program nationally. Two years ago, the congressman proposed a bill that would authorize the VA to support veteran support programs modeled after the Dwyer project with federal grants. 

Joe Cognitore, commander of VFW Post 6249 in Rocky Point, was in Albany with other veterans groups in March urging lawmakers to restore full funds for the Dwyer program, and he said the new bill is a great opportunity to expand these resources to other veterans throughout
the country. 

“The program has worked on a local level — it’s an amazing feeling to see that these peer-to- peer groups seems to be doing well,” he said.

The main goal of the Dwyer project, which is currently overseen by Suffolk County Veterans Service Agency and Suffolk County United Veterans, is to provide peer-to-peer support and counseling to veterans who are facing challenges transitioning back to civilian life, along with offering a safe, supportive space for veterans to interact with one another. 

The commander of the VFW Post is glad the funds were restored as part of the executive budget of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), and in April stopped by the office of state Sen. John Brooks (D-Massapequa) to thank him for his support for the Dwyer program. The veteran group presented the senator with a framed picture of the famous photograph of Dwyer helping an ailing Iraqi child. 

“I support anyone who supports veterans, it doesn’t matter if you are a Republican or Democrat,” Cognitore said. “It is gratifying that we were able to do that, and we have officials that are doing the right thing.”

The program is named after Pfc. Joseph Dwyer, a Mount Sinai resident and U.S. Army combat medic who had served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. After returning home and struggling with PTSD, Dwyer succumbed to his condition in 2008.

Diane Caudullo and her mom, Patricia, in a recent photo. Photo from Diane Caudullo

By Diane Caudullo

When asked, most would express their admiration for their own mom. I am no different.

Forty-five years after kindergarten, my answers are still the same. My mom, Patricia, is the best person in the world. I love her this much — insert crayon drawing of stick-figure me with my arms stretched out wide. A large red heart placed properly on my mini-me’s chest. Now in my fifties, and with young adult children of my own, my admiration continues to grow even deeper for my mom, an appreciation which seems to regularly confuse my mother as to why I feel this way about her.

My mother, now 78, simply has no idea of how smart and how strong she is and always has been. She comments more often than she should, how she believes she didn’t really teach us much, my brother and sister and me. I couldn’t disagree more. 

My mother’s life has been a series of struggles, big and small; disappointments of similar, varying degrees; and so many accomplishments and successes that surprisingly look like everyday life. What she does not seem to appreciate is, she has been and still is a living lesson, a constant example of how to live this life right. 

I watched as she cared for everyone in addition to her own. Her sacrifices were endless and seemingly without much reciprocation. If you were down, she was there. If she was down, she was down alone. I guess in all fairness, she never asked, she never let on. In some of her darkest days, she made decisions that were right for her family but wrong for her. I watched as she forgave those who wronged her, really wronged her. And she really forgave. She has taught quietly, by example, over a lifetime.

Other life lessons learned were that hard work and smart planning got you where you wanted to be;  patience really is a virtue; slow and steady wins the race, but more importantly, there wasn’t really a race to win; and our treatment of others was your most important trait. 

Mom was also the epitome of a “perfect housewife.” She ran the household like a boss.  Dinner was on the table each night; the bills were paid, the house was clean and laundry and homework were done. And she did it all with love. It was her pleasure.

Full disclosure, I did not inherit her homemaking skills. Maybe it’s one of those genes that skips a generation. Let’s just say my talents lie elsewhere. But she watched as I raised my children to become loving and caring young adults. She sees me care for my family, immediate and extended, especially when problems arise. I volunteer in my community. I feel called to lift others up and make a positive impact in the world around me.

Nowadays, my mother looks at me in awe of my strengths and gifts. Funny how she doesn’t see the resemblance.

Diane Caudullo is the president of the Centereach Civic Association and a board member of the Middle Country Chamber of Commerce.

The writer with her daughter Giselle and mother Myra Naseem during a recent vacation to Disney World. Photo from Lyla Gleason

By Lyla Gleason

I’m turning into my mom, and that’s a good thing.

With nearly a decade of motherhood under my belt, it still surprises me that I sometimes feel like a newbie. I mean, motherhood is a large part instinct, a bit of luck and a whole lot of on-the-job experience, but without employer feedback and promotions, it can be tough to know how you’re doing. Raising a small human is definitely challenging, but luckily for me, I have the support of friends and family who cheer me on at every turn.

Now that the terrible toddler years have long passed, and the dramatic tween time is upon me, I find myself thinking more and more about my school years, and I’m seeing my mom in a new light. How did she manage two kids when I am exhausted with just one? How could she pack our lunches every day without the slightest hint of annoyance? How could she cook every night? Every night! OMG!

I’m sure this is true of every generation, but I’ve developed a newfound appreciation for my mom, Myra Naseem, and all that she managed to juggle as I was growing up. As a single mom raising two girls in the 1970s and ʼ80s, the odds were definitely stacked against her, but I had no idea. Our lives were full of kid-focused activities and outings, baked treats and visits with friends and family near and far.

When my mom tired of her home economics teaching job and decided to start her own catering business out of our kitchen, my sister, Kaneez, and I got to watch her leadership skills develop right before our eyes. She treated her employees as family and spent so much time explaining the right way to do things, just as she had with us. She was still teaching, explaining to “hold it from the bottom,” but in a mom-boss way.

As my sister and I headed off to college, my mother’s catering business Elegant Eating moved into a Stony Brook storefront, and my mom and her business partner Neil were well on their way to becoming known throughout Suffolk County. Business flourished, parties grew larger, and they moved into a bigger space with room for cooking classes and luncheons in Smithtown. Elegant Eating has catered hundreds of parties for the local community, celebrities and politicians, and they have managed to remain on top of the trends in this challenging business.

Over the past thirty years, I’ve watched my mom successfully raise her business and enjoy her newest job as Mama Myra, grandmother to Giselle. I am happy for her accomplishments, but best of all, I’m happy that I can now appreciate all her mom-boss tools that I’ve inherited.

I may not see the physical resemblance everyone else notices, but I do see our similarities more and more, and I’m cool with that. My mom’s patience, flexibility, understanding, ability to put others first and determination have helped me become the person I am today, and hopefully, I’ll be able to pass these qualities along to my daughter.

Lyla Gleason is the founder of the blog Globetrotting Mommy.

Singer Billy Joel, bottom right, joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo and local legislators in the signing of the bill. Photo from Steve Englebright's office

Recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law legislation sponsored by state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), while Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced that police would be cracking down harder on those who violate the Move Over law. And with temperatures rising, county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) challenges residents to get out and enjoy their local parks.

Governor signs Englebright’s legislation banning offshore oil and gas drilling

With singer Billy Joel on hand, Cuomo signed legislation sponsored by Englebright and state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) into law April 30.

The legislation will prohibit the use of state-owned underwater coastal lands for oil and natural gas drilling, and prevent state agencies from authorizing leases that would facilitate the development and production of oil or natural gas. It also prohibits the development of pipelines and other infrastructure associated with exploration, development or production of oil or natural gas from New York’s coastal waters.

“This legislation takes aggressive action to protect New York’s marine environment by prohibiting offshore drilling,” Englebright said in a statement. “This law will protect and defend our waters, keeping them safe for recreation, fishing and wildlife.”

Despite the Atlantic Coast being off limits for drilling for decades, in 2017, the federal government proposed a new National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program which would open more than 90 percent of the nation’s offshore waters to oil and gas drilling.

Englebright said the legislation will ensure the protection of endangered and threatened species as well as the state’s tourism and recreational and commercial fishing industries.

Bellone announces new campaign to crack down on Move Over state law violators

Suffolk County is cracking down on Move Over law violators with a multipronged awareness and enforcement campaign.

Bellone announced the campaign April 25 at a press conference in the hopes of increasing roadway safety for law enforcement personnel, emergency vehicles and road workers.

“Move Over is enforced for a reason — to ensure the safety of law enforcement, first responders and highway personnel,” Bellone said. “This public awareness effort is intended to protect our roads while protecting those whose job it is to enforce the rules of the road.”

Under New York State law, drivers traveling in the same direction must reduce speed and move from an adjacent lane to avoid colliding with a vehicle parked, stopped or standing on the shoulder or any portion of the highway when the vehicle is an authorized emergency response, tow truck or maintenance vehicle with its lights flashing.

The original legislation was signed into law by New York Gov. David Paterson (D) and took effect from Jan. 1, 2011. Cuomo expanded enforcement in 2012 to include maintenance and tow truck workers, and again in 2017 to include volunteer firefighters and volunteer EMTs.

Drivers who violate these laws are subject to fines of up to $150 for a first offense, $300 for a second offense within 18 months and $450 for a third offense within 18 months.

Public service announcements, including a 30-second television ad and a one-minute social media version, will educate residents on the importance of the law and how it helps keep the roads safe for police officers, emergency services personnel and roadway workers.

On April 25, the Suffolk County Police Department began using both unmarked and marked cars to crack down on violators. The department partnered with Maryland-based Rekor Recognition Systems earlier in the year to conduct a two-week study of compliance in the county.

The number of citations for the Move Over law has increased over the last five years with nearly 800 summonses issued in 2018, and since 2013 the SCPD has issued more than 2,600 summonses for Move Over law violations, according to SCPD.

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn announces the A Park a Day in May challenge. Photo from Kara Hahn’s office

Hahn kicks off annual park challenge

County Legislator Hahn is encouraging Long Islanders to get out and explore once again.

On May 1, Hahn held a press conference at Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket to announce her fourth A Park a Day in May challenge. The location was the first of 31 parks that will be featured in the social media event.

For every day in May, participants will find a description with photos of a different park through Facebook. Participants are then invited to take and post a picture of themselves with the hashtags #APADIM and #aparkaday. Daily A Park a Day in May posts will be added to www.facebook.com/karahahnld5.

“The May sun has always been a beacon, drawing me back out after the biting cold of winter,” Hahn said. “With life returning to nature, my intention was to find a way to return life back into our parks.”

Linda Sanders, Frank Melville Memorial Foundation trustee, said she hopes residents will enjoy the challenge and thanked Hahn for including the park.

“I grew up visiting parks, beaches and open spaces in my youth in Southern California,” Sanders said. “My family’s trips and times together spent outside in nature are some of my fondest memories.”

Hahn’s office will also once again have Park Passport booklets available. Children can collect badges by traveling to any of 24 local parks contained in the booklet. At each park, participants search for a hidden sign and check in by either scanning a QR code or entering the web address listed on the sign, which then loads a printable logo page that the child cuts and pastes into his or her passport. Residents can call 631-854-1650 for more information.

— compiled by Rita J. Egan

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By Bill Landon

Middle Country boys lacrosse made short work of Copiague in a 19-2 rout in a Division I matchup May 7 at home.

Spearheading the scoring for the Mad Dogs was Jacob Hyman who had an assist and found the back of the cage five times. Erik Worsoe had a pair of assists and four goals. Nicholas Gurello had three assists and stretched the net thrice, and Jason McKeever had an assist and split the pipes four times.

With the win the Mad Dogs improve to 8-5 in the division, 10-5 overall, and are solidly in the playoff mix. The team will host its final game of the regular season May 9 where they’ll go against William Floyd. Game time is at 4:30 p.m.

Jon-Michael Lasher, of Selden, died of brain cancer April 22. He was 45.

Lasher, Connetquot Central School District’s director of fine arts and music, began his tenure in the district, his alma mater, as a band teacher in 2003 and was promoted to director in 2009. Right before his time at Connetquot, he was the band director at Newfield High School. From 1998 to 1999, he was band teacher at Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park.

Jon-Michael Lasher

Dean Mittleman, assistant superintendent of Connetquot schools, notified parents and students of Lasher’s passing in a letter posted to the district’s website. He described the director as “the type of educator that instilled a love of learning in so many, and surely has helped to develop some of the world’s emerging talents.”

Mittleman credited Lasher with spearheading many initiatives and encouraging “young artists to pursue their passions.”

“A graduate from Connetquot, Mr. Lasher worked in the district for many years and was known to many as a champion for music and fine arts education,” Mittleman wrote. “As a young student, he possessed a true love of the subject, and therefore it was only a natural progression that he became an educator and worked to help shape the lives of the next generation of student-musicians and artists. His tenacity for a fine arts education resulted in elevating our robust programs to new heights and his unmatched dedication to his colleagues and students is one that stemmed from the heart — the best sign of a great educator.”

Mittleman’s sentiments were echoed by many on the Connetquot High School Band Facebook page, including John Leddy, Stony Brook University Athletic Bands director emeritus.

“Jon was a gifted and dedicated student, an inspirational teacher and an innovative administrator,” Leddy wrote. “He served the music program, a program that thrived under his guidance. He was a leader of consequence and significance. Connetquot is diminished with his passing as it was elevated with his presence. This is a sad day for our community.”

Leddy was a music faculty member when Lasher was a student at Connetquot, and later the two became colleagues. Leddy said in an email, when he retired, Lasher asked him to be an artist in residence for the jazz program at the high school for a week, something that meant a lot to Leddy. 

Lasher grew up in Bohemia and earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from SUNY Potsdam, where he met his wife, Susan. He earned a master’s degree in music performance from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, and a certificate in school district administration from Long Island University.

Ten years ago, Lasher began showing neurological signs and was diagnosed with a brain tumor, according to his wife. He was the founder of Tumor Tacklers, which raises funds at the Long Island Brain Tumor Walk. Tumor Tacklers has raised more
than $30,000.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his daughter, Maggie, 16; son, Thomas, 12; parents John and Lucille Lasher of Bohemia; and siblings Laurie Tramuta of Fredonia, Jacqueline Rizzuto of Bohemia and James Lasher of Hauppauge.

Arrangements were entrusted to the Bryant Funeral Home of East Setauket. A funeral Mass was held at St. Margaret of Scotland R.C. Church in Selden April 27. Visit www.bryantfh.com to sign the online guest book.

Mannequin found in driver's car in the HOV lane of the Long Island Expressway. Photo from Suffolk County Police Department

Suffolk County Police issued a Centereach man a ticket after he was pulled over for driving with a phony passenger in the HOV lane on the Long Island Expressway in Dix Hills this afternoon.

Highway patrol officer Andrew Spina was traveling on the Long Island Expressway, near exit 51, when he became suspicious of the front seat passenger in a 2002 Saturn sedan traveling in the HOV lane.

Spina pulled over the vehicle and observed that the driver, James Britt, had placed a mannequin wearing a sweatshirt, sunglasses, hat and jeans into the front passenger seat in an attempt to resemble a person.

Britt, 34, was issued a summons for the HOV occupancy violations.

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