Times of Smithtown

A red-tailed hawk at Sweetbriar. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Time to clean out your closets and help a noble cause! Sweetbriar Nature Center, located at 62 Eckernkamp Drive, Smithtown seeks donations for its annual spring Yard Sale for Wildlife fundraiser to be held in May. Antiques, collectibles, memorabilia and other “cool” stuff accepted. Please no clothes, books, baby supplies, electronics or anything that weighs over 40 pounds unless it fits the above guidelines. All funds raised will support the nature center’s mission of providing nature education and wildlife rehabilitation. To drop off items or to arrange a pick up, call Eric at 631-979-6344, ext. 302.

A deer tick is a common type of tick on Long Island. Stock photo

North Shore communities have found a partner in the battle against ticks and the diseases they carry.

“This new partnership is another example of local governments working together to save taxpayer dollars and protect the public health of our residents.” 

— Steve Bellone

On March 6, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced the SuffolkSHARE Public Health Partnership. A part of the county’s shared services initiative, the new partnership will leverage the efforts of 10 local governments and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to research and combat ticks and tick-borne illness, according to a press release from the county.

“This new partnership is another example of local governments working together to save taxpayer dollars and protect the public health of our residents,” Bellone said in the statement. “By taking collective action, we are expanding education, collection, and analysis to ensure that we have the information and resources at our disposal to deal with these illnesses head on.”

With the new partnership, towns and villages will be able to strengthen their efforts to combat ticks in ways that were previously prohibitive due to high cost and limited resources, according to the release.

The new partnership draws on efforts that include collecting data and procuring materials at lower costs while tracking progress over time. These processes are already underway by the Suffolk County Tick Control Advisory Committee, which researches and combats ticks and associated illnesses. According to the county, each year approximately 650 Suffolk residents contract a tick-borne illness, including Lyme disease.

Eight villages and two towns will work in conjunction with the county, including Asharoken, Northport, Head of the Harbor, Old Field and Belle Terre, according to the press release.

“Having the ability to work with other local governments and Suffolk County on this issue will give us the opportunity to address it effectively and affordably.”

— Bob Sandak

“Protecting public health is a priority for the Village of Belle Terre, and mitigating the risk of ticks and tick-borne illness is an important mission,” Bob Sandak, the Village of Belle Terre mayor, said in a statement. “Having the ability to work with other local governments and Suffolk County on this issue will give us the opportunity to address it effectively and affordably.”

Recently, Belle Terre moved to allow deer hunting within the village, citing that New York State is the only governing body that can restrict hunting. Sandak said at a Jan. 15 village meeting, where the possibility of deer culling in part with Port Jefferson Village was discussed, that in the near-mile radius of the village boundaries, there could be as many as 300 deer. It was expected that culling could bring the number of deer down to approximately 50.

The Department of Health Services will provide resources and guidance when it comes to ticks, while the county will facilitate testing of samples, collection of data and additional analysis. The cooperative procurement of corn, tickicide and other materials, as well as municipalities working together to collect samples to have them analyzed will happen at a cheaper rate due to consolidation, according to county officials.

The county health department and Suffolk County Department of Public Works Vector Control Unit will consult with villages launching their initial efforts at tick mitigation, tick-borne illness mitigation and deer mitigation, which may include municipalities sustaining a four-poster (also known as a deer feeder); using environmental controls, such as landscaping; and utilizing birth control. The participating local governments will assist the Department of Health Services with community education regarding the risk of ticks and how to avoid bites, tick collection for testing and health monitoring of residents.

According to the press release, North Haven, Saltaire and Shelter Island already operate four-posters. The deer feeders brush tickicide onto the animals to keep them free of ticks.

“While tick-borne illnesses remain a major concern amongst our community, we continue to look for new and innovative ways to protect the public’s health,” said Michael Levine, Village of Old Field mayor, in a statement. “Thanks to the work of County Executive Bellone and the creation of this new partnership, we will now be able to asses tick conditions, develop a comprehensive plan to combat this public health issues, and educate our residents on ways to stay safe.”

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It was a great day for the Irish March 16 as thousands lined Lake Avenue to enjoy the 35th annual St. James St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The sun was shining as firefighters, drum and pipe bands, Scouts, legislators and more marched through St. James to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. This year Denise Davis, vice president of the St. James Chamber of Commerce, led the parade as grand marshal.

Check back in the next few days for more photos from the parade.

From the view of a Brit, drawing parallels to elections in the U.S.

Stock photo

By John Broven

Part 1 of 2

After 46 years, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is due to leave the European Union March 29 in an exercise that has been labeled Brexit. You may have heard the term on BBC World News, C-SPAN2’s “Prime Minister’s Questions” and John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” (HBO), or read about the ongoing saga in The New York Times or The Washington Post. Still, in general the United States media coverage has been relatively muted in what has been a complex, often hard-to-understand process. Yet there are enough parallel circumstances across the pond to warrant making it a big news event over here in the U.S.

John Broven. Photo

It certainly matters a lot if, like me, you were born in England and are not happy with the Brexit decision. Before I proceed with my personal observations, let me give a brief backdrop to the Brexit scenario.

Brexit is a crude abbreviation of “British exit” from the European political and economic union of 28 countries that allows seamless movement of goods and citizens between each member state. Britain’s withdrawal was determined by a referendum held June 23, 2016, in which the “leave” voters outpointed the “remain” side by 17.4 to 16.1 million. In percentage terms it was 51.89 to 48.11. The turnout was some 33.5 million voters out of a possible 46.5 million, 72.1 percent of the registered electorate. As I’ve been living over here for more than 15 years, I was not allowed to vote along with an estimated 700,000 expats and some 3 million EU citizens living in the UK. Gerrymandering, anyone?

The UK referendum

I well remember the day when Prime Minister David Cameron (Conservative) announced there would be a referendum for Britain to leave the EU after he was re-elected in the general election of May 7, 2015. He had been the country’s leader since 2010 in a coalition government with the pro-European Liberal Democrats, but against all expectation the Conservatives won the election outright. At the time I asked myself, “Why call a referendum?” What I didn’t know was that Cameron wanted to quell once and for all the rebellious EU leavers in his own party and thwart the rise of the populist United Kingdom Independence Party, led by Nigel Farage.

To my mind, Cameron compounded his disastrous decision of placing party politics on a national stage by agreeing to put the referendum to the people in the simplest of terms:

• Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union. Yes or No.

The openness of the referendum wording gave voters, fed up with years of austerity, a chance to kick the government without understanding the full consequences of their actions. The many dire economic warnings of a precipitous EU exit, ranging from the Bank of England governor to President Barack Obama (D), were riposted as fearmongering.

England and Wales voted to leave, Scotland and Northern Ireland did not. London voted overwhelmingly to remain, but the industrial North — the equivalent of our rust belt — predictably went to the leavers. Not surprisingly, the majority of the 50-and-overs, with their rose-tinted memories, voted to leave. On the other hand, the younger generation was largely in favor of remaining, feeling more European and with less attachment to the days of the British Empire. Interestingly, the peak share of any sector came from women between the ages of 18 and 24, with 80 percent voting to remain. Yet too many millennials, as over here in the last presidential election, did not bother to go to the voting booths.

As we have seen from the HBO film, “Brexit: The Uncivil War,” the Vote Leave campaign — led by notorious Cameron-backstabber Boris Johnson, U.S. President Donald Trump (R)-acolyte Farage, prominent Tory politicians such as the overbearing Jacob Rees-Mogg and double-dealer Michael Gove — were always a step ahead of Vote Remain, led by Cameron himself, future prime minister Theresa May and reticent Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. The leave effort was brilliantly masterminded by Dominic Cummings who outflanked his traditionally minded opponents by using computer algorithms devised by Cambridge Analytica, partly owned — whisper it low — by Robert Mercer from our own Head of the Harbor village on Long Island.

With new data available, Cummings understood there was a raft of disaffected voters that had been ignored by politicians of all parties for years. He proceeded to woo them with an appealing slogan, “Let’s take back control,” aided by a red bus carrying the false message that leaving the EU would save the British people £350 million a week (about $450 million), adding, “Let’s fund our NHS [National Health Service] instead — Vote Leave.” Without justification, it was said the country would be overrun by Islamic immigrants should Turkey be admitted to the EU. (It hasn’t.) It was a campaign of distorted facts, appealing to those who remembered the good old days when Britannia ruled the waves and the world map was colored mostly British Empire pink.

Earlier, I mentioned “parallel circumstances” in relation to the U.S. How about disaffected and ignored voters, a fear campaign based on immigration and Islamophobia, protest votes, absent millennials, discarded trade agreements, gerrymandering, a populist insurrection — and, I hate to say it, fake news. Does that sound familiar?

Events of June 2016

I was in England the week before the referendum and was astonished at how the youthful, vibrant atmosphere I felt on my last visit had evaporated into a sour mood. As a confirmed Europhile, I was even more amazed to see how finely balanced the polls were. The omens were not good, especially when state broadcaster, British Broadcasting Corporation, adopted a neutral stance giving equal time to both campaigns. Why did the leave campaign, with no governmental responsibility or track record, deserve the same coverage as the in-power remainers?

I was still in England when staunch remain campaigner and promising Labour member of parliament, Jo Cox, was murdered June 16, 2016, in her native West Yorkshire at age 41 by a right-wing extremist. Had politics become so divisive that a life had to be taken? Surely, I thought, the British people, with their long-held sense of justice and fair play, would rebel against such a dastardly act and vote for the “good guys” out of respect to Cox. The referendum campaign was halted temporarily, but a news blackout contrived to neutralize any widespread outrage at her death.

Referendum night June 23 was covered in full over here by BBC World News. Ironically, with the five-hour time difference, U.S. viewers were more up to date than the sleeping British public. I knew the writing was on the wall when early voting in Sunderland and Swindon went to the leavers. And yet Sunderland, in the relatively impoverished North East, was home to a major Nissan factory (jobs, jobs, jobs), with Swindon in the affluent South West housing a big Honda factory. Both Japanese car companies used their English bases for easy access to the European markets. What were the voters in those towns thinking by voting leave?

The leave campaign was victorious. A distraught Cameron resigned July 11, 2016, to be succeeded by May. It was up to her to negotiate a withdrawal agreement with the EU, with a leaving date eventually set for March 29, 2019 — the end of this month. The protracted negotiations have been rocky, to say the least, and the outcome has still not been resolved at this late hour thanks mainly to a problem that should have been foreseen at the time of the referendum but wasn’t: the Irish backstop. Stay tuned.

Part 2 will bring matters up to date, with crucial parliamentary votes due to be held this week. John Broven, a member of the TBR News Media editorial team, is an English-born resident of East Setauket, and has written three award-winning (American) music history books.

Political cartoon by Jake Fuller. Image courtesy of SunshineWeek.org

By Donna Deedy

It’s Sunshine Week (March 10-16), time for recognizing and celebrating the importance of freedom of information  laws and open government in our democracy.

Newsrooms nationwide are participating in the weeklong event, which specifically aims to help people better understand their everyday right-to-know under federal and state laws. Sponsored since 2005 by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the American Society of News Editors, TBR News Media is joining in for this year’s tribute. 

We’re focusing on New York State’s Freedom of Information Law. First enacted in 1974, the law succinctly states: “The people’s right to know the process of governmental decision-making and to review the documents and statistics leading to determinations is fundamental to our society. Access to such information should not be thwarted by shrouding it with the cloak of secrecy or confidentiality.” The law applies to schools and all government entities within the state.  

We’ve taken a look at the websites of towns and villages within our circulation area on Long Island’s North Shore to gauge whether or not the process is user-friendly. 

What we’ve found is most entities acknowledge their obligation to respond to Freedom of Information Law, or FOIL, requests. The towns of Huntington, Smithtown and Brookhaven post their record access codes online, along with most incorporated villages.   Rather than posting their FOIL codes, the villages of Huntington Bay, Nissequogue, Head of the Harbor and Port Jefferson simply provide a link to a one-page preprinted FOIL request form. Port Jefferson village online code explicitly directs the public to visit Village Hall during business hours to examine its record access policy. 

Political cartoon by Joe Heller. Image courtesy of SunshineWeek.org

It’s important to note that state legislators created a special unit within New York State to answer the public’s questions and render legal opinions about open government practices. The unit, known as the Committee on Open Government, has determined government entities should not mandate the use of record request application forms. 

Villages that currently require the public to use their application forms to request records may need to revise their practices to align with state’s legal advisory opinions. 

“There’s no obligation on behalf of the requester to travel to town or village offices to view records,” said Robert Freeman, the executive director of New York State Committee on Open Government.

Fortunately, requesting records in the electronic age is easier than ever. If documents aren’t already posted online, people can simply request copies of records via an email to the record access officer. Instructions can be found on the state department’s website: https://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/freedomfaq.html#howrequestemail. The record request template clearly outlines requesters basic rights within the form letter. 

Christian Trejabal is the open government chair for the Association of Opinion Journalists.  In a blogpost for Sunshine Week he opined on the need for journalists in this day and age.

“Thousands of newspapers have closed over the last 20 years,” Trejabal said. “Tens of thousands of journalists have lost their jobs. Without them, government is under less scrutiny, and that isn’t healthy for democracy.” 

If you would like to know more, visit the New York Department of State Committee on Open Government website. It provides volumes of information about the Freedom of Information Law, the Open Meetings Law and the Personal Privacy Protection Law. The committee’s lawyers can also be reached by telephone at 518-474-2518. 

Donna Deedy is currently a freelancer for TBR News Media, and has years of experience in the journalism field.

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

Suffolk County officials have set their sights on the wallet of a disgraced ex-police chief, looking to recoup costs of litigation.

Nearly three months after Suffolk County legislators tabled a proposal to sue former police chief James Burke over the $1.5 million settlement it paid out to his victim, the Suffolk County Legislature passed a measure March 5 to begin a lawsuit in an attempt to recoup compensation and salary Burke had received up to when he resigned in October 2015. 

“Burke clearly breached the oath he took as an officer and the duty he owed the county to serve in his capacity faithfully and lawfully,” Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) said. The Smithtown legislator was the main sponsor of the bill. 

The bill would authorize the county attorney to file a lawsuit by using “the faithless servant doctrine,” which dates back to the 19th century and allows employers to recoup all compensation paid to an employee while they acted in a disloyal manner. 

The resolution was drafted to recover the compensation paid specifically to Burke and no other county employee. 

“It feels great,” Trotta said. “Finally a victory for Suffolk County taxpayers.”

Originally, Trotta wanted to recoup money from a 2018 settlement the county paid to Christopher Loeb, who was shackled and beaten by Burke back in 2012 as part of a cover-up. County attorney Dennis Brown said at a December 2018 Ways and Means Committee public hearing there was no basis for a possible lawsuit and there was no way to recover or recoup the settlement dollars paid in the lawsuit, according to previous reporting by TBR News Media.  

In the federal civil lawsuit, the county agreed to pay the settlement amount for the civil rights offenses as they were the ex-police chief’s employer at the time. The county also paid the settlement for the actions of six other police officers who helped cover up Burke’s actions when he allegedly beat a handcuffed man for stealing a duffle bag from his vehicle.  

At the same hearing, Howard Miller, a Garden City-based attorney with the law firm Bond Schoeneck & King, presented a case for the county suing Burke for his wages and compensation paid by the county under the faithless servant doctrine.

Miller mentioned that he had successfully represented clients at the state level in similar lawsuits, including the William Floyd School District.

“This doctrine is designed to create a deterrent to future acts like this, of corruption and misconduct,” Miller said at the December 2018 public hearing.

Brown also said in a statement that the Suffolk County Charter authorizes either the county executive or the Legislature to direct legal action. The resolution that was passed by the Legislature provides a framework specific to that action, but does not limit the ability of the county executive to pursue additional legal action.

Trotta hopes the measure sets a precedent that anyone, whether in government or not, will be held accountable for their actions. 

“Former District Attorney Spota empowered and conspired with Jim Burke and Chris McPartland,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) spokesperson Jason Elan said in a statement. “Clearly, all three fall under the faithless servant doctrine so any legal action to recoup taxpayer-funded salary and benefits should include each individual.”

According to a representative from the county executive’s office, Bellone signed the legislation to recover salary and benefits from Burke on March 11 and further directed a similar suit be filed against ex-District Attorney Thomas Spota and his top aide who have also been indicted on related charges.

'Matinee' by AM DeBrincat, oil and acrylic paint and transfer print on canvas

By Melissa Arnold

In the coming weeks, Mother Nature will show us both sides of her personality as the cold darkness of winter melts into colorful spring. It’s a time of opposites, with life and death at the center of it all.

The Smithtown Township Arts Council’s Mills Pond Gallery in St. James is reflecting on these themes with its newest fine art exhibition, In the Garden of Eden: Artist Reflections, on display now through April 14.

‘Mirror’ by Yvonne Katz

“Each artist I selected helped tell a story for me — the origin of choice, good and evil, light and darkness, the origin of creation,” said guest curator Melissa Masci, who developed the concept for the exhibit. “The premise of this show is that there’s balance to every aspect of life, in the experiences we have and the decisions we make that define us. There’s a duality at play — you can create something incredibly light and beautiful from the darkest experiences.”

It is the first time that STAC director Allison Cruz has invited a guest curator to the gallery, and while she admits it wasn’t easy to hand over the reins, she knew Masci’s vision had to be shared.

Masci, a Seaford resident, is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan. Her career has led her from designing women’s apparel and store window displays to teaching art classes for children. Cruz invited her to teach at the St. James gallery, and they’ve built a fierce friendship since.

“Melissa visited the gallery just by chance about seven years ago, and we struck up a conversation,” Cruz recalled in a recent interview. “She fell in love with the space — the light and the spirit of it. And she’s such a genuine and creative person.”

The unique exhibit, which fills four gallery rooms and the center hall gallery on the first floor of the historic 1838 Greek Revival mansion, will feature the works of eight artists using a variety of mediums and styles, including oil, acrylic, mixed media and sculpture.

All of the artists are contemporary, and the majority are local to Long Island. Masci aimed to choose artists from a mix of backgrounds and experiences to expose visitors to something new, she said.

‘Ode to Giuseppe Sanmartino’ by Nicholas Frizalone

Brooklyn-based painter AM DeBrincat creates layered works on canvas, blending painting, digital photography and even printmaking for a unique style. She uses images pulled from online searches and Xerox transferring for her pieces, which explore how we create a sense of self in the digital age. “I have always felt compelled to make art, ever since I was young. I’m not sure why, but it’s always been such a strong impulse and brought me joy, so I don’t over analyze it – I just go with it,” she said.

Nicholas Frizalone of Lake Grove attended Stony Brook University and Long Island University before becoming an art educator and creator. He paints, draws and creates prints that explore the implication of language in art. “Through the use of painting, drawing, and printmaking, I wish to investigate the implications of language in art, and communicate in a way words will never be able to accomplish,” he said.

Jennifer Hannaford is more than just an artist ‒ the Port Jefferson resident is also a forensic scientist. To get in touch with her creative spirit, Hannaford began to create artistic mug shots using her fingerprints. Working primarily in oils, she enjoys exploring themes that include life, ascension and balance.

Ashley Johnson of Buffalo works with ceramics, collage and photography but expresses her creativity most through stippled ink drawings and large-scale ink paintings. “Creating art is a therapeutic way for me to work through my emotions … to dig deep and explore my trauma, joy, confusion, anger, love, and anything else I need to release,” she said.

Smithtown artist Yvonne Katz believes art is the “elixir that allows us to fluidly slip and break the threshold of all boundaries.” She loves working with oil and bronze because there is a maneuverable interaction with these mediums, as if the materials collaborate in the process of realizing the results.

‘Flower Puzzle’ by Neta Leigh

Neta Leigh is a surreal-impressionist photographer from Locust Valley. Inspired by the sights and locales that surround her daily life, Leigh is most drawn to photograph in natural light during times of fog, clouds, snow or rain. She also enjoys photographing fruit and flowers in her dining room before and after destruction.

Peter Bragino of Copiague is a multidiscipline, mixed-media artist, designer, treasure hunter and soul searcher. “In the same way we build layers in life to become who we are as human beings I allow my creations to take on the same life, the same layering, the same history. This process naturally led me to a mixed-media workflow where any medium is a viable medium to complete the formation of the life that the creation would like to take,” he said. Bragino will be collaborating with artist Kevin Corcoran for this exhibit.

“I’m always looking for something unique to bring into the gallery – not just landscapes or realism or abstracts all the time,” said Cruz. In regards to the exhibit, “I had only seen a few of the pieces initially. But the themes in it are so evident, strong and beautiful. It’s unlike anything else in this area, and I think people will really enjoy the experience.”

The community is invited to an opening reception on March 16 at 5:30 p.m.

The Mills Pond Gallery is located at 660 Route 25A, St. James. Hours are Wednesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. Admission is free. Visit www.millspondgallery.org or call 631-862-6575 for more information.

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Susan Baldridge, center, shown here with her daughter Felicia and brother Michael, was one of the winners in Smithtown’s housing lottery. Photo by Susan Risoli

There were applause and cheers at the Town of Smithtown’s March 11 affordable housing lottery for seven new homes located at Country Pointe Woods at Smithtown.

LIHP executive vice president James Britz and LIHP executive assistant Linda Mathews draw names for Smithtown’s March 11 housing lottery. Photo by Susan Risoli

Sixty people applied for the chance to qualify to purchase the owner-occupied, one- and two-bedroom units located on Route 111. The average projected purchase price is estimated to be $350,100. Twenty-one people attended the lottery, which was offered by the town together with Long Island Housing Partnership and 347 Building Company LLC.

The drawing of names was held at town hall. Applicants did not have to be present to be considered, and their housing applications were ranked and will be processed in the order in which their names were drawn.

Smithtown adopted a Municipal Workforce Housing Policy in October 2017, in accordance with New York State’s Long Island Workforce Housing Act. The policy requires developers who build subdivisions of five or more units to create 10 percent of the development for affordable housing.

To be eligible to participate in the affordable housing lottery program, an applicant must be a first-time homebuyer and must meet all program requirements including a total household income not to exceed 130 percent of the area median income for Nassau and Suffolk counties. Applicants must have an acceptable credit history as defined by the program’s guidelines.

At the March 11 lottery drawing, LIHP executive vice president James Britz said housing lotteries help people who otherwise might not be able to afford to live in Suffolk County and specifically in the Town of Smithtown. Attracting these people to live and work in the area “is a critical component in helping municipalities continue to grow,” he said. Those who apply for the Town of Smithtown housing lottery are “a very good combination of different age groups and generations,” Britz said.

Susan Baldridge, 44, was No. 10 in the drawing, and she proudly proclaimed herself “Smithtown born and raised.” Baldridge currently is renting a place in Smithtown. She is a single mother with two daughters and said the opportunity to own a home in the town she loves “seems like fate.” The mother brought her brother Michael — “my good luck charm” — to the drawing, as well as her daughter Felicia.

People that benefit from affordable housing lotteries, said Town of Smithtown supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R), are young people who grew up on Long Island but can’t afford to live here.

“This is a very expensive place to live,” he said, adding he believes affordable housing “can work to keep our talented young people. It’s been proven to work in other municipalities.”

The town’s next housing lottery will be held March 26 at 10 a.m. at town hall. Applications must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. March 22. The housing to be offered will be three one-bedroom rental units and one two-bedroom rental unit at the 36-unit Hudson Place at Kings Park development.

Last year's grand prize winner in the pet category - “Old Blue Eyes” by Carolyn Ciarelli

Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack invites all amateur photographers, including students, to submit entries for its 26th Annual Photo Contest.

Winners of the unique contest have the distinct honor of not only receiving recognition and prizes for their work, but also the privilege of helping to enhance the lives of the 460 residents who call Gurwin “home,” as winning photographs are permanently displayed in the center’s renowned Tiffin Gallery and throughout the facility for the enjoyment of residents, staff and visitors.

Photographers may submit up to seven printed color or black-and-white 8×10 or 8×12 photographs for a fee of $5 per entry.  Entry forms are available for download online at www.gurwin.org/about/photo-contest or by calling 631-715-2568.  The deadline for submission is April 15.

Winners are selected and notified in May.  A reception at the Gurwin Center for winning photographers will be held in June where they will receive their cash prize, award certificate and/or crystal trophy.

By David Luces

Students, teachers and parents in Commack recently went bald for a cause.

For the 10th year running, members of the Commack School District and surrounding community gathered at the high school March 1 to shave their heads in support of childhood cancer research. Over 100 people participated to raise money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a not-for-profit whose goal is to raise funds to find cures for childhood cancer. 

In the past nine years the district has held the event, Commack has raised over $650,000. This year the district raised close to $45,000, with some teams donating well over $10,000. 

The annual event is organized by Commack High School teachers Lee Tunick, Bill Scaduto and Dan Revera. Since its inception, close to 1,000 people have shaved their heads in solidarity to those suffering childhood cancer. Hairdressing students from Eastern Suffolk BOCES donated their time to cut the participants hair.

The idea for the fundraiser came about through a cancer awareness club that Revera and Scaduto ran at the high school for quite some time. 

“Bill Scaduto and myself have been working in this building for 20 years,” said Revera. At that time St. Baldrick’s didn’t exist as we know it today. When we first found out about St. Baldrick’s, we would go to a school in Northport and a colleague of mine thought why don’t we host our own event here [at the high school].” 

Now with the event in its 10th year, Revera said it is great to see Commack School District students and community come out to support this.  

“One of the main influx of people [that come here] are the elementary students,” the high school teacher said. “Anything that we can do to generate [money] to help these kids who are going through this is great.” Revera added that the students that came to the event have shown bravery, have stood up for what’s right and are dedicated to a good cause. 

“That’s why we are here,” he said. “Just the thought of a family going through something like this and dealing with their child battling cancer — I can’t even imagine. If providing one day where we can support them and try to help however we can, it’s the least we can do.”

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