Times of Smithtown

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Ellen Brady

Ellen Brady, a long-time member of the Suffolk County Republican Committee and wife of Smithtown Republican Party Vice-Chairman Bernard “Bernie” Brady, died Jan. 15 at the age of 78.

Loving mother of Michael (Terri) Brady, Denise (Joseph) Riccio and Patrick (Tara) Brady; cherished grandmother of Michael, Patrick, Jack, Molly, Liam and Erin; adored sister of Muriel (Carl) Scarantino and the late Gerard McLeer.

Visitation will be held at Branch Funeral Home in Smithtown on Sunday, Jan. 19 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m. and from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. Funeral mass will be celebrated Monday, Jan. 20 at 10:00 a.m. at Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, 95 Old Nichols Road in Nesconset. Burial to follow at St. Patrick’s Cemetery Mount Pleasant Road in Smithtown.

Community members and public officials gather in Smithtown for a public hearing on the development of the Flowerfield/Gyrodyne property in St. James. Photo by David Luces

Residents of both Brookhaven and Smithtown spoke during a Jan. 8 public hearing about the impact of the proposed development of the 75-acre Flowerfield/Gyrodyne site on Route 25A in St. James. While opinions varied, one thing was certain: The project will be the largest development the area has seen in quite some time. 

The proposal seeks to subdivide the land into nine lots, keeping existing businesses and a catering hall while adding a 150-room hotel with a restaurant, two assisted living centers, two medical office parks and a 7-acre sewage treatment plant.

During the hearing, Gyrodyne representatives said they are taking a sustainable approach and have come up with multiple alternatives to the original plan that balance out potential impacts to the surrounding communities. 

Kevin McAndrew, a partner at Cameron Engineering, a Woodbury-based firm hired by Gyrodyne, discussed the potential benefits of the project. 

“The project would bring in significant economic benefits — generate over $3.5 million dollars, bring in high quality jobs and no increase to [area] school enrollment,” he said. 

McAndrew said the firm has acknowledged traffic concerns in the area. The proposed plans, he said, such as the assisted living center, would contribute minimal traffic congestion during peak commute hours. The developer pointed out the inclusion of walking trails, bike lanes, green infrastructure and a potential sewage treatment plant at the site, which representatives said could be used for sewering for downtown St. James. 

Despite what they heard from the presentation, many speakers and civic leaders said they were not convinced, including officials from Brookhaven, Suffolk County and New York State. 

“This 75-arce project will undoubtedly be the largest development in the Smithtown/Brookhaven area for the next generation.”

– Ed Romaine  

Ed Romaine (R), Brookhaven supervisor, said the project would impact the communities of Brookhaven in a devastating way. 

“This 75-arce project will undoubtedly be the largest development in the Smithtown/Brookhaven area for the next generation,” Romaine said. 

Romaine and others complained that Brookhaven is being left out of the planning process and their concerns are not being addressed. As the site is just outside their borders, it would impact their roads, particularly Stony Brook Road. 

“I submitted extensive comments on the scope of the project, to this date I haven’t been contacted about any of these concerns,” the supervisor said. “25A is over carry capacity and we are going to add more? I have concerns about Setauket Harbor and water quality as well as this sewage treatment plant.” 

Maria Hoffman, press secretary read a statement from Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket):

“Shortcomings of this DEIS include the project’s impact on Stony Brook Harbor, will the onsite [treatment] plant become a regional sewer district? What type of sewer system will be purchased and installed, and will it remove nitrate? These meaningful unanswered questions need to be answered and resolved before the project is allowed [to move forward].”

Stony Brook resident Curt Croley said he’s worried about the project’s impact on property values. 

“There is no doubt in my mind that this proposal is opportunistic based on available land,” he said. “I can’t help but wonder if there’s been enough diligence about the sewage treatment plant, the runoff and all the potential impacts that are so close to all these municipalities.”

Joy Cirigliano, chapter president of the Four Harbors Audubon Society, expressed concerns about the nearby harbor and other waterways.

“We already have water quality issues in Stony Brook Harbor and Smithtown Bay with Ecoli and hypoxia, adding more nitrogen to the harbor is significant,” she said. The applicant must analyze these impacts and the repercussions before proceeding with the plan.”

Artists, such as Kevin McEvoy, who had a thriving studio on the Flowerfield site, have already left. The atelier now has limited operations at Gyrodyne. 

 “The development of that property will only enhance us and allow us to grow,” she said. “[St. James] will become the microcosm of small-town life we yearn to be again.” 

– Natalie Weinstein

Some Smithtown residents welcomed the project, because the St. James business district on Lake Avenue could tap into the project’s proposed sewage treatment plant. 

Natalie Weinstein of Celebrate St. James stressed the importance of the potential project and how it would finally allow for the revitalization of Lake Avenue as a cultural art district. 

“The development of that property will only enhance us and allow us to grow,” she said. “[St. James] will become the microcosm of small-town life we yearn to be again.” 

Following the public hearing and end of the public comment input later this month, the Smithtown Planning Board will await submission of a final environmental impact statement in preparation for a vote on the Gyrodyne applications. 

TBR News Media has previously reported that Smithtown has already received $3.9 million from Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), so it can connect the Lake Avenue business district in St. James to the Gyrodyne sewage treatment plant. 

 

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.

Macy’s in Commack is set to close this summer. Photo by Rita J. Egan

A week into 2020, retail giant Macy’s announced it is closing at least 28 stores in the next couple of months, including one in Suffolk County — the Commack store located at 2 Veterans Highway. 

The Hicksville store in Nassau County is also on the chopping block.

“The decision to close a store is always a difficult one, but Macy’s is proud to have served … the Commack community over the past 39 years,” said Macy’s spokesperson Bridget Betances in a press release on Jan. 6.

The chain plans to shutter the 210,000-square-foot Commack store this summer because its lease is being terminated by the landlord. A clearance sale is slated for May and will run about two months. Commack Shopping Center Associates has plans to demolish the building and replace it with a BJ’s Wholesale Club. Approximately 100 employees will be affected. 

Macy’s in Lake Grove, Huntington Station and Bay Shore have been spared for now.

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.