Times of Smithtown

Port Jefferson's stop on the Long Island Rail Road. File photo by Erika Karp

An idea decades in the making could take a major step forward by the end of 2018.

It still may be years before electrification happens, if it ever happens at all, but momentum is building toward funding being secured for a study determining the feasibility of electrifying the Long Island Rail Road on the Port Jefferson line from Huntington to the stations east by the end of this year.

Mitchell Pally, the Suffolk County representative on the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s board of trustees, said the LIRR has already appropriated funds to support the study, adding state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) has also succeeded in appropriating state funds toward the plan.

“The support of the communities involved is essential to making this work,” Pally said in an interview. “The railroad is very supportive.”

Community support for exploring the possibility of electrifying the line, which currently allows trains to run on diesel fuel east of Huntington, has been building in recent years, although the idea has been on the radar for North Shore residents at least as far back as the 1980s.

Anthony Figliola, an East Setauket resident, former Brookhaven Town deputy supervisor and vice president of Empire Government Strategies, a company that provides strategic counsel on governmental relations and practices to municipalities, has been leading a community coalition advocating for a feasibility study for about the last year, he said. The group, which Figliola said has been informally calling itself the North Shore Business Alliance, has been lobbying elected officials and community organizations like civic associations and chambers of commerce throughout the relevant territories in an effort to build public support for and attention on the idea. Figliola said he hopes the funding for a study will be in place by the end of the year. The study is expected to cost approximately $12 million, he said.

“It’s ripe, the community wants it,” Figliola said. “We’re very grateful for all that Mitch is doing to advocate on behalf of this.”

Figliola identified Charlie Lefkowitz, vice president of the Three Village Chamber of Commerce and real estate developer, as one of the other community members leading the charge for electrification.

“It’s a long time coming,” Lefkowitz said of progress on the feasibility study. “It was a collaborative effort on many fronts. The direct beneficiaries of it will be the communities.”

The study would examine how much faster trains on the North Shore line would reach Penn Station in Manhattan with electrification from Port Jeff, select a new rail yard to house the electric trains among other logistical particulars. Currently, the LIRR rail yard is off Hallock Avenue in Port Jefferson, though several officials have indicated electrification would require the relocation of that yard and the Port Jeff train station. The former site of Lawrence Aviation Industries has been suggested as a possible new rail yard and train station.

On April 4 Huntington Town Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R), Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Smithtown Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) sent a joint letter to the New York State Legislature’s Long Island delegation to express their support for the feasibility study due to potential economic and environmental benefits. They cited that the Port Jefferson and Huntington branch lines have the highest ridership, about 18.7 million annually, of any line in the LIRR service territory, according to the most recent LIRR Annual Ridership Report released in 2015. Figliola said his coalition had lobbied for the support of the three supervisors.

“I think it has legs,” state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said of electrification. “It’s such a good idea that I think it should happen.”

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St. James residents welcomed fall with a classic display of cars along Lake Avenue.

The Community Association of Greater St. James held its annual Car Show Sept. 24. The cars displayed covered the entire spectrum from antiques and muscle car to exotics. Cars and trucks were lined up along Lake Avenue for attendees to check out.

Click through the gallery above to see some of the cars on display and see if we caught you scoping out a classic. 

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Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve in Commack. Photo from Facebook

Two childhood friends whose shared tie is a community they love are planning a celebration of what makes Commack unique.

The newly revived and first Commack Day will be held Oct. 6 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve off New Highway. Everyone’s invited, Commack resident or not, to help revive a tradition and bring it into the modern era.

James Manikas, a Commack resident and local real estate agent, said the idea of hosting a community festival first came up when he was reminiscing over high school memories with his friend, Commack native Dean Spinato.

There’s a Smithtown day, St. James day, a Nesconset day, Huntington fall festival, even Northport Cow Harbor Day, all of the surrounding towns have something like this.”

— James Manikas

“There’s a Smithtown day, St. James day, a Nesconset day, Huntington fall festival, even Northport Cow Harbor Day, all of the surrounding towns have something like this,” Manikas said. “Wouldn’t it be cool to shut down
Commack Road and have a big fair?”

The real estate agent said upon talking to older Commack residents, including his mother, he learned the community did once host an annualget together at Hoyt Nature Preserve, but the event hadn’t been held in close to 30 years.

“I think I may have attended it as a child,” he recalled.

Earlier this year, Manikas started posting videos and photos on Facebook suggesting a community celebration be revived. As his social media posts gained traction, Spinato, who works organizing marketing events, reached out to him offering to help.

I reached out to Jimmy and said, ‘I’m onboard,’” he said. “We’ve been friends since junior high, so let’s do this the right way. Let’s do a donation, give back and get the community involved.

The first idea of shutting down Commack Road to hold a street fair was met with several roadblocks.

“Commack has nothing because it’s split between Huntington and Smithtown,” Spinato said. “We’d have to go to both towns and see which road we would be able to shut down and get permits.”

They sought a special event permit from the Town of Smithtown to use Hoyt Farm Nature Preserve, harkening back to the past. A committee of lifelong “Commackians” was formed to begin assembling a lineup of entertainment, food and music.

When you find out someone is from Commack, you simply gravitate to them, it has that strong sense of community.”

— James Manikas

“When you find out someone is from Commack, you simply gravitate to them, it has that strong sense of community,” Manikas said. “I want people to see what a great town it is.”

The event will feature live music from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. including performances by 3 Dudes from Commack, Full Circle Live, Killing Time and 70’s Flashback. Several local and chain restaurants have agreed to donate food for the event, according to Manikas, which will be available for tasting.

“You’re allowed a table there to promote any kind of business,” he said. “We’d prefer it to be a Commack business first.”

A listing of all the businesses that have pledged to be involved can be found on the event’s website at www.commackday.com. Tickets are $10 in advance through eventbrite or $15 cash-only on the day of the event. A portion of the proceeds will be given to the Commack Fire Department.

“These people are here, protecting us and our community, who are strictly volunteer,” Manikas said. “I think the least we can do is give back to them.” 

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Smithtown town officials plan new parking lot for Kings Park

From left, Marc Mancini, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in the newly reconstructed Bellemeade Avenue Municipal Parking Lot. Photo by Kyle Barr

A newly remade Bellemeade Avenue Municipal Parking Lot in Smithtown has several local business owners excited. They hope it might not only attract more customers, but the floods that have ruined their properties in prior years will be a thing of the past.

“There was a big storm a couple years back and all of our stores got flooded,” Lisa Spica, the owner of Dance ‘N’ Things, said. “I have a lot of stuff on the floor, and merchandise got damaged, equipment got damaged. This new drainage is a beautiful thing.”

The parking lot, located off East Main Street, was once notorious for filling with water, at one point flooding the 13 businesses that it borders, business owners said. After several days of torrential rain earlier this month, Richard Daly, owner of RICHARD Salon, was happy to report he’s seen no hint of flooding.

Now, it’s great. There’s a lot of new parking spots. Clients are happy, and more importantly employees are happy.”

— Richard Daly

“When it flooded, we just got used to it — lived with it,” Daly said. “Now, it’s great. There’s a lot of new parking spots. Clients are happy, and more importantly employees are happy.”

The Town of Smithtown finished its $490,000 reconstruction of the parking lot in August, which increased the total number of parking spaces to 139 while adding new drainage and rustic lighting fixtures. Mike Petrina, the manager at Smithtown Running Company, said that the additional lighting was especially
important to him.

“Before there was hardly any lighting, so the new lighting makes it a lot safer at night,” Petrina said.

Smithtown’s elected officials have municipal parking on their minds. The town board voted unanimously Aug. 14 to enter a contract of sale to purchase two vacant lots off Pulaski Road for a price of $280,0000 from Flushing residents Matthew and Marguerite Lupoli.

“We finally brought the Queens resident to Smithtown — we purchased those lots and we’re going to make a new parking lot, similar to [Bellemeade], but with off-street parking to help the west end businesses that we have in Kings Park,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said.

This parking lot was in disarray for many, many years, and hardly ever used. Certainly, this parking lot will be beneficial to these businesses.”

— Ed Wehrheim

The parking lot was closed for roughly a month before being reopened, according to East Main Street business owners, who said they felt  construction did not affect their businesses too much. Most are now happy to walk to their cars at the end of the day without dealing with flash flooding or worrying about their safety.

“I even have some younger girls working for me and taking out the garbage late at night, sometimes we would just wait until morning because nobody wanted to,” said Erin Kahnis, the owner of DIY artistic signs store AR Workshop. “It’s much better now.”

Wehrheim said the town plans to install additional lighting fixtures and finish landscaping the gardens in the lot’s center island and along its eastern edge during the next six weeks.

“This parking lot was in disarray for many, many years, and hardly ever used,” the supervisor said. “Certainly, this parking lot will be beneficial to these businesses.”

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Town officials trying to plan for Brookhaven landfill’s closure, evaluate potential odor issue and site locations

Power Crush, Inc. is located on Old Northport Road in Kings Park. Photo by Elana Glowatz

The Town of Smithtown is hoping to find a fertile concept for budding plans to build an organic waste processing facility, one that town officials hope might mitigate a potential Long Island trash crisis.

“We are looking in that direction as well as a number of other directions because there will come a point, not just in Smithtown but on Long Island, where municipalities are going to have to deal with solid waste once the Brookhaven landfill closes,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) said.

“…[T]here will come a point, not just in Smithtown but on Long Island, where municipalities are going to have to deal with solid waste once the Brookhaven landfill closes.

— Ed Wehrheim

The town received $187,000 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency to undertake a study starting in 2015 on the impacts of indoor organic waste processing facilities, one that takes items like food waste and grass clippings and turns it into compost. Wehrheim said many Suffolk County municipalities are creating contingency plans should the Town of Brookhaven’s plans to close its landfill come to fruition. Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) has said it could close in less than a decade.

Suffern-based SCS Engineers partnered with Smithtown officials to release the draft study Sept. 13 with the intention to draft a zoning ordinance that would allow for its construction.  Town code does not currently allow for any composting or organic waste facility.

“This is a scoping meeting to look at all the aspects of it and, at some point, the town board will make a decision whether or not we want to have the use of a facility like that put into the town code,” Wehrheim said. “We’re just trying to get out in front of it now so that eight or nine years down the road we will have a remedy for it to take care of our solid waste.”

Wehrheim said one location the town is considering using is Power Crush Inc. gravel supplier on Old Northport Road in Kings Park. The property’s owner, Toby Carlson, presentedthe town board with a conceptual plan for constructing such a facility in 2014.

The 280-page report suggests a number of sites for the plant. These include: the northwestern corner of Commack and southwestern corner of Kings Park, adjacent to Sunken Meadow State Parkway; the east side of Commack along Route 25/Jericho Turnpike; the southern side of Kings Park; and the southwestern corner of St. James.

There are a number of potential environmental and quality-of-life hazards stemming from indoor organic waste processing facilities, according to the draft study, including odor, groundwater impacts, air emissions, traffic and dust.

These facilities are part of their particular community, they try to take the material that’s out there and recycle it into products that most of us use.” 

— Gregory McCarron

In an internet-based survey of 28 facilities as part of the town’s study, half of the plants had received odor complaints, 11 percent noise complaints, 7 percent cited dust objections and 4 percent alleged traffic grievances. Yet, a nearly equal number of facilities said they had not received any such complaints from the local populace. Another 11 percent refused to provide any details about any complaints.

“All these facilities don’t want these problems, they don’t want unexpected events,” Gregory McCarron, the vice president of SCS Engineers, said. “These facilities are part of their particular community, they try to take the material that’s out there and recycle it into products that most of us use.”

To try to mitigate  complaints and accidents, organic waste facilities have a number of management practices they employ. These may include building and maintaining vegetable buffers to allay dust issues or scheduling deliveries to lessen traffic issues.

Nearly half of the indoor organic waste processing facilities that responded to Smithtown’s survey said they use some type of air treatment system. In addition, 81 percent reported they have specific facility design-related methods to reduce odor.

“The [best management practices] are certainly effective in mitigating, at least to some extent, those impacts,” Allyson Murray, an environmental planner for Smithtown, said.

In the course of the study, Murray visited three organic waste processing facilities in North America. The most modern facility she visited was in Toronto, Canada, which operated as an  anaerobic digester. Typical composting is aerobic, meaning it uses bacteria that require air to help break down the organic waste. Modern anaerobic composting uses airless containers in both wet and dry environments. Murray said she smelled very little odor on location and the noise was kept to a minimum.

We always do things patchwork on Long Island. I think we need a more holistic approach.” 

— Adrienne Esposito

“It’s a different kind of technology — the kinds of impacts are of a different kind,” Murray said.

Linda Henninger, the president of the Kings Park Civic Organization, attended a Sept. 13 meeting held at Smithtown Town Hall to inform local civic groups about the potential organic waste facility. She said that because the idea is still in its early stages she will keep Kings Park residents up to date on any potential hazards.

“Our mission is to look out for the people in our community,” Henninger said. “We’re continuing to educate ourselves on the issue.”

Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of the environmental advocacy group Citizens Campaign for the Environment, questioned why there are not larger conversations happening on the county or state level to determine just how many facilities Long Island requires and where would be the best location for one.

“In the next few years, every person on Long Island will have to know where our garbage goes,” she said. “We always do things patchwork on Long Island. I think we need a more holistic approach.”

Murray said the town plans to release the final version of the survey by the end of 2018.

The Kings Park Kingsmen varsity football team traveled to Miller Place Sept. 14 and defeated the Panthers 24-6. Kings Park moved to 2-0 this season as Miller Place dropped its second straight to start the 2018 season. The Kingsmen will be back in action at 6 p.m. Sept. 21 when they host Half Hollow Hills West. Miller Place will have its next opportunity to get into the win column Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. at West Babylon.

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The names of 163 first responders were added to the long list of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, losing their lives in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Saturday in Nesconset.

The Nesconset 9/11 Responders Remembered Park hosted its 14th annual ceremony Sept. 15 where a bell tolled for each name added to the memorial wall. Crystal Gajewski-Borella, the vice president of the 9/11 Responders Remembered Park Foundation that maintains the site, said it’s painful to see the number of names increasing every year.

“We added 163 names this year – this is the most amount of names we’ve added since we started,” Gajewski-Borella said.

“We added 163 names this year – this is the most amount of names we’ve added since we started.”

— Crystal Borella

Families members from across the U.S. came to the small corner park in the Town of Smithtown hamlet to honor those listed on the ever-growing wall first unveiled in 2011. Many used thin sheets of receipt paper to trace the names of their loved ones. Patrick Franklin flew in from California to honor his father, Detective Sean Franklin of the New York City Police Department, who died from 9/11-related respiratory issues in 2017.

“It’s a really beautiful memorial, and I’m happy they put in everyone who died from sickness after,” Franklin said.

The 11 members of the Pilcher family came from as far away as Utah to honor Robin Pilcher, Captain of Utah Task Force One who died of pancreatic cancer in 2017.

“Being here today is exciting because we get to remember our dad,” Pilcher’s daughter, Brandie Paterakis, said. “If he could have died in any way, this is the way he would have wanted to go, in honor and as a hero, sacrificing his life for others.”

Many 9/11 first responders and volunteers who helped dig through the rubble looking for survivors and clearing the area now suffer from a number of diseases tied to their service from respiratory infections to cancers.

“9/11 was the longest day in the history of days, but it’s not over – people are still dying.”

— John Feal

The September 11th Victims Compensation Fund was created following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to provide compensation for any individual who was injured or the family of those killed as result of the attack. It was renewed by President Barack Obama (D) in 2011 and again in 2015, extending benefits through 2020. Many 9/11 responder advocates fear the fund will not be renewed in 2020.

Nesconset resident John Feal, president of the FealGood Foundation that advocates for health care benefits for first responders, said the impetus is on elected officials to see these people receive the proper support. Feal regularly travels up to Washington D.C. to advocate for 9/11 responder’s health care.

“9/11 was the longest day in the history of days, but it’s not over – people are still dying,” Feal said. “We have to keep fighting so we don’t have to keep adding names to this wall.”

The park foundation is looking for donations to help maintain and add to the park grounds. For more information on how to donate or volunteer, visit www.respondersremembered.com.

Northport Tigers varsity boys volleyball defeated Smithtown West Bulls, 3-0, Sept. 13 in Smithtown.

Northport boys volleyball has started its 2018 season on a positive note with two consecutive wins. They will continue on the road to play Ward Melville Sept. 20 at 4:30 p.m.

The West Bulls are still looking for their first win of the 2018 season as they are scheduled to host Lindenhurst Sept. 20 at 4 p.m.

 

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim. Photo from Nicole Garguilo

Smithtown residents will have a voice at the table to represent them when planning the future growth and development of Long Island.

Town of Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) was one of two new appointments to the Long Island Regional Planning Council nominated by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D). His appointment was unanimously approved by Suffolk County Legislature by a vote of 17-0 at its Sept. 5 meeting.

“I am extremely honored and humbled by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone for putting his faith in me,” Wehrheim said. “Together, we can unite all Long Island residents in a non-partisan effort to deliver a modern-day renaissance here in our beautiful home.

Together, we can unite all Long Island residents in a non-partisan effort to deliver a modern-day renaissance here in our beautiful home.” 

— Ed Wehrheim

The Long Island Regional Planning Council is an inter-municipal organization whose mission is representing the needs of all Long Islanders by building productive connections between communities, focusing on issues best handed on a broad geographic scale and fostering the development of regional comprehensive planning. Some of the issues it addresses include capital projects for economic growth, improving mass transit, affordable workforce housing and environmental protection during development, according to its website.

“Suffolk County is working towards a vision that keeps our region competitive and attracts the high-skill, high-knowledge workers we need to grow our economy,” Bellone said in a press statement.

Wehrheim said that he’s been able to foster a ‘perfect symbiotic relationship’ with Suffolk officials in working through capital infrastructural projects. He highlighted his recent work that has Kings Park, Smithtown and St. James sewer projects shovel ready, in addition to repaving the town’s municipal parking lots.

“We’ve worked hand in hand with county Executive Bellone who has been both a man of his word and a true champion in helping our hamlet’s plan for economy growth,” the supervisor said. “He has helped our community to understand the need for infrastructure and transportation improvements is the foundation for growth.”

Wehrheim along with Jeffrey Guillot, a partner at Huntington-based Millennial Strategies, LLC, will join the 10 existing members of the committee. Other elected officials involved in the Long Island Regional Planning Council include: Town of Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen (D); Ralph Scordino, mayor of the Village of Babylon; Robert Kennedy, mayor of the Village of Freeport; and Barbara Donno, mayor of the Village of Plandome Manor.

The Smithtown supervisor said he anticipates working on upcoming capital projects including a $10 million state Downtown Revitalization Improvement grant awarded to Islip, further development of the Ronkonkoma Hub, and relocation of the Yaphank train station in Brookhaven to make space for a housing project.

“We all want the same thing, for our region to grow, to thrive all while preserving our suburban quality of life,” Wehrheim said.

From left, Jacqueline Hughes, Dennis Creighton and Lorelai Mucciolo in the opening scene of ‘Fun Home’

By Heidi Sutton

When “Fun Home” opened Off-Broadway at the Public Theater in September 2013, it was so popular its run was extended several times. When the production closed on Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre in 2016 after an 18-month run, it had already made an indelible impression on the world, winning five Tonys, including Best Musical.

Now, making its Long Island premiere, the award-winning musical has taken up residence at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts through Oct. 20.

‘I Wanna Play Airplane’
Loreilai Mucciolo and Dennis Creighton in scene from ‘Fun Home’

Based on the 2006 best-selling graphic memoir “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic” by cartoonist Alison Bechdel, the show, with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, features Alison at three stages of life: as a 10-year-old child (a shared role played by Lorelai Mucciolo on opening night/Gabby Blum); a college student at Oberlin (Lisa Naso); and as a 43-year-old (Jacqueline Hughes). The latter Alison narrates the show as she attempts to add captions to her cartoon panels.

Told through flashbacks, Alison shares memories of growing up in a dysfunctional home in a small town in Pennsylvania with her two brothers, Christian (Dylan O’Leary/Jonathan Setzer) and John (Kieran Brown/Brayden E. Bratti). Both of her parents, Helen (Stephanie Moreau) and Bruce (Dennis Creighton) are teachers and her father is also a mortician, running the Bechdel Funeral Home (the children called it the “Fun Home” for short). As the years pass, Alison discovers her own sexuality and the secret life of her closeted gay father. As an adult, she struggles to unlock the mysteries surrounding his tragic death three months after she comes out (“I had no way of knowing that my beginning was your end.”) It is as intimate as storytelling gets with a poignancy and vulnerability that is raw and emotional.

The three Alison’s, from left, Lisa Naso, Loreilai Mucciolo and Jacqueline Hughes in the finale ‘Flying Away’

Accompanied by a seven-member band led by Melissa Coyle, the songs are the heart of the show. All of the numbers, including Mucciolo’s beautiful rendition of “Ring of Keys,” the three children’s Jackson 5 inspired “Come to the Fun Home,” the hilarious “Changing My Major (to sex with Joan)” by Naso, the soulful “Days and Days” by Moreau, the moving “Telephone Wire” by Hughes and the heartbreaking “Edges of the World” by Creighton, are perfectly executed.

Director Kenneth J. Washington has assembled a talented team of the utmost caliber to produce a show that is exemplary. From the actors to the musicians to the choreographer to the set and costume designers, their hard work and dedication has resulted in an incredible evening of live theater and a well-deserved standing ovation on opening night.

Enter “Fun Home” with an open mind and experience the magic of this musical production. You’ll want to see it again and again.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 East Main St., Smithtown closes out its 2017-18 season with “Fun Home” through Oct. 20. Running time is approximately 90 minutes with no intermission. For mature audiences. Tickets are $38 adults, $34 seniors, $25 students. For more information or to order, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

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