Village Beacon Record

Photo from U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary

By Herb Herman

Boating safely is more than common sense. While you don’t have to memorize the marine Rules of the Road to be a safe boater, a careful reading would be beneficial for every boater. Pass oncoming boats port-to-port, always have a look out, have a marine radio available and preferably tuned to channel 16. Use charts so you don’t go aground. Reduce speed in harbors and in tight quarters. Know what the buoys and other channel markers mean, and, above all, be mindful of your environment. The Coast Guard calls this “situational awareness,” a mindset that is useful anywhere and at anytime doing anything, though it’s especially important out on the water. 

Old salts, the veteran hands of boats and sailing, are not born that way — they learn by experience. There is, however, a better way: take a boating safety course. These days, thankfully, boating safety courses are required in most states. These courses are given by government and private parties. The Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Power Squadron give excellent programs that are tried and true and can get a dedicated novice up to speed in a few hours. The problem is getting boaters to sign up for these courses. We have all kinds of excuses, ranging from limited time in our busy lives to talk of, “boating is like driving, all you have to do is steer the boat.” 

But boating is not so simple an activity. Steering a boat is nothing like driving a car. In driving, does the road flow in a direction different from the one you’re going? When’s the last time you’ve seen a road center lines on the water? Does the wind usually effect your driving? Put simply, boating is a unique activity and one that takes some learning to be proficient at.

Granted, there is no better teacher than experience. However, most of us didn’t learn how to drive by getting behind the wheel and driving. We usually took driver training course.  What, then, makes us think that handling a boat doesn’t require training? One full day or a couple of afternoon training sessions can add immeasurably to your enjoyment on the water and may even add years to your life. 

A central feature of the Coast Guard’s safety mantra is the Personal Floatation Device, i.e., life jackets. It is estimated that life jackets could have saved the lives of over 80 percent of boating fatality victims. Accidents can and do happen with terrifying speed on the water. There’s rarely time to reach stowed life jackets. These days floatation aids can be comfortable, so there is no excuse for not wearing one, except for, perhaps, your vanity. Doesn’t look good? How does a drowning victim look after being pulled from the water?

In fact, life jackets are required for jet skiers and paddle boaters. There are other requirements for these activities, all based on common sense. But common sense is sometimes lacking on the water. Observed in Mount Sinai Harbor last summer, a young woman on a stand-up paddler with a young child sitting there, neither of whom had on life jackets. And there are kayakers in Port Jefferson Harbor, silently gliding in and out of the mooring field while an equally mindless power boater heedlessly plows his way between the mooring buoys. These situations are disasters waiting to happen.

We have every opportunity to make this summer’s boating a safe one. Safe boating classes are readily available. Make it a family affair. Make your dream on the water come true and not end tragically. Have the family don their vests and tell them they look great. Don’t boat under the influence. Avoid speeding when it is clearly dangerous. Adhere to regulations that are posted for No Wake, etc. Make certain that your mechanical systems are functioning properly. Be prepared for someone falling overboard or some other accident. And above all, have a Vessel Safety Examination by the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Contact the Port Jefferson Flotilla to arrange an inspection: email: info@cgapj.org or phone: 631-938-1705.

Have a great family summer on the water!

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

Carl Buttacavoli, Centereach

On July 20, 1969, an estimated 650 million people around the world were glued to their television sets as commander Neil Armstrong and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on the moon. Where were you during that celebrated event? We sent our star reporter David Luces out on the streets of Port Jefferson, East Setauket and Stony Brook to find out.

Abby Buller, Port Jefferson and  Katie Harrison, Mount Sinai

Abby Buller, Port Jefferson and Katie Harrison, Mount Sinai

“I remember getting up at 1 in the morning. Everyone in the U.S. was up for it. If you were sleeping you were either dead or under the age of two. When Neil Armstrong said his famous line: ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’ Everyone started to clap and cry. Even Walter Cronkite was crying on the news. My grandmother was at the house watching with my parents and she said, ‘It is a lie, they landed some place on Earth.’ A man landed on the moon, Woodstock and the Mets win the World Series — nothing can beat 1969.” — Abby

“I was eight years old at the time, it was amazing. If it happened today everyone would be watching on their phones. All we had back then was a black and white television.”  — Katie

Steve C., Rocky Point

Steve C., Rocky Point

“I was working three jobs at the time and worked until midnight. Who didn’t watch it? Everyone was glued to the television.”

 

 

 

 

Peter Young, Port Jefferson

Peter Young, Port Jefferson

“It was a pivotal moment in our history. I remembered watching it on television with my family like everybody else.”

 

 

 

 

Frances Langella, Holbrook

Frances Langella, Holbrook

“I was young then, I’m 89 years old now. I was watching it with my family in Dix Hills — it was very exciting. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. You always wondered who or what was out there. I don’t think any other future space mission could top the magnitude of the first moon landing.It may be different, but I don’t think it’ll have the impact of the first [moon] mission.”

 

Thomas Toye, Stony Brook

Thomas Toye, Stony Brook

“It was a great year. I remember my father had a party for the astronauts who landed on the moon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rich P., Miller Place

Rich P., Miller Place

“I was 18 years old at the time. It was the most amazing thing that I have seen. The whole country was excited. There was a man on the moon! I was at my grandfather’s house a week later; he was born in 1892. He’s watching the news on landing on the moon — and I said ‘Pop, what do you think about landing on the moon?’ He said when he was a kid they had all these stories about flying to the moon. They thought it wasn’t possible — that it was just science fiction.”

 

 

 

Carl Buttacavoli, Centereach 

Carl Buttacavoli, Centereach

“It was amazing. I was on the aircraft carrier that picked the astronauts up. It was 1,189 feet long, and we scooped them out of the water when they landed back on Earth. What amazed me is that they were up in space on the moon and then they landed right by our ship. It was amazing how they could coordinate everything and land so close to us.

 

 

 

 

 

Sandra Perkins, England and Carolyn Tobia, Commack

Sandra Perkins, England and Carolyn Tobia,
Commack

“It was unbelievable, I’m surprised we haven’t done something similar again. The whole space race seemed to close down for awhile,” she said. “But now, countries that we seem to be at odds with are working together with us. We are still going to the space station.” – Sandra

“We were in London at the time, it was very exciting. Everybody started clapping [when they saw it on television]. My husband used to watch these movies and they would be in these crazy looking suits and spaceships. Then all of a sudden we were looking at the real thing.” – Carolyn

All photos by David Luces

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Principal Robert Grable speaks at the 2019 high school graduation. Photo by Bob Savage

Mount Sinai High School Principal Robert Grable passed July 19. He was 49.

Mount Sinai High School Principal Robert Grable addresses the graduating class of 2015. Photo by Erika Karp

Grable joined the school district in 2000, teaching fourth, fifth and sixth grade before moving up to assistant middle school principal and in 2006 to middle school principal. He would become high school principal in 2010, during a reshuffling of staff where TBR News Media reported at that time he was there to help facilitate a “diversity of staff.”

In his earlier years, before he entered into education, Grable played Major League Baseball for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. He was a lifelong resident of Connetquot and father of three.

“The community, school district and its teachers, administrators and staff are devastated by his untimely loss,” the school district said in a statement.

But if his true calling was education, it showed, according to both those who worked with him and those students he guided.

Lynn Jordan, a Mount Sinai resident who had been on the board of education since 2007 until this year, said the high school is where he truly thrived.

“That was his building — that was where he belonged,” she said, only a few hours after learning of his passing.

The high school principal would be instrumental in several programs that saw the high school thrive, Jordan said, including a “collegial observation process” that had teachers sit in on other’s instructors classes, having them learn from each other. While the program met with some initial resistance, it soon became an important part of teachers mentoring each other, especially for those just coming into the district.

“Teachers are very funny about having other people in their classrooms while they’re teaching,” she said. “It grew tremendously, I think about every teacher was participating in the collegial rounds eventually.”

Students who took spent years with the principal, both in the middle and high schools, would come to see him as more than just an administrator.

Daria Martorana, a Mount Sinai native who graduated in 2014, said she had travelled the road from middle to high school with Grable, adding he was magnanimous to her and the other students.

“To say Mr. Grable was a passionate and dedicated educator is an understatement,” she said. “He has always been the one who his students could go to for a laugh when we were down, guidance when we were lost, and help when we were confused… he would even escort us to class so we didn’t get in trouble for not having a late pass.”

To those who paid attention to his methods, Grable took a look at teaching like a coach would on the baseball field, seeing how each individual student has strengths that had to be pushed and nurtured. He was adamant that students just looking to coast through easy courses should challenge themselves.

“They mentored them all through the year, making sure they were really getting what they needed,” Jordan said. “He worked with kids, he tried to make the final outcome better.”

“That was his building — that was where he belonged.”

— Lynn Jordan

Grable spoke at the 2019 senior commencement ceremony just last month, June 28. Jordan said that, even though he had spent nearly 19 years in the district and could have moved up higher in administration, he considered the high school his home.

“Robert Grable was so much more than a principal,” said Gabriella Conceicao, a 2014 Mount Sinai graduate who would later become a teacher in the district. “There are few educators who take the time to get to know their students on a personal level and he was one of them. He built relationships that would last far beyond high school and he touched the lives of countless students and faculty members… I feel so lucky to have known him as a principal, friend, mentor, and coworker.”

Community reaction to the news on Facebook was swift in its condolences, with one resident calling him “one of the most compassionate educators Mount Sinai has ever had.”

The school district announced it would be closed at 3 p.m. Friday, July 19 until Monday July 22 in observance of Grable’s passing.

“There are no words to show the impact Mr. Grable has had on each and every one of his students,” Martorana said. “We are so lucky to have had him as a mentor and teacher but more importantly as a friend.”

*This post was updated July 19 with additional information and quotes.

Children enjoy the grand opening of Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park in Elwood. Photo by Kyle Barr

With weekend heat expected to reach the high 90’s plus humidity that could make it feel like well over 100 degrees, towns across the North Shore are offering ways for residents to help beat the heat.

Brookhaven

Brookhaven town is offering extended hours for pools and beaches for the weekend of July 20 through 21.

The Centereach and Holtsville town pools will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Meanwhile all beaches including:

  • Cedar Beach – Harbor Beach Road, Mount Sinai
  • Corey Beach – Corey Avenue,, Blue Point
  • Shirley Beach – Grandview Avenue., Shirley (spray park)
  • Shoreham Beach – North Country Road, Shoreham
  • West Meadow Beach – 100 Trustees Road, Stony Brook (spray park)
  • Webby’s Beach – Laura Lee Drive, Center Moriches

Will be open until 7 p.m. both days.

More information can be found at: https://www.brookhavenny.gov/216/Parks-Recreation

Smithtown

On Friday,  July 19,  the Smithtown Senior Center will operate as a cooling station until 5 p.m. The Public Safety with support staff from the Smithtown Senior Citizens Department and Senior Transportation to operate the Senior Citizens Center as a cooling center, for seniors without air conditioning over the weekend. 

All residents are advised to take extra precautions for themselves, elderly family members, children and pets for the duration of the heat watch. 

“It’s  going to be dangerously hot over the weekend,” Supervisor Ed Wehrheim said in a release. “ We want to ensure the health and quality of life for our elderly residents… It is with this in mind, that our Public Safety Department has made special arrangements to make sure our seniors have a cool place to enjoy the weekend.” 

Seniors can make arrangements ahead of time by contacting the Senior Citizens Department today or tomorrow at (631) 360-7616. After 5 p.m. Friday, arrangements to use the senior center should be made so by calling Public Safety at 631-360-7553. If a senior citizen does not have transportation, the public safety department said it will make travel arrangements at the time of the call. Residents are asked to check on elderly neighbors and pass along this information ahead of the weekend. 

Huntington

The Town of Huntington is offering extended hours at its Elwood spray park and Dix Hills pool.

Extended hours at the Sgt. Paul Tuozzolo Memorial Spray Park at Elwood Park on Cuba Hill Road are as follows, with weather-permitting: 

  • Friday, July 19: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. (usual hours due to camp programming at the park)
  • Saturday, July 20: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 21: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The park will be waiving the Recreation Photo ID Card requirement for Town residents only for the weekend heat wave, though residents must show another form photo ID proving residence to enter the spray pad.

Otherwise, the Dix Hills Park Pool, located at 575 Vanderbilt Parkway, are now:

  • Friday, July 19: 12:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. (usual hours due to scheduled swimming lessons at the pool)
  • Saturday, July 20: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 21: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Non-residents accompanied by a town resident may use the pool by paying the daily Non-ID Card holder fee.

 Pool Admission Fees with Recreation Photo ID Card, are children (under 13) – $5; teens (13 – 17) – $6; adults (18 and older) – $7; sr. citizen / disabled – $4.50.

Pool Admission Fee (without Recreation Photo ID Card): $15 per person.

Pool Membership: Family Membership – $250/season; Individual Membership – $100/season; Sr. Citizen/Disabled – $50/season.

Otherwise, all Town Beaches will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (usual hours) during the weekend heatwave. These include:

  • Asharoken Beach, Eaton’s Neck Road, Northport
  • Centerport Beach, Little Neck Road, Centerport
  • Crab Meadow Beach, Waterside Avenue, Northport
  • Crescent Beach, Crescent Beach Drive, Huntington Bay
  • Fleets Cove Beach, Fleets Cove Road, Centerport
  • Gold Star Battalion Beach, West Shore Road, Huntington
  • Hobart Beach, Eaton’s Neck Road, Eaton’s Neck
  • Quentin Sammis/West Neck Beach, West Neck Road, Lloyd Harbor
  • Geissler’s Beach, (fishing only), Makamah Road, Northport

Mankind walked on the moon, a few locals helped us get there

The Earth as seen by Apollo astronauts over the horizon of the moon. Photo from NASA

They named it Apollo. Though the moniker has become synonymous with human achievement, a scientific milestone, the merging of a collective national conscience, the Greek god Apollo was known for many things, but the moon was not one of them. If scientists had to choose, there was the Titan Selene, or perhaps Artemis or Hecate, all Greek gods with connection to the great, gray orb in the night’s sky.

Abe Silverstein, NASA’s director of Space Flight Programs, proposed the name, and he did so beyond the surface of using a well-known god of the pantheon. In myth, Apollo was the sky charioteer, dragging Helios, the Titan god of the sun, in an elliptical high over humanity’s head.

If anything was going to bring humanity to the moon, it would be Apollo. 

Despite this, it wasn’t a myth that allowed man to take his first steps on the moon, it was humankind. Billions of dollars were spent by companies across the nation, working hand in hand with NASA to find a way to make it into space. Here on Long Island, the Bethpage-based Grumman Corporation worked to create the lunar module, the insect-looking pod that would be the first legs to test its footing on the moon’s surface.

Thousands worked on the lunar module, from engineers to scientists to accountants to everyone in between. 

Half a century later some of these heroes of science, engineers and other staff, though some may have passed, are still around on the North Shore to continue their memories.

Pat Solan — Port Jefferson Station

By Kyle Barr

Pat Solan of Port Jefferson Station can still remember her late husband, Mike, back when the U.S. wanted nothing more than to put boots far in the sky, on the rotating disk of the moon.

Pat Solan holds a photo of her with husband Mike. Photo by Kyle Barr

Mike worked on the Apollo Lunar Module at Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation in Bethpage, where he was at the head of several projects including mock-ups of the pod and working on its landing gear. He can be seen in a movie presented by NASA as workers create a scale diorama of the surface of the moon, craters and all.

“The space program was important — people don’t realize it was a huge endeavor,” she said.

Pat met her husband in Maryland when she was only 21. Mike had worked with military aviation projects all over the country, but the couple originally thought they would end up moving to California. Instead, one of Mike’s friends invited him to come to Long Island to try an interview with Grumman. Needless to say, he got the job. The couple would live in Port Jefferson for two years before moving to Setauket. 

Pat said her husband always had his eye on the sky. Aviation was his dream job, and she remembered how he was “thrilled to pieces” to step into the cockpit of a Grumman F-14 Tomcat.

Mike would be constantly working, so much that during those years of development on the module she would hardly see him at home. 

A model of the lunar module owned by the Solan family. Photo from Rolin Tucker

“He was working double shifts and he was going in between Calverton and Bethpage,” she said. “I hardly saw him at all.”

But there were a few perks. Solan and her husband would see many astronauts as Grumman brought them in to test on the simulators. She met several of the early astronauts, but perhaps the most memorable of them was Russell “Rusty” Schweickart, all due to his quick wit and his outgoing personality compared to the stauncher, military-minded fellow astronauts. Schweickart would be pilot on the Apollo 9 mission, the third crewed space mission that would showcase the effectiveness of the lunar module, testing systems that would be critical toward the future moon landing.

She, along with Mike, would also go down to Cape Canaveral, Florida, and there she was allowed to walk in the silo. Standing underneath the massive girders, it was perhaps the most impressive thing she has ever seen in her life. 

“It was absolutely mind-boggling — it was very impressive,” she said. “I can still remember that. I was stricken.” 

On the day of the landing, July 20, 1969, Pat was hosting a party to watch the dramatic occasion at her home, then in Setauket. It could have barely been a more auspicious day, as she had just given birth to her daughter Rolin July 8.

Eventually, Mike would have multiple strokes through the late 1970s and ’80s, and the stress of it would cause him to retire in 1994. He died a few years later.

“He really felt he was not capable of doing presentations to the government anymore,” she said.

Mike Solan. Photo from Pat Solan

But being so close to the work tied to getting man into space has left an impression on her. Herself being an artist, having sold paintings, both landscapes and impressionistic, along with photography and felt sculptures, the effort of the people who put a human on the moon showed her the extent of human and American achievement. 

“It was a time of such cooperation — I think it’s sad we don’t see that now,” she said.

Despite current events, she said she still believes the U.S. can achieve great things, though it will take a concerted effort.

“People have to move outside their own persona,” she added. “People are too wrapped up, everything is centered on oneself instead of a bigger picture, the whole.” 

Joseph Marino — Northport

By Donna Deedy

Fifty years ago, on July 20, 1969, man walked on the surface of the moon.  

Joseph Marino in front of the LM replica at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. Photo from Marino

Northport resident Joseph Marino spent 10 years on the Apollo mission as a Grumman systems engineer, involved from the very beginning of the project in 1962 to the last landing on the moon. He still finds the achievement remarkable.

“It was the most exciting program — the peak of my career — no question,” he said. “I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results of such a successful project.” 

Marino oversaw the design of the systems for the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), as it was originally known, and managed 300 engineers and also psychologists who were needed to work out the man/machine interface that dictated equipment design, such as visual display systems the crew relied upon during precarious moments of landing and docking.

An error in timing, particularly during landing, he said, could be disastrous. 

“Astronauts are the coolest characters capable of handling any situation imaginable,” Marino said. “It’s crucial for the crew to know when you make contact with the surface, so they know when to shut off the engine.”  

The team ultimately created an alert system with red flashing lights wired to 3- to 4-foot-long probes positioned on the module’s landing gear.

The most dramatic, awe-inspiring moment of all during the Apollo missions, Marino said, was when the astronauts witnessed the Earth rising above the horizon of the moon’s cratered landscape. The event was memorialized in what has become an iconic photo that most people today have seen. Marino cherishes that shot. 

NASA’s moon mission has been an endless source of inspiration for mankind. In fact, people can thank the space program for popularizing inventions big and little. Computers, very primitive versions of what are popular today, were first used by NASA. Velcro, Marino said, was also invented during the Apollo program and later became broadly popular.

Joseph Marino in front of the LM replica at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. Photo from Marino

Looking back, now that 50 years have passed, Marino said it’s disturbing to him that there’s been such a wide gap in time since the last moon landing and today. 

He recently spoke to his granddaughter’s high school class and told them, “Not only did man walk on the surface of the moon before you were born, likely it occurred before your parents were born.” 

The bond Marino has developed with his aerospace colleagues has lasted a lifetime.  Each month, he still meets with a dozen co-workers for lunch at the Old Dock Inn in Kings Park. 

For the 50th anniversary, Marino says that he’s been enjoying the special programming on PBS. He recommends its three-part series called “Chasing the Moon.” 

Frank Rizzo — Melville

By Rita J. Egan

For Frank Rizzo, his experience of working on the Apollo program while a Grumman employee was more about dollars and cents.

Grumman workers at Plant 5 Clean Room watching Apollo 11 landing

Rizzo, 85, was with the aerospace engineering company for 33 years. While he retired as a vice president, in the years leading up to the moon landing, he was an accounting manager with the Grumman lunar module program. The Melville resident said it was an exciting time at Grumman.

Work, he said, began on the project a few years before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the first steps on the moon. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration established a work package budgeting system with Grumman, and Rizzo, who lived in Dix Hills at the time, said he was responsible for giving the team in the Houston space center the monthly estimate to complete the actual expenditures from an external point of view and also determine profit and loss from an internal point of view.

Rizzo and his co-workers traveled to Houston frequently to review the program with NASA to give the current status from the financial, engineering and manufacturing viewpoints, though sometimes the meetings took place on Long Island. The former accounting manager said many times stand-up meetings were held due to the theory that people become too comfortable when they sit, and stand-up meetings enable for more to get done in less time.

Rizzo said he remembers the original contract, signed in the latter part of 1962, to be valued around $415 million at first. He likened the project to building a house, where it evolves over the years. Revisions come along, and just like one might choose to move a door or window, the budget would need to change regularly.

“When they discovered something from an engineering viewpoint, they had to change the manufacturing scope and materials,” he said.

Rizzo said an example of a significant change was when Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee were killed in a cabin fire during a launch rehearsal test in 1967. The trio would have been the first crew to take part in the first low Earth orbital test. Due to the horrific incident, a change was made to ensure all material within the lunar module was fireproof.

“That was a major change,” he said. “That entitled us to additional funds to put new materials in it. So those things happened quite frequently — a change to the contract.”

When all was said and done, Rizzo said the contract value between NASA and Grumman totaled more than $2 billion.

Grumman workers at Plant 5 Clean Room watching Apollo 11 landing. Photo from Cradle of Aviation Museum

During the project, Rizzo said many members of the press would come to visit the Grumman office, including Walter Cronkite who anchored “CBS Evening News” at the time.

“Here was a little place on Long Island being responsible for the actual vehicle that landed on the moon,” he said.

Since the moon landing, Rizzo said seeing similar NASA activities like the Space Shuttle program haven’t been as exciting as the Apollo program.

“A lot of people said it was a waste of money, but that money was spent here for jobs, and many of the things that we got out of the research and development, like cellphones or GPS, and so forth, the basic research and development came out of that NASA program back in the ’60s and ’70s,” he said.

'Some 1,300 communities in the U.S. now have no newscoverage at all.' - Pew Research Center

By Donna Deedy

It’s often said that a free press is a pillar of democracy, a fourth branch of government, capable of shining a light on corruption to reveal truth. History is full of cases where news stories have exposed unethical or criminal behavior, essentially helping to right a wrong. 

Consider the story on the Pentagon Papers, which showed how the federal government misled the public about the Vietnam War. When congressional leaders didn’t act, newspapers filled a role. 

Think of the news story about lead contamination of Flint, Michigan’s water supply and the Boston Globe’s series that exposed the widespread cover-up of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic priests. Most recently, the Miami Herald’s series “Perversion of Justice” is credited for exposing the crimes and lenient punishment of Jeffrey Epstein, who allegedly operated a sex-trafficking scheme with underage girls. 

These are just a few cases with incredible breadth and scope that show how journalism raises awareness and ultimately prompts change. Countless other stories underscore the value and impact of journalism, and the news is not always necessarily grim. Aside from exposing bad actors or twisted policies, journalists also celebrate all that is good in a community and can bring people together by showing the great achievements of ordinary people. 

Any way you look at it, news matters. 

In the last decade and a half, though, it’s become increasing difficult for newspapers to survive. Newsroom employees have declined by 45 percent between 2008 and 2017, according to the Pew Research Center. Some 1,300 communities in the U.S. now have no coverage at all in what are called “news deserts.” This spells trouble for democracy. Thankfully, Congress is now opening a door to take a look at the situation. 

A six-minute YouTube video created by The News Media Alliance, the news industry’s largest trade organization, explains what people need to know about the situation. Entitled “Legislation to Protect Local News,” if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth your time. 

In summary, technology — think internet and smartphones — has had a phenomenally positive impact in increasing the demand for news by expanding readership and engagement. In fact, just 2 percent of the U.S. population in 1995 relied on the internet to get news three days a week, according to Pew Research Center. By 2018, 93 percent of the population accessed at least some news online. But while news is more widely circulated, this shift to online platforms is also at the root of the news industry’s struggle. 

Terry Egger, publisher and CEO of Philadelphia Media Network said in the video that he recognizes the power and beauty of the Facebook and Google’s distribution models, but he also sees in detail how they are eroding the news industry’s ability to pay for its journalism. 

“Facebook and Google are able to monetize their distribution of our content, nearly 80 to 85 cents of every dollar in advertising digitally goes to one of those two platforms,” he said. 

The bottom line: News is supported largely by advertisements. By creating and distributing content to an audience, news outlets essentially broker their reach to advertisers looking for exposure. Accessing news through Facebook and Google has essentially disrupted that business model.

Facebook and Google have generated over the last year $60 billion in revenue, explains U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), chairman of the U.S. House Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law Subcommittee in the video. In contrast, news publishers’ revenue is down about $31 billion “over the last several years.”

Cicilline senses that something needs to be done to help local papers and publishers survive. He, along with Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), have introduced in April a bill called Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2019, H.R.2054. 

The bill provides a temporary safe harbor where publishers of online content can collectively negotiate with dominant online platforms about the terms under which their content may be distributed. 

Collins, ranking member of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, called the bill a first step to see if the nation can bring fairness to smaller and local and regional papers. So far, the legislation continues to gain momentum. 

Danielle Coffey, counsel for the News Media Alliance, stated in a recent email interview that the journalism preservation bill is receiving voices of support from both sides of the aisle. The organization is looking for more sponsors to be added. “We aren’t asking for the government to save us or even for the government to regulate or change the platforms,” said David Chavern, president and CEO of News Media Alliance. “We’re just asking for a fighting chance for news publishers to stand up for themselves and create a sustainable digital future for journalism.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said that he is monitoring the bill’s progress.“A free press has been essential to the maintenance of our democracy and keeping people informed,” he said. “As the way Americans consume their news evolves, we must ensure that tried-and-true local journalists are receiving their fair share so they can continue to serve their readers for generations to come.”

Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) is equally in agreement. “Our democracy is strongest when we have a free and diverse press,” he said. “From national to local news, events and happenings, we need the quality journalism of the free press to keep the public aware of what is happening in their country, state, town and local communities.”

Residents are urged to contact their congressman, Zeldin (631-289-1097) or Suozzi (631-923-4100), and ask them to become co-sponsors of H.R.2054: Journalism Competition and Preservation Act of 2019.

 

The Shoreham Tesla Science Center’s celebration of famed scientist Nikola Tesla’s 163rd birthday was an indicator of how much perspective matters.

While participants watched demonstrations Saturday afternoon and evening of a number of Tesla-built devices from Tesla coils to the induction motor, behind them the world’s largest Tesla coil, a 40-foot monster of a device, loomed. The coil, designed by electrical engineer Greg Leyh, made its grand debut on Long Island, brought all the way from California by road.

“It’s basically a hobby that’s gotten away from me,” Leyh said. 

The design is actually a one-third scale model of the electrical engineer’s intent to build a 120-foot Tesla coil — two actually. And if set up side by side he said it can test to see how lightning is created in the atmosphere.  

“Being an empiricist, I thought the best way to get to the heart of the problem is to recreate the point inside the lightning storm where the lightning starts,” Leyh said.

As large as the coil was, Leyh admitted it was only a fraction of the size of Tesla’s original tower, which once sat in the middle of the center’s property, behind the current statue of Nikola Tesla. That tower rose 187 feet in the air and was part of the famed inventor’s idea of wireless transmission of power across a wide expanse.

The Tesla Science Center now enters its seventh year since originally purchasing the property, with plans continuing to turn the site into a museum about Tesla and science, as well as a science-based business incubator. 

Marc Alessi, the center’s executive director, said they are still looking to raise many millions of dollars more for the project. Current renovations to the main laboratory, used by Tesla back in the early 1900s, include the rooftop chimney and cupola surrounding it.

The next stage for the location is finalizing site plans, which could take several months, on the visitors center, to be located in the white house in the front of the property, and demolition of other nonhistorical buildings at the location.  

“I’m really excited things are starting to pick up pace,” Alessi said.

Miller Place Duck Pond at the corner of North Country Road and Lower Rocky Point Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

Miller Place Duck Pond may soon see drainage improvements Brookhaven town hopes will reduce sediment flow into the small, water lily-filled pond right outside North Country Road Middle School.

Miller Place Duck Pond at the corner of North Country Road and Lower Rocky Point Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

The town board unanimously agreed to shift money around in the capital budget to make room for the pond drainage improvements, allocating $135,285 for the project. At the same time, the highway department is planning to use $2.6 million in total from grants and town funds to complete road and sidewalk repair in tandem with the drainage renovations.

“The new improvements should reduce the amount of sediment from the road, sanding and salting that washes into the pond,” said town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point). “It should reduce pollutants associated with road runoff.”

Last year, TBR News Media reported both local environmental activists and town waterways management said there were problems with invasive and destructive plant species in the pond. The town applied for a grant from the Suffolk County Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program as well as the Stewardship Initiative. The grant would have had a projected cost of $240,000 with a $120,000 town match; however, Bonner said the town failed to get the grant.

Anthony Graves, Brookhaven’s chief environmental analyst, said they have not witnessed, just from viewing the water’s surface, that the pond is as dense with destructive plants as the previous year. Though he added the problem could be because of high rainfall this year compared to previous years, meaning it’s hard to gauge the plant density on the bottom of the pond. A big part of the reason for those invasive plants was the wash of sediment into the pond’s bottom from the road. 

Involved in this new drainage includes a “stormceptor unit,” a device placed in the ground used to intercept pollutants and sediments before they enter the pond. Such pollutants include oil and grease from passing cars. Graves added the town is trying to reduce nitrogen buildup in the roadside pond. 

In addition to renovating drainage of the pond, the town is expecting to go in and dredge the bottom of the pond. 

“The drainage improvements collect the sediment before it enters the pond,” Graves said.

Meanwhile, the town’s highway department has set up to work in tandem and with those drainage improvements, both in renovating the sidewalks around the pond and completing road resurfacing. North Country Road is a Suffolk County-owned road that is managed by the town. 

Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro (R) said his department received close to $1.25 million from grants, though the town is supplying the rest of its total $2.6 million cost. The project will include resurfacing and restriping of the road in addition to renovated sidewalks.

Losquadro said the town has had to deal with other problems in and around the pond, such that a blocked pipe was restricting enough water from entering the pond toward the southern end.

One of the biggest components of road resurfacing is drainage — getting that water off of the roadway,” he said. “So, as we’re doing this project, we want it to last as long as possible.”

Renovations to the drainage should begin sometime in August, Bonner said, while the highway superintendent said they plan to do some sidewalk work in tandem. The rest of the roadwork will start after the new drainage is installed. While they intend to finish before classes start, he added they would have to finish that work during one of the early school recesses if they can’t finish before.

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By Julianne Mosher

For five years, the Engel family of Miller Place has been putting together a basketball tournament and barbecue in memory of their late son, Jake, who tragically lost his life in 2015 to a heroin overdose. 

But this year was special for the Jake Engel Hoops for Hope Barbecue – which sold out in just three days. On Friday, July 12, Brookhaven town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) stood with Jake’s family at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai to reveal the new name of the court that overlooks the harbor: The Jake Engel Memorial Basketball Court.

Inscribed with the words “Shine On” and an image of a man fishing, the notion for the memorial was decided last year. 

“Basketball and fishing are what Jake loved to do,” Bonner said. “This sign is a reminder of why we are here today and why we play this game every year.”

Shortly after Jake’s death, his brother and friends spontaneously organized a community basketball tournament in his name. Over the course of four years, the organization has raised over $40,000 that has been donated to Hope House Ministries, a Port Jefferson-based nonprofit organization that provides care and hope to individuals suffering
from addiction.

“Our main goal is to bring awareness of the opioid crisis we have here on Long Island and to bring the community together,” Jake’s mother, Karen Engel, said. 

The four-and-a-half hour event consisted of 28 teams of three to four players. Over a dozen volunteers helped with selling T-shirts, food and refreshments, along with a large raffle of donated items. Friday’s event raised roughly $12,000 and was the first year of the organization as a nonprofit. 

“This year’s tournament was really successful,” Geoff Engel, Jake’s brother, said. 

Four months ago, the family officially established the Jake Engel Hoops for Hope Foundation that looks to bring awareness, community and change to all people negatively affected by substance abuse in Suffolk County. 

“I want to thank the Engel family for taking such a horrible tragedy and turning it into something special,” Bonner said, “It takes a special person to do that.”

Allied troops in WWII fought through thick casualties the week of July 4, 1944

British Gen. Bernard Montgomery, right, with American generals George Patton and Omar Bradley July 7, 1944. Photo from Institute for Historical Review

By Rich Acritelli

As Americans enjoyed a beautiful Independence Day with the opportunity to watch ball games, barbecue, go swimming and enjoy fireworks, at this time of year and in the many years prior, our nation has always preserved freedom during times of peace and war. Today, American military forces are in every corner of the world serving in Afghanistan against the Taliban, at the Korean Demilitarized Zone and through an expanded naval and air power in the Persian Gulf to guard against potential Iranian aggression. But around this time, many decades ago, American soldiers spent their July 4 weeks overseas in active conflict.

These military actions were seen during the weeks that followed the D-Day landings at Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. While the casualty estimates were far less than what was expected by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, he did not expect the terrible warfare that was waged against his forces as the Allies moved inland from the beaches. The Germans masterfully utilized the French terrain of the “hedgerows” to slow down the mostly American, British and Canadian forces. For a time, Hitler still expected the main assault to be led by the controversial, but powerful presence of Gen. George S. Patton’s tanks at Calais. At this moment, Hitler’s senior generals widely protested against his belief that Normandy was only a secondary assault. Hitler wasted precious time and committed serious military blunders by not adhering to their advice to wage a counterattack against the invading forces who were pushing out from Normandy. The German Wehrmacht had 19 divisions and 800 tanks that were waiting for an assault that never took place at Calais. This powerful force played no major role in attacking the earliest actions of Eisenhower during the opening stages of liberating France.

As the Allies pushed forward from the beaches, Hitler ordered the use of the V-1 and V-2 rockets that established a new “blitz” against London. Unlike the German bombers and fighters that reigned havoc on the city earlier in the war, there was little defense that could be conducted against these “buzz bombs” that terrorized the British civilians toward the end of the war. Again, Hitler’s senior generals stated that if these weapons were to be used, they should be deployed against the Allied ports in England that shipped over a tremendous amount of resources to aid their soldiers in France. However, Hitler believed that it was entirely possible for these “wonder weapons” to achieve a victory for Germany, even though the Allies were militarily established in France.

The German dictator refused to adhere to any military information from his generals who continued to tell Hitler that the situation was bleak. As Eisenhower had to deal with setbacks from the hedgerows, he knew that it was only a matter of time before his forces could break out against the Germans who were barely holding their own ground. Hitler refused to realize how desperate the situation in the west was. He decreed that every inch of this ground should be contested, that his soldiers should fight to the bitter end to cause horrific casualties against Eisenhower, which he hoped would move the Allies to withdraw back to England. Hitler’s once favorite leader, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, observed that it was not possible for Germany to defeat the superior resources that Eisenhower had at his disposal. Rommel pleaded with Hitler to end the war on the Western Front to prevent utter defeat and destruction. Rommel understood that while the Allies were marred by the terrain, it was only a matter of time before Patton pushed eastward toward Paris. Hitler scolded Rommel, saw him as a defeatist, and refused to adhere to any talk of ending the war and making peace. 

Like Rommel, a disgruntled Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt understood that the hedgerow fighting would be overcome by the Allies and there was no chance of victory. After he was relieved by Hitler, he told his military peers, “Make peace you idiots,” before all is quickly lost. About two weeks after July 4, 1944, a small group of German military and civilian leaders carried out an assassination attempt of Hitler at his headquarters in East Prussia. Rommel was tied to this failed plan and he was given a choice by Hitler to stand trial or commit suicide. To protect his family, he took his own life under the fake deception that Rommel died from wounds that he received from an Allied aerial attack against his car.

Even as Eisenhower had the upper hand against Hitler, his forces endured terrible losses against the German defenses. It hurt the Americans and British that the poor weather, which had stymied Eisenhower’s D-Day decision about when to land at Normandy, carried over during this campaign. The Allies had a difficult time coordinating air support against enemy positions through heavy rain and clouds. During the early days of July, the American military had 27,000 casualties among its 413,000 soldiers. Resembling the warfare that Gen. Ulysses S. Grant saw against Robert E. Lee in the 1864 fighting in Virginia, the Germans used the thick natural growth of trees, bushes and terrain to their bloody advantage. In order to support these operations, Eisenhower needed to have a large harbor to collect the vital supplies that were used on a daily basis by his men. By July 1, 1944, the French port of Cherbourg was taken, which allowed Eisenhower to bring in an additional 1,566,000 soldiers, 333,000 vehicles and 1.6 million tons of food, equipment and ammunition.  

General Omar N. Bradley commanded all of the American ground forces and he was shocked at the extreme losses that his army sustained. “The G.I.’s General,” as Bradley was known by his men, believed that Allied movements progressed at a “snail’s pace” against the enemy. Both Bradley and Eisenhower relied on the aggressiveness of Patton’s efforts to push his armor inland to create weaknesses and chaos within the German lines. The brief hedgerow warfare frustrated the American desire to hit the enemy hard and use their advantages to coordinate air and land warfare. As Patton was disciplined by Eisenhower during the “slapping incident,” in Sicily, they desperately sought his armor tactics to end this stalemate and push the enemy back on their heels.

It was almost 75 years ago this week that American military forces moved slowly against the determined resolve of the German army to push forward beyond the Normandy landings. While the war would be over within a year and Hitler’s Third Reich would be completely destroyed, American soldiers endured high casualties within the first stages in liberating Western Europe of Nazi control. At a time when the German military had slowed down Allied advances, even their key military figures understood that they could not match the strength of Eisenhower and the war machine that was created to defeat them during July of 1944.  

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

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