Village Times Herald

Police arrive at location of stranded mariners in their raft. Photo from SCPD
The three men rescued from off the Old Field coast in the Long Island Sound. Photo by SCPD

Suffolk police rescued three men who became stranded in a six-foot inflatable raft in the Long Island Sound May 19.

Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers were notified by the U.S. Coast Guard at approximately 4:30 p.m. of an inflatable raft with three male occupants that were unable to make it back to shore. The three were fishing in the Long Island Sound, near Crane Neck Road in Old Field, when they were pulled approximately two miles off shore. Their boat did not have a motor and they were unable to paddle back due to winds blowing between 15 and 20 miles per hour.

Marine Bureau officers Robert Daniels and Peter Bogachunas responded in Marine Delta and located the men within 15 minutes of the initial call. All three occupants, Martin Villatoro, 23, Erick Villatoro, 26, and Ronald Benitez, 17, all of Bay Shore, were transported in Marine Delta, along with their raft, to Sunken Meadow State Park.

All three were wearing life vests and they were not injured.

Photo courtesy of Herb Herman

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Fatalities: 658 

• Drownings: 449 

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

• Boating accidents: 4,291 

• Property damage: Approximately $46 million 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gordon Taylor with technician, Tatiana Zaliznyak. A Raman microspectrometer is pictured in the background. Photo by J. Griffin

By Daniel Dunaief

Something is happening in the Twilight Zone of the ocean, but it’s unclear exactly who is involved and how fast the process is occurring. 

Plants and animals are eating, living, defecating and dying above the so-called Twilight Zone and their bodies and waste are falling toward the bottom of the ocean. But most of that matter isn’t making it all the way to the ocean floor.

That’s where Gordon Taylor, a professor and director of the NAno-RAMAN Molecular Imaging Laboratory at the School of Marine & Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, comes in. 

Taylor and Professor Alexander Bochdansky of Old Dominion University recently received a $434,000 three-year grant to study the way microorganisms eat, process and convert organic carbon — i.e., carbon that’s a part of living organisms like plants, sea birds and whales — into inorganic carbon, which includes carbon dioxide, carbonate, bicarbonate and carbonic acid.

“The inorganic carbon moves back and forth among these four chemical species,” Taylor explained in an email. Understanding the rate at which carbonic acid builds up can and will help lead to a greater awareness of ways the ocean, which used to have a pH around 8.2 — which is slightly basic, as opposed to levels below the neutral 7— is becoming more acidic.

Above, incubators that Alexander Bochdansky has used in Bermuda. The ones Taylor and Bochdansky will analyze will be smaller than these, which won’t require such a large A-frame to deploy. Images courtesy of A. Bochdansky

They will start by deploying the traps at a single depth, about 985 feet, along the ocean off the coast of Virginia. “We are going to look at who the players are,” Bochdansky said. “There might be only a few key players that degrade this organic carbon. With [Taylor’s] great methods, we can measure the uptake rate in single microbes. This is really exciting.”

The Twilight Zone received its name because it is 650 to 3,300 feet below the surface of the water. Some faint light reaches the top of that zone, but most of that region, which includes creatures that use bioluminescence to attract or find prey, is pitch black.

“The directory of which inventories and fluxes decrease [is] still poorly understood,” Taylor said. “Animals eating the material is one mechanism and we don’t know how important that is compared to microbial decomposition or remineralization,” adding that the goal of this project is to “better define the role of microorganisms in returning carbon to the inorganic pool.”

Taylor is exploring this area with new tools that will allow a greater depth of understanding than previously possible. His group has developed new experimental approaches to apply Raman microspectrometry to this problem. The organisms they examine will include bacteria, fungi and protozoans.

Their experiment will explore which organisms are recycling organic carbon, how fast they are doing it and what factors control their activities. Through this approach, Taylor will be able to see these processes down to the level of a single cell as the instrument can identify organisms that have consumed the heavy isotope tracer.

The Raman microspectrometer uses an optical microscope with a laser and a Raman spectrometer. This tool will measure samples that are micrometers thick, which is smaller than the width of a human hair. The microspectrometer can obtain data from a 0.3-micrometer spot in a cell and he has even produced spectra from single viruses.

The scientists will place phytoplankton common to the region in incubators that Bochdansky developed. They will use a heavy carbon isotope, called carbon 13, that is easy to find through these experiments and see how rapidly microorganisms that colonize are incorporating the isotopically labeled carbon.

Taylor and Bochdansky received funding for the project through the Biological Oceanography Program at the National Science Foundation in the Directorate of Geosciences. Twice a year, the division makes open calls for proposals on any topic of interest to researchers. The scientists submit 15 pages of text that the NSF sends to peer reviewers. A panel meets to evaluate the reviews and ratings and decides which projects to fund.

Bochdansky and Taylor have been “acquainted for a long time and have shared similar interests,” Taylor said.

The carbon experiments in the Twilight Zone account for about a quarter of the work Taylor is doing in his lab. The other research also employs Raman microspectrometry. The United States only has one or two other facilities that do environmental research comparable to the one in Taylor’s lab at Stony Brook. Europe also has three such tools, which can look into single cells using lasers.

One of the other projects Taylor hopes to get funded involves studying the distribution of microplastics in the ocean. “The instrument I have is one of the best tools to look at microscopic plastic particles,” because it identifies the plastic polymer and its source, said Taylor, who is awaiting word on funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The other work involves exploring viruses that attack plankton.

“We are exploring Raman methods for early detection of viruses that attack plankton,” Taylor explained. Every organism in the ocean has at least one virus that has evolved to attack it.

As for his work on the Twilight Zone, Taylor said the area acts as a filter of sorts because less than 20 percent of the organic material entering at the top exits at the bottom.

Bochdansky added that these microbes are critical to processes that affect oceans and the planet.

“That’s something people often overlook,” Bochdansky said. “We can’t understand the ocean if we don’t understand it at the level or the scale that’s relevant to microbes.”

Bochdansky is thrilled to work with Taylor, who he’s known for years but will collaborate with for the first time on this project.

“In my lab, we have measured the turnover and release of carbon dioxide,” Bochdansky said. In Taylor’s lab, he measures “the actual feeding of microbial cells.”

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It’s been a long time since the Patriots softball team has made the playoffs and it all came down to the last game of the regular season at home against Sachem East on senior day.. It would take extra innings to decide the game but Ward Melville punched their ticket to make the postseason on a passed ball in the bottom of the ninth, winning the game, 8-7.

According to head coach Joseph Burger, the Patriots last postseason appearance was back in 2002. Ward Melville senior Kristina Maggiacomo went the distance for the win, pitching nine complete innings striking out six. Maggiacomo had two RBI’s on two hits and eighth-grader Alicea Pepitone drove in two runs on three hits.

At 8-8 in Suffolk league I, the Patriots will be a low seed and have their work cut out for them as there are four out-bracket games May 18 with the opening round of the playoffs Monday, May 20.

Three Village budget vote is May 21. File photo by Greg Catalano

When Three Village residents vote for the school budget next week, they will see a familiar name on the ballot for board of education trustee.

Vinny Vizzo

Vinny Vizzo, a 34-year veteran of the Three Village Central School District, is running for the first time for trustee alongside current board member Jonathan Kornreich. They are running unopposed for two three-year seats. Vizzo is vying for the seat left empty by Angelique Ragolia who decided not to run this year.

Vizzo, the recently retired R.C. Murphy Junior High School principal, said that running for school board is an opportunity to give back as a member of “the community that I’ve loved for so many years, that gave so much to my children and to me. This is my home.”

The 65-year-old father of two Ward Melville graduates and his wife of 41 years moved to the Three Village area in 1988.

“What we have in Three Village is very unique,” Vizzo said during a phone interview.

As a teacher and an administrator in the district, he said he valued the “excellent working relationship” between administrators, teachers and the school board whose number one goal was to provide the best education to Three Village students.

Now assistant superintendent for the Diocese of Rockville Centre department of education, Vizzo hopes to add an educator’s perspective to the Three Village school board and serve as another resource to clarify and answer questions about mandates, school programs, language study or testing, he said.

While many in the community know Vizzo in his most recent role at Murphy, he started in the district in 1985 as a Spanish teacher at P.J. Gelinas Junior High School, where he built its theater program. He went on to serve as foreign language chair at both junior highs before becoming Murphy’s assistant principal and then principal.

A longtime Spanish teacher at Suffolk County Community College, Vizzo has also held positions as the president of the local administrators’ union and vice president of the Nassau and Suffolk County Administrators Association.

Jonathan Kornreich

Kornreich, 49, who is running to retain his seat, first joined the board in 2008. He is chair of the audit committee and has also served as board vice president.

“It’s been gratifying to serve alongside a cohesive group of men and women,” Kornreich wrote in an email.

He pointed to the development of district security protocols as an important example of fruitful collaboration between the board and the administration. In his coming term, he hopes to continue to investigate the possibility of later start times for secondary schools, continue the development of the district’s business and entrepreneurial training and see foreign language instruction begin in earlier grades.

Kornreich runs a property management and investment company and sits on the corporate board of a biotech device manufacturer.  He is president of the Three Village Civic Association and was also vice president of the Suffolk County Boys and Girls Club. Kornreich and his family have lived in the Three Village area since 2005. His two daughters attend Three Village schools.

2019-20 Budget

The district has proposed a $215 million budget for the 2019-20 school year. This is a 2.51 percent increase over last year’s budget — the result of contractual salary increases, utilities and a 2 percent hike in insurance costs, Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services, said last month.

Even so, the budget stays within the 2.53 percent cap on the tax levy increase without cuts to programs. State aid to the district increased by about 0.8 percent, or $287,729, for a total package of $34.7 million, Carlson said.

New initiatives for the fall include the addition of a sixth-grade guidance counselor to be shared at the five elementary schools and a musical theater class at Ward Melville.

Three Village will also introduce a fee-based, prekindergarten enrichment program, Patriots PLUS, to supplement the district’s free half-day prekindergarten curriculum. The tuition for the self-sustaining enrichment program is $500 a month. The prekindergarten curriculum, currently offered at Nassakeag, and the Patriots PLUS enrichment program will be available at each of the elementary schools in the fall.

An additional source of revenue comes in the form of tuition for the district’s special education programs. Due to declining enrollment, Three Village has been able to offer empty seats in special education classrooms and at the Three Village Academy to students from other districts. These districts pay tuition — about $80,000 per student, an amount set by the state — to Three Village. In the 2019-20 school year, the district will see about $3 million in revenue from prekindergarten enrichment and non-resident tuition, Carlson said.

The budget vote will take place at the district’s three secondary schools Tuesday, May 21, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Residents zoned for Arrowhead, Minnesauke and Nassakeag elementaries will vote at Ward Melville High School; residents zoned for W.S. Mount will vote at Murphy Junior High and those zoned for Setauket will vote at Gelinas Junior High.

Minnesauke principal

The board approved the appointment of Nancy Pickford, current Nassakeag Elementary School assistant principal and prekindergarten coordinator, to the post of Minnesauke Elementary School principal. Pickford, who joined the district in 2016, will take over for Brian Biscari, who will be the new principal at Murphy Junior High. Both begin their positions on July 1.

Above, an Eastern screech owl hatchling in New York, revived from near-death after falling out of her nest

By Erica Cirino

‘We are all fragments of the Earth’s collective imagination. From our perceptions of other beings and of places, we create ourselves. From our perceptions of ourselves, we create the meanings of our lives.’         — scrawled in my notes atop a cliff in Grimsey, Iceland, while watching a young puffin preen

The UN’s Global Assessment Report  released on May 6 made something ecologists have been saying for years and years even more clear: Earth has an invasive species problem, and that is humanity. We are taking over land, sea, air and space at an unprecedented pace, and with painful consequences for all other life on this planet we share with eight million other species. 

One million of these other eight million species are directly threatened with extinction due to our ravenous consumption of “resources” — the living and nonliving components of the Earth we choose to exploit — in addition to our straight-up takeover of space. Nonhumans probably classify us as a scourge. Rightly so. 

Above, an Eastern screech owl hatchling in New York, revived from near-death after falling out of her nest

More than 7.3 billion humans are alive today. Less than 80 pygmy three-toed sloths are left in Panama as humans clear mangroves — sloths’ habitat — for farming. There are probably fewer than 10 tiny porpoises called vaquitas alive in the Gulf of Cortez today because humans have been illegally hunting a fish called a totoaba with gillnets that catch and kill nontargeted marine mammals, including vaquitas. 

The world’s last northern white rhino died in Sudan in 2018 after a surge of poaching for rhino horn wiped out the entire species. Insects — which, while they can be pesky when buzzing in our ears or landing on our food — serve as part of the foundation of both terrestrial and aquatic food chains and pollinate the plants we rely on for survival but are dying off due to our intensive use of pesticides. 

The seas are being emptied of fish to feed our growing, and increasingly hungry, human population as tiny and toxic particles of plastic increasingly permeate the marine food chain. The skies are emptying of birds, which are increasingly growing disoriented and crashing into buildings in our brightly lit cities filled with tall skyscrapers. Nonhuman terrestrial animals are being forced to live in shrinking habitats as we clear land, head for higher latitudes thanks to climate change, and off the coasts where rising seas encroach. 

Yet, humans continue to take over the world. I find this fact quite difficult to cope with. 

An Atlantic puffin in Grimsey, Iceland

I am a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who has worked with sick, injured and orphaned nonhumans for more than 11 years, since the age of 15. I believe wildlife rehabilitation is not a solution to conservation issues, but simply a way to help individual nonhumans get a second chance at life, because humans have made life on this planet very hard for other species (and also our own species). It’s a small way to help right some of humanity’s wrongs. 

But when I turned 22, frustrated by all the human-injured wildlife that passed through my hands (shot by BB guns, poisoned, abducted, abused, hit by cars, smashed into windows), I stopped working in the clinical setting and moved to the world of photojournalism. It was my attempt to enlighten humans to the plight of nonhumans — to offer facts, to help our species perspectivize and perhaps empathize — so that maybe some nonhumans would be spared from a destiny of harm instead of needing a rehabilitator’s help. I continue to rehabilitate a few nonhumans every year, because I empathize with them, I know about their natural lives, and I know how to give them first aid. 

 While humans are more than surviving on Earth, we are not exactly thriving: About one in 10 people in the world do not have enough food to live a healthy life. More than 300 million people in the world — including children — are depressed. Climate change is stressing the landscapes people rely on to survive, fueling disease, malnourishment, conflict and migration. If all of this sounds really horrifying, well, it is. But if you think we have it hard, try to imagine how the nonhuman animals must feel, with their world being taken over by just one species: us.

One patch of plastic-covered beach in Rawai, Phuket, Thailand

Animals must reproduce to survive. But humans have already proven that they can do that. Why do we reproduce more than we need to to hack it as a species? A lack of empathy? Pride? Is it something that happens when a human being is so full of confidence about oneself that they believe they should make a reflection of it? Or perhaps it is something that happens when a human being desires the opportunity to live vicariously through a blank canvas that they themselves can paint, can create, to right the wrongs that their parents  —  or maybe their parents-parents  —  made when raising them.

It’s clear we lack empathy, not only for other species but for our own. We are so individually focused. Why have such a strong drive to procreate when the survival of our species in this world is easy, virtually guaranteed? Why not focus on elevating the lives of the less-fortunate humans, and less-fortunate nonhuman beings? Why not use the energy we spend procreating elsewhere, like volunteering to reforest the planet or pick up plastic trash or feed hungry people? Yes, giving birth may fulfill a human’s primal desire to create, but at what costs for the entire world?

Approaching Húsavík, Iceland, by sailboat on an expedition to study the effects of mass tourism, fishing, whaling and plastic pollution

I have always wondered why we celebrate the birth of a human baby, but why there is no champagne and no cries of joy when the duckling hatches from an egg, when the she wolf delivers her pups, when a neonatal shark swims from a pouch. In raising and healing wildlife, I lay no claim. I try, in a very small way, to restore the proper balance of nature, rewilding the world by setting its nonhuman children free.

 As a wildlife rehabilitator, I do not get congratulated each time I set an animal loose into the unforgiving arms of nature. I do not get cries of sympathy when an animal dies in my hands despite my attempts to resuscitate him or her. I do not get the same kind of pride out of raising a baby animal to adulthood as many people do when they raise a baby human. I don’t see a reflection of myself in the peeping owl hatchling or chattering baby squirrel, despite the fact I’ve spent painstaking days and nights, for weeks or months, feeding and cleaning these creatures.

And I don’t need to see that reflection. We are not all the same species, but I do feel that the wildlife and wild places of the world are a part of me. Though humans and nonhumans are separate in DNA, I believe we are still equals as kin on this Earth. We must get out of our own heads to empathize with nonhumans. We must prioritize the raising of all species, not just our own.

Erica Cirino is an international science writer, artist, award-winning photographer and licensed wildlife rehabber. Visit her website at www.ericacirino.com/speaking for a list of free upcoming lectures in Suffolk County. 

All photos by Erica Cirino

State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) hands out survey cards at local rail stations and seeks commuter input. Photo by Donna Deedy

The electrification of the Long Island Rail Road’s Port Jefferson Branch is back on the table, and government officials say they’re optimistic about the prospect, since now there’s some money to fund the idea.

New York State Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) during an informal interview May 9 at the Huntington train station, where he was personally handing out commuter surveys, said he predicts that the line will become fully electrified within the next five years. 

Morning commuters at the Huntington station where many switch trains to go both east and west. Photo by Donna Deedy

“It’s been talked about for decades,” he said. “It’s time to make it happen.”

Currently, the branch east of Huntington uses diesel or double-decker, dual-fuel trains, that are prohibited in Manhattan. Commuters between New York City and points east of Huntington on the Port Jefferson Branch must change from diesel to electric trains, or vice versa for the reverse commute, at various junctions, typically in Huntington. The process is time consuming and inconvenient for passengers, who are often subject to inclement weather on an open platform. Electric trains would eliminate the need to change trains and would create a time-saving, one-seat ride to Manhattan. 

Gaughran, who is serving his first term in the state Senate, has been a major proponent of the MTA Rail Act, an overhaul plan, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed into law last month. New York State’s 2019-20 budget funds the overhaul and includes an expected $1.5 billion in capital projects for the Long Island Rail Road. Funds will be used for a variety of needs, but new trains and increased service are top priorities, according to Gaughran’s office. 

Electrification makes sense now, Gaughran said, because it would help address both congestion at Huntington’s station, which serves 41,440 daily weekday riders, while speeding up the slow commute to New York City.

Gaughran said that he’s already taken steps to advocate for electrification. He’s also conducted mobile town halls on trains during the morning commute to solicit passenger input on all rail service issues and will present passengers comments from his surveys to railroad officials later this year. 

Details from the Long Island Rail Road 

The LIRR is currently evaluating proposals, according to its spokesperson, and will soon award contracts to begin the electrification studies for both the Port Jefferson Branch and the Central Branch, which connects Babylon to Hicksville via Bethpage. The studies will determine what is required to complete each project.

Overall, the electrification project, in addition to a new fleet, would require significant investments in infrastructure such as new substations, a third rail and a second track between Huntington and Port Jefferson, upgrades to half-dozen platforms and work on bridges, viaducts and crossings, according to LIRR’s spokesperson. Additional train storage yard(s) will also be needed. 

The railroad does not yet have funding for construction but is seeking it for the Central Branch electrification in its 2020-24 capital program. Port Jefferson electrification would require additional funding in several other future programs. 

A faster, one-seat ride 

A common complaint among passengers interviewed for this report during the May 9 morning commute aboard trains on the Port Jefferson line supported the need for more rapid service. 

“It takes two hours to get to New York City from Stony Brook,” said John Morgan, a mathematician at Stony Brook University’s Simons Center for Geometry and Physics, who uses the train twice a week. “It’s too slow.” 

Larry Penner, a former Federal Transit Administration director in the New York region, who is familiar with MTA operations, capital projects and programs, said the one-seat ride to Manhattan in general is the best bang-for-the-buck idea for improving rail service for riders. 

“That would be a regional game changer for us.”

— Margot Garant

“Electrification of Ronkonkoma was selected over Port Jefferson back in the early 1980s,” Penner said. “Perhaps this time, Port Jefferson will come out on top this go-around almost 40 years later.”

Penner noted that the electrification of the railroad’s Central Branch east of Hicksville to Babylon holds the potential of creating a new north/south service route, which will provide detours to Jamaica during major service disruptions on the main line between Hicksville and Jamaica. 

For years, local elected representatives have recognized the commercial value and the resulting tax revenue benefits of electrification. 

“That would be a regional game changer for us,” Port Jefferson Village Mayor Margot Garant said during a phone interview.

The Long Island Rail Road is the busiest commuter railroad in North America, carrying an average of 301,000 customers each weekday on 735 daily trains. It’s comprised of more than 700 miles of rails on 11 different branches. For most lines, the terminus is Penn Station in Manhattan, with some lines originating or ending in Queens and Brooklyn.

The Huntington line, in addition to serving 41,440 daily weekday riders, serves another 11,210 travelers on the Port Jefferson line. 

On May 10 Stony Brook University students gathered at the campus’ Roth Pond to participate in the Roth Pond Regatta. The annual event, hosted by Undergraduate Student Government, is held to help students blow off some steam before finals as they take to the 200-yard pond in handmade cardboard boats. This year marked the event’s 30th anniversary and featured the Dr. Seuss and All Things Seussical theme. 

Stock photo

Mark your calendar: May 21 is election day! And according to New York State law, so is the second Tuesday in July for most Suffolk County fire departments. The third Tuesday in March is also election day for many village trustees and propositions. Election day for state and local primaries, well that’s June 25 this year. When do you vote on library budget? Each local library has a different day for its election. So, why then do we call the first Tuesday in November election day as if there’s only one day when citizens vote?

Election days can be tough to track. It’s like the nutty old Abbott and Costello skit “Who’s on first, what’s on second, and I don’t know is on third.” Yet elections are no laughing matter.

Collectively, all of these elections amount to increased spending, which overtime adds up. It’s not easy getting it straight — not only these dates, but also all the spending.

In recent years, large and seemingly extravagant multi-million-dollar public projects have been both approved and declined by popular vote with lower voter turnout throughout our circulation area. The $14.9 million bond for the new Setauket Firehouse was approved on its third try with just 580 people voting out of a population of several thousand in the fire district. Last year, a bond presented by the Mount Sinai School District was voted down with a 664-428 tally against the project. Mount Sinai has a population of over 12,000.

If one or two days each year were designated election day, it would be easier to hold elected officials accountable by enabling taxpayers to see a broad overview of taxation on one ballot.

At TBR News Media, we would support consolidating elections into one or two universal election days each year. Make it a national holiday, so people are more keenly aware of their obligation. Maybe turn Columbus Day, a federal holiday, into election day? With one or two annual election days, citizens could more easily track spending and stay abreast of community affairs.

But until this happens, as we said, mark your calendars. All elections are important: They determine where our money will go and how much of it.

On May 21, Long Islanders will vote on board of education members and school district budgets, which account for a significant majority of our local tax bills. It’s a crucial vote that typically gains support from parents with children in school, while retirees or people with more limited income, who may have different priorities, make a point to show up at the polls to say no.

That’s the system we have now, so be sure to exercise your right to vote May 21.

Stock photo

By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

As I ponder the next step before my pint-sized daughter leaves the proverbial nest, I recall the incongruities between what we expected, what happened and what we remember. Please find below a list of some magical and not-so-magical moments.

The birth of our daughter

What we thought would happen: We had 40, no, make it 42, weeks to get ready for the birth of our daughter who waited well past her due date to appear. We took Lamaze classes — “breathe honey, breathe, there you go” — we read baby books and we had a birth plan. I figured my wife would let me know “it’s time” when her water broke or when the squint-through-them-and-then-smile-radiantly contractions arrived. We’d jump in a taxi and a wonderfully cheerful nurse would welcome us to the hospital.

What actually happened: Our daughter really didn’t want to come out, so the doctor scheduled an induced delivery. We casually packed our small bags, drove slowly to the hospital and walked up to the entrance. Numerous drugs, two days, almost no sleep and considerable anxiety later, our daughter still hadn’t made her appearance.

What we remember: This is tough, because we recall some of the hours of confusion and anxiety, but the end result was so life altering that one of our recurring memories was of a nurse coming in, to ask how many times we changed her diaper after she spent hours in the room with us. Wait, were we supposed to change her diaper?

Early trips to the doctor

What I thought would happen: He’d examine her and tell us what a wonderful job we were doing, and would offer us timely and helpful advice about surviving without sleep.

What actually happened: She weighed less than she did at birth. Is that good? Is that bad? No, it’s normal, he assured us. Why are you giving her shots already? Can’t she get shots later? She looks so peaceful. Why are you making her cry?

What I remember: That shot seemed so painful. We don’t remember our first shots, but we both felt as if the doctor were stabbing us with a sword when he gently inserted the needle in her arm.

First steps

What we thought would happen: She’d take some steps, we’d clap, and she’d be on her way.

What actually happened: We didn’t take away her walking toy until someone told us it was keeping her from learning to walk.

What we remember: Silly us, we delayed her walking because we let her keep using the toy, but, hey, she did just fine.

First athletic event

What I thought would happen: She’d try to throw or catch and ball and I’d be thrilled with her effort.

What actually happened: She played with dandelions and chatted with her friends.

What I remember: She looked great in that red T-shirt with her mitt turned backward toward her knee.

Going to high school

What we thought would happen: She’d share her daily experiences with us and we’d laugh and offer sage advice.

What actually happened: She grunted, we growled, and now she’s graduating

What we remember: She smiled and waved at us from the volleyball court and she laughed with us while we made cookies for her friends.

Driving 

What we thought would happen: She’d drive slowly and carefully and listen to us.

What actually happened: She told us all the advice we gave her wasn’t how we drove.

What we remember: She passed her driver’s test and can do errands and drive herself around. Thank goodness.

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