Village Times Herald

Astronaut Scott Kelly and author Tom Wolfe. Photo courtesy of Amiko Kauderer

By Daniel Dunaief

How often do you get to talk to someone whose legend loomed large over your childhood?

Last year, I had the privilege of interviewing author Tom Wolfe, who died last week at the age of 88. Wolfe wrote “The Right Stuff,” “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” and “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,” among others. I spoke with Wolfe about astronaut Scott Kelly, who was so inspired by “The Right Stuff” that he directed a life he considered somewhat aimless toward becoming a fighter pilot and, eventually, an astronaut.

My conversation was rewarding and memorable, so I thought I’d share my interview with the legendary author.

DD: Kelly credits you with putting him on a path that led him to spend almost a year aboard the International Space Station. Is there a satisfaction that comes from that?

TW: Nothing else I’ve written has had such a beautiful result. He told me he’d been floundering around trying to figure out what to do with his life. He hadn’t been doing well in school. Then he just got the idea of going into space and became an astronaut.

DD: Did you know he took “The Right Stuff” with him?

TW: He sent me from the space station a picture of the cover on his iPad. That was one of the greatest messages I ever got.

DD: Do you think Kelly’s mission increased the excitement about space?

TW: There’s been a general lack of a sense of heroism in much of the post-World War II era and there were people who responded to the space program in general in that fashion.

DD: How does the excitement now compare to the early days of the space program?

TW: John Glenn’s return created a lot of excitement. At that time, we seemed to be at war in space with the Russians. That was what kept the space program going. There was always this threat. It’s very hard to hit the Earth from space. You’ve got three speeds: the speed of what you fired the rocket with, then you’ve got the speed at the end of that opening shot and you’ve got the speed of hitting the Earth, which is moving.

DD: How do you think people will react to Kelly’s mission?

TW: It remains to be seen whether it inspires young people the way the Mercury program did.

DD: What drove the space program until that point?

TW: Wernher van Braun [a German engineer who played a seminal role in advancing American rocket science] spoke in his last year. The point of the space program was not to beat the Russians. It was to prepare for the day when the sun burns out and we have to leave Earth and go somewhere else. It’s hard to imagine everybody shipping off to another heavenly body.

DD: Getting back to Kelly, how difficult do you think Kelly’s mission was?

TW: Scott Kelly’s adventures were a test of the human body and the psyche. Being that removed from anybody you could talk to and see must be a terrible stress. That’s what he and others in the space station are chosen for.

DD: Do people like Kelly still need “the right stuff” to be astronauts?

TW: It’s the same except anyone coming into the program is more confident that these things can be done. For Mercury astronauts, these things were totally new. The odds against you, the odds of death, were very high.

DD: What advice did you give to Kelly when he started writing his book?

TW: Begin at the beginning. So many of the astronauts and other people who have memorable experiences will start with the adventure to get you interested. Then, the second chapter, suddenly you’re saying, “Harold Bumberry was born in 1973,” and it makes you take a deep breath [and say], ‘OK, here it comes.” Whereas starting at the beginning always works.

DD: What do you think of the movies made about your books?

TW: I think they’re terrible. Three of my books were made into movies and I disliked them all. The reason being they didn’t do it like I did. You can’t do a lot of things in a movie that you can in print. You’re better at presenting themes, better at dialogue. You can hear it, you can’t get inside a mind of a character the way you can in print. Movies don’t have time.

DD: What impact did Scott Kelly’s being inspired by your book have on you?

TW: It’s the best compliment I’ve ever gotten.

Principal Alan Baum addresses attendees at the 2017 Ward Melville graduation. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Rita J. Egan

As Ward Melville High School seniors graduate this June, they won’t be the only ones moving on to new endeavors in the fall.

Alan Baum, who has been the high school principal for 10 years, will be transitioning to a new position within the school district in August. He will be taking on the role of executive director of secondary curriculum and human resources in the district office, while William Bernhard, current P.J. Gelinas Junior High School principal, will take over in the high school.

Alan Baum, current Ward Melville principal, will begin a new position in the school district’s office starting in August. Photo from Three Village Central School District

Baum began his career in the Three Village Central School District in the middle of the 2003-2004 school year when he became assistant principal. The Three Village resident said he taught at Commack High School, and before pursuing a career in education, was a lawyer.

Baum said he always had an interest in working in administration, and when the chance came he took advantage of it.

“The opportunity to fulfill these professional goals was presented, and I wanted to take advantage of utilizing the expertise I have developed over my many years as a secondary school teacher and administrator, as well as my knowledge as a former attorney,” Baum said.

District Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich is supportive of the change.

“Dr. Baum possess a strong skill set and professional background — both in the classroom and as part of our administrative team — that will enable our district to develop initiatives to enhance our overall program,” Pedisich said in a statement. “He is committed to ensuring that our students as well as staff are supported in a way that promotes personal growth, and we are confident that he will be a true asset in this new role.”

When it comes to starting his new position, Baum already has goals in mind.

“This new role gives me the opportunity to work more closely with our superintendent and district leadership in helping our district enhance our instruction and resources to promote even greater successes and achievements,” he said.

While the principal is looking forward to his new role, there are aspects he said he will miss of his current position, like the students and staff.

“The day-to-day interactions, excitement and vibrancy of everything that is Ward Melville,” he said he’s going to miss.

During his tenure at the school, Baum tackled difficult issues, including the opioid crisis and introducing gender-neutral graduation gowns.

“Ward Melville is a great institution filled with incredible students and amazing staff.”

— Alan Baum

In a previous interview with The Village Times Herald, he said he never shied away from the local drug problem. In 2014, he was trained to administer Narcan, a medicine used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. After his experience, he had the high school staff trained in its use. Now, all elementary and secondary school staff members in the district have also been trained.

When it came to the debate over gender-neutral graduation gowns in the winter of 2017, while many students and parents were against the district abandoning the tradition of males wearing green gowns and females wearing yellow ones, and switching to green gowns for all students, Baum showed support for the school district’s decision.

“In addition to creating a unified senior class, it is our hope that creating a unifying color scheme will eliminate the anxiety that is caused by forcing a young adult to wear a gown that labels them differently from how they identify,” he wrote in a March 2, 2017, letter to Three Village parents.

When it comes to navigating the issues and concerns that a high school principal may encounter, Baum had advice for Bernhard.

“Ward Melville is a great institution filled with incredible students and amazing staff,” he said. “Be sure to include them in your decision-making process and never lose sight of your objective: to help provide a well-rounded, enriched educational experience for all students. Stay open-minded, be fair and, above all, enjoy this professional opportunity to grow.”

The principal said he is proud of the students of Ward Melville and also had some parting words for them.

“I would like our students to always feel empowered to do their best in whatever they chose to do and always do the right thing — to be positive ambassadors for change not only in our community but our world,” he said. “I would remind them that their actions today can have great ripple effect on our future and to embrace the strong system of support they have not only at our high school, but within our school district and broader community.”

State Sen. John Flanagan congratulates Laurel Hill School student Sam Specht for winning the New York State Senate’s 2018 Earth Day Poster Contest. Photo from Senator John Flanagan's office

A student in East Setauket is improving the environment one bottle at a time.

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) presented sixth-grader Sam Specht with a certificate for winning the New York State Senate’s 2018 Earth Day Poster Contest during a May 21 assembly at The Laurel Hill School. For his entry, “We Are Creating a Monsterous Problem,”

Sam took the challenge one step further by creating a monster made of bottles to hold his poster.

Sam Specht’s winning Earth Day poster entry included a robot made of plastic bottles holding his poster. Photo from Joanne Specht

Flanagan said Sam, 12, was chosen from 4,600 entries, representing 43 of 63 state senators.

“You, my friend, have distinguished yourself as the best of 4,600,” Flanagan said.

The senator had advice for the students in attendance. He said young people may garner more respect when it comes to advising others in disposing of litter and recycling since people don’t always listen to adults who tell someone to pick up or recycle a piece of garbage.

“I guarantee if one of you said it, they’d pay a lot more attention,” he said. “So, don’t think you can’t make a difference, because you can.”

Sam, who lives in Bellport, has attended The Laurel Hill School since pre-K. He chose the plastic bottles as the issue for his poster because he said not enough people recycle them properly. During his research for the essay that accompanied the poster, Sam said he discovered a million bottles are purchased worldwide every minute and 91 percent aren’t recycled. Facts he included on his poster.

“I figured out that the amount of the bottles we use in America daily are enough to go from New York to San Francisco and back,” he said.

The 12-year-old had advice on how to help with reducing the number of bottles found in trash cans and littering communities. One, Sam said, is to purchase reusable drinking containers, and to also look for recycling receptacles when in public. Sam said it’s vital to research locations to ensure plastic is recycled properly when returning bottles from home, which he found most supermarkets do.

“I figured out that the amount of the bottles we use in America daily are enough to go from New York to San Francisco and back.”

— Sam Specht

Sam was unable to bring his bottle monster to the assembly because he already brought the pieces, which included soda and water bottles for the body and a milk jug for the head, to Costco to recycle. He said he was happy his teacher and mom took pictures to display at the school presentation.

“I was pretty surprised when I won because I knew a lot of people participated so I didn’t really expect that,” he said.

Sam’s mother, Joanne, said her son has been concerned about the environment for years.

“He is always reminding us to turn off the water when we brush our teeth,” she said. “He is also always asking everyone in our family to use refillable bottles instead of buying water bottles.”

The mother said Sam helps his neighbors bring their recycling cans to the curb on collection days, which she said has made him more aware of how much plastic is used and discarded.

“I am glad for Sam that he won because he takes this issue very seriously,” she said.

High school educational component created to combat teen drunk and districated driving, opioid abuse

A public service announcement, titled “Hey Charlie,” highlights the progression of drug addiction and encourages those struggling with substance abuse to seek treatment. Video from Suffolk County District Attorney’s office

With graduation approaching comes a new outreach program to keep kids safe.

Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini (D) announced an initiative aimed at educating high school students and their parents on the dangers of impaired and reckless driving May 14. The program, Choices and Consequences, is described as a dynamic, engaging presentation that is provided by assistant district attorneys and detectives assigned to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office’s Vehicular Crime Bureau.

“Whether it’s texting and driving, drinking or doing drugs and driving, these decisions can be fatal,” Sini said. “The Choices and Consequences program drives that message home to teens and their parents by using real-life examples that unfortunately have changed lives forever, have taken lives from us prematurely and have devastated victims’ families and friends here in Suffolk County.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading cause of death for people in the United States between 15 and 24 years old is motor vehicle crashes. In Suffolk County, the leading causes of motor vehicle crashes are impaired driving and reckless or distracted driving.

During Sini’s tenure as Suffolk County police commissioner, motor vehicle crashes within the police district were reduced by more than 30 percent as a result of a multi-pronged enforcement effort to increase traffic safety.

“It’s a terrific opportunity for schools to be on the cutting edge of education and prevention. There are a lot of presentations out there, but I guarantee that if you sit through this presentation, it will impact your life and the way you make decisions.” — Tim Sini

“I’m proud to say that the Suffolk County Police Department and its partners have been successful in reducing motor vehicle crashes that result in serious physical injuries or fatalities, but enforcement is just one piece of our approach,” Sini said. “We need to educate — we need to raise awareness of making bad decisions behind the wheel.”

The Choices and Consequences program is based on a presentation created in the Kings County District Attorney’s Office and later adopted by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office. It comprises facts and statistics on impaired and reckless driving; interactive skits that show how police officers respond to motor vehicle crash scenes and detect impairment; and demonstrations of the impacts of alcohol and drugs on motor skills.

In partnership with the Long Island Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependence, the scope of the effort has been expanded to educate participants about the dangers of substance use in an effort to combat the opioid epidemic.

LICADD, in conjunction with the Christopher D. Smithers Foundation, a family charitable foundation concentrated on alcohol use disorder and addiction, and on educating the public that addiction is a medical illness, recently released a public service announcement, titled “Hey Charlie,” that highlights the progression of drug addiction and encourages those struggling with substance abuse to seek treatment.

“LICADD is proud to partner with the district attorney’s office as it takes the lead in making sure that this life-saving education is provided to every student and every parent in Suffolk County,” said Steve Chassman, executive director of LICADD. “It’s so important when dealing with a disease that is potentially preventable to get this message out in every Long Island school. This is how we are going to turn the corner on this epidemic.”

Sini invited school districts and community groups across Suffolk County to participate in the program by emailing InfoDA@suffolkcountyny.gov or calling 631-853-5602.

“We have proms, graduations and the summer months coming up, so it’s the perfect time for schools to invite us in to provide this presentation,” Sini said. “It’s a terrific opportunity for schools to be on the cutting edge of education and prevention. There are a lot of presentations out there, but I guarantee that if you sit through this presentation, it will impact your life and the way you make decisions. It is that powerful.”

By Rita J. Egan

As soon-to-be Stony Brook University graduates filled Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium May 18, the college celebrated a milestone of its own with a record-breaking 7,350 students donning caps and gowns. This year marked the largest graduating class in the university’s history.

Among the degrees awarded were 4,530 bachelor’s, 2,035 master’s, 620 doctoral and professional and 265 certificates, according to the university. The Class of 2018 included graduates from 43 states and 73 countries ranging in age from 18 to 77. SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. acknowledged a few of the members of the Class of 2018 for extraordinary accomplishments. Among them was Ann Lin for being the first in her family to attend college and for her studies on genes associated with survival from cancer being published.

Stanley said 10 graduating members of the women’s lacrosse team could not be present due to practicing on the road for their NCAA tournament game. The team was ranked first in the country and undefeated during the regular season, but lost in the quarterfinals of the tournament to Boston College the next day.

Tracy Smith, poet laureate of the United States, accepted an honorary degree at the ceremony. She shared some advice with the graduates advising them to use words with care, integrity, and discipline.

“Every mindful action has the potential to be troubling,” she said after accepting her award. “Be poets pushing your words, your thoughts, your wishes and your dreams to a place where ‘troubling’ is possible.”

The day before graduation, SBU School of Medicine held its traditional doctoral hooding ceremony where students officially earn their MD degrees. Nearly half of the 126 graduates were hooded by a parent or other family member with a doctoral degree. The graduates begin their residency training in July.

This post was updated May 21.

From left, Jon Longtin, Sotirios Mamalis and Benjamin Lawler. Photo courtesy of Stony Brook University

By Daniel Dunaief

It’s not exactly Coke and Pepsi designing a better soda. It’s not Nike and Reebok creating a more efficient sneaker. And, it’s not McDonald’s and Burger King uniting the crown and the golden arches. At Stony Brook University, it is, however, a combination of energy systems that haven’t historically worked together.

“Fuel cells and engines have been seen as competing technologies,” said Sotirios Mamalis, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at SBU. “The truth of the matter is that these two technologies are very complementary because of their operating principals.”

Indeed, Mamalis is the principal investigator on a multi-year project to create a hybrid fuel cell-engine system that recently won a $2.3 million award from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

Working with Benjamin Lawler and Jon Longtin at Stony Brook and Tom Butcher, leader of the Energy Conversion Group at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Mamalis plans to build a system that uses solid oxide fuel cells partnered with a split-cylinder, internal combustion engine. The engine system will use the tail gas from the fuel cell to provide additional power, turning the inefficiency of the fuel cell into a source of additional energy.

“These ARPA-E awards are extremely competitive,” said Longtin, adding “If you land one of these, especially a decent-sized one like this, it can move the needle in a lot of ways in a department and at the university level.” The group expects that this design could create a system that generates 70 percent fuel to electricity efficiency. That is well above the 34 percent nationwide average.

Reaching that level of energy efficiency would be a milestone, said Longtin, a Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Stony Brook. The core of the idea, he suggested, is to take the exhaust from fuel cells, which has residual energy, and run that through a highly tuned, efficient internal combustion engine to extract more power. The second part of the innovation is to repurpose the cylinders in the engine to become air compressors. The fuel cell efficiency increases with higher pressure.

A fuel cell is a “highly efficient device at taking fuel and reacting it to produce DC electricity,” Lawler said. One of its down sides, aside from cost, is that it can’t respond to immediate needs. An engine is the opposite and is generally good at handling what Lawler described as transient needs, in which the demand for energy spikes.

The idea itself is ambitious, the scientists suggested. “These projects are high-risk, high-reward,” said Mamalis. The risks come from the cost and the technical side of things.

The goal is to create a system that has a disruptive role in the power generation market. To succeed, Mamalis said, they need to bring something to market quickly. Their work involves engineering, analysis and design prior to building a system. The project could involve more tasks to reduce technical risk but “we’re skipping a couple of steps so we can demonstrate a prototype system sooner than usual,” Mamalis said.

They will start by modeling and simulating conditions, using mathematical tools they have developed over the years. Once they have modeling results, they will use those to guide specific experimental testing. They will take data from the engine simulation and will subject the engine to conditions to test it in a lab. 

“The biggest challenges will be in changing the operation of each of these two technologies to be perhaps less than optimal for each by itself and then to achieve an integrated system that ends up far better,” Butcher explained in an email. “The target fuel-to-electricity efficiency will break barriers and be far greater than is achieved by conventional power plants today.”

Butcher, whose role will be to provide support on system integration concepts and testing, suggested that this could be a part of distribution power generation, where power is produced locally in addition to central power plants. People have looked into hybrid fuel cell-gas turbine systems in the past and a few have been installed and operational, Mamalis explained. The problem is with the cost and reliability.

Mamalis and his colleagues decided they can tap into the inefficiency of fuel cells, which leaves energy behind that a conventional engine can use. The reason this works is that the fuel cell is just inefficient enough, at about 55 percent, to provide the raw materials that a conventional engine could use. A fuel cell that was more efficient, at 75 or 80 percent, would produce less unused fuel in its exhaust, limiting the ability of the system to generate more energy.

The team needs to hit a number of milestones along the way, which are associated with fuel cell development and engine and hybrid system development.

The first phase of the work, for which the team received $2.3 million, will take two years. After the group completes Phase I, it will submit an application to ARPA-E for phase II, which would be for an additional $5 million.

Lawler suggested that fundamental research made this kind of applied project with such commercial potential possible. “The people who did fundamental work and [were involved in] the incremental steps led us to this point,” he said. “Incremental work leads to ground-breaking ideas. You can’t predict when groundbreaking work will happen.”

The other researchers involved in this project credit Mamalis for taking the lead on an effort that requires considerable reporting and updating with the funding agency.

Every three months, Mamalis has to submit a detailed report. He also participates in person and on conference calls to provide an update. He expects to spend about 90 percent of his time on a project for which the team has high hopes.

“It’s an exciting time to be a part of this,” Longtin said. “These folks are pivotal and we have developed into a very capable team, and we have been setting our sights on larger, more significant opportunities.”

Trustee incumbents William Connors and Deanna Bavlnka look forward to three more years on the board. Photo by Andrea Paldy

By Andrea Paldy

The Three Village school budget passed with an overwhelming majority May 15.

Of the 1,948 votes cast, 72 percent were in favor of the $209.8 million budget for the 2018-19 school year with 1,412 yes votes and 536 voting no.

Spending will remain within the 1.97 percent cap on the tax levy increase and include enhancements to the well-being of students, as well as to the elementary science and music programs.

Three Village superintendent Cheryl Pedisich was appreciative of residents’ support, saying that Tuesday’s result is a reflection of their values.

“I am most proud of our ability to sustain programs and services we value most without reducing any for budgetary needs.”

— Cheryl Pedisich

“I am most proud of our ability to sustain programs and services we value most without reducing any for budgetary needs,” she said.

“It’s a real affirmation and validation,” said board president William Connors.

He acknowledged that residents “pay a lot of taxes” and said he appreciated their confidence in the board and the administration’s fiscal responsibility.

A small increase in state aid, along with shrinking enrollment and retirements, helped pave the way to some budget additions. Those include another high school guidance counselor and district psychologist and an assistant athletic trainer, officials said. The elementary grades will benefit from the addition of a third-grade orchestra program, along with new assistant teachers to help prepare for the 2020 implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, which addresses disciplinary core ideas, scientific and engineering practices and cross-cutting concepts.

The district will restructure and combine some of its administrative positions by introducing a chair of foreign language and English as a New Language for kinder-garten through 12th grade. It will also create two coordinating chairs of physical education and health to oversee elementary and secondary grades.

There will also be change at Ward Melville High School. Principal Alan Baum will become executive director of secondary curriculum and human resources and move to the North Country administration building. William Bernhard, currently principal at P.J. Gelinas Junior High, will step into a new role as principal at Ward Melville.

Board president Connors and trustee Deanna Bavlnka ran unopposed to retain their board seats for three more years.

“I’m thrilled,” Connors said about starting his third term. “I enjoy what I’m doing.”

Before rejoining the board in 2012, he had served on the Three Village school board from 1994-2006. When he and his wife moved to Three Village 46 years ago, he said, it was because of the quality of the schools.

“It’s a real affirmation and validation.”

— William Connors

After 18 years of board service, it is “fulfilling to have had an impact on the educational programs,” he said.

Bavlnka, who has served on the board since 2011, said she’s excited and particularly pleased with the positive community engagement. With the goal of fostering communication and interaction between parents and Three Village faculty and administrators, Bavlnka has maintained the Facebook page, Three Village Connection, since 2013. She said she is proud to see that it has been a success.

Other district news

Three Village will enter into a new contract with Suffolk Transportation Service Inc., the bus company that currently provides student transportation to and from school, field trips and athletic events. While contracts between school districts and bus companies can be extended at a rate increase equal to the consumer price index, if both parties agree, the CPI has been low, and Suffolk Transportation did not want an extension of the old contract, said Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services.

After sending out requests for proposals and considering three bus companies, the school district chose to continue with Suffolk Transportation and will pay an increased rate of 16 percent, Carlson said. The district will extend its contract with Acme Bus Corp., which provides mini-bus service, without a rate increase.

Following the resignation of the district’s treasurer, who will be attending graduate school, the administration has decided not to refill the position. Instead, it will assign treasurer duties to another staff member and issue a $10,000 a year stipend. This will save the district $70,000, Carlson said.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization Educational & Cultural Center will host a series of programs for community members over 55. File photo

A cultural and educational organization and Stony Brook law practice are joining forces to teach community members over 55 and recognize them for their contributions to society.

In March, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and Burner Law Group, P.C., launched a program that incorporates virtual travel geared toward the 55 and older community. Attendees will get to explore different places by viewing a big screen while asking curators and experts questions in real time. Nancy Burner, who practices elder law and estate planning, said the first travel program held April 25 included a virtual tour of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Canada.

“Longevity studies show that by nurturing generative qualities and looking for intellectual stimulation and fulfillment, third-agers are helping themselves to live longer and healthier lives.”

— Nancy Burner

“Viewers were able to interact with the guide and experience an engaging adventure from their seat in Stony Brook Village,” Burner said. “Future programs will continue these virtual tours and will also showcase those community members in their third age who are continuing to live extraordinary and vibrant lives.”

Burner uses the term third age to describe the 55 plus generation and has given talks and written articles about the subject.

Gloria Rocchio, president of WMHO, said the programs at the Educational & Cultural Center will be called the 55 Plus Club. She added attendees have already given feedback on what they would like to see in the future. Upcoming events at the WMHO Educational & Cultural Center will include a cyber security workshop and master classes with special guests, according to Rocchio.

“The idea is to socialize and learn things that are important to [people],” she said.

Rocchio said the 55 plus segment of the population has a wealth of knowledge to offer, and Burner said many are hungry for enlightened experiences and eager to learn new things.

“These third age events held by the 55 Plus Club inspire individuals in the second act to pursue both meaning and purpose in their lives,” Burner said. “Longevity studies show that by nurturing generative qualities and looking for intellectual stimulation and fulfillment, third-agers are helping themselves to live longer and healthier lives.”

The next event, Virtual Travel to South Padre Island — Riders of the Stream at Sea Turtle Inc., will be held May 23. Guests will learn about the rescue and rehabilitation of injured sea turtles on South Padre Island, their release back into the wild, conservation efforts, nesting, hatchling releases and more.

The cost for the program is $15 per person and refreshments are served. Call 631-689-5888 for reservations and visit www.stonybrookvillage.com for details on all upcoming programs.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization Educational & Cultural Center is located at 97 Main St. in Stony Brook.

Playoff game suspended due to inclement weather with No. 2 West Islip ahead 4-1

Third baseman Matty Maurer hurls the ball to first base. Photo by Desirée Keegan

A stroke of lightning might be what Ward Melville’s baseball team needed to turn things around.

First baseman Ryan Hynes reaches for a high throw in time to get the out. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With rain, thunder and lightning delaying the No. 7 Patriots’ second-round playoff game against host No. 2 West Islip May 15, it also ends the Lions’ one-run-per-inning scoring streak, with the two teams resuming
play May 16 at 4 p.m., barring no additional weather setbacks. West Islip held a 4-1 lead when play was suspended.

“We played uncharacteristically poorly on defense,” Ward Melville head coach Lou Petrucci said. “And it cost us.”

Ward Melville started the bottom of the inning off strong, with junior Max Nielsen smacking an RBI-single to shallow right center field on a 3-2 count to score senior Brady Doran from second.

“I knew either it was going to be a ball by a long shot or he was going to give me an easy pitch to just flick into the outfield, and he gave me just that,” Nielsen said discussing his discipline at the plate. “My approach was to simply put the ball in a hole somewhere. When I saw Brady [Doran] score I knew that it was going to be a good game.”

Petrucci said he expects that from one of his star starting pitchers and designated hitter.

“He’s been doing that all year,” the coach said. “Max had a big hit right there, and we need more of that from other guys, too. Baseball’s not a one-man show. Max did his job, but we have to come back the next inning and shut them down, and we didn’t do it.”

Max Nielsen races to first base. Photo by Desirée Keegan

West Islip answered with a ground-rule double, a bunt and a sacrifice fly to tie the score, 1-1. A grounder to third ended the inning, but Ward Melville came up empty over the next three innings while West Islip scored once in each. The Patriots also couldn’t cash in despite loading the bases in the top of the third with two outs.

“We came up empty a few times with runners in scoring position, but it’s hard adjusting and sitting back against a pitcher who is throwing low-to-mid 70s,” Nielsen said. “On the defensive side of things, we had a few hops and plays that didn’t go our way, so that’s baseball for ya. We knew that West Islip was going to be a tough team to beat, but we know that we can beat them. We wanted to get ahead early and really get into their bullpen.”

Ward Melville will dive into its bullpen, with the pitch count rules leaving both starters ineligible to return to the mound for the remainder of the suspended game. Matt DiGennaro will come out of the bullpen to replace Ethan Farino for the Patriots.

“I don’t know who they’re going to use, but I can’t worry about them, I have to worry about Ward Melville,” Petrucci said. “We’ve had the right hitters up, but we couldn’t get the big hits. Hopefully with a day change we’ll get these opportunities again and try to put some good swings on the ball. We have to see if we can fight back.”

Second baseman Logan Doran tosses the ball to first base.

Nielsen said the team has been in tough hitting situations before, and Petrucci added players have struggled all year with two-out production, and that was the case through most of the day. The head coach said he told his boys following the postponement that the plays West Islip made gave them a 4-1 lead, and the plays the Patriots didn’t make helped Ward Melville to a 4-1 deficit.

“Offensively we’ve struggled all year with two-out hitting — now it’s a playoff game and we’re doing it again,” Petrucci said. “Hopefully we can make up for it over the next three innings. The season’s not over — we’ve had a great one, the kids have played hard all year, we just have to continue to play hard for the next nine outs and see where the chips fall.”

Results from the second part of the suspended game were not available at press time May 16.

Stony Brook University Hospital nurses and EMS workers held an informational picket May 16. Photo from Anna Maria Amicucci

Some employees at a local hospital are tired of tightening their belts.

Approximately 75 Stony Brook University Hospital nurses and EMS workers represented by the New York State Public Employees Federation held an informational picket and press conference May 16. The goal was to inform the community about a severe long-term shortage of health care workers at the hospital, high medical staff turnover and pay inequity.

EMS workers joined Stony Brook University nurses for an informational picket May 16. Photo from Jason Schmidt

Before the rally, PEF President Wayne Spence said the organization represents more than 2,000 nurses and EMS workers at SBU hospital.

“My members have been very patient in trying to get parity or close to parity with surrounding hospitals,” Spence said.

He said the hospital is a level-one trauma center transporting patients from hospitals where staff members make more than the average SBU worker. Nurses at St. Charles Hospital make at least $3,500 more per year, Southside Hospital in Bay Shore about $9,500 and Huntington roughly $11,000 more, according to Spence.

Even with state benefits, Spence said SBU health care workers’ compensation isn’t equal to surrounding private hospitals. According to the federation president, other institutions compensate employees to go back to school to achieve higher degrees and offer certain days off around holidays. A Stony Brook nurse can work three to five years without having off Christmas Day, he said. Spence said many rely on working overtime to make up the difference in salary and at times they are not able to break for meals, adding that medical staff working without a break can lead to crucial errors, such as making a mistake in medicine dosage. Many long-term employees are asking themselves why they are staying with Stony Brook.

“There was once a time where you stayed with the state system for the state pension,” Spence said. “But guess what? Northwell and other unions have now offered comparable compensation and fringe benefits that can now be comparable to the state. So, the state is not competing anymore.”

“Stony Brook hospital has always been a leader in cutting-edge medicine and research. It is time that it becomes a leader in staff recruitment and retention.”

— Anna Maria Amicucci

Paramedic Jason Schmidt said he independently compared paramedic salaries to other institutions like Northwell Health’s hospitals and found many emergency workers can make as much as $20,000 per year more than SBU workers. While Schmidt said it’s always been known that one can’t get rich working for state institutions, he said with health insurance costs increasing and pay freezes, many of his colleagues are working more than one job. He said he felt it was important for the workers to ban together and picket.

“It’s so frustrating this has been going on for so long,” Schmidt said. “We deserve more.”

Registered Nurse Anna Maria Amicucci said during her 18 years working at SBU she has been through furloughs and hasn’t received a pay increase in four years.

“We’re picketing to bring awareness to our state representatives about the gap in compensation between Stony Brook hospital and neighboring, competing institutions,” Amicucci said.

The nurse said she has seen a steady flow of new hires over the last couple of years receive their training at SBU and then leave for other institutions where they have been offered higher pay. Amicucci said in understaffed units the hospital has been paying more overtime to make up for the shortfall.

Nurses take part in an informational picket at Stony Brook University Hospital May 16. Photo from Renee Golde

“Stony Brook hospital has always been a leader in cutting-edge medicine and research,” she said. “It is time that it becomes a leader in staff recruitment and retention. A critical step in achieving that goal is putting its staff at par with our peers.”

Renee Golde, a registered nurse with the hospital for two-and-a-half years, said after working as an ultrasound technician, she went back to college to become a nurse. She said working for Stony Brook hospital is something she always wanted to do, and she wants to stay and bring about change to keep nurses at the institution. She said she hopes the administration will see that the employees want to stay and are just asking to close the salary gap.

“I stay because I love the people I work with,” Golde said. “I love my patients and I love being a Stony Brook nurse.”

Stony Brook released a statement through Kali Chan, director of medicine media relations at Stony Brook Medicine, when asked about the workers’ concerns

“Stony Brook University Hospital is supportive of our nurses, EMTs and paramedics,” Chan wrote. “We work every day to foster a positive work environment where all employees are valued and respected.”

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