Village Times Herald

Aerial shot of Mercer propery. Photo from Google Maps

By David Luces and Donna Deedy

What is going on with the Mercer project?  

Since the Dec. 12 planning board meeting in Head of the Harbor, when Robert Mercer’s site plan application for a 8,633-square-foot tool shed was considered, a string of people have quit village government. 

Richard Warren of Inter-Science Research Association, an environmental consultant hired by the village to review the plan, resigned unexpectedly. During the Dec. 12 hearing, he concluded that the Mercer application was incomplete.  

Village attorney, Anthony Tohill, also resigned Jan. 15. 

Meanwhile, Christopher Modelewski, Mercer’s attorney for the project, has requested that the upcoming public hearing, schedule for Jan. 28 be postponed. 

“No, we haven’t heard back from village officials,” the attorney said in a phone call.  

Harlan Fisher, chair of the village planning board, was traveling and could not be reached for comment. An employee from village hall confirmed that they had received a letter from Modelewski requesting a postponement. The employee disclosed that at this point they have not been told to cancel the hearing as Fisher is currently away. They declined to speak on the two resignations. 

Meanwhile, Anthony Coates, who is leading a coalition of neighbors opposed to the project, has requested from the Attorney General’s office a review of the project’s proceedings, which Coates said violates laws governing procedures.  

“At a public hearing in December, it became clear that Village residents overwhelmingly oppose this plan to commercialize and forever alter the rural Harbor Road corridor,” he said in a letter. “What was not clear at the time is that Village government had apparently known about the project for months before Village residents were informed, and has engaged in a non-transparent, secretive and potentially unlawful process, engineered by people inside Village government, to approve the project before residents had any idea what was going on.”

Coates said the group’s concerns center around a meeting of the Village Planning Board on Sept. 10. Meeting minutes, he said, show that the board voted to accept a partial abandonment of subdivision, a required first step toward approval of the project. The coalition argues that the action, taken without notice to village residents, was an illegal segmentation of the environmental review for the project under state law. 

“Neither the chairman of the planning board, nor any members of the public, attended the meeting,” Coates said. “Members of the planning board who did attend the meeting were provided no notice that the Mercer matter would be discussed. Planning board members who asked questions about the project were advised that the questions were not relevant. This was for all intents and purposes a ‘secret meeting’ of the planning board under New York State open meetings law and held exclusively for the benefit of the applicant.”

The coalition also sent a letter to Attorney General Letitia James (D), citing potential violations of the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), the State’s Open Meetings Law, as well as the Public Officers Law and requested a review by her office. 

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With four pins in the match, it was Ward Melville’s Nick Gaffney who led the way for the Patriots with a pin just 16 seconds in. Aidan Toomey did it in 33 seconds, senior Co-Captain Daniel Cassera won his match at the 1:09 mark and Ethan Herschander pinned his opponent 43 seconds into the second period.

With scores like those, the Patriots dominated visiting Hampton Bays, winning 59-14 in a non-league matchup at home Jan. 23. Ward Melville junior Matt Cracchiola, at 126 pounds, notched another win with a 16-0 technical fall who surpassed his 100th career victory earlier in the year and hopes to bring that momentum into the league and county finals. Patriot head coach Garrett Schnettler said Cracchiola will have his work cut out for him as he’ll be competing in the deepest weight classes in the state.

Ward Melville sophomore Christian Lievano, at 99 pounds who in his third year on varsity, is undefeated in Suffolk County this season, and has amassed a career record of 31-3.

The Patriots retake the mat in the Wes Dolon Invitational at Mattituck high school Feb. 1. First bout is 8 a.m.

Kadam Holly McGregor speaks to attendees of the MLK Peace & Unity Multi-Faith Prayer Service Jan. 20. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Two events during the past three-day holiday weekend drew residents from the Three Village community as well as surrounding areas to Setauket to remember Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the civil rights activist. 

Guest speakers Liz Gannon-Graydon, founder of What BETTER Looks Like, and environmental activist Saad Amer, founder of Plus1Vote, conduct a workshop Jan. 18. Photo from Building Bridges in Brookhaven

On Jan. 18, despite snow in the forecast, more than 100 people attended the 4th annual Martin Luther King Unity Festival at Setauket Presbyterian Church organized by the civic group Building Bridges In Brookhaven.

The day included music, workshops and a panel discussion on the theme of Building the Beloved Community Across Generations.Approximately 20 nonprofit groups were also on hand for the Be the Change volunteer fair. The event provided an opportunity for attendees to discuss the life, legacy and vision of King, according to Susan Perretti of Building Bridges.

Tom Lyon, also of the group, said the event provided “a lot of very valuable networking and planning for future collaborations.”

Among those participating Jan. 18 was Community Growth Center of Port Jefferson Station, which held its Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Peace & Unity Multi-Faith Prayer Service and Concert two days later at The Bates House in Setauket. On Jan. 20, a standing-room only crowd filled the venue to hear speakers and enjoy music. Participants were also encouraged to bring donations for Pax Christi’s men’s shelter.

Among those speaking at the event was Father Francis Pizzarelli from Hope House Ministries and Kadam Holly McGregor from Kadampa Meditation Center of Long Island. Before leading a meditation, McGregor told the attendees that everyone can become like King if they work on themselves.

The H.I.M.S. from Hope House Ministries, Vinny Posillico from Singing Bowls-Sound Healing and Stuart Markus, a folk singer of Gathering Time, entertained the crowd.

Perretti said she and others from Building Bridges attended the Jan. 20 event to support the center and was reminded at both events of King’s dream of building the “beloved community,” a society based on justice, equal opportunity and love of one’s fellow human beings.

“It was wonderful to be part of a gathering focusing on unity and what we have in common,” she said. “There were faith leaders from the Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist traditions. It feels more important than ever for us to come together and respect our differences.” 

Michael Hoffner, executive director of Community Growth Center, was inspired by the turnout, and said the annual event at The Bates House aims to bring people and religious leaders together from different faiths to spark a change of heart and create changes from the inside out. He said he believes that the answer to our country’s “current problems require a deep spiritual solution.”

“We as a community and a country need to awaken to a deeper sense of love, peace and unity that can only come from a transformation of the heart,” he said. “We can’t expect peace to come from laws and policies alone — peace in our world can only come from peace in our heart. Peace on the inside leads to peace on the outside.”

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BOE also provides prekindergarten updates, comment on mandated vaccine

A parent speaks out about proposed changes to secondary school start times. Photo by Andrea Paldy

 By Andrea Paldy

The first school board meeting of 2020 brought new voices to an old discussion.

“I do not deny the research and scientific data on adolescent health.”

— Riley Meckley

After months of parents, students and alumni speaking to Three Village Central School District administrators and school board members about the importance of changing the secondary school start times, two speakers came forward to offer a new perspective on last fall’s hot topic.

Ward Melville sophomore Riley Meckley spoke on behalf of students who did not want the high school to start later.

“I do not deny the research and scientific data on adolescent health,” she said. “It is definitely true.” 

But she noted that as “appealing” as getting an extra hour of sleep was, most students would still stay up late to study, watch Netflix or surf social media. What concerned Meckley and the students and teachers she spoke with was the negative impact on sports, clubs and after-school jobs, she said. She also spoke of the “hassle” for teachers dealing with athletes leaving ninth period early to get to their away games, as well as the inconvenience of trying to get home in time for their young children.

At December’s meeting, Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich and Jeff Carlson, deputy superintendent for business services, presented 10 possible scenarios for moving the high school start time from 7:05 to 8:20 a.m. In each case, it meant the high school day ended later, cutting out what Meckley referred to as that “precious time” between 2 and 3 p.m., when students could meet for clubs or extra help.

In half of the scenarios, the change meant that elementary schools might begin and end earlier than they do currently.

“We don’t want to lose services, and we definitely don’t want to pay any more money.”

— Matt Rehman

This raised objections from Matt Rehman, the father of elementary school-aged children, who said change spurred by the “loud minority,” in spite of the “silent majority,” would come at the expense of parents with younger children who would have to find a way to get their children off the bus as early as 1:55 in the afternoon.

“We don’t want to lose services, and we definitely don’t want to pay any more money,” he added.

Brian Latham, a high school teacher in a neighboring district and Three Village parent, said he was not opposed to the time change, but like Rehman, he was opposed to the idea, proposed in some scenarios, of moving the sixth graders to the junior highs and the ninth graders to the high school. 

“Forcing them to move to a higher class level earlier is not in their best interest,” Latham said.

“I see on a day-to-day basis how ninth-grade students can suffer when they are pushed up with upper division students too early,” he said.

Latham said that he would be willing to pay more money or cut from other programs in order to maintain “the structure that makes this district one to be admired around Long Island.”

Pedisich assured those present that no decisions had been made and that the school start time committee, which will have its first meeting in February, will consider the original 10 scenarios in addition to new ones.

Additionally, the district will be looking for input from focus groups and will survey parents, staff and students districtwide, the superintendent said.

“We want to do what’s best for our entire school community … for students in grades K-12,” Pedisich said.

“We understand that there are challenges,” she said, specifically mentioning the fiscal, transportation and educational challenges that each proposed option may pose. “That is why the committee needs to take the time, because our students deserve that from us. And our community deserves that.”

“I see on a day-to-day basis how ninth-grade students can suffer when they are pushed up with upper division students too early.”

— Brian Lathan

 

Prekindergarten

In preparation for 2020-21 preschool enrollment, Nathalie Lilavois, director of elementary curriculum, delivered a presentation on the district’s free preschool curriculum and tuition-based enrichment program.

This year the preschool is at capacity and students had to be turned away, she said. Ninety-five students participate in the free preschool for half of the day and stay for the tuition-based enrichment program for the other half. The other 106 students are half-day students who only take part in the free preschool program.

While the preschool curriculum, taught by a New York State certified teacher, is aligned to the New York State preschool standards, the enrichment program exposes children to STEM concepts through games and guided play and encourages hands-on learning through inventions. It is the only preschool enrichment program in the country that is inspired by National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees, Lilavois said.  

Applications will be accepted through Feb. 24, and if needed, a lottery will take place on the Feb. 26 with notification on Feb. 28. 

HPV vaccine

School board president William Connors responded to comments he received about the school board’s letter to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) regarding the proposal to mandate the HPV vaccine as one of the battery of vaccinations a student must receive to attend school.

“We normally don’t get involved in political issues,” he said, but the board felt that the mandated vaccine was “administrative overreach” and “inappropriate.”

Mariano Rivera made an appearance at Brookhaven Town Hall Jan. 16 in support of his proposed Honda dealership in Port Jefferson Station. Photo by David Luces

Yankees National Baseball Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera was known throughout his professional career for his knack of nailing down tough victories. On Jan. 16, baseball’s all-time career saves leader added another victory to his business career when he won approval of a zoning change from the Brookhaven Town Board for a proposed Honda dealership in Port Jefferson Station.

“It feels great to be able to be a part of Port Jefferson Station, we’re excited to make new friends, be able to help others and do the right thing for this community.” 

– Mariano Rivera

The dealership on Route 112, dubbed Mariano Rivera Honda, could open later this year if the town Planning Board approves a site plan. The Town Board voted 7-0 to rezone parts of the 8.1-acre property to allow expansion of an existing building and construction of a new one. The Planning Board has yet to set a date to hear Rivera’s plan. 

“It feels great to be able to be a part of Port Jefferson Station,” Rivera said after the vote. “We’re excited to make new friends, be able to help others and do the right thing for this community.”

Don King, the Kings Park-based lawyer representing Rivera, said the business will be a good fit in the community 

“They love him, the excitement is there — I had one guy tell me he wants to buy a car in [Yankee] pinstripes,” he said. 

The Hall of Fame pitcher met with the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association last May to discuss the project. While the civic submitted a letter to the town with no complaints, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said there were a few suggestions that would help the site fit better into the area. 

“The [sales and service] building was originally 55,000 square feet and we reduced down to 35,000,” King said. “The neighbors asked if we could do something smaller and we would if we got permission from Honda — and we did.”

Rivera’s plan also calls for expanding an existing 6,425-square-foot auxiliary building by more than 30 percent and increasing the parking lot’s capacity to hold over 350 vehicles. The dealership would be built at an existing car dealer site at 1435 Route 112, between Jefferson and Washington avenues.

King said they don’t have a date yet of when the dealership could open but said it comes down to a number of things like designs tweaks and how soon the Planning Board can review the site plans. Once these are approved and necessary permits are obtained, construction will start. 

After the hearing, Rivera interacted with Yankees fans and residents who came out to Town Hall in Farmingville. He posed for pictures and signed autographs for a number of Brookhaven officials. 

“This man has the golden touch,” Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville) said after the hearing concluded. 

 

Bob Lynch and his dog Kallie visit local schools to offer therapy dog services. Photo by Kyle Barr

Bob Lynch and his dog Kallie are magnetic, or at least it seems that way to watch people come forward, asking gingerly if they can pet the dog, her tail waving frantically.

Coming into the TBR News Media offices, Kallie was the star of the show, and Lynch just let her work her magic. She doesn’t make a sound, instead just walking toward people asking to be petted. 

Lynch, a 73-year-old Mount Sinai resident, has been volunteering his time working with therapy dog services for the past several years. He’s owned Kallie, a keeshond, since she was a puppy, and they have been a team for five years. Though he works part time as a risk management consultant, he finds his biggest joy nowadays is taking Kallie where she’s needed most, on a voluntary basis, through the local chapter of Love on a Leash, which provides these services free of charge.

“[Keeshonds] were bred to be babysitters — when they see kids they light up, they love kids, and going to school is perfect for that.”

– Bob Lynch

Kallie has been to nursing homes, veterans homes and hospitals, but where she’s been that her breed might be best at is at schools. 

“[Keeshonds] were bred to be babysitters — when they see kids they light up, they love kids, and going to school is perfect for that,” he said. “The work in itself is fulfilling, you walk into a room and see the smiles, and see the demeanor of the people change very quickly.”

Lynch will soon be at the Port Jefferson high and middle schools often as part of a new pilot program in the district that they say will relieve stress among students.

Christine Austen, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said she was contacted by Lynch last year and submitted it to the curriculum committee as a pilot, which they approved. The pilot program will run twice a month for four months starting in February and ending in May. A mailer and email will be sent to parents asking them whether they would like to opt out of such visits with the dog, whether it’s from allergies or a fear of animals. Austen said the decision of whether the dog is allowed in certain classes would be treated like allergies.

When presented at the Jan. 14 board meeting, some trustees expressed concerns about safety. Austen said the dog trainer would not be allowed alone with a student at any time and would always have a faculty member present.

Tara Sladek-Maharg, who teaches social studies and psychology in both the middle and high schools, originally brought in a therapy dog for her AP psychology class last year. She had become enthused about the idea of a therapy dog in the classroom after witnessing firsthand what a demonstrably positive effect it had on her own father, when trainer Linda Christian and her dog Murphy, also of Love on a Leash, came to Stony Brook University Hospital and showed him love and compassion after he had a seizure and was going through rehabilitation.

“He goes into rehab and he just sits and goes to each individual person and just lays his head down on them — petting the dog is just so calming,” she said. 

Bringing Murphy into the classroom so that the students could review classical conditioning was a transformative experience, Sladek-Maharg said. She has done more research into just why these dogs have such a positive impact on so many. The research shows that being around such dogs has a significant effect on a person’s neurotransmitters and hormones and significantly reduces fear and stress.

Studies have also shown such animals have a positive effect on elementary school students, especially in helping them speak up in public or in class.

“Today our students are very stressed — our staff is very stressed, so having the presence of a dog is just a wonderful outlet,” she said. “They don’t discriminate, especially if they are trained therapy animals. They don’t have any reason to make somebody feel self-conscious, and they have a calming effect on us.”

“Just petting the dog, they get this feeling of unconditional love.”

– Catherine Lynch 

Other school districts that have experimented with therapy dogs in classrooms have come away talking of success. Lynch has been a regular at events hosted in the Longwood school district, Miller Place School District and Ward Melville in the Three Village district. 

Miller Place High School Library Media Specialist Catherine Lynch brings in therapy dogs once a year during testing to help students relax during such a stressful time. One thing she has noticed is students regularly put away their phones when interacting with the dogs, instead talking and petting the dogs or speaking with each other.

“Just petting the dog, they get this feeling of unconditional love,” she said, adding she would like to see the program expanded to multiple times throughout the school year.

In the Comsewogue school district, special education teacher Tom King has been taking his therapy-trained labradoodle to his classes for years. Last June, during exam season, the district brought in multiple dogs into the school cafeteria to interact with students. 

Love on a Leash is a national organization that started in San Diego in the 1980s as a volunteer organization for therapy dogs. The organization has expanded to include chapters across the U.S. and several thousand members. The Long Island chapter was founded about a decade ago and includes over 150 members and just around 25 “active” participants covering Suffolk, Nassau and parts of Queens.

Theresa Schwartz, the chapter president, said schools have been expanding such programs with therapy dogs. When she started about three years ago, schools would ask her to come in during testing times, but that has expanded into doing reading programs in elementary schools, after-school wildlife clubs, SEPTA events and even offering support services during emotionally fraught times, such as when a teacher or a student passes away.

The fact that Love on a Leash is a nonprofit volunteer organization makes the program unique, Lynch said. From the start, people who train the dogs and take them around are also their owners, living with them 24/7, and they have personally seen the ways a dog has helped bring people who are truly suffering a little bit of joy.

“I think I can speak for most of our volunteers doing this kind of thing, [it] makes the team, the dog and the handler, feel better, and makes other people feel better,” she said. “You see what joy your dog can bring to other people.”

Young people in an environment like school, Austen said, respond especially to animals. It has even had a positive impact on faculty.

“It just seems to take down the level of anxiety,” she said. “There are so many instigators of that, whether it’s cellphone use or social media — all of that constant stimulation. Then there are the academics at the high school, and the push to perform.”

If successful, which she expects the program will be, she wants to expand it to the elementary school, where studies have shown therapy dogs have a positive impact on helping people speak up in class.

 

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Central Islip had a score to settle with the visiting Patriots Jan. 21, having lost to them earlier in the season at Ward Melville.

Central Islip surged ahead by 21 points midway through the third quarter when senior Giancarlo Serratore had the hot hand for the Patriots to close the gap to a single point with 1 minute, 21 seconds left in regulation. Central Islip avenged that loss by holding on to win it, 60-58. Serratore hit three triples, netted four from the floor and sank four free throws for a team high 21 points. Senior Myles Brown scored nine, and Ted Bliznakov, also a senior, banked eight, while teammates Jack Holland and Paul Otto Nicholson had six points apiece.

The Patriots are back in action Jan. 24 at home against William Floyd. Game time is 6 p.m.

The loss drops the Patriots to 4-3 in League I and 10-5 overall with five games remaining before post season play.

 

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File photo by Sara Megan-Walsh

As journalists, we share the frustrations of many residents in our communities who see the large number of empty storefronts — many left vacant for several years — while new developments seem to erupt out of the ground just a few feet away from derelict properties.

Imagine the grief felt by Huntington residents two years ago when Great Neck-based developer Villadom Corp. proposed construction of a 486,380-square-foot mall with retail and office space on the 50-acre property known as Elwood Orchard. Many residents feared overwhelming congestion on Route 25 and water quality issues. Meanwhile, empty buildings stood just to the east and west of the site.

Imagine the relief when the developer withdrew the application. Then think of the relief that Hauppauge residents felt last year when they saw a sign reading Relish restaurant, of Kings Park, was opening an additional location in the old Pizza Hut on Route 111. The blighted building had been vacant for decades.

Rows of vacant buildings spoil Port Jeff’s uptown vibe. The abandoned businesses along Lake Avenue in St. James and Main Street in Smithtown also point to serious problems. In Setauket, a former King Kullen still sits empty years after the chain closed those doors, and a decrepit building sits on the corner of Gnarled Hollow Road. Suffolk County was willing to buy the latter property with the Town of Brookhaven looking to maintain it as passive parkland. Some of these situations are examples of property owners holding out for more money. In which case, the only real victim is the community as a whole.

Elected officials need to ensure that these empty storefronts are filled to create vibrant shopping areas. It’s an important, even essential step to take to create stronger, cleaner and healthier communities. It also protects groundwater and can minimize roadway congestion.

Preserve that open space and fill the locations that are already set up for commerce first.

Local officials may be limited in how much they can dictate to developers but there are options. Take for example Decatur, Illinois, where the city recently hired a retail consultant to fill the vacant storefronts. Consultants or even town employees can be tasked in recruiting companies interested in entering the market. Businesses can be sold on the benefits of reconfiguration and renovation, rather than new construction.

Business owners can take responsibility, too, to maintain the quality of life in their neighborhoods where they do business. Recently, former Yankees star baseball player Mariano Rivera received an OK on a zoning change from the Town of Brookhaven to create a car dealership in Port Jefferson Station in an already developed space. While he plans to create one new additional building on site, he will expand on an existing one. The local civic and town board complimented him on his willingness to work with the local community. 

Many big businesses may come into an area focused on their branding, concerned with how their building needs to look, and insist on building from scratch in what they feel is an ideal location. We encourage elected officials to welcome businesses into structures that already exist. Quality of life should be considered first and foremost in our communities.

Stock photo

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

The impeachment trial of President Donald Trump in the Senate was not the cause of Blue Monday this week. An idea first introduced to the world in a press release in 2005, Blue Monday was named the most depressing day of the year. Typically, the third Monday of January, but it can be the second or the fourth, Blue Monday is the confluence of several downers. We can certainly guess what they are.

For starters, there is the darkness and the weather. We are in the first full month after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. That, combined with the traditionally coldest month, makes for a lot of storms, gloom and shut-ins. Even if we are fortunate, as we have been so far this year — there haven’t been so many storms — we know they are coming.

Then there are the holiday bills. This is when credit charges begin arriving, along with their urgency to be paid. We had a wonderful time, for the most part, during the celebratory days of December. Time to pay the piper.

Right around now is also when our New Year’s resolutions begin to fade. Reality sets in with an awareness of how truly hard it is to break bad habits. Easier to slip back into the old ways, especially as a treat during the awful weather.

As we look ahead into the new year, there are no big holidays to anticipate — nothing larger than St. Valentine’s Day, a Hallmark holiday after all. And then there are the coming taxes. Property tax deadline has just passed, emptying our bank accounts but April 15 will be coming up faster than our savings might grow. Not all of us get refunds — quite the contrary.

So here are five things we can do to offset the alleged challenges of the season. They are proposed by a Buddhist monk in his book, “Love for Imperfect Things: How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection,” and they speak to self-care. Haemin Sunim, who has taught Buddhism at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, according to a recent article in The New York Times, goes beyond the obvious advice of exercising, eating well and getting enough sleep.

First, start by taking a deep breath. As we think about our breathing, it becomes deeper, giving us a sense of calm no matter what is happening around us.

Next comes acceptance “of ourselves, our feelings and of life’s imperfections.” When we struggle to overcome difficult emotions, the struggle intensifies. But if we start by accepting those emotions, allowing them to be there, the mind quiets.

Writing is a third suggestion from the monk. This one, of course, speaks to me. Write down what is troubling or what we need to do, then leave the load on paper and get a good sleep. The list will be there and help to direct our actions in the morning. I have found this therapeutic when I wake up in the middle of the night herding a multitude of thoughts. I keep a pen and pad on the bedside table and I offload the burdens. In the morning, if I can read my writing, I can usually figure out how to proceed.

Talking is also important. How do I know what I think until I have heard what I’ve said? Somehow talking out a situation makes it clearer. There has to be a totally nonjudgmental and trustworthy friend who will listen, of course.

Last on the top 5 is walking: “When you sit around thinking about upsetting things, it will not help you. If you start walking, our physical energy changes and rather than dwelling on that story, you can pay attention to nature — a tree trunk, a rock. You begin to see things more objectively, and oftentimes that stress within your body will be released,” the monk said.

Even if we have no issues at the moment, we certainly feel better after taking a walk.

Alyssa Nakken is the first female coach on a major league staff in baseball history.

By Daniel Dunaief

There may be no crying in baseball, as Tom Hanks famously said in the movie “A League of Their Own,” but there is, thanks to San Francisco Giants and Alyssa Nakken, now a woman in baseball.

Last week, for the first time in the 150-year history of the game, a woman joined the ranks of the coaches at Major League level.

The hiring of Nakken, 29, follows the addition of women in the National Football League and the National Basketball Association.

While it may seem past time that America’s pastime caught up with the times, members of the Long Island athletic and softball communities welcomed the news.

“I hope that it becomes more of the norm rather than the exception,” said Shawn Heilbron, athletic director at Stony Brook University.

For Megan Bryant, who has been the head softball coach at Stony Brook since 2001 and has collected more than 870 career wins, Nakken’s new job creates a path that others can follow.

“For the Giants and Major League Baseball and women in sports careers, that’s a big deal and is a step forward,” Bryant said. “It will open other doors for other women.”

Bryant said teams can and should recognize the wealth of coaching talent among men and women.

“If you’re a great coach, it shouldn’t matter the gender of the athletes you’re coaching,” Bryant said. 

Lori Perez, who was an assistant softball coach at Sacramento State University when Nakken played and is now head coach, said the news gave her “goose bumps.”

The hardworking Nakken, a two-time captain at Sacramento State, once asked her coaches to stop a low-energy practice so the team could refocus and flush their negative energy, Perez said.

Nakken’s parents had “high expectations for her but, even better, she had high expectations for herself,” which included doing well academically and helping out in summer camps, Perez said.

Patrick Smith, athletic director at Smithtown school district, believes these first few female hires in men’s sports are a part of a leading edge of a new trend.

“We will see more and more [women joining professional sports teams] as time goes on,” Smith said. In Smithtown, women constitute greater than half of all the athletes at the high school level.

Among the six senior women on Stony Brook’s softball team, three members are considering a career in sports after they graduate, Bryant said.

While the Women’s College World Series softball games have drawn considerable fan attention, attendance at women’s college and professional sporting events typically lags that of men.

The Long Island community can provide their daughters with a chance to observe and learn from role models at the college and professional levels by attending and supporting local teams.

“It’s frustrating that the women’s games aren’t drawing close to what the men’s teams are,” said Heilbron. The Stony Brook women’s basketball team, which includes standout junior India Pagan among other talented players, is currently 18-1. This is the best start in program history.

“I hope people will come” support the team, Heilbron said. “If you come, we believe you’ll come back.”

As for women in high profile roles, Bryant, who is looking forward to the addition of six new players to her softball squad this year, believes each step is important on a longer journey toward equal opportunity.

“Whether it’s in sports, science or politics, we’re making strides,” Bryant said. “But we still have a long way to go.”

Perez, who has two children, is thrilled that “women can dream of things they couldn’t dream of before,” thanks to Nakken and other female trailblazers inside and outside of the sports world.