Village Times Herald

Tom Manuel of The Jazz Loft, right, shown with TVHS President Steve Healy, will be honored at the awards dinner on March 21. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

On Wednesday, March 21, the Three Village Historical Society will once again host its annual Awards Dinner honoring volunteers, local businesses, society members and area residents who have made significant contributions to help preserve the shared heritage within the Three Village area.

Among the honorees will be Nan Guzzetta of Antique Costume and Prop Rental by Nan Guzzetta of Port Jefferson, who has been chosen to receive the Kate Wheeler Strong Memorial Award in recognition of significant contribution toward the fostering of interest in local history and a fuller appreciation of the rich historical and cultural heritage of this community. Guzzetta has earned this award with her years of inspiration and guidance with costumes for society events, especially the Spirits Tour.

Eva Glaser a longtime member and volunteer will receive the Maggie Gillie Memorial Award for contributions by a member of the society in recognition of overall dedicated service and for significant contributions furthering the goals of the society. Glaser’s award is for her years of support to the society and as the co-chair and inspiration for the first Candlelight House Tour 40 years ago.

An interest in volunteering led Richard Melidosian to the Three Village Historical Society. Melidosian has been and continues to be a docent at the SPIES Exhibit and the Candlelight House Tour and a guide at the Spirits Tour and Founder’s Day. For that, he will receive the Gayle Becher Memorial Award in recognition of volunteer efforts to help the society by performing those necessary tasks that facilitate its efficient operation. This award honors volunteers whose work consists of loyal support repeated on a regular basis.

Rebecca Fear, a student at Ward Melville High School, is this year’s honoree for the R. Sherman Mills Young Historian Award, a prestigious award presented for contributions to the society by a young person. Rebecca and her family have volunteered at many events including Culper Spy Day, the Long Island Apple Festival, the Spirits Tour and the society’s annual Yard Sale.

Three community award certificates will be handed out this year. The first, for enhancing or restoring a building used as a commercial structure in a way that contributes to the historic beauty of the area, will be awarded to Thomas J. Manuel of The Jazz Loft, 275 Christian Ave., Stony Brook for the conversion of this historic building to a cultural center for music in the Three Village area. The second, for house restoration or renovation and ongoing maintenance and preservation in keeping with the original architectural integrity, will be awarded to Andrew and Kathy Theodorakis for their home at 242 Christian Ave. in Stony Brook. The third award, for ornamental plantings or landscaping that enhances the beauty of the Three Village area, will be granted to Charles Regulinski of 24 Dyke Road, Setauket.

The event, now in its 41st year, will be held at the Three Village Inn, 150 Main St., Stony Brook from 6 to 9 p.m.

A three-course dinner, which includes a Caesar salad with rosemary focaccia croutons, choice of entree (pan-seared salmon with baby spinach and beurre blanc sauce, seared breast of free-range chicken with haricot vert and saffron potatoes or sliced Chateau steak with red wine sauce with Yukon Gold potato puree and baby carrots) and an apple crumb tartlet with whipped cream for dessert, will be served. (Vegetarian meal available upon request.) The evening will feature a cash bar, raffles and live music by the Ward Melville High School Honors Jazztet.

Please join them in honoring these worthy awardees. Tickets are $65 per person, $60 members. To order, visit or call 631-751-3730.

‘The Judge’ offers a unique portrait of Kholoud Al-Faquih, above, the first woman judge to be appointed to the Middle East’s Sharia’a courts.
Popular film festival gives voice to stories that need to be told

By Heidi Sutton

Islamic law, autism, the stock market — these diverse subject matters and more will be explored at length as the Port Jefferson Documentary Series (PJDS) kicks off its spring 2018 season Monday evening, March 19.

Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, the PJDS will present seven award-winning documentaries on Monday nights through April 30, alternating between two venues — Theatre Three in Port Jefferson and The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. Each screening will be followed by a Q&A with guest speakers.

The documentaries were handpicked by a seven-member film board that includes co-directors Lyn Boland, Barbara Sverd and Wendy Feinberg along with Honey Katz, Phyllis Ross, Lorie Rothstein and Lynn Rein. The “film ladies,” as they are affectionately known, each choose one film to present and then a seventh film is chosen unanimously by the group.

It is a system that has worked well since 2005. “I have learned that almost everybody [on the board] has their fingers on the pulse of some segment of our audience,” said Boland in a recent phone interview. “I think that we all have slightly different ways of judging the films that we are attracted to,” which the co-director says is a good thing. “You really want a balanced season that appeals to a lot of people.”

According to Boland, the goal of the festival has always been the same. “What we want most is to give our community the kind of access to important well-done documentaries that are fresh, shown the way they were created to be shown, on a big screen with a good sound system at an affordable price. A guest speaker will amplify the experience.”

This spring’s exciting lineup was selected after the members attended screenings at DOC NYC and the Hamptons Film Festival. When choosing the selections, Boland said she looks for a story “that really grabs me, that I think is dramatic, important, … a must see film,” adding “It is our hope that [the film selection] is really adding to the public discourse — that this is something people will talk about and think about.”

Kicking off the festival is the Long Island premiere of “The China Hustle.” “[This film] is one of those cool movies that is like a slow reveal — a financial mystery that you just start putting the pieces together as the film goes on and you really see what a ‘hustle’ the whole situation is with these fake Chinese companies that grabbed American investors,” Boland divulged. “It is absolutely fascinating.”

The co-director is most excited about sharing “The Judge” with festivalgoers. The documentary follows Kholoud Al-Faqih and her journey to be the first female judge in a Shari’a court in Palestine. “I think it is particularly appropriate to be screened now during Women’s History Month. [Al-Faqih] is a very mesmerizing figure — practical, smart, stubborn and just totally dedicated. That appealed to me,” said Boland. “[The film shows] how family disputes were negotiated in a Muslim religious court. As a former matrimonial attorney I was amazed how similar the issues were [to the United States] and how similarly they were handled.”

She is also enamored by “This Is Congo.” Skillfully directed by Daniel McCabe, Boland describes it as “an incredibly risky showing about what’s going on in Congo that nobody’s talking about, nobody’s writing about. This is a story that needs to be told and we have to do our part to get some of these things out.” Boland’s favorite part of the evening is the Q&A, which this year will feature for the first time six directors and one screenwriter.

The documentary series wouldn’t be possible without the support of numerous volunteers. Every season, help is needed for each part of the process, from distributing flyers and running the ticket booths to tracking down directors and even recommending new films. “We need volunteers not only to help the evenings go more smoothly but we would really love to have more people on the board,” said Boland. If you love documentary films and would like to volunteer, please call 631-473-5220.

The board was recently notified that the PJDS was chosen by Bethpage Federal Credit Union’s Best of Long Island survey as the Best Film Festival on Long Island, beating out the Stony Brook Film Festival, the Hamptons International Film Festival and the Gold Coast Film Festival for the second year in a row for “its devotion to documentaries — which are evocative, thought provoking, and shed light on often-unrepresented segments of our population.” To Boland, it is affirmation that the group’s tireless work is paying off. “I am just thrilled,” she gushed. “Every time we have our first meeting to start work on the next series … I am just amazed at how everybody hangs in there … just because they really love films and love to bring them to the community. That’s the bottom line.”

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series will be held at 7 p.m. every Monday night from March 19 to April 30 at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson or The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. Tickets, sold at the door, are $7 per person. (No credit cards please.) New this year at the Long Island Museum’s screenings is the Cinema and Chardonnay program. For $5, participants can purchase a glass of chardonnay and/or a $1 bag of pretzels and then enjoy the wine and snack while watching the film. For more information, visit

Film schedule

▶ The spring season will kick off with a special screening of “The China Hustle” at Theatre Three on March 19. The documentary exposes a new financial crime perpetrated by Wall Street where investors dumped their money into Chinese businesses that turned out to be fraudulent. The hook of the story is that everyone involved is guilty, including the investor who called out the fraud in the first place. Guest speakers will be Director Jed Rothstein by Skype and Juan Carlos Conesa, chair of Dept. of Economics, Stony Brook University.

▶ “Sammy Davis, Jr: I’ve Gotta Be Me,” to be screened at the Long Island Museum on March 26, is the first major documentary to examine Davis’ vast talent and his journey for identity through the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress in 20th century America. With interviews from Billy Crystal, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis, Whoopi Goldberg and Kim Novak along with photographs, television, film and concert. Moderated by Tom Needham, host of “Sounds of Film” on WUSB, guest speaker will be screenwriter and co-producer Laurence Maslon.

▶ The series continues with “The Judge” on April 2 at the Long Island Museum. The Muslim Shari’a courts in the Middle East have excluded women for centuries, and the influential religious legal system has never appointed a woman as a judge — until Kholoud Al-Faqih came along. The documentary follows the Palestine judge’s brave journey as a lawyer, her tireless fight for justice for women and her drop-in visits with clients, friends and family. Guest speaker will be Director Erika Cohn.

▶ “This Is Congo,” to be screened at Theatre Three on April 9, is a riveting, unfiltered immersion into the world’s longest continuing conflict and those who are surviving within it. Following four compelling characters: a whistleblower, a patriotic military commander, a mineral dealer and a displaced tailor — the film offers viewers a truly Congolese perspective on the problems that plague this lushly beautiful nation. Moderated by Shimelis Gulema, professor of Africana studies and history, SBU, the guest speaker for the evening will be Director Daniel McCabe.

▶ The series continues on April 16 at Theatre Three with an impressionist, fly-on-the-wall portrait of the life and glorious music of Israeli-born Itzhak Perlman, widely considered the greatest living violinist. Titled “Itzhak,” the documentary follows the virtuoso around the world for a year, portraying his huge passion and spirit. Wheelchair-bound from childhood polio, Perlman recounts overcoming obstacles with humor and talent. Featuring archival materials and performance clips, the guest speaker will be Director Alison Chernick.

▶ “Love, Cecil,” which will be screened at the Long Island Museum on April 23, brings to life the glamorous world of fashion/celebrity photographer and stage set designer, Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) through the use of archival footage, interviews and readings from his diaries by actor Rupert Everett. Guest speaker for the evening will be Director Lisa Immordino Vreeland.

▶ The final film for the spring 2018 season, “Mole Man” will be screened at the Long Island Museum on April 30 and follows Ron Heist, a 66-year-old autistic man who built a 50-room structure, consisting solely of scrap materials, on the land behind his parent’s home in Western Pennsylvania. His creation was built without the use of nails or mortar and keeps expanding, as he collects, classifies and displays objects from a deserted cluster of homes in the woods. This is the story of an extraordinary life, a family and the beauty of thinking differently. Director Guy Fiorita will be the guest speaker.

All photos courtesy of the PJDS

Sitting mayor and two new trustee candidates will run unopposed in their races during March 20 Old Field election

One of the concerns Old Field Mayor Michael Levine and two trustees will face in the near future is whether or not to install a cellphone pole in Kaltenborn Commons. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

It’s been 20 years since Old Field Village Justice Ron LaVita has been challenged in an election, but when residents vote March 20 they will see two names on the ballot.

Attorney Ted Rosenberg, who has served in various positions in the village and is currently associate justice, decided to throw his hat in the ring. Recently LaVita and Rosenberg answered questions about their backgrounds, and why they feel they would be the best choice for Old Field village justice.

Ron LaVita, village justice

Ron LaVita

LaVita, an Old Field resident since 1995, has lived in the Three Village area for nearly 50 years. For 27 years, he has been a general practice attorney working from his Setauket law office and, 18 years ago, he opened an additional office in Rocky Point.

“I have 34 years’ experience handling client cases similar to the ones I have presided over for the last 20 years,” LaVita said. “I am also a former Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association attorney. My opponent is an accident lawyer.”

LaVita became associate justice in Old Field in 1997. Soon after, he became acting village justice when William Johnson moved from Old Field and was unable to complete his term. LaVita said he has been unopposed in elections, except for his first run for office in 1998.

The attorney said he has presided over hundreds of village court cases through the years and has a perfect attendance record, which means no associate judge has had to serve on a village case. He said he prides himself on being independent from the village board and has concerns that Rosenberg, a former trustee, may be influenced by the board.

“I have done a good, dedicated and faithful job for the residents of Old Field for over 20 years and therefore there is no reason for a change,” LaVita said.

In addition to serving as village justice, the attorney said he has helped improve the village. During his early days as justice, he helped to obtain a state grant which enabled the village to update the court clerk’s office including its technology.

Ted Rosenberg, justice candidate

Ted Rosenberg

Rosenberg is a 20-year resident of Old Field and has been an attorney for 35 years. He is currently a partner with Rosenberg & Gluck LLP, located in Holtsville. He is a member of the Suffolk County Bar Association select bench/bar committee, a frequent lecturer to the bar on trial practices, and a mentor to the Ward Melville High School mock trial team

“I have 35 years of courtroom experience — most lawyers don’t spend any time in the courtroom — and I spent a better part of my career as a trial attorney trying cases,” Rosenberg said. “I very much enjoy being in the courtroom, and I have a lot of experience doing that.”

Through the years, in addition to currently being associate justice, Rosenberg said he has served as a trustee, deputy mayor, commissioner of roads and harbor commissioner for Old Field. He said while he has worked well with both past and current board members, he would not be influenced by the mayor or board members. He said he has received the highest rating from his fellow lawyers for both ethics and professionalism in the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Ratings, which rates lawyers on their legal ability and ethical standards.

Rosenberg said running for justice is something he has thought about for a few years.

“The current justice has been in office for 20 years, and I think that I could bring some new fresh thinking to the table,” Rosenberg said.

Meet the mayor, trustee candidates

Current Old Field Mayor Michael Levine is running unopposed in the March 20 village election. With two seats open, two trustee candidates, Bruce Feller and Tom Pirro, are also running unopposed as current trustees Timothy Hopkins and Robert Whitcomb  decided not to run for re-election.

Michael Levine, mayor

Michael Levine

Levine moved to Old Field in 1992 and became mayor in 2008. The attorney, a partner with Rappaport, Glass, Levine & Zullo LLP, said he has a couple of goals in mind for his next term.

“One of my major goals if re-elected will be to restore the Old Field Lighthouse/Village Hall to its original beauty, both inside and outside,” he said. “I would also like to continue to work on grants to address stormwater runoff issues in the village. Where the funds will come from for these projects is always a major issue.”

Recently, the village board has been facing the debate over whether or not to install a cellphone pole in Kaltenborn Commons, a small park located at the intersection of Old Field Road and Quaker Path and surrounded by homes. At the January and February public meetings both residents and nonresidents filled village hall, some to voice concerns and others to show their support of the pole. Levine said the meetings have been helpful to him and board members. The vote on the tower has been postponed until the two new trustees take office.

“There are always difficult issues that must be dealt with and the way to deal with them is to listen to the residents and do what you feel is best for the village, while at the same time trying to accommodate the residents,” Levine said. “It’s a balancing act. I try to constantly strive to be fair and attentive.”

Tom Pirro, trustee candidate

Tom Pirro

Pirro recently moved from Bayport to Old Field with his fiancé, Shannon McCann. The certified public accountant, who has had his own business for 30 years, said he has been traveling to the Three Village community as a member of St. George’s Golf and Country Club since 2003. In June 2017, he opened a new office in Setauket. The candidate said he feels his work experience and love for the village will be an asset as trustee.

“I have spent my entire life in the business sector, and I feel those experiences will help me in carrying out my duties as a trustee,” Pirro said. “I chose to live in Old Field because of its natural beauty, and I would like to be a part of its continued preservation.”

When it comes to the issue of the cellphone pole in the village, Pirro said he is open to discussing the debate as long as needed to come to a decision. He said a lot of good questions were raised at the public meetings, including the aesthetics of the pole, which many feel may affect real estate values.

“I think it’s going to be difficult because no matter where it goes it’s going to impact someone,” Pirro said.

With a deep appreciation for his new village, he is on board with helping the mayor work to renovate the lighthouse.

“It’s part of the local heritage, so obviously it’s something you would want to address and maintain,” Pirro said. “It’s not something you want to go into disrepair, and I don’t think Old Field is a village that would let that happen.”

Bruce Feller, trustee candidate

Bruce Feller

A resident of Old Field since 1988, Feller retired as vice president from MetLife in 1998. Shortly after his retirement, he served as a village trustee after taking over the expired term of Barbara Swartz when she became mayor. During his first time as trustee, he said he established the village’s entitlement and access to funding from New York State’s Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program. This gave Old Field a revenue stream to improve and maintain the village’s roadways.

He and his wife, Marianne, in the past have served on a village committee to preserve the Old Field lighthouse. He currently is the vice chair of the village planning board.

Feller said when it comes to the cellphone tower, he is undecided. At press time, he was hoping to attend the March board meeting, and said he is open to hearing everyone’s opinions. He said he has heard persuasive issues on both sides at the village’s January meeting.

“There’s a lot to take into account, and I’m hoping that there is additional information that will nudge me decidedly in a direction that I can personally live with and live with as a representative of the constituents in the village,” Feller said.

He said when he was previously a trustee, a bone of contention was subdivision of properties. The candidate said listening to both sides was important, and believes his listening skills have developed even more over time. Remembering when the residents debated over deer hunting in the village and the mayor held multiple public hearings to come to a decision, he said it’s a skill he believes Levine also has.

“I give the mayor a lot of credit, he pays a lot of attention to what people think,” Feller said.

The Old Field Village elections will be held March 20, from noon until 9 p.m. at the
Keeper’s Cottage located at 207 Old Field Road.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo. File photo by Erika Karp

As students and districts deal with the aftermath of a nationwide student walkout March 14, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has made it clear where he stands on punishments for those who participated.

“Peaceful expression of views on controversial issues that is not disruptive or threatening is a right that all students have in this country, and any attempts to stifle this speech violates the constitutional rights of students and faculty to free speech,” Cuomo said in part in an open letter to New York State Education Department Commissioner MaryEllen Elia in an open letter March 15. “Threatening to discipline students for participating in the peaceful demonstrations is not only inappropriate, it is unconstitutional. Reports that schools may also discipline faculty are also highly concerning and would send a terrible message to our students.”

Students from several North Shore schools — including Ward Melville High School, Rocky Point High School and Northport High School — participated in the national walkout inspired by the political activism stemming from a Feb. 14 shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people. Many of the survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida spearheaded what became a national movement. Students in other districts — like Port Jefferson High School and Harborfields High School — participated in school-approved indoor memorials and remembrances which also included outlets for students to express their views on gun control legislation. Many school districts issued warnings prior to March 14 that participating students would face disciplinary action. Elia was publicly supportive of the walkouts prior to March 14.

Michelle Salz, the mother of a Rocky Point Middle School student, said she will be joining with a group of parents who have come together to fight the suspensions legally.

“I am infuriated that the school is not allowing my straight A honors student, who is the president of her student council and the president of the national junior honor society, to exercise her First Amendment right to free speech,” she said. “It is disgraceful that our school district is choosing to penalize our activist students instead of embracing this event as a teaching opportunity.”

Cuomo’s letter its entirety:

Dear Commissioner Elia,

Yesterday, I proudly stood shoulder to shoulder with brave students and faculty who spoke out against gun violence. History provides moments where real change is possible, and the thousands of students who participated in organized walk-outs all throughout the state are seizing the moment and admirably standing up for the safety of their classmates and students across the country.

In the last 24 hours, there have been several reports of New York State schools disciplining students and faculty for participating in yesterday’s historic events to stop gun violence. In at least one disturbing incident, it was reported that the school physically blocked the exits to prevent students from demonstrating.

These actions send a terrible message to New York’s children and are against constitutional free speech protections. I call on you to use SED’s authority to stop these schools, reverse course and cease any disciplinary actions.

Peaceful expression of views on controversial issues that is not disruptive or threatening is a right that all students have in this country, and any attempts to stifle this speech violates the constitutional rights of students and faculty to free speech. Threatening to discipline students for participating in the peaceful demonstrations is not only inappropriate, it is unconstitutional. Reports that schools may also discipline faculty are also highly concerning and would send a terrible message to our students.

The students who participated in the walk-out are trying to advance laws and actions that would save their lives, and many viewed their participation as necessary to their own safety. The scourge of mass shootings in schools is very real, and these students were taking proactive steps to protect themselves and their classmates. These actions, coupled with the peaceful manner in which the demonstrations were conducted, is something that should be lauded, not punished.

Additionally, I call on you to thoroughly investigate any reports of schools that blocked the exits to physically prevent students from leaving during the event. This an egregious safety violation and it is also unlawful.

Yesterday’s actions were a testament to the courage and leadership of New York’s students. As I said yesterday, these young people are showing more leadership than the so-called leaders in Washington. To punish or discipline them is inconsistent with the freedom of expression that we cherish. It would say more about the adults imposing discipline than it would about the students who exercised their rights to speak out.


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Desirée Keegan contributed reporting

Ward Melville High School students walked out of classes March 14 as part of National Walkout Day to support gun legislation and remember the Parkland school shooting victims. Photo by Claire Miller

Ward Melville High School students were determined to make their voices heard.

Despite the Three Village school district’s official decision March 9 to not allow students to stage a walkout March 14, approximately 250 of them did so anyway. The walkout was held in conjunction with events across the nation honoring the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting Feb. 14 to call for stricter gun control laws. Parents and students were told it was a joint decision by the board of education, principal and district’s lawyer to not encourage the walkout.

The students walked out of the gym entrance and headed toward Old Town Road so they could be seen by drivers passing by. Across the street two dozen parents and residents stood, some with signs, to support the teens.

A student holds up a sign during the March 14 walkout. Photo by Claire Miller

During the walkout, the students chanted “enough is enough,” and stopped for a moment of silence. Bennett Owens, a Ward Melville student and one of the walkout organizers, delivered a speech.

“We, the students of Ward Melville High School, along with hundreds of thousands of students across the nation have had enough,” Owens said. “We’ve had enough of gun violence. We’ve had enough of Congress’ inaction while nearly 1,300 kids are slaughtered each year as a result of gun violence. We’ve had enough of the [National Rifle Association] buying our representatives with their blood-soaked money. We’ve had enough of the argument that since we’re kids, we can’t change anything. We’ve had enough of adults telling us we can’t.”

Owens said asking Congress to introduce or support legislation that bans assault weapons, like the AR-15, was part of the students’ goal. Parents standing across the street from the walkout said they were proud of their children and their friends. Caren Johnson, whose daughter is in 10th grade, said she had tears in her eyes watching the students march out.

“This is really the first movement my daughter has been politically active in and I’m here to show her support,” Johnson said.

Osbert Orduña, a parent of a 11th-grader, said he believes it’s important for parents to come out to support the social activism of their children, especially when it comes to protesting assault weapons and discussions like school staff members being armed. Orduña held a sign that said he was a Republican and veteran who is against the NRA and assault weapons in the hands of everyday people.

“The kids are out here, and they are doing the right thing by voicing their opinions and voicing their displeasure with our elected officials,” Orduña said.

A parent shows her support for students during the March 14 walkout. Photo by Rita J. Egan

At the end of the school day March 9, the school district released a letter from Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich and board of education President William Connors explaining the district’s position on the matter. Various discussions were held with students and staff to find the best way for students to participate in what has been called the #Enough movement, according to the letter.

“As a result of these discussions and with the guidance of our legal counsel, our district will not be encouraging or condoning a walkout involving students exiting the building or leaving campus,” the letter read. “We feel that this type of demonstration would not only disrupt the educational program but would severely compromise our mission to ensure building security and student safety.”

In the letter, the district also informed parents that any student who leaves the building without authorization will be asked to return to class. Parents will be contacted if their children disregard the direction, and students who are disrespectful or disorderly will be subjected to the district’s code of conduct. The district could not be reached by deadline to confirm if any parents were called or any students were disrespectful or disorderly.

As an alternate to the March 14 walkout, the district offered voluntary activities for high school and junior high school students, according to the school district. A moment of silence was held at the high school and both junior high schools. A forum moderated by instructional staff and supervised by administrators was held in the Ward Melville auditorium for interested students to discuss issues connected to the #Enough movement. R.C. Murphy Junior High School students had the opportunity to write letters to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students, and P.J. Gelinas junior high schoolers gathered in the gymnasium during fourth period to hear student government leaders read memoriam notes and listen to a brief music interlude.

The decision came a week after students interested in participating in a walkout sat with Principal Alan Baum to discuss their plans at a March 2 meeting. Both Owens and fellow organizers were optimistic after the meeting, but despite the students’ optimism, the district released a statement that read no plans were final after thatß meeting.

Students display the signs they created for National Walkout Day. Photo by Hannah Fondacaro

After the walkout, senior Hannah Fondacaro said it was energizing to participate in a peaceful protest.

“It felt amazing knowing that we are letting the MSD students know they’re not alone,” Fondacaro.

Samantha Restucci, 16, said she felt great after participating in the walkout. She said if adults refuse to fix the gun violence situation then it was up to young people to take action.

“It felt like I was a part of something — like I could do something important,” Restucci said. “It brought out a variety of emotions. I was angry for what happened but hopeful for what is to come. I hope this walkout wakes people up, and I hope that we are taken seriously.”

The morning of the walkout, parents received a message from Pedisich saying the administrative staff at the high school was notified about a social media posting that was a cause of concern. The student in question was immediately identified, removed from the school and the incident was reported to the Suffolk County Police Department, according to Pedisich’s message. It is unclear if the threat was related to the walkout.

“Please know that the district takes these matters very seriously and will investigate any suspicious act to the fullest extent possible,” Pedisich said. “I encourage you to take this opportunity to remind your child(ren) to be mindful when posting to social media. It is important that they understand a posting that they may make to be humorous can be viewed vastly different by another individual and/or misinterpreted to be dangerous.”

A home on Stony Brook Road was condemned after the Town of Brookhaven found the homeowner had the garage and basement illegally converted into apartments that housed Stony Brook University students. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) had a warning for unscrupulous landlords who illegally turn residential homes into rooming houses.

“Don’t do it,” Romaine said. “We’re coming for you.”

One landlord found that Sept. 8 statement to be true March 9 when the Town of Brookhaven Law Department condemned a house at 1423 Stony Brook Road in Stony Brook, where eight people were sharing the home, according to a press release from the Town of Brookhaven. Seven of the residents were found to be students of Stony Brook University. The landlord of the ranch-style house that had been unlawfully converted to include living space in the garage and basement was not named by the town.

“This was one of the worst cases of illegal student housing that we have seen in the Stony Brook area,” Romaine said in a statement. “Off-campus housing that is not in compliance with town building and fire codes threatens the health and safety of the students who reside there and the neighbors who live nearby.”

Romaine attributed the discovery of the violations to the town’s law department and the vigilance of neighbors who contacted the town. He urged students and their families to ensure their housing compiles with town code.

At the Stony Brook Road home, the town found bedroom doors equipped with key locks, and some rooms containing refrigerators and microwaves. In addition to the illegal basement and garage apartments, with two bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom in each, the basement had a coin-operated washer and dryer.

The law department issued the property owner several housing code violations, including no smoke detectors, no carbon monoxide detectors, no rental permit and illegal use as a rooming house. The owner’s school tax assessment relief property tax exemption was revoked, and both the Suffolk County District Attorney and New York State Attorney General’s offices have been notified for prosecution.

Bruce Sander, president of Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, said the organization reported the house to the town, calling the members the “eyes and ears of this community.”

“We are glad that this landlord will get the fines, etc. that he or she deserves, and I hope they shut this house down permanently and sell it to a family,” Sander said. “This type of landlord does not belong in any community when they openly violate the laws and put the students at risk as well as destroy property values of the surrounding neighborhoods.”

SBU offered dorm rooms on campus to the displaced students. In the last five years, the university has been working collaboratively with the Town of Brookhaven, the Suffolk County Police Department and local community groups to address safety concerns for students living in off-campus housing, according to a statement from SBU spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow.

Before the house was condemned March 9, the town notified university administration, and a coordinated effort was conducted by the school’s government and community relations, campus residences, dean of students’ office and commuter student services and off-campus living to find rooms for the students, according to Sheprow.

At the Sept. 8 press conference, Judith Greiman, chief deputy to the president of SBU and senior vice president for government and community relations, said the school takes great steps to ensure students’ safety. Among measures the university has undertaken since March 2013 are prohibiting advertisements of off-campus rentals on SBU’s website, unless the landlord can provide a Brookhaven Town rental permit, and prohibiting posting on campus bulletin boards. The university also holds tenants’ rights workshops to help students understand what to look for when renting.

In 2013, Romaine launched a mobile phone app, available on Apple iPhones and Android mobile devices, to help fight illegal off-campus housing in the town. To download the free mobile app, visit from a mobile device.

Residents can also call 631-451-TOWN (8696) between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to report housing violations. For more information or to access the town’s code book, go to

Adélie penguins jump off an iceberg of one of the Danger Islands. Photo by Rachel Herman from Stony Brook University/ Louisiana State University

By Daniel Dunaief

In October of 1957 when the Soviet Union launched the satellite Sputnik, people imagined that satellites hovering over their heads could see everything and anything down below. Indeed, in the early days, some Americans rushed to close their blinds, hoping the Kremlin couldn’t see what they might be eating for dinner or watching on TV.

Satellites today collect such a wealth of information about the world below that it’s often not easy to analyze and interpret it.

That’s the case with the Danger Islands in the Antarctic. Difficult for people to approach by boat because of treacherous rocks around the islands and sea ice that might trap a ship, these islands are home to a super colony of Adélie penguins that number 1.5 million.

Nesting Adelie penguins. Photo by Michael Polito from Louisiana State University

This discovery of birds that were photographed in a reconnaissance plane in 1957 but haven’t been studied or counted since “highlights the ultimate challenge of drinking from the firehose of satellite-based information,” said Heather Lynch, an associate professor of ecology and evolution at Stony Brook University and a co-author on a Scientific Reports publication announcing the discovery of these supernumerary waterfowl.

Adélie penguins are often linked to the narrative about climate change. Lynch said finding this large colony confirms what researchers knew about Adélie biology. In West Antarctic, it is warming and the population is declining. On the eastern side, it’s colder and icier, which are conditions more suited for Adélie survival. The Danger Islands are just over the edge of those distinct regions, on the eastern side, where it is still cold and icy.

A population discovery of this size has implications for management policies. At this point, different groups are designing management strategies for both sides of the peninsula. A German delegation is leading the work for a marine protected area on the east side. An Argentinian team is leading the western delegation.

Adelie penguins on sea ice next to Comb Island. Photo by Michael Polito, Louisiana State University

This discovery supports the MPA proposal, explained Mercedes Santos, a researcher from the Instituto Antártico Argentino and a co-convener of the Domain 1 MPA Expert Group. The MPA proposal was introduced in 2017 and is under discussion in the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, where the United States is one of 25 members.

Said Santos in a recent email, “This publication will help us to show the importance of the area for protection, considering that decisions should be made [with the] best available information.” The location of the Danger Islands protects it from the strongest effects of climate change, as the archipelago is in a buffer zone between areas that are experiencing warming and those where the climate remains consistent over longer periods of time.

Whales and other mammals that eat krill create an unknown factor in developing fisheries plans. While penguins spend considerable time above water and are easier to monitor and count, the population of whales remains more of a mystery.

Heather Lynch with a penguin. Photo from Heather Lynch

Lynch said the more she studies penguins, the more skeptical she is that they can “stand in” as ecosystem indicators. Their populations tend to be variable. While it would be simpler to count penguins as a way to measure ecosystem dynamics, researchers also need to track populations of other key species, such as whales, she suggested. Humpback whales are “in competition with penguins for prey resources,” Lynch said.

The penguin data is “one piece of information for one species,” but MPAs are concerned with the food web for the entire region, which also includes crabeater seals. For the penguin population study, Lynch recruited members of her lab to contribute to the process of counting the penguins manually. “I figured I should do my fair share,” she said, of work she describes as “painstaking.” Indeed, Lynch and her students counted over 280,000 penguins by hand. She and her team used the hand counting effort to confirm the numbers generated by the computer algorithm.

“The counting was done to make sure the computer was doing its job well,” she said. She also wanted to characterize the errors of this process as all census counts come with errors and suggested that the future of this type of work is with computer vision.

Lynch appreciated the work of numerous collaborators to count this super colony. Even before scientists trekked out to the field to count these black and white birds, she and Matthew Schwaller from NASA studied guano stains on the Danger Islands in 2015 using existing NASA images.

The scientific team at Heroina Island in Antarctica. Photo by Alex Borowicz, Stony Brook University

This penguin team included Tom Hart from Oxford University and Michael Polito from Louisiana State University, who have collaborated in the field for years, so it was “natural that we would work together to try and execute an expedition.” Stephanie Jenouvrier, a seabird ecologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, has considerable expertise in the modeling side, especially with the climate; and Hanumant Singh, a professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Northeastern University has experience using drones in remote areas, Lynch said.

The penguins on the Danger Islands react to the presence of humans in a similar way to the ones elsewhere throughout the Antarctic. The birds generally don’t like creatures that are taller than they are, in part because they fear skuas, which are larger predatory birds that work together to steal an egg off a nest. Counting the penguins requires the researchers to stand, but when the scientists sit on the ground, the penguins “will approach you. You have to make sure you’re short enough.”

Lynch would like to understand the dynamics of penguin nest choices that play out over generations. She’s hoping to use a snapshot of the layout of the nests to determine how a population is changing. Ideally, she’d like to “look at a penguin colony to see whether it’s healthy and declining.” She believes she is getting close.

The 2017 TBR News Media People of the Year were honored at the Three Village Inn in Stony Brook March 11. The 2017 honorees are Margo Arceri, Christine Austen, Building Bridges, Champions for the Autistic (Priscilla Arena, Joe Camarda, Pete Costa, Stephanie Mendelson and Tristan Whitworth), Nicole Christian, Frank and Kelli Cutinella, Ed Darcey, Debbie Engelhardt, Joseph Higgins, Charles Lefkowitz, Joseph and Maddie Mastriano, Reboli Center, Frank Rivera, Joseph Rizzo, Jack Soldano, Suffolk County Police Department’s 6th Precinct officers, John Turner, Tuscany Gourmet Market and James Vosswinkel.

TBR News Media would like to thank Stony Brook University, the Three Village Inn, Dan Lafitte and the Lessing Family for sponsoring the reception, the Setauket Frame Shop for framing the award certificates, and Beverly Tyler for being our event photographer.

State Sen. John Flanagan. File photo

The New York State Legislature is working to make schools safer in the aftermath of the Feb. 14 shooting at a Florida high school. But the Republican-held Senate and Democrat-majority Assembly are not yet on the same page in figuring out how to accomplish the goal.

The Senate passed a package of bills March 6 aimed at improving school safety through various security-related measures. After a package of gun legislation bills — which included measures to create a stronger background check process, ban bump stocks or accessories that increase a semi-automatic weapon’s rate of fire, establish extreme risk protection orders, and more — brought forward by Senate Democrats failed in late February, the Assembly also passed a package of bills March 6 designed to strengthen gun laws. Several of the bills in the Assembly package were the same as versions voted down in the Senate. It remains to be seen if either house will pass their counterparts respective packages.

Bellone announces school safety initiative

Schools in Suffolk County will now be offered a permanent eye in the sky.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) announced the SHARE initiative March 9, a program that will allow districts the ability to connect existing camera systems directly to the Suffolk County Police Department. The system would enhance the efficiency of a police department response to an active shooter situation, according to a press release from Bellone’s office.

“We will do whatever it takes to protect our schools by utilizing every available tool and partnership at our disposal,” the county executive said in a statement. “The SHARE initiative will provide law enforcement the enhanced capabilities needed to respond to a security risk, and I look forward to working with our superintendents and stakeholders on how we can keep our schools safe.”

The county will hold a meeting of all school district superintendents March 15 to formally seek voluntary consent with the districts interested in the program.

“We have been preparing and training for the nightmare scenario that we hope never happens,” District Attorney Tim Sini (D) said in a statement. “In the police department, we enhanced our readiness for an active shooter scenario or a terrorist attack, but most importantly to take measures to prevent those incidents.”

“I have every hope that we can walk and chew gum at the same time because these are not mutually exclusive directions, and they are very complementary,” Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said in an interview. The Assemblyman said he hadn’t had a chance to fully study the package of bills passed in the Senate yet, but at first glance it included some initiatives he’d be comfortable supporting. “I would just appeal to my colleagues in the Senate to meet us halfway, and I would pledge to do the same for them. I think we all should keep our eye on what the objective is here, which is to save lives and ultimately there is no single measure that is going to be an omnibus solve.”

The passed Senate package includes a bill authorizing districts to receive state funding to hire a school resource officer, defined in the bill to include retired or active duty police officers, deputy sheriffs or state troopers. They would be permitted to carry firearms on school grounds if licensed to do so. Another bill increased the earnings limitations for retired police officers being employed by schools from $30,000 annually to $50,000. A bill was also included in the package that will provide state education aid to districts for acquiring safety technology and improving security.

“Schools must be safe havens, where students can learn and teachers can teach,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said in a statement. “In New York, we must act swiftly and decisively to implement additional measures in schools throughout our state to give students, parents, and teachers the resources and peace of mind that they deserve.”

The Senate’s package also had components designed to improve school-based mental health services. One bill allocates districts $50,000 in state funding to put towards hiring a mental health services coordinator, while another requires the state Department of Education to investigate and report on the number of full and part-time school counselors, school social workers and school psychologists in each school; the ratio of students to the number of school counselors; the ratio of students to the number of school social workers; the ratio of students to the number of school psychologists in each school; and when such staff is working in more than one school.

As part of the package, another bill was passed defining school shootings as an act of terrorism, which now makes the New York State Intelligence Center in cooperation with the state Division of Homeland Security responsible for the collection, integration, receipt, processing, evaluation, analysis, fusing, dissemination, sharing, and maintenance of intelligence information to aid in detecting, preventing, investigating and responding to acts of terrorism, including school shootings. Now suspects who discharge a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school can be charged with committing an act of terrorism.

The bills in the Senate’s package passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support in most cases. They will now head to the Assembly before arriving, if passed, at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) desk for signing into law.

The package that passed the Assembly, if eventually passed by the Senate and signed by Cuomo, would temporarily prohibit individuals from purchasing or possessing guns if a family member or law enforcement officer petitions a court and the court finds individuals are likely to engage in conduct that would harm themselves or others.

It also would establish a 10-day waiting period before a gun may be delivered to a purchaser who has not cleared a background check. Under current federal law, gun dealers must conduct a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System before selling a firearm. The NICS system responds with one of three messages — “proceed,” “denied” or “delayed.” The dealer must deny the sale if the NICS background check determines the buyer is a prohibited purchaser and responds with a “denied” message. However, if the response is “delayed,” the dealer may nonetheless complete the sale after three business days.

Also included in the package is a bill preventing convicted domestic abusers from purchasing or possessing a firearm.

Spokespersons for Flanagan and state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) did not immediately respond to a request for comment asking if they intend to support the package of legislation passed by the Assembly.

Rebecca Holt and Lucia Buscemi, above, are hosting a soup cookoff, Sunday, March 18, at The Bates House in Setauket. Photo from Lucia Buscemi

Ward Melville High School students Rebecca Holt and Lucia Buscemi are spearheading a fundraiser to raise $30,000 to build a school in Malawi this summer in conjunction with the nonprofit buildOn, and they are hoping the Three Village Community will join them in their efforts.

On March 18, they will host a soup cookoff at The Bates House in Setauket. Attendees can enter their best soup for a chance to win a first place prize of $150. Entry fee for the contest is $30. Participants will enjoy homemade soups and be able to vote for their favorite. The event will also include basket raffles and live music.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for children under 12. Tickets can also be purchased at the door but will be $5 more than tickets bought in advance. The On Soup Cookoff will take place from noon to 3 p.m. on March 18. To buy tickets or enter a soup, email the organizers at The Bates House is located at 1 Bates Road, Setauket.