Village Times Herald

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine. File photo by Erika Karp

Brookhaven Town failed to fully abide by New York’s affordable housing law, according to a state comptroller audit.

The audit, released Jan. 8, singled out eight governments across Long Island, including Brookhaven, zeroing in on their compliance with the Long Island Workforce Housing Act. State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli (D) said the town “generally complied” with the act, but did not properly manage an optional trust fund set aside for affordable housing.

The Long Island Workforce Housing Act was passed in 2008 to require developers building five or more homes on a property to allocate 10 percent of their prospective residential units to affordable workforce housing units, meant for people earning up to about $105,000. The law also said that developers could avoid building affordable housing units by paying a fee to the town, which would be deposited into a trust fund for the purpose of building affordable housing.

The towns of Babylon, Huntington, Islip and North Hempstead and the villages of Hempstead, Farmingdale and Mineola were also evaluated in the audit. Each government either reached or exceeded the 10 percent affordable housing requirement, the audit said.

However, in the audit DiNapoli said Brookhaven adopted a resolution in August 2014 establishing a housing trust fund, but did not set up guidelines and procedures establishing how the expenditures from that fund would be used until September 2015 — which was later than the mandated six-month timeframe required to set up those rules.

The audit noted that “there have been no expenditures from the trust fund during the audit period.”

But Brookhaven officials said they did not agree with the comptroller’s assessment. Diana Weir, commissioner of Housing and Human Services in Brookhaven, said the town was in full compliance before the comptroller released the audit.

“The issue with Brookhaven is that we’ve never given a developer that option,” Weir said about the fees for the fund, which was not mandatory to create. “To us [making developers build the affordable units was] better because we are actually building the units. But just in case we figured we’d [establish] a trust fund.”

Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said he was unhappy with the state’s assessment that the town only generally complied with the law. Because the town makes developers build affordable homes instead of paying to avoid the requirement, there isn’t any money in the trust fund account, Romaine said.

Of Brookhaven’s 924 housing units, 10 percent are affordable workforce housing units, according to the audit.

“What did Brookhaven do wrong?” Romaine (R) asked in a phone interview. “If Brookhaven required [developers] to build [affordable homes], why did we need a trust fund account? We’re actually fulfilling the law.”

In the preliminary draft of the audit, the comptroller suggested the town establish guidelines for the fund. That suggestion came several days after Brookhaven established rules for the fund. Despite this, the final audit didn’t reflect or acknowledge the change.

Brookhaven has always required developers to make affordable homes. During the recession, developers needed to allocate 20 percent of the residential units for affordable housing. Weir said purchasing affordable homes at the time was easier for prospective homeowners as prices of homes dropped. The town dropped the requirement to 10 percent once the market started improving.

“What the audit should have said is, ‘We recommend in the future that you set [the affordable workforce housing trust fund] up, but you’ve complied,’” Romaine said.

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Cheryl Pedisich speaks at the podium after receiving the first-ever Administrator of the Year award from the New York State School Counselor Association. Photo by Andrea Moore Paldy

Three Village and other districts recently received the results of an audit conducted by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli of the 2014-15 finances relating to the district’s fuel inventory management.

The comprehensive, six-month review of the district’s 2014-15 finances found that the fuel inventory was “overstated by 452 gallons of gasoline and 297 gallons of diesel fuel, with a total value of $1,725.” 

That was a finding after a review of documents related to the district’s financial policies and procedures, including cash disbursements, payroll, fund balance and reserve management, cash flow to vendors, budget revenues and expenditures, among others.

Three Village board’s Audit Committee Chair Jonathan Kornreich said the state audit’s report accounts for nine-millionth of the district’s $188 million budget and amounts to about 2 gallons of gas per week.   

Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Jeff Carlson, who said he was “pretty happy” with the audit, added that the district has already addressed the comptroller’s recommendations.

The comptroller recommends that the board write procedures for reconciliation of fuel, that the inventory be reconciled more frequently and that odometer readings on trucks be entered before fuel is dispensed. Additionally, the state suggests that Three Village “address any physical security concerns of the fueling station,” such as repositioning security cameras. 

Changing Ward Melville?
In other news from Wednesday’s meeting, board trustee Jeff Kerman raised an uncomfortable issue involving a local legend. Kerman said he wants the board to consider having the district’s attorneys look into whether it is feasible to change the name of Ward Melville High school.

“I’m a little concerned about the name of our high school being named after an anti-Semite and named after a racist person,” Kerman told the board.

He said that Melville’s refusal to let Jews rent shops in the village or sell houses to blacks and Jews is not acceptable in today’s age.

This was the first time the topic has been broached. There were no public comments or discussion from the board.

Three Village superintendent collects major honor
Three Village teachers, administrators and staff gathered at the North Country Administration building last Wednesday to honor Superintendent Cheryl Pedisich.

Pedisich is the recipient of the first-ever Administrator of the Year award from the New York State School Counselor Association.

“We’ve realized how fortunate we are to have a truly outstanding educational leader,” School Board President Bill Connors said.

“It really is wonderful when an outside group comes and also affirms our own view of the superintendent and affirms the outstanding leadership that she’s provided.”

Pedisich, who had been nominated by Linda Bergson, coordinating guidance chairperson for the district, said she was honored to receive the award from an organization that represented her “origins as an educator.”   

The superintendent’s 32-year career in Three Village began at Ward Melville High School as a guidance counselor. That is, in fact, how she and Bergson first met — Bergson’s son was one of the students Pedisich counseled.   

Bergson read her nominating letter at Wednesday’s school board meeting. In it, she described Pedisich’s leadership as collaborative and respectful.  The school superintendent is a wonderful listener, she said.

“And if she asks you to do something, she will always offer to help you accomplish it,” Bergson said.

Besides being detail-oriented and taking a “holistic” approach to problem-solving, “her work product is impeccable,” Bergson’s letter said.

Pedisich was selected from administrators statewide by a five-member committee, said NYSSCA President Barbara Donnellan, who attended the meeting with Executive Director Robert Rotunda to present the award to the Three Village superintendent.   

She is a leader “who provides outstanding support to school counselors,” Donnellan said.

Pedisich’s counseling background is apparent in the way she works with students, parents, teachers and staff, Bergson said. She is able to find the right words to handle a situation and never makes anyone feel as though they’re taking up too much time, she added. Most impressive, though, is how Pedisich, who has been superintendent since 2012, acknowledges what people do and validates and praises their efforts, she said.

“It’s funny to watch her walk down the hall when she’s in the high school for a meeting, because she says hello to everyone by name — teachers, administrators, custodians, secretaries, security — she doesn’t just say hello, but she asks them questions that show that she knows them personally,” Bergson said.

Visibly touched, Pedisich thanked the “dedicated, skilled and talented” district staff, Three Village parents who are “invested in our children” and the school board, which she said “respects and values and demonstrates positive regard for all of its constituency.”

“I would not be in this position or the educator I am if it wasn’t for the people with whom I have worked,” she said.   

“I am incredibly indebted to all of you… This will definitely be one of the most special and indelible moments of my career.”

This version corrects the number of years Cheryl Pedisich has worked in the Three Village school district.

Residents and Brookhaven officials will address ways to improve Route 25A near the Stony Brook train station, above, in the first phase of the study. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After decades of waiting, Brookhaven officials said they were taking legitimate steps toward giving Route 25A a face-lift — starting with Stony Brook.

The town board approved a resolution on Thursday, Jan. 14, to conduct land use studies for Route 25A in Three Village and Port Jefferson Station. The town said it would be holding several meetings over the coming months at which residents can suggest ways to improve the de facto Main Street, especially near the Stony Brook Long Island Rail Road station and where Route 25A meets Nicolls Road.

This three-phase study will start with the Smithtown line to Nicolls Road. The two other phases, including the Port Jefferson Station study, will follow. Route 25A near the Stony Brook train station is part of the first phase.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said the town will use money from a contingency fund in its operating and capital budgets to fund the study. The town hasn’t established dates, times and location, but Romaine said meetings will begin once the weather gets warmer in March or April.

“It’s long overdue,” Romaine said about the study. “We will be sending letters to [the Department of Transportation]  and ask them to participate because a lot of the work we’re going to comment on are things [DOT has] to do, like additional sidewalks.”

Several civic leaders across the Three Village and greater North Shore community came out in full support of the land use study on Thursday with hopes of spurring the town board to expedite progress along 25A.

“The intersection of Nicolls Road and Route 25A is really the gateway to the communities of the Three Village community, and quite frankly it’s sort of a hodge-podge of commercial and retail buildings,” said George Hoffman, vice president of the Three Village Civic Association. “We also have a real problem with safety … because the corridor is really lacking crosswalks and sidewalks.”

The town also asked Stony Brook University to participate in this study. Similar land use studies and plans for Route 25A were conducted in 1963 and 1975 according to Robert de Zafra, former president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook. A third study was conducted around 20 years ago.

Current civic leaders like Shawn Nuzzo, president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, have tried kick-starting revitalization efforts for Route 25A near the Stony Brook train station for several years. Nuzzo has often been at the forefront of all discussions relating to upgrading 25A and ushering in a new era of commercial and residential prosperity across the main road.

At Thursday’s town board meeting, Nuzzo said the town was finally taking a different approach when working with civic groups.

“There’s been a lot of false starts with this area because it was based in the past on this old top-down model, where the people at the top were going to tell the people at the bottom what they’re going to live with for the next 50 years,” Nuzzo said at Town Hall before Brookhaven passed the resolution. “But this model now with this corridor study and community visioning, this is a bottom-up model.”

Over the last several years, Stony Brook University students have worked with their professors to propose idealistic and practical ways to improve the area by the train station. The groups have been hosting events with residents at the Bates House in Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket and other locations, where they have pitched their plans based on various land studies of the 25A corridor.

Professor Marc Fasanella from Stony Brook University has been leading entire classes on the revisioning of Route 25A and challenging his students with finding realistic ways to make the corridor more appealing visually and logistically.

In a previous interview with Times Beacon Record Newspapers, he said the crux of the challenge was to think outside the box, no matter how outlandish the plans might seem.

“We looked at this as a tremendous opportunity for our students and for the community moving forward,” Fasanella said. “Are we dreaming? Of course we’re dreaming.”

Nuzzo said the area by the train station has united people throughout the community, but the entire corridor, especially near the LIRR, can not only be safer but also more visually appealing to the community.

“This is an issue that transcends political lines,” he said. “This is an issue that has unified both the civic association and the Chamber of Commerce who have historically been at odds with one another. We’re in that redevelopment phase of this corridor and this is really a once in a lifetime opportunity to have a community vision to have something nice for 75 to 100 years.”

Phil Corso contributed to this report.

Ward Melville's Peyton LaTourrette, on left, reaches for a touch during one of his bouts against a Huntington opponent, in the Patriots' 22-5 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 15. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Ward Melville’s prowess as fencers has helped the boys continue their undefeated streak as the Patriots made short work of Huntington Friday night on their way to a 22-5 victory, to improve to 11-0 on the season.

Ward Melville rattled off five quick victories for an early lead before Huntington answered back when Josh Yanuck blanked his opponent to put the Blue Devils on the scoreboard. The interruption would be brief though, as the Patriots won the next seven out of eight bouts to jump out to a 12-2 lead.

Ward Melville's Daniel Deto, on left, reaches for a touch during one of his bouts against a Huntington opponent, in the Patriots' 22-5 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 15. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville’s Daniel Deto, on left, reaches for a touch during one of his bouts against a Huntington opponent, in the Patriots’ 22-5 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 15. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville sophomore sabreist Daniel Solomon won all three of his bouts without allowing a single touch. Fellow sabreist Daniel Deto, a junior, notched three victories of his own, as the national championship qualifier bested his challengers 5-3, 5-2 and 5-0.

Ward Melville head coach Jeff Salmon said he was pleased with Deto’s comeback performance on the strip, which helped him shake off a recent slump.

“Danny Deto had a couple of bad outings in a row, so it’s nice to see him where he was four or five meets ago,” he said.

Ward Melville senior Stephen Jackson led the way in foil, winning all three of his matches 5-1, 5-0 and 5-2.

“I did exceptionally well today — I was actually very surprised that I was able to win all three of my bouts they way I did,” said Jackson, an All-County player and junior Olympic qualifier. “At our last meet against Commack I was a little off balance, but today I was able to keep my focus the whole time.”

Ward Melville junior Michael Jaklitsch, another junior Olympic qualifier, also swept his bouts, as the épéeist defeated both of his challengers, 5-1.

Ward Melville senior Peyton LaTourrette took victories in both of his appearances as well, winning 5-4 and 5-1 in foil, as did junior sabreist Jack Rohan, who won both of his bouts 5-2.

“Today wasn’t my best, I had a couple of equipment malfunctions,” said LaTourrette, an All-Long Island player and national champion qualifier. “But that happens in fencing and you’ve just got to work through it.”

Ward Melville's Stephen Jackson competes during a bout against a Huntington opponent in the Patriots' 22-5 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 15. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville’s Stephen Jackson competes during a bout against a Huntington opponent in the Patriots’ 22-5 win over the Blue Devils on Jan. 15. Photo by Bill Landon

The senior foilsit said the team’s consistency and winning ways are directly attributed to the team’s coaches, and Jackson agreed.

“We have a really great coaching staff, they’re supportive and they dedicate a lot of their time,” Jackson said. “They help us learn how to be the best fencers we can be and I’m really thankful that I have their support.”

Yanuck a foilist, won both of his matches for Huntington, 5-0 and 5-3. Rounding out the scoring for Huntington was Jack O’Heir with a 5-4 victory in épée, and Dillon Collier and Dawson Wallace, who both contributed 5-1 wins in foil. With the loss, Huntington fell to 3-6 on the season.

With the win, Ward Melville has won 225 individual bouts on the season, while dropping just 72.

“We start from the bottom up and we maintain from the bottom up, so by the time they’re my seniors or upperclassman, they’re already prepared, so I don’t have to coach them much,” Salmon said. “I do all my preparation in the gym and I work more with the younger ones so I don’t have to work so hard at the end, so it’s a pyramid strategy.”

Ward Melville, which is now on a 135-match win streak, will host Half Hollow Hills on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.

Photo from Fathom Events

One of the most influential and highest-grossing Westerns ever made, “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” rides back into movie theaters this week for the first time in 40 years courtesy of Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies.

With its iconic performances by Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy, Robert Redford as The Sundance Kid and Katharine Ross as Etta Place, director George Roy Hill’s sprawling comedy-drama has delighted audiences around the world, but hasn’t been seen on the big screen in nearly two generations.

Featuring a specially-produced commentary by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, the film will be shown at more than 650 theaters around the country on Sunday, Jan. 17, and Wednesday, Jan. 20, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

In our neck of the woods, screenings will be held at Island 16, 185 Morris Ave., Holtsville; AMC Loews Stony Brook 17, 2196 Nesconset Highway, Stony Brook; and Farmingdale Multiplex 1001 Broadhollow Road, Farmingdale. Tickets are available online at www.FathomEvents.com or at theater box offices.

Educational production back by popular demand

A scene from a previous year’s performance of ‘Running Scared, Running Free’ Photo from WMHO

In honor of Black History Month, Long Islanders can truly celebrate the meaning of freedom with Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s acclaimed “Running Scared, Running Free: Escape to the Promised Land.” These riveting live theatrical performances, held over 150 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, will be a poignant experience about the power of the human spirit and Long Island’s connection to the Underground Railroad.

Sponsored by Empire National Bank, “Running Scared, Running Free” is an interactive production based on investigative research compiled by the WMHO and was attended by over 7,000 young people and adults when it first opened in 2005. 

Oral histories shared by Native Americans inspired WMHO to research the movement of escaping slaves from the south to Long Island and north to Canada. A St. George Production, the drama is set in the mid-1850s and is told through the eyes of “Dorcas,” a female slave fleeing South Carolina. The production shows how Native Americans, Quakers, free blacks and abolitionists assisted in the Underground Railroad through the fascinating use of secret codes in quilt patterns as a vital means of communication. It is estimated that at least 30,000 slaves, and potentially more than 100,000, escaped to Canada via the Underground Railroad.

Performances will take place on selected dates between Feb. 1 to 29 at WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main Street, Stony Brook Village, at 10 a.m. and noon. In addition, there will be a special evening performance on Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. with dessert and coffee or tea.

General admission is $13 adults; $12 per student (up to 35 students); $8 per student (over 35 students); Distance Learning is $250 per class connection (IP and ISPN connectivity); $1,500 in-school performance.

The program is aligned to meet National and New York State Common Core Standards and BOCES Arts-in-Education reimbursable. For further information call 631-751-2244 or visit www.wmho.org.

UGG boots on the loose
Suffolk County Crime Stoppers and Suffolk County Police Fourth Squad detectives are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the man who stole more than a dozen pairs of boots from a Commack store in November. A man wearing glasses and a hooded jacket stole 15 pairs of UGG boots from Sports Authority on Veterans Memorial Highway, on Nov. 29 at about 4 p.m. The boots have a combined value of approximately $2,800. Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS (8477).

Televisions teleported
A 36-year-old man from Medford and 39-year-old woman from Middle Island were arrested on Jan. 9 at 9:50 p.m. after police said they stole three televisions from Walmart on Veterans Highway in Islandia. They were both charged with petit larceny.

Tools taken
On Jan. 7 a 29-year-old man from Smithtown was arrested after police said he stole power tools from a residence on Wayside Lane in Smithtown at 9 a.m. He was charged with petit larceny.

Blurred lines
Police said a 50-year-old from Rocky Point was driving drunk at 11:25 p.m. on Jan. 7. He was pulled over on Route 25 in St. James after police said he turned left in the right lane and drove across traffic. He was charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated.

Busted at Busters
A 56-year-old man from Greenlawn was arrested on Jan. 9 at 8:30 p.m. after police said he was selling alcohol to an underage person at Beverage Busters in Commack. He was charged with first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child with alcohol.

Pill problem
On Jan. 7 a 32-year-old man from Commack was arrested after police said he was in possession of prescription pills without a prescription inside a 2015 Dodge Ram pickup truck on Wesleyan Road at about 10:45 p.m. He was charged with seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

Purse nabbed at Napper’s
Police said an unknown person stole a pocketbook with credit cards and a license from Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub in Smithtown on Jan. 7 just after midnight.

Ale House to Jailhouse
A 20-year-old man from Port Jefferson Station was arrested on Jan. 8 for robbery. Police said the man approached another person with a silver semi-automatic handgun and stole cash and a cellphone from the victim outside Miller’s Commack Ale House on Veterans Memorial Highway in Commack. Police arrested the man that day around 1:15 p.m. at his residence.

Double the trouble
Police arrested a 24-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman from Coram for loitering and unlawful possession of a controlled substance on Jan. 5. The man allegedly injected himself with heroin before throwing the needle into the woods near Crystal Brook Hollow Road in Port Jefferson Station and was also found to be in possession of marijuana.

Tools of the trade
On Jan. 8 at 5 p.m., police arrested a 24-year-old man from Mount Sinai for criminal possession of stolen property. Police said he had three power tools that he received in December from another unidentified person, who had stolen them. Police said the man was also in possession of a plastic bag of cocaine, but he was not charged with drug possession.

The seat warmer
A 19-year-old Miller Place resident was arrested on Jan. 5 for unauthorized use of a car. Police said the man entered a 2011 Jeep Cherokee at a residence on North Country Road, then a 2002 Chevrolet on the same road shortly afterward. Police said the man didn’t steal anything but remained in the car. He was arrested around 2 a.m.

Swipe left
According to police, an unknown person stole an iPhone from a home on Beaver Lane in East Setauket. Police said the individual didn’t break into the home. The incident happened on Jan. 7 at 7 p.m.

A handy heist
Police said someone entered the Lowe’s on Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook on Jan. 8 at 11 p.m. and stole an electric heater and leaf blower.

Push it, push it real good
According to police, two unidentified males got into a physical altercation on Jan. 10 on West Broadway in Port Jefferson. The two men shoved one another multiple times. One was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital for a laceration.

Idling while intoxicated
Police arrested a woman from Port Jefferson for driving while ability impaired after receiving a call about the 45-year-old woman sitting in a 2010 red Toyota Prius outside the Applebee’s on  Route 25A in Miller Place. Police said the engine was running when officials arrested the woman on Jan. 4 at 9:40 p.m.

Stopped in a flash
Police arrested a 26-year-old man from Setauket on Jan. 7 at 12:23 a.m. for driving while ability impaired in a 2006 Honda Civic. According to police, officials pulled the man over on Route 25A in East Setauket for speeding and discovered he was intoxicated.

Path to prison
A 35-year-old man from Centereach was arrested for driving while ability impaired in a 2008 Jeep on Jan. 5. He was heading west on North Bicycle Path in Selden when he got into a car crash. Police discovered the man was impaired by drugs and he was arrested at the scene.

License to steal
On Jan. 7 at 1:35 a.m., a 47-year-old Holbrook man was arrested for stealing two license plates from a 1998 Ford Explorer on South Coleman Road in Selden. And between Jan. 6 at 5:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the following day, an unknown person stole license plates from a car parked on Old Town Road in Port Jefferson Station. It was not clear whether the two incidents were related.

A safe decision
On Jan. 8 between 6 and 8 p.m., an unknown person broke into Old Coach Motors in Mount Sinai and stole a safe that stored money and papers.

Hickory dickory smash
An unknown person broke a window of a residence on Hickory Street in Mount Sinai on Jan. 4 at 2:56 p.m.

Mad for music
On Jan. 10, an unknown person stole headphones and batteries from the Walmart on Nesconset Highway in East Setauket. The incident happened around 12:25 p.m.

Lost and found
Someone stole a 2000 Honda Civic from a residence in Lake Grove on Jan. 9. Police said the owner of the car didn’t know it was stolen until after the car was recovered on Elwood Road in Centereach on Jan. 10, around 1 a.m.

Shell game
According to police, just past midnight on Jan. 10 someone stole a television from a shed at a residence on Shell Road in Rocky Point.

Ethan Agro has always been able to turn tears of sorrow into tears of joy.

Even though he was born with a congenital heart defect, the 12-year-old was always a trooper, and especially so when he needed to lay on an operating table last year and undergo eight hours of open heart surgery to repair his aortic valve.

12-year-old Ethan Agro celebrates after making the Gold Coast Bank three-point shot during halftime of the Stony Brook University men's basketball game on Jan. 9. Photo from SBU
12-year-old Ethan Agro celebrates after making the Gold Coast Bank three-point shot during halftime of the Stony Brook University men’s basketball game on Jan. 9. Photo from SBU

“My husband and I and my family were crying tears of joy,” Ethan’s mother Susan Agro said after the operation went smoothly. “Words cannot describe what a difficult time last year was. It was a really, really hard decision to make and we were really surprised. It was a rough recovery for the first few weeks, but Ethan did great, he had an amazing recovery and we are so grateful.”

Again, on Saturday evening at the men’s home basketball game, Ethan turned the triumph of a successful surgery and recovery into happy tears as he won $500 by banking the Gold Coast Bank three-point halftime shot.

“I was just so grateful that he was able to stand out in front of that crowd and make that shot,” she said. “I was crying tears of joy.”

His mother went to the refreshment stand and while away, a student intern group randomly picked Ethan to attempt the shot. He asked his mother for permission and she said yes without hesitation, although warning her son that no one had made the basket yet this season.

But he did.

Ethan Agro lines up to take his three-point shot during halftime of the Stony Brook University men's basketball game on Jan. 9. Photo from SBU
Ethan Agro lines up to take his three-point shot during halftime of the Stony Brook University men’s basketball game on Jan. 9. Photo from SBU

“I was surprised to see it go in,” Ethan said. “When I was taking the shot I wasn’t focusing on what the crowd was thinking. I was focusing on making the shot. I was so excited, and shooting in front of the crowd was an honor. I always admired those people — wanting to get picked.”

Stony Brook Assistant Athletic Director of Marketing Chris Murray said Ethan was randomly picked, not knowing that the family, which has lived in Mount Sinai for the last 16 years, had been to all of Stony Brook University’s men’s home games for the last five years. The Agros are season ticket holders and especially enjoyed using the games as an escape while Ethan waited six weeks after scheduling his surgery.

“I myself was on the court with Ethan when he hit the shot and his eyes lit up and he began to run in circles, unsure how to contain his excitement,” Murray said. “I couldn’t have been more happy for him, giving him a big hug as soon as we got off the court. Ethan is the most humble and appreciative middle-schooler I have ever met.”

Ethan has been on the court before, taking part in summer camps at the school but said being on the court at that moment was extra special.

Susan Agro said the whole moment was exciting as the boy was cleared to return to all normal activity just three months ago, and being that they are such big fans of the team.

Ethan Agro poses for a photo with Wolfie after banking his three-point shot during the Stony Brook University men's basketball game, winning $500 from Gold Coast Bank. Photo from SBU
Ethan Agro poses for a photo with Wolfie after banking his three-point shot during the Stony Brook University men’s basketball game, winning $500 from Gold Coast Bank. Photo from SBU

“I told Ethan he could’ve danced a little bit with Wolfie,” his mother said, laughing. “But I was completely shocked for the rest of the day. Everyone was high-fiving Ethan after the game and telling him it was a good shot and what a great story, they were all really excited for Ethan. It was an awesome experience.”

Ethan’s father Nick Agro said he was more excited to see his son be able to go back to playing basketball, as the boy competes in an intermural league.

“This was just a sort of culminating moment — to see him stand up there and make that shot was awesome,” he said. “It just solidified that he’s doing so well.”

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Taylor Tripptree races ahead of the pack and drives the lane for the layup in the Patriots' 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With 10 players contributing to the score and more than half the points coming from three-pointers alone, the Ward Melville girls’ basketball team had no problem cruising to a 56-18 win over William Floyd Tuesday.

“We worked well together,” junior guard Hannah Lorenzen said. “We really stepped up our defense, and we have a lot of shooting guards that can make threes; we did that pretty well today.”

Kira Sells nails one of her four three-pointers on the evening in the Patriots' 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Kira Sells nails one of her four three-pointers on the evening in the Patriots’ 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The Patriots started the game off by scoring eight straight points, with senior forward Heidi Scarth scoring half of them. The team was stealing passes and forcing William Floyd turnovers, but the Colonials bounced back to score five straight points.

Ward Melville re-extended its lead by the end of the first quarter, with senior guard Kira Sells and junior guard and forward Taylor Tripptree knocking down a three-pointer apiece to give their team a commanding 14-5 lead.

“It’s definitely one of our strongest points to our game,” Sells said of scoring three-pointers. “I know I could do better. So I’m just working on getting better every game.”

Sells did do one better, though.

After Shannon Berry banked three field goals to swing the tempo of the game, Sells swished two more treys to help her team further its lead to 30-10 by halftime.

Lorenzen said her teammates did a good job of passing outside if they couldn’t enter the paint.

“It does help a lot, because if we can’t penetrate through the paint, we can kick it and depend on our shooting guards to make the threes, which helps us get ahead,” she said.

But Ward Melville head coach Bruce Haller said a team that wants to go up against the best-of-the-best in Suffolk County, like Brentwood, Longwood, Sachem East and the county-best Commack, would need to play with a more balanced attack.

“It’s a double-edged sword,” he said. “The three is a great weapon, but if you fall too much in love with it and your three isn’t going in that particular game, now what? It’s all or nothing. That’s why we’re focusing on getting the ball inside a little more and getting some second shots. When those threes get missed, someone needs to be hitting the board from the weak side to get some putbacks.”

Hannah Lorenzen remains in control as she sets up a play in the Patriots' 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Hannah Lorenzen remains in control as she sets up a play in the Patriots’ 56-18 win over William Floyd on Jan. 12. Photo by Desirée Keegan

What did work for the team, though, was getting enough ahead that more bench players were able to see minutes.

“The kids work really hard in practice all the time and it’s nice to get them out on the court, get them some playing time and have them make some shots,” he said. “We have a very talented, deep group.”

Six of the 10 players that scored on that deep roster banked trifectas, and 31 of the team’s total points came from the five bench players that scored.

Bre Cohn and Maggie Zanone came off the bench in the fourth to score six points and three points, respectively, while stealing passes and dishing assists to close out the scoring for the game.

“We’re all close on and off the court,” Lorenzen said. “We have classes together, eat lunch together — so we’re all friends.”

Haller said his team has come a long way, making the decision to come together and step up to replace the injured freshman leading scorer from last year’s team: Lauren Hansen.

“They could have felt sorry for themselves,” he said. “Instead, a number of players are stepping up and taking over responsibilities or a bit of a different role that we didn’t anticipate them having in the preseason, and they’ve done a good job of it. Instead, they decided that they’re going to make a run for this thing.”

Setauket firefighters get set with a ladder to approach the second floor dormitory fire area as soon as interior firefighters put water on the fire to extinguish flames. Photo from SFD/R. O'Rourk

A serious dormitory blaze at Stony Brook University has Brookhaven Town’s supervisor calling for fire safety reforms.

The fire broke out on Saturday, Nov. 21, in a student’s room on the second floor of O’Neill College — one of four residential buildings in Mendelsohn Quad — forcing about 115 students to relocate to temporary housing, the university said in a statement.

Setauket Fire Department responded to the call and received mutual aid from Stony Brook, St. James and Port Jefferson departments, but officials soon discovered that they had to carry hoses up to the second floor because there were no standpipes there to connect to due to the building’s decades-old architecture, the Setauket Fire Department said in a statement.

While the flames were eventually tamed, the incident still sparked Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) to call on the university to upgrade its fire protection systems and to contribute to the cost of fire protection.

The fire is extinguished but a clean-up of debris from the room continues to ensure no hidden flames exist. Photo from SFD/R. O'Rourk
The fire is extinguished but a clean-up of debris from the room continues to ensure no hidden flames exist. Photo from SFD/R. O’Rourk

In a statement provided to Times Beacon Record Newspapers, Romaine said that O’Neill College was built more than five decades ago and was outfitted with a fire alarm system that only warns of a fire, without a sprinkler system to combat it. He said the university lacked necessary fire-prevention measures, like a standpipe system in the building, to allow firefighters to access water for their hoses.

Romaine also noted that the most recently built dormitories at SBU include fire alarms and sprinkler systems, which he said would have prevented the size and magnitude of the fire at O’Neill.

“Two lessons emerge from this fire,” Romaine said. “First, Stony Brook University needs to upgrade the system in the dormitories that lack these essential fire protection systems. Second, New York State and the university should contribute to the cost of fire protection; it should not be borne by the taxpayers of Stony Brook and Setauket Fire Districts alone.”

A spokesman for the Setauket Fire Department said the cause of the fire was still under investigation and there were no reported injuries.

The SBU campus resides within the Setauket, Stony Brook and St. James fire districts, the university’s environmental health and safety department said.

Lauren Sheprow, a spokeswoman for Stony Brook University, said the university was operating in full compliance with state building code requirements and that all campus residence halls were equipped with “state-of-the-art fire alarm systems that are monitored 24/7 at university police headquarters.”

Over recent years, Sheprow said, SBU has taken administrative, engineering and educational steps to reduce fire alarms, minimize the impact on nearby fire departments and facilitate its own emergency response.

“At Stony Brook, student safety is a top priority and we take that responsibility very seriously,” she said in a statement. “The university has implemented numerous initiatives over the years to enhance fire safety and prevention and to reduce unnecessary response by community fire departments to the campus. The university has a great deal of respect for the community volunteers who dedicate their time to fire emergencies — in fact many of these volunteers work at Stony Brook University — and we are grateful for the swift response in November.”

The university’s most recent annual fire report and statistics reported eight fires throughout 2014, across all on-campus residence halls, resulting in a total of $20 worth of property damage. Most of the incidents were reported as grease fires, and none of the eight occurred at O’Neill College, where the most recent reported incident before this dated back to two trash can fires in 2013.