Your Turn

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Photo from SBU

By Greg Monaco

Stony Brook University’s Seawolves may sport the color red, but our campus is getting “greener” every day.

The University is devoted to creating a more environmentally friendly campus by learning and implementing new sustainable practices, a mission sparked in 2007, when Stony Brook signed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment. Since then, they’ve made major strides by improving transportation, planting and energy-usage efforts.

These efforts put Stony Brook University on The Princeton Review’s Green Honor Roll, a recognition given to only 24 schools. The Princeton Review also ranked Stony Brook No. 4 in its “Top 50 Green Colleges of 2015,” making this the sixth consecutive year The Princeton Review recognized the University.

In April 2013, the University unveiled its state-of-the-art SBU Wolf Ride Bike Share system to provide a zero-emission commuting option on campus. Originally consisting of four solar-powered stations and 48 bicycles, the program has grown to eight stations and 63 bikes, and students have enjoyed more than 14,000 rides.

To encourage the use of alternatively fueled vehicles, the University installed 10 electric vehicle charging stations on campus. To date, more than 700 cars have been charged with a total output of 2.596 MW.

The National Arbor Day Foundation named Stony Brook University a Tree Campus USA recipient in 2013 and 2014, recognizing our dedication to campus forestry management and environmental stewardship. The University boasts a robust planting program, designed to beautify the campus and engage students, faculty and staff in learning sustainable planting techniques during the Office of Sustainability’s hands-on Growing Red Days.

The University is committed to reducing its energy usage by undergoing a large, interior-lighting retrofit, encompassing more than 35 academic buildings. The project as a whole will replace more than 55,000 interior light fixtures with new energy-efficient lamps.

With the help of students, faculty and staff, Stony Brook University will continue to develop a more eco-friendly environment, serving an ongoing goal of securing a sustainable future for the university campus, the community and the world.

Greg Monaco is the Sustainability Coordinator at Stony Brook University.

Bilingual Buddies mentors students in the Bridge program at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School. Photo from Sabrina Palacios

By Sabrina Palacios

To this day, I can still remember my first experience with mentoring. I was in kindergarten, and just like all of the other kids, I was brimming with excitement to meet my new buddy. The moment all the “big kids” walked in was indescribable. I was overcome with joy, from having the opportunity to meet kids much older than me, but also still a bit fraught with shyness because, well, these kids were “big kids”! Once I got over that fact, I was able to really form a friendship with my new mentor. Every week she visited me, and over time she helped teach me the values of responsibility as well as staying dedicated to my schoolwork. Even now, I still use those lessons in my every day life, and I can easily say that a great part of that can be attributed to having such a positive role model in my life at such a developmental stage.

At its most basic level, mentoring helps because it guarantees a young person someone to look up to and learn from. A child is not alone in dealing with day-to-day challenges. By participating in a mentoring program at Huntington, Bridge class students — those who are new to the country and sometimes to even a formal school system — now have the opportunity to feel included in their school community as well as be understood by their fellow classmates.

Sabrina Palacios photo from the author
Sabrina Palacios photo from the author

Our mentoring program, Bilingual Buddies, has become the key for gradually integrating these students in the most natural way possible, while also building their relationships with those around them. As for the mentors, we have equally benefited from the program because we are given the chance to learn about cultures and backgrounds contrasting to those that we have always known. Additionally, mentoring has given each individual a role in becoming strong role models, hence giving us a sense of responsibility and respectability that we must learn to uphold.

In its early stages, Bilingual Buddies has become a blossoming mentoring program. I, along with 24 of my peers, have helped take part in developing a partnership with the Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School Bridge class with the goal to better acclimate the students to their new lives and future as students of Huntington.

The very first day we walked in to meet the kids was nothing short of delightful. Seeing each child’s face light up with happiness was quite honestly the most gratifying moment I’ve ever had both as an individual and a mentor. And I can undoubtedly say that my peers felt the same. Being a part of such a rewarding program has given us, and the students, the chance to create lasting, positive friendships. Even more so, it has given us the opportunity to be the true bridge between these new students and their community.

It can go without saying that while it is our job as mentors to leave an impact on the lives of these children, it is truly the children themselves who will impact us and our community. Hopefully we will be able to see more of this growth and positive change as the program develops from where it is today.

Sabrina Palacios is a rising senior at Huntington High School, and the founder and president of Bilingual Buddies.

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Ellen Brady with her father, Dave, at her wedding. Photo from Ellen Brady

By Ellen Brady

Most of the important occasions of my life, many of them happy, occurred in the month of June.

Achievement in school was always very important to me, and all my graduation ceremonies, including from college and graduate school, were in long ago Junes. My first time flying, an international flight to Belgium to spend the summer with my cousins the summer after sixth grade; my road test and prom; my first job; my engagement, wedding and the birth of my first child; the purchase of my first home — all these milestones took place in June. And yet, every year, around Memorial Day, when someone says, “Can you believe it’s going to be June in a few days?” my first thought is always of Father’s Day.

Father’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. To me, it seems less commercial than Christmas, Easter, even Mother’s Day. For me, those holidays are fraught with stress. Decorating, the pressure of buying the right gifts, hidden (and possibly imagined in my mind) expectations and trying, or being too overwhelmed to try, to make everything “right” kill any pleasure I could possibly experience on those occasions.

But Father’s Day is easy for me. I know I feel this way because of my dad, Dave Brady, affectionately and with tongue-in-cheek referred to by friends and family as Mr. Fun. He was a quiet, humble, unassuming man who seemed to have no expectations. Thus celebrating his presence in my life was always easy. A simple gift of Old Spice anything, or a beanbag ashtray or some new handkerchiefs purchased from the clothing store on Main Street in my hometown, which had long allowed my family to purchase “on account,” was exactly what he needed, or so he let me believe. My sister and I would bake a cake for dessert, and that was about all the attention and doting he could handle.

My father wasn’t an active parent; he left most of the child-rearing responsibilities to my mother, who therefore couldn’t be easygoing and gentle, the very qualities I loved about my father. He didn’t ask about my friends, or if I needed help with my homework or if everything was going okay at school. But that didn’t matter to me. We spent much of our time together comfortably sitting in silence. In the warm weather, we would sit on the front porch of our family home, reading or working The New York Times crossword puzzle, listening to the breeze rustle the leaves and the birds singing — we would watch the world go by.

My father died suddenly on Jan. 12, 1999, from a burst abdominal aortic aneurysm. It was two weeks before my 30th birthday, and I was moving to Florida with my husband in a week. I had barely ever left home, let alone lived outside the metro New York area. I was 19 weeks pregnant with my first child. Instead of a baby shower/going away party at my job and the 30th birthday/going away party my mom was planning, we had a wake and a funeral. I was devastated, and in a moment of desperate grief, I cried to my husband, “Who’s going to take care of me now?”

It wasn’t until many years later, after the birth of my daughters, when I was reflecting on what being a mother means to me and what I want to give to my children, that I realized what my father had given me. I was bowled over with the power of the realization — my father gave me the greatest gift a person can give —  unconditional love. He had no expectations of me giving him the perfect gift, or showing my love by spending enough money. He didn’t care if I was the smartest or was the most athletic or the most musical.

He didn’t care if I kept my room clean. All he needed to be happy and at peace was to know that his beloved wife, his children and their spouses and his grandchildren were safe and happy. I aspire to give my husband and children the same gift of unconditional love.

By the way, yesterday my husband and I closed on the purchase of my — and my father’s — childhood home … another milestone recorded in the book of Junes.

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No. 3 overall pick Brendan Rogers, who was selected by the Colorodo Rockies, talks with members of the media. Photo by Clayton Collier

By Desirée Keegan & Clayton Collier

One Port Jefferson local was awarded another trip to the MLB Draft, held in Secaucus, N.J., from June 8 through June 10, where he experienced the sights and sounds that surround the excitement that comes about when young new talent is recognized and called upon to compete at the majors level.

Long second fiddle to the NFL and NBA drafts, mostly due to the length of time before baseball draftees make a major league impact, MLB has catapulted its draft into a unique experience in which prospects as young as 17 years old are welcomed live on television by some of the greatest to ever wear the uniform.

This was Clayton Collier’s third time covering the draft. He said every year the event continues to live up to the hype.

Baseball legends converge on MLB Network’s northern New Jersey location to ceremoniously answer the phones from their respective front office’s to hand in their draft picks for the first and second round. The remainder of the selections are made over the following two days and are announced online.

Clayton Collier was in attendance at the 2013 MLB draft, his first experience with the event. Photo from Collier
Clayton Collier was in attendance at the 2013 MLB draft, his first experience with the event. Photo from Collier

Collier was covering the event for WSOU, Seton Hall University’s radio station, which is a school that has a strong baseball program that typically has a handful of players go in the higher rounds, operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is a local station that broadcasts into New York City.

At the 2015 draft, Collier witnessed crowds of families, former players and media members pack the glass double doors. Inside, was a large, rustic Dodger-blue door affixed with a plaque marked “42,” an ode to the civil rights trailblazer and Brooklyn-great Jackie Robinson.

Through the doorway and down a maze of hallways, is the iconic Studio 42, a set designed as a baseball stadium. In front of Collier was a mock turf field, including a pitcher’s mound, which was wedged between the Brewers’ and Tigers’ draft tables.

The overhead lights replicate the scene of a major league ballpark. The green stadium seating in the outfield, similar to those at Citi Field, is packed with families of draft hopefuls. All is arranged to face a podium, which is located at home plate in front of a large screen projecting various clips of current MLB All-Stars.

Commissioner Rob Manfred made his first appearance with his opening remarks and subsequently made 75 young men’s dream come true live on national television.

An array of 30 tables dressed to the nines in team apparel don the field.

With them, legends of each of those aforementioned clubs take their rightful seat at each of the corresponding club’s station. Philadelphia Phillies’ Mike Schmidt and Brooklyn Dodgers’ Tommy Lasorda shoot the breeze in front of the podium. Seattle Mariners’ Ken Griffey Jr. shares a laugh with Andre Dawson, originally a Montreal Expos outfielder, and company at the buffet in back. Art Stewart, a front-office executive and former director of scouting for the Kansas City Royals, asks former outfielder Johnny Damon, most notably from the Royals, Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, for the Wi-Fi password. Originally a pitcher for the Atlanta Braves and currently an active sportscaster, John Smoltz; Detroit Tigers’ shortstop Alan Trammel; Luis Gonzalez, most known for his time spent as an outfielder with the Arizona Diamondbacks; and David Cone, a former pitcher and now commentator for the New York Yankees on the YES Network, who pitched the 16th perfect game in baseball history, struck out 19 batters to tie for the second-most ever in a game, and 1994 Cy Young Award winner are some of the legends that continue to flood in. Manfred then comes out to mingle with them all.

Entrenched in the third-base dugout, a quartet of MLB Draft hopefuls were in attendance for the ceremony. Ashe Russell, Brendan Rodgers, Mike Nikorak and Garrett Whitley sit quietly with their parents, watching the scene and occasionally interacting with a former player or two who come over to introduce themselves.

Friends and family cheer for No. 3 overall pick Brandon Rogers during the 2015 MLB Draft. Photo by Clayton Collier
Friends and family cheer for No. 3 overall pick Brandon Rogers during the 2015 MLB Draft. Photo by Clayton Collier

As the names get called, polite applause ensues. When one of the four prospects in-studio gets picked, pandemonium ensues. The outfield stands erupt as if the home team hit a walk-off home run. Rodgers was the first, being picked third overall to the Colorado Rockies. He puts on his jersey, shakes Manfred’s hand and is soon after interviewed by Port Jefferson native Sam Ryan. He then takes a phone call from Rockies general manager Jeff Bridich, who playfully asks, “Are you still breathing?”

Russell, Whitley and Nikorak follow the same routine once their names are called, going to the Royals, Rays and Rockies, respectively. Nikorak, Rodgers and their parents celebrate the fact that they’ll be teammates again, having been on the field together for the Under Armour All-America Game.

As the final names were called and the cameras went dark, the draftees and their representatives clear out, and all that was left was a mess of papers and water bottles scattered throughout the stadium and stands.

It’s a unique phenomenon to observe the beginnings of the young athlete’s careers. In 2011, we witnessed a young man by the name of Mike Trout get called up on stage to receive his Los Angeles Angels jersey. Four years later, he’s the face of the game. How long until we see Rodgers, Russell, Nikorak or Whitley in the big leagues? Only time will tell.

Russell best explained the experience before the night began, when he was pacing along the third baseline of Studio 42 in nervousness. Around 10 minutes after being selected by the Royals, Clayton followed up to see how the no longer prospect, but draftee, now felt.

“I’m so excited,” he said. “I can’t believe this is happening right now. This is a dream come true.”

For Collier, the experience has had similar effects.

“As a young sports journalist, it is certainly rewarding to have the opportunity to cover these type of events,” he said. “WSOU at Seton Hall, as a professionally run radio station, offers a number of tremendous opportunities for students such as the MLB Draft. It’s events like these that help you gain the experience necessary to be successful in the media industry. I’ve worked hard at it for several years now, so to be able to cover an event like the MLB Draft for WSOU is very much satisfying.”

Cedar Beach file photo

By Madeleine Emilia Borg

I have a very hard time saying goodbye. It becomes particularly apparent when something that has been there your whole life as a constant reminder that things are as they should be, suddenly one day is snatched away from you. Somewhere I have known that it can’t always go on this way. That this will also have to come to an end. Still, once it occurs, it is no less devastating.

It’s truly amazing to have had a place to return during the summertime. Loving arms that have welcomed me and a bed to sleep in, its worn lace spread getting thrown off every single night because of the nearly unbearable heat. And as soon as I had the light on, all the bugs ended up in the book I was reading. Almost always that book was borrowed from the Port Jefferson Free Library. Despite the various little critters, I would never trade those nights and days for anything in the world.

The Beach House, hidden away in Miller Place, Long Island and the people I’ve shared my experiences with there own a piece of my heart. With its typical northeastern faded gray shingles, the black roof one can crawl onto out of almost every room upstairs and the dreamy view all the way to Connecticut, where the fire works during Fourth of July light up the horizon as if it is burning. And for the first time in my life I won’t be able to visit it again. Because sometimes even old houses at New York’s end that have served as second homes must be emptied of all memories and sold to another family who can harvest the same pleasures and joys from it as much as its past cherishing owners.

The winding gravel path up from the road where the trash cabinet stands, its carved out blue whales on both doors and the sign in the tree with the black painted letters “Henry’s Place”, indicating that a home lurks beyond all the overgrown lush greenery.

The barefoot schlepp from the splintery board walk bridge up the steep slope, when the soles of our feet are numb after stepping around on tiny rocks laid scattered all over the dazzling white beach, but which we’ve always called pebbles and therefore they feel somewhat kinder than ordinary stone.

The outdoor shower that stills smells so much of cedar wood and security although it is over 23 years old. When I let the tepid water sprinkle down over my sun flushed shoulders it doesn’t hurt even a bit.

Below the hill where the magnificent deer family usually observes us through the screen window in the kitchen as we prepare for dinner making a salad. Slicing satiny tomatoes, chopping onions and carving out avocados that we’ve carefully selected at Jimmy’s down the road. He always sneaks butterscotch and sour watermelon lollipops into the grocery bags.

Having trouble falling asleep and the feeling of time standing completely still, while impatiently awaiting the next morning when I’ll hear the much anticipated sound of car doors opening and the rest of my favorite people. Uncles and aunts and cousins I call siblings will come up the driveway with smiles bigger than their faces. We’ll be racing down the stairs, the aching stir pounding under my rib cage.

Freshly caught seven-dollar lobsters from the little fish store that Nana brings in brown paper bags, the ones we dip into melted butter for our own version of a Swedish crayfish party. My cousins and I squeal from the carpet stairs in enchantment mingled with terror as we sit and watch how she puts them in the big black boiling pot, one by one. Afterwards my brother throws the remains to the seagulls after we gingerly go down to the water and rinse off. He really should get into baseball, someone says and we stop and grill marshmallows until we need to find our way back with a flashlight.

When my younger cousin and I as eight- and 10-year-olds invade our grandparent’s closets, smear on all the makeup we can find, attach the loose fitting garments with sparkly hair clips and wobble down the long stairs in way too high heels, feeling them slightly chafe but it doesn’t really matter because we hear everyone clapping and cheering us on from below.

Thirty-one years ago, my family purchased a beach home in Miller Place. It became a haven and gathering place for three generations of families and friends. It was a place of endless parties, a place for recuperation and healing. Located on four acres of land plus beachfront property, with unobstructed views of the Long Island Sound, it was truly a place of sanctuary back in the day, when Miller Place was full of sod fields, not strip malls and homes … but people get old, families and friends drift apart and life takes us all on different paths. Very sad to have given it up … but sometimes letting go breathes new life into all. My 21-year-old niece, Madeleine, who grew up in Sweden, spent the last 18 summers at the beach house with us. These are her memories. — Paul Singman

Early, calm crossword puzzle breakfasts with Poppy on the porch when the air is still clean and pure, only a few motor boat’s distant soothing hum. I make a sesame bagel with salmon and cream cheese, he opts for a bowl of cereal. And so we sit and listen to exactly nothing and just enjoy each other’s presence.

The few bright blue hydrangea bushes that survived the fire we never mention, where I pass the house next door and the contrasting reality looming between the bamboo shoots. Nana planted new ones adjacent to the facade later on, which quickly morphed into something jungle-like. It just grows bigger every year.

The attic holding Mom’s poufy wedding dress, a sandbox shaped like a giant turtle, my great uncle’s trumpet played in grand symphony orchestras, black and white photographs neatly tucked into worn heavy albums with burgundy spines and travel diaries from the sixties.

The huge and frayed weather polished log which fits my little brother and I perfectly in our daily occupations of playing shop and bakery, or reclining on each of its curved sides while trying not to spill our Animal Crackers and cheese sticks in the sand. Nana comes over sometimes to buy a lemon meringue pie and some rolls, or she’s looking for a new gown she can wear to the imaginary ball that very evening. We always have something just right to offer.

During an unusually dramatic and moist storm, the outdoor furniture with blue and white striped cushions blowing off along the corner of the house, lightning strikes down the chimney and dances for a few seconds over the glossy parquet living room floor.

Lazy evenings after a shower when my mother wraps me in a fluffy bathrobe and I clamber up on Nana’s unusually high raised bed. Stacked over bricks overlooking the complete paradise we find ourselves in, we start reading in the mellow comfort of each other’s camaraderie. My best friend. Earlier I left a note that ceremoniously invited her to this particular activity and would like it to continue forever.

The squirrel that gets in through a broken screen at the height of a pine tree, running across the fireplace, leaving adorable sooty paw prints in the sink and in the light purple bathtub which always tends to be filled with foam of lavender and violets, fittingly enough.

The dusty ceiling fan I stand straight beneath, closing my eyes just to breathe in the familiar salt breeze and coconut scent of Coppertone sunscreen which we continue to use even though all of us have grown up, even the smallest ones.

The back den with its sugary wood scent and photo collage of everyone of us from all times and places spread across the entire wall, Every time I look I see something new.

Short adventure walks that turn into running after we discover a vacant diving dock and quickly swim over only to throw oursleves in and scramble back up for hours at a time.

The wine bottle we manage to steal from the liquor cabinet and share with some we’d met the other day at McNulty’s ice cream parlor. Now sitting out among the dunes at the rotunda where we keep the umbrellas and swimming noodles I talk fervently to everyone except the person who’s mouth I’d like to graze with my own but I never dare to.

The bursting cotton candy sky, never ceasing to stun its audience, soon shifting into thick endless navy sprinkled with glowing dots. I look up at them from a swing in the sprawling storybook tree protecting a spot of the otherwise yellowed, prickly lawn. Crickets whose melodies slowly fill the night among the fireflies that we vainly try to capture in glass jars with holes in them.

The grand, annual birthday party in the middle of July that seems to get more stifling the older I get. Guests pouring in from all over the country, people I barely know but like already kiss both my cheeks and take my hand in theirs. Roaring laughter and animated gestures in a flurry of pastel cake frosting and white linen and without much blood involved, we’re still the world’s biggest family and I love each and every one of them.

And finally. The initial, delicious chills finding their way along my spine as I try not to slip getting into that remarkable ocean. All kinds of colors, textures and creatures emerge from underneath as quickly as they vanish and I’ll always be a mermaid here. Inching further in, I hear someone count to three and suddenly I’m completely underneath even though I’d demonstratively spun my hair up in a bun earlier to catch as many freckles as possible. I guess this is what heaven feels like. As I loosen the elastic from my head, I let myself float up slowly, opening my eyes to the glittering murky light and greeting a sun burning my forehead in a way that is only divine.

Goodbye beautiful house, you will be dearly missed.

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Setauket Neighborhood House. File photo

By Bonnie Connolly

Despite living on Main Street in Setauket for 28 years, I only had a nodding acquaintance with the Setauket Neighborhood House. Then for several weeks last summer I watched as a new porch went up on the house. I thought, “Wow, that construction is a big deal. Keeping up this old house must cost a fortune.” For the first time I wondered who owned the Neighborhood House, and how the resources to maintain the building were generated. Well, this is what I discovered.

Construction of the Setauket Neighborhood House began prior to 1720 and the building was located on Setauket Bay. In 1820 Dr. John Elderkin purchased the house and had it moved to its present location. He added on to both ends of the original house, and it became Ye Old Elderkin Inn. In the 1860s the well-regarded inn serviced a stagecoach line.

When Dr. Elderkin died in 1885, the house was passed on to his niece, Julia, and then on to Julia’s niece, Augusta Elderkin and Augusta’s husband, Captain Beverly S. Tyler. The Tylers named their inn The Lakeside House and it operated until 1917.

Eversley Childs purchased the inn in May of 1917, and in the fall of that year the Neighborhood House was dedicated to the community. The Setauket Neighborhood Association was formed to maintain the house and the grounds. In 1979 the association formed a committee to restore and preserve the house.

Membership in the association is one way you can help to maintain this wonderful site. There are four membership categories ranging from $25 to $100.

Another way to support the house is to attend the annual Taste of the Neighborhood event on Friday, May 15, from 7 to 10 p.m. Last year’s successful event was able to raise funds to build a new front porch. This year’s benefit is to build a new ballroom floor.

The gala event will feature signature dishes from local restaurants that will be accompanied by beer and wine. Blythe Merrifield will be singing with Bob Boutcher on piano, and her daughter Liz Merrifield will be singing with Pat Morelli on guitar. There will be raffle baskets and prizes, and Robert Roehrig and Patricia Yantz, both members of the Setauket Artists, will be donating a painting for the raffle where all proceeds go to the SNH. Both artists will have many of their paintings for sale during the event and for a week afterward.

Tickets are $30 online at www.setauketnh.org or $35 at the door. For more information, call 631-751-6208.  Come join us while we celebrate this beautiful building and raise money for a new ballroom!

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The New York State Capitol building in Albany. File photo

By Jim Polansky

As the dust attempts to settle following two weeks of state assessment administration, preceded by months of politically charged debate and activism, I’ll, once again, express my plea that the state powers-that-be reflect on the situation and its root causes and attempt to redirect their decision-making toward what is in the best interests of the children of New York.

I can attest to the fact that the administrators, teachers and staff members in Huntington clearly understand their responsibilities. They continue to develop and refine their crafts but have never lost sight of the individual differences demonstrated by the students in their classrooms or buildings. They comprehend the concept of college and career readiness and recognize their roles within a systemic approach to a child’s education. They have instructionally prepared their students in alignment with the new standards, while continually striving to instill in students a love of learning. They have done everything possible to put aside their anxieties in the face of statewide educational unrest, rapidly moving evaluation targets and mandates that seemingly appear out of nowhere. I imagine all of this is characteristic of the majority of schools and districts throughout the state.

I’d like to think that some learning has been accomplished or perspective gained from recent events. For example, broad-scale changes are likely to meet with failure if necessary preparations are not made or if measures are not put into place to facilitate those changes. (The cliché applies — one cannot build a plane while it is being flown.)  No amount of federal monies is worth the potential outcomes of a rushed and, therefore, flawed change process.

I’ll add that the importance of accountability and evaluation should not be minimized. But an unproven system based on unproven measures will surely contribute to inaccurate outcomes — both false positive and false negative.

Education Law §3012-d has been passed. It requires the state’s Board of Regents to redesign the Annual Professional Performance Review (APPR) process by June 30 and subsequently requires districts to submit a new plan by Sept. 1. The bulk of plan development would be slated for a time when key stakeholders may not be available.

There are numerous education-related issues facing New York at this juncture. These issues must be approached with common sense and, again, with an eye toward what is best for our students. Why not begin such an approach with accepting the recent recommendation and allowing districts until at least September 2016 to build valid and sensible APPR plans?  Give districts the time, resources and capacity to do this right. Provide them with the guidance and support they need.  Leave threats of withholding aid out of the equation.

Education in New York is broken as a result of misguided and rushed initiatives that have left districts to their own devices to address state policy issues and misinformation spread throughout their communities. It is imperative that those in Albany reflect on what has happened and take the critical steps needed to restore transparency, close the wounds and repair what was and could return to being one of the finest educational systems in the country.

Jim Polansky is the superintendent of the Huntington school district and former high school principal.

The Greening of 25A Committee wraps up another successful cleanup event at the Stony Brook Railroad Station last week. Photo from Kara Hahn

By Kara Hahn and Shawn Nuzzo

The Greening of 25A Committee had an absolutely beautiful day for our 2015 spring cleanup at the Stony Brook Railroad Station. The sun was shining and volunteers worked hard to spruce up this important and extremely visible gateway to our community.

Our appreciation goes out to all the civic and community volunteers: Councilwoman Cartright, Jennifer Martin, Gretchen Oldrin-Mones, Herb Mones, Paul Willoughby, Jesse Davenport, Makenzie Gazura, Graham Ball, Alyssa Turano, Zach Baum, Charles Tramontana, Donald Amodeo and Elizabeth Zamarelli. Special thanks to the Long Island Rail Road, Frank Turano and Ron Gerry for lending us garden tools, along with other supplies and equipment that made the event possible.

Special thanks to the Three Village Chamber of Commerce and their volunteers David Woods and Bruce Reisman for opening up their office in the beautiful station house and to chamber member David Prestia of Bagel Express for the tasty bagels and coffee.

This year, we had an extremely large, contingent of undergraduate volunteers from Stony Brook University — more than 50 students participated, and thank you to Emily Resnick and Joy Pawirosetiko of Commuter Student Services and Off-Campus Living for help with recruiting the student participants.

Once again, we also had volunteers from Ward Melville High School Key Club — thank you to Kyra Durko, Ashley Donovan, Gianna Forni, Ben Sullivan, Jack Kiessel, Shannon Dalton, Josie Wiltse, Alyssa Abesamis and Dylan Buzzanca.

Thank you to the Town of Brookhaven Wildlife and Ecology Center for donating flowers.

As always we could not hold the clean up without the support of Town of Brookhaven Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro and his highway crew, who truly make our event possible.

Thank you to everyone involved, we could not have done it without you.

Legislator Kara Hahn represents the 5th District in the Suffolk County Legislature and Shawn Nuzzo is president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook.

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Stock photo

By Joan Nickeson

I read with interest the recent opinion article by Comsewogue school board trustee Ali Gordon (Team up to starve New York’s testing machine, March 12). I applaud her efforts. She explains how the governor tied his latest education policy to our state budget, a game where no one wins.

As an occasional contributor to this paper, I share thoughts on the organics of life: water conservation and wildlife, civic engagement, writing love letters, and about my daughter preparing for college — all untidy ventures. But being a student is untidy. Educating children is an organic experience; a hands-on, creative occupation. Our teachers tend to our children all day long. Not unlike rangers, they patrol for danger. Like gardeners, they employ means by which to rid the soil of invasive species. Ms. Gordon has shed light on the parasites.

Education’s root word, “educe,” means bring forth or draw out. It is untidy business. As adults, we know children grow at their own pace. A few bloom early, boldly. Some reach for help; others need coaxing. Some never extend themselves. Having tools and space helps to “bring forth” the students, and adequate funding is necessary for this organic endeavor. Forcing children to take poorly-worded standardized tests doesn’t help. Linking teachers’ employment and the health of school district to the results of any test should be actionable.

Whatever nutritive or non-nutritive fuel contributes to children’s abilities during the day, it is the work of the educators to draw out. They know children have learning challenges that are unrelated to curriculum or tests. I think we all know some come to school on empty stomachs. We know some have family trauma. Many lack confidence. Some are angry and conflicted. Some are bullied and, during math, plan how to get on the bus without being confronted. Some at school are ill and unfocused. Some are dreamers engaged in internal dialogs instead of listening. Others are preoccupied about professional sports teams, because that’s the focus of a parent. We know some whose first languages are not English, who risk their lives to cross the U.S. border to connect with a parent living in our districts. Education is fraught with immeasurable obstacles.

But let me see — in the words of Joe Pesci in “My Cousin Vinny” — what else can we pile on? The tax cap! Which could lead to budget cuts to academics, requiring placement of more and more of our budding children into a single classroom. Do it five periods a day. Do it 180 days a year. Force educators and administrators to douse children with tests created by businessmen who have an eye on their ledgers and the charter school lobby, who are literally banking on our students failing the test. It is unconscionable.

Yet our teachers were predominately evaluated effective or highly effective last year in a New York State Education Department-approved evaluation process.

We need to demand participation in state policy through open legislative debate. We need to opt out of the Common Core-linked standardized tests so our teachers can get back to the organic pursuit of education.

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In November, state Sen. Ken LaValle gave his blessing to a feasibility study for the electrification of the Port Jefferson LIRR line east of Huntington. File photo

By Dave Kapell

One of the strategies being widely discussed as a means of revitalizing the Long Island economy is the creation of transit-oriented developments, especially in downtowns served by the Long Island Rail Road. These developments are much needed and would serve multiple purposes — increasing housing options, enhancing downtown areas and providing places to live and work with easy access to and from New York City. But they are not new to Long Island. Greenport on the North Fork was a transit-oriented development in the mid-19th century and thus underscores the potential that this long-standing tradition still offers Long Island, if we can focus on mobility.

Ironically, when the LIRR’s track to Greenport was laid in 1844, it was not to provide transit access to New York City but to connect New York with Boston, because the technology did not yet exist to bridge Connecticut’s rivers. Greenport was, and still is, the terminus for the LIRR Main Line —aka the Ronkonkoma Branch — but its fundamental role at the time was to provide a transit connection to Boston by ferry. It was a two-way street for people and for commerce.

In the mid-19th century the only way to travel by train from New York City to Boston was by taking the LIRR from Brooklyn to Greenport, transferring there to a ferry to cross the Long Island Sound to Connecticut and then resuming train travel to Boston. Greenport, therefore, evolved naturally as a transit-oriented development with a thriving downtown that was created during this period with housing as well as jobs, commerce and robust population growth. That’s still a central appeal for the concept today, and it’s especially timely.

New York City is both the financial capital of the world and a powerful magnet for youth and talent. That makes it all the more important that Long Island build upon its proximity to the city by expanding transit access to its dynamic economy and the jobs it offers to Long Island residents and, as importantly, the talent pool it offers to support Long Island businesses. It’s also important to recognize that young people are much less inclined to drive cars than previous generations.

But there are two keys to maximizing that access. First, we need to make it easier to live and work near LIRR stations. The good news there is that the Long Island Index and the Regional Plan Association determined in 2010 that a total of 8,300 acres are available for infill development within a half-mile of LIRR stations and downtowns. That means that transit-oriented developments can enhance downtown areas while reducing pressure for development on Long Island’s iconic and treasured rural landscape.

Second, we must enhance the LIRR infrastructure to make reverse commuting — from New York City to Long Island — more available. On the 9.8-mile stretch of the LIRR Main Line between Floral Park and Hicksville, we’re still using the same system of two tracks that were laid in 1844 when the Island population was 50,000. Today, 171 years later, we have the same two tracks and a population of 3 million. Six LIRR branches now converge on this bottleneck, turning it into a one-way street during the peak morning rush, making reverse commuting impossible.

At present, we cannot compete successfully with other suburban areas in the metropolitan region where reverse commuting by transit is readily available. The jobs and young people that we want are, therefore, going elsewhere. It defies common sense to think that Long Island can thrive in the 21st century with this critical defect in our transit system left in place.

The solution is to expand the current LIRR system of tracks to support Long Island’s economy, just as we did in 1844 when the track to Greenport was laid. Only now, we need to add a third track — or, as some call it, a Fast Track — to relieve the bottleneck between Floral Park and Hicksville. It is strangling the Long Island economy and, according to a recent report by the Long Island Index, building the Fast Track would relieve the problem and generate 14,000 new jobs, $5.6 billion in additional gross regional product, and $3 billion in additional personal income by 2035, 10 years after its completion.

The Long Island Rail Road remains an extraordinary resource, but it needs to be thought of again as a two-way street. We also need to think beyond the auto-dependent suburban model to a future where young people, who are the workforce of that future, have the option to live on Long Island or in the city and have easy transit access to jobs in either place.

Greenport knows the value of transit-oriented development arguably as well as any community on Long Island, because ferry, bus and rail facilities continue to power its reputation as a walkable village where people can live, shop, be entertained and get to work without driving. If Long Island now seizes on this time-honored track to success, the concept may well become fundamental to the revitalization of the region’s economy as well.

Dave Kapell, a resident of Greenport, served as mayor from 1994 to 2007. He is now a consultant to the Rauch Foundation, which publishes the Long Island Index.

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