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Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright

Photo by Kyle Barr

In Brookhaven’s District 1, TBR News Media enthusiastically endorses incumbent Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station).

While we feel her opponent, Tracy Kosciuk, has a lot of good ideas and plans to back them up, we are concerned that her schedule may already be packed with nursing, union and family responsibilities. Despite the best time management skills, sometimes commitments are scheduled at the same time. While we know Cartright’s assistant, Jennifer Martin, will sometimes attend meetings or events for her, most of the time we have seen the councilwoman present when invited, and many residents have found her approachable when bringing issues to her attention.

While giving Kosciuk more than a month to confirm a date for a debate, she was still unable to attend our meeting of an hour or so and was not present for the Oct. 25 debate.

The councilwoman represents the lone Democratic voice on the board, and also represents diversity as a person of color. She is willing to work with her fellow members, but we often respect her for being sometimes the lone dissenting voice on a number of issues. Single party rule is never a good thing.

Cartright has been at the forefront of revitalizing Port Jefferson Station and the Route 25A corridor in the Three Village area. She has made connections with businesses, developers, civic associations and residents to create visioning plans for these areas, and we are confident she has the passion and enthusiasm to see these projects through completion if elected to serve a fourth term.

Tracy Kosciuk hopes to take incumbent Valerie Cartright's seat for Council District 1 in Brookhaven.

Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) is running for her fourth term as Brookhaven Town councilwoman in District 1. Her challenger is one of her neighbors, Tracy Kosciuk.

Cartright sat down with the TBR News Media editorial staff Oct. 25 to talk about her accomplishments and initiatives, while Kosciuk, a registered nurse at St. Charles Hospital, answered questions via email due to being on a trip to Albany. The nurse is a local union president who travels to the state capital to lobby for improved working conditions.

“There are several projects that have been in the planning stages for years — stagnated by red tape.
Tracy Kosciuk

 

Kosciuk said if elected to the Town Council she plans to continue working as a nurse and promises she would give town issues the same 24/7 attention she gives to her nurses, as she recognizes the council position is a full-time job.

“I am a multitasker, ask any of my nurses, friends or family — I work with commitment to the task and get the job done,” Kosciuk said.

She said the primary reason she is running this year is the frustration people feel when one doesn’t fulfill the obligations of their job. The nurse and union leader said she is also a wife and a mother, who cares for a sick parent. A firm believer in time management, she said she will make the necessary adjustments to her life “to guarantee to my constituents a much better degree of responsiveness and dedication to my office than what they are currently receiving.”

Cartright said being a councilwoman is a full-time job, and because of that while she maintains her license to practice law, she only handles two or three cases annually. She said she spends the majority of her time in Town Hall meeting with various departments, dealing with constituents’ issues and meeting with residents at her mobile offices or in people’s homes. She said there are also community events to attend and meetings with civic groups and chambers of commerce.

“I’m very much a hands-on person,” she said. “I’m visual. I need to see what it is that the constituents are talking about.”

Cartright said she and her staff handle an average of 3,000 to 3,500 calls on a yearly basis and receive more requests via email. The issues can vary from a pothole in front of someone’s house to drainage problems to a resident asking for help with National Grid to get their lights turned back on. She encourages people to call her in addition to the department or entity responsible as she said she considers herself an advocate for her constituents.

Both candidates are focused on local issues, including revitalization in the district.

Kosciuk said she believes one of the largest issues facing the town is “the prevalence of illegal housing and also buildings that are referred to as ‘zombie homes.’” While she believes Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and other town councilpersons have been addressing the issue, she said in Council District 1, based on her walking through the communities and talking to residents, that it hasn’t been sufficiently addressed.

“As I have said many times, these illegal housing conditions are a magnet for crime, drugs and an undesirable element that our communities and neighborhoods can do without,” the nurse said.

Cartright, who bought a zombie home when she moved to Port Jeff Station from Queens 14 years ago, said she encourages residents to alert her office about homes they believe may be abandoned or if there are drug issues.

For the past few years, Cartright has been working on revitalization projects for the Route 25A corridor in the Three Village area and to create a walkable downtown hub in Port Jefferson Station between the train tracks and Route 347.

“I look forward to tackling the remaining quality of life issues,” she said.

“We did that because a community member felt comfortable enough and was willing to say, ‘Valerie, can you help?’”

— Valerie Cartright

Regarding the PJS plan, she has met with the two major landowners to discuss recommended density and site plans. She is also working with Suffolk County to create a sewer district in the area. With the Three Village 25A corridor plan, she said the work is more about historical architectural continuity, something that residents showed a concern for during visioning meetings she spearheaded.

Kosciuk, on her website, stated she would continue with current revitalization projects and help small business owners succeed, calling them the cornerstone of the community.

“There are several projects that have been in the planning stages for years — stagnated by red tape,” she said.

“It is to our benefit that these projects are completed in order to revive our community and provide a much-needed ‘face-lift’ for our district,” Kosciuk said.

The incumbent said the process can be long at times due to the need for land-use plans before work truly begins.

When it comes to quality of life issues, Cartright is currently working to allow town vehicles to provide transportation for those who are looking to enter temporary housing or clinics. The initiative was inspired by a couple who the councilwoman said she waited three hours with after they agreed to go into temporary housing. The cab was a third party hired by the county, but there was miscommunication that left her and the couple stranded. She is currently working with a task force to deal with homeless issues that includes the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association and Port Jeff village officials. She said the group has spent six months gathering information.

“There are a lot of misconceptions, in my opinion, as to where the root of all of this is coming from,” she said.

Both candidates hope to tackle the drug crisis in the area.

Kosciuk, who has been a nurse for more than 30 years, called it a problem of epic proportions

“It is essential to work with area hospitals and treatment centers to establish a more comprehensive discharge plan for patients suffering from this disease,” she said, adding the importance of providing resources to educate residents on the dangers of illicit drugs.

Cartright helped to form a community-based drug prevention coalition that holds education events, which will also include vaping cessation workshops for teenagers. The councilwoman said she hopes the workshops will be an alternative to students being suspended from school. The coalition was formed after Sal Pitti, president of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association, approached her saying he identified money from the federal government.

“We did that because a community member felt comfortable enough and was willing to say, ‘Valerie, can you help?’ and I believe government is supposed to help people and not hinder initiatives,” she said.

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Residents can now use a boardwalk from East Setauket Pond Park to the harbor. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Three Village residents have a new way to enjoy and connect with nature.

The Town of Brookhaven recently constructed a 180-foot boardwalk that starts at East Setauket Pond Park, next to Se-Port Delicatessen, and ends with a viewing platform at Setauket Harbor. Laurie Vetere and George Hoffman, co-founders of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said the boardwalk complements the group’s vision for the site.

“We always had a plan for the park,” Hoffman said. “We really think it’s a unique park that’s been neglected over the years.”

Vetere called the park its pet project.

“We can see the vision of it becoming a beautiful waterfront park right in the heart of downtown Setauket,” she said.

Hoffman and Vetere said the town plans to add benches to the viewing platform and switch out the current light posts to match the historic fixtures along Route 25A. The town is also currently waiting for a permit from the New York State Department of Conservation to cut down the phragmites that are currently slightly blocking the view at the platform.

The task force co-founders said a couple of months ago the town’s Parks & Recreation Department had a surplus of funds for park improvements around town, and Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) were able to secure $75,000 to be used for the Three Village park.

Vetere, said the Three Village Civic Association, of which she is 2nd vice president, is currently forming a committee to be chaired by Herb Mones and Robert Reuter. She said the hope is to further the vision of the park including aspects such as adding plantings, play equipment for children and possibly moving the gazebo that is currently there to another spot in the park.

“The hope is just to make it more useful and get people invested in Setauket Harbor and the beauty of the harbor,” Vetere said.

Cartright said she was happy with the improvements.

“This is an important place in our community, and we want to increase and promote public access and use of the park,” she said. “We received community feedback about improvements that residents wanted to see at this location. Working off of that community input, I was able to secure $75,000 funding for this project that started about two-and-a-half weeks ago and was completed [Oct. 15].”

In addition to the current work being done by the Town of Brookhaven, in 2016 state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) secured a $1 million grant for the town for East Setauket Pond Park. The funds, which became available at the end of 2018, will go toward removing sediment from the retention pond at the park and implementing improvements to mitigate stormwater inputs into the harbor. The grant will also go toward repairing the dock at the Shore Road park along the harbor.

“We look forward to the completion of this project as it fits into the larger picture of preserving and protecting the area,” Cartright said.

Tracy Kosciuk is running against Valerie Cartright for Brookhaven Council District 1. Photo from Kosciuk for Brookhaven Facebook

By Leah Chiappino

Tracy Kosciuk, who identifies first as a wife, mother and nurse, is challenging town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) for Brookhaven Town Council in the first district. And Kosciuk lives right down the street from the incumbent.

Kosciuk said she has been drawn to political participation since childhood, as she watched her grandmother, an active Democrat, become president of her local Democratic club. 

“I got to see how politics ran,” she said.

Having once been a Democrat, she is now challenging Cartright on the Republican ticket. 

“I did not leave the Democratic party, the Democratic party left me,” she said. “It’s just not the party I grew up with … I want to help make a difference and make things better and work across party lines.”

Still, she said her focus is on local issues.

Past legal history between candidates

Despite initial claims of a cordial relationship, when Cartright moved into her home in 2005, she inherited a lawsuit upon buying the property based on its property lines. The suit had been filed in the New York State Supreme Court, but ended in 2008 with the judge siding with Cartright.

Cartright had this to say about the lawsuit:

“My first interaction with my new neighbor Tracy was surrounding a baseless lawsuit over property boundaries. Having to deal with an inherited lawsuit commenced by my next-door neighbor was an unfortunate situation and I would not wish that experience on anyone moving into a new neighborhood,” she wrote via email. “I am thankful that the lawsuit was not representative of what I had to look forward to in my future years in Port Jefferson Station. Over the years, many of my other neighbors showed themselves to be welcoming, accepting and loving toward me and my family. The many positive interactions and relationships with other wonderful neighbors is what helped keep me here and led me to serve as councilperson of this amazing community.”

Kosciuk did not return multiple calls for comment.

“There are issues such as the opioid epidemic, tax increases and revitalizations that need to be done and have not been done, plaguing my area such as the opioid [crisis] that are not being addressed properly and resolved,” she said. “[Cartright] may have intentions to do things but they have not been done.” 

Given the fact Kosciuk grew up in Coram, and has lived in Port Jefferson Station for 25 years, the challenger says she has deep roots in the local community. She is an active member of the Comsewogue PTA, having had all of her three children attend Comsewogue schools, as well as the Drug Task Force Committee, Port Jeff Station/Terryville Civic Association and a self- initiated member of the neighborhood watch. 

Most notably, Kosciuk has been a registered nurse for over 30 years, after receiving her degree from Suffolk County Community College. She currently works in maternal care at St. Charles Hospital and has been a past representative for the New York State Nurses Association and the local union president for the last five years. She has traveled to Albany to lobby for improved working conditions. 

“I know how important it is to be someone who represents something and allows members of my union to have a voice, so I know how important it is for the council district to be able to have a voice,” the challenger said. “Our district has not gotten the accountability it deserves.”

Her main initiative is to increase the effectiveness and transparency of the town council. Though she plans to continue her current role as a nurse upon election, she promises the same 24/7 attention she gives to her nurses, even pausing in the interview saying she “doesn’t like to leave my nurses hanging if they need something.”

She said she plans to help streamline the tax grievance process and have elderly residents call her office to walk them through any questions they may have, as well as advocating to get them any tax relief to which they are entitled. 

As her husband is a Suffolk County police officer, she says she understands the impact of crime, especially in Port Jeff Station. Kosciuk feels that the drug epidemic is contributing to this, and that prevention education is one of the best ways to alleviate the issue. 

Kosciuk added that she believes she can help to make progress of revitalization projects throughout the district she said have been pushed aside, while remaining fiscally responsible.

She cites environmental preservation as an important issue for her and promises to ensure the maintenance of local parks as well as collaboration with the “experts’ such as Stony Brook University and Department of Environmental Conservation in order to help combat erosion as well as rust or “red” tide algae, which has appeared in Port Jefferson Harbor and Conscience Bay and is known to suffocate fish and shellfish.

Kosciuk says she faces few challenges in the race. 

“While campaigning, I have found that a lot of the same concerns that I had that caused me to want to run for town council are the same issues throughout the entire council district,” she said.

Among the suggested improvements for Route 25A is making signs more consistent, especially at Woods Corner east of Nicolls Road. File photo by Rita J. Egan

The next phase of the 25A corridor study is set to begin. Late last month, the Route 25A Citizen Advisory Committee, town officials and community leaders met to begin discussing a land use code for the corridor. This code would regulate future development and architecture styles among other things in the area.

“This is where we can take a vision and be able to actually make an impact.”

— George Hoffman

The land use phase is one of the most significant land use initiatives affecting the community in years.

George Hoffman, co-chair of the CAC, said he is excited for this next phase and to be working with this group of individuals.

“This is where we can take a vision and be able to actually make an impact,” he said.

The corridor study dates back to 2016 when the town appointed the CAC to assist them in the study and land use plan in the future development of the area. In 2017, the town came out with its Route 25A /Three Village Area Visioning Report.

The report covered the hamlets of Stony Brook, Setauket and East Setauket. Its goal was to use the report as a tool to help achieve a corridor that has a well-functioning road, quality building, site design, improved pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly facilities and preserve historic and natural open spaces.

Hoffman said 25A is an important and historical road that he believes should
be protected.

“The community has seen what has happened to Route 25 after it was turned into a highway,” he said. “They don’t want 25A to turn into Jericho Turnpike.”

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said the 25A corridor study is an important tool for land use planning in the community.

“We have just entered into the second phase of this project and I look forward to working with the Citizens Advisory Committee and the community toward implementation of the community vision,” she said in a statement. “I am proactively advocating for this project to proceed as quickly as the process allows, and I will continue to look for public input and participation as we move forward.”

“I am proactively advocating for this project to proceed as quickly as the process allows, and I will continue to look for public input and participation as we move forward.”

— Valerie Cartright

Hoffman said with the land use phase they can apply what they learned in the vision report and decide if there needs to be any changes in zone codes.

One option they are considering is a design manual for future development in the corridor.

“We want to slowly over time make the architecture more consistent,” Hoffman said.

He said residents have expressed they would like the historical nature of the area to be preserved and be a kind of colonial rural community.

The committee will look at all the available parcels in the corridor that could be developed to make sure they are appropriately zoned.

Hoffman also mentioned areas of opportunity the committee and others will look at. One of them is Woods Corner, which is a commercial area east of Nicolls Road. He said he has gotten a sense from the community that there could be improvements to the signage of the commercial buildings.

Another area is the East Setauket commercial corridor near Gnarled Hollow Road and East Setauket Pond Park.

“The boarded-up building on the corner has been an eyesore for quite some time,” Hoffman said. “The county is attempting to purchasing it.”

The first step is to get an appraisal on the land and then the owner of the property will be made an offer. Hoffman said the area is environmentally sensitive due to a stream flowing under the property into nearby waterways. The building’s basement was known to flood because of the running water.

“Because there are no sewers in the area there are limitations on how large a building can be,” he said.

The co-chair of the committee said they hope to take about six months on the land use plan process, and when completed, they will look to write an updated town zone code. If approved, it will be adopted by the town board.

A rundown building on Gnarled Hollow Road and Route 25A may be demolished and the property turned into a passive park. Photo by Rita J. Egan

A familiar corner in East Setauket may get a permanent makeover.

On May 2, Town of Brookhaven council members and Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) unanimously approved a resolution to allow Suffolk County to begin the process of purchasing land parcels containing the old derelict building that sits across from East Setauket Pond Park on the southeast corner of Gnarled Hollow Road and Route 25A. The county is buying the land under the Suffolk County Drinking Water Protection program.

The resolution also authorizes the town to demolish the buildings on the property and maintain and manage the parcel as an open space passive park.

The passage of the town resolution follows a county resolution introduced by Suffolk County legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) that was approved in March. The county legislators determined the land parcel meets the criteria for acquisition under the drinking water program due to the land containing wetlands. The approval of the county resolution also allows Suffolk to appraise the property for possible purchase. Concrete Condor, LLC and Marine Midland Tinker National Bank are listed as the current owners of the buildings on the site.

Hahn said the spot has been recognized as an eyesore for years and is an environmentally sensitive area due to a stream flowing under the property and into waterways such as Setauket Harbor and East Setauket Pond Park. The building’s basement was known to constantly flood because of this running water.

She said the first step is an appraisal of the land parcel, and then the owner will be made an offer. If the offer is accepted, the county and town can move forward with plans for a passive park. She said the municipalities would also look for community input, and they have already consulted with town historian Barbara Russell to see if there is anything of historical value that needs to be preserved.

“It’s exciting that there is real opportunity there,” Hahn said.

Town councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said in an email the town is committed to preserving open space and creating it when possible.

“In this case, the property on Gnarled Hollow is in an environmentally sensitive wetlands area,” she said. “We think it is important to restore this location to its natural state or as close to natural as possible. This parcel was part of ongoing discussion among the elected officials including myself, [state]Assemblyman [Steve] Englebright, Legislator Hahn and Supervisor Romaine.”

Before the May 2 town council vote, George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, spoke in support of the resolution.

“We call it the Chippendale’s building because of the unique architecture on the top,” Hoffman said. “But it’s derelict, and it’s been boarded up now for seven or eight years.”

Hoffman described Setauket Harbor as an impaired waterway, and he said protecting the stream on the land parcel and the wetlands would help with the task force’s work to improve the waterway. He added a passive park also would be ideal in the location because it is located near where Roe Tavern once stood on Route 25A. Historians believe that General George Washington slept in the establishment in 1790 and traveled along the 25A corridor.

“It’s important for us as a community because it’s an eyesore,” he said.  “It’s helpful to us in terms of changing the ecology of the harbor, and it’s also important to us because of our historic highway.”

Michael Kaufman, of the Suffolk County Planning Commission and a task force member, said he scaled the fence one day to look at the property and described the wetlands as pristine.

He said the task force has partnered with the town to work in cleaning up and maintaining the park next to Se-Port Delicatessen across the street from the property. New York State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) secured a $1 million grant from the state for the Town of Brookhaven in 2016 to be used to improve water quality in Setauket Harbor. The grant was also allocated to help clean out the pond slightly west of Se-Port and fix the dock on Shore Road. The contract period began Oct. 1, 2018. Kaufman said the future open space would complement the current park across the street.

“There is a chance to really make something spectacular which we otherwise would not really have there on both sides of the street,” Kaufman said. “There’s an excellent entryway into the area and an excellent exit.”

The Town of Brookhaven began a capital improvements project at West Meadow Beach March 18. Photos by Rita J. Egan

While some residents are dieting and exercising in anticipation of the summer, a town beach is getting a makeover of its own.

Suffolk County plans to have a walking trail, dotted line in Old Field Farm that will wrap around West Meadow Creek and end at the beach. Photo from Kara Hahn’s office

The Town of Brookhaven will temporarily close the parking lot of West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook until Memorial Day weekend, May 25-27, according to a press release from the Town of Brookhaven Parks, Recreation and Sports and Cultural Resources Department. On March 18, the town began work on new curbs, sidewalks, plantings and pavilion renovations as part of the town’s parks capital improvement program. During the parking lot closure, residents will be permitted to park along Trustees Road.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said the work will address necessary repairs to maintain the park that she called “cherished” by the community.

“West Meadow Beach is not only a beautiful, relaxing recreation location, but also an environmental marvel,” Cartright said. “Each year, I work with the Parks Department to continue my commitment to making improvements at West Meadow Beach.”

In 2017, the town refurbished the bathrooms’ interiors and exteriors and added new outdoor shower pedestals and a lifeguard tower, according to Ed Morris, town parks commissioner.

In the near future, Suffolk County will begin work at Old Field Farm to create a walking path that will lead to the beach, according to Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). She said the goal is to finish the trail by Memorial Day.

Hahn said there will be a pedestrian entrance on West Meadow Road on the eastern side of the farm, and the trail will run along the creek and come out on Trustees Road before visitors enter the walking section of the path. She said she’s excited about the location due to the beautiful views of the creek and historic farm.

“This is part of my efforts to make our public lands accessible to our community for recreational and respite enjoyment,” she said.

In the past, the legislator has spearheaded initiatives for a parking lot and walking path at Forsythe Meadow Woods County Park in Stony Brook and a parking lot at McAllister County Park in Belle Terre.

The Old Field Farm trail will be closed during the six horse shows that take place at the location throughout the year so as not to disturb the horses; however, the park will be open for the public to enjoy.

For more information about the town’s capital improvement project at West Meadow Beach, residents can call 631-451-8696.

Members of the Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association lead a prayer vigil at Temple Isaiah in Stony Brook after the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Photo from Facebook

For approximately two decades, clergy members from a variety of faiths have been working together in the Three Village area to bring residents from different religions together for community discussions. The hope is to achieve a better understanding of the issues that face the world today.

The Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association recently set up a website where members alternate writing blogs. To view the site, visit www.3vclergy.blogspot.com.

The TVICA includes leaders from various religious organizations in the Three Village area including:

Rabbi Aaron Benson, North Shore Jewish Center, Port Jefferson

The Rev. Richard Visconti, Caroline Church and Cemetery, East Setauket

The Rev. Chuck Van Houten, Stony Brook Community Church

The Revs. Margie Allen and Linda Anderson, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook

Ismail Zahed, Islamic Association of Long Island, Selden

Father Farrell Graves, All Souls Episcopal Church, Stony Brook

The Rev. Kate Huddelson, Stony Brook University Hospital

The Rev. Steven Kim, Setauket Methodist Church

Elaine Learnard, Conscience Bay Quaker Meeting

The Rev. Gregory Leonard, Bethel AME Church, Setauket

Father James Mannion, St. James Roman Catholic Church, Setauket

Sister Edith Menegus, St. Charles Hospital and Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk

Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky and Cantor Marcey Wagner, Temple Isaiah Stony Brook

The Rev. Kate Jones Calone, Open Door Exchange — Mission of Setauket Presbyterian Church

The Rev. Mary Speers formerly of Setauket Presbyterian Church

Because of this mission, members of the Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association have garnered the honor of being among TBR News Media’s People of the Year 2018.

“The goal of the clergy association, since the beginning, is to promote understanding among the different faith traditions in our community, to learn from one another, and to come together as people of faith interested in connecting with what’s happening in the world and in our community,” said the Rev. Kate Jones Calone, director of Open Door Exchange, a mission of Setauket Presbyterian Church.

Jones Calone said the members organize events where residents can discuss issues such as the 2017 Muslim ban, children being separated from their parents at the U.S. border and gun safety in the country in such a way that helps to build bridges. She said another hope is that the conversations will get residents involved in a positive way that may “allow us to cross the lines that divide us.”

In the past year, events have included the association’s annual Community Thanksgiving Service and prayer vigils for the victims of the shooting at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and those who were separated from their families at the U.S. border. In addition, the group hosted an event titled Interfaith Dialogue on Guns in America and a Good Deeds Day cleanup at West Meadow Beach. The clergy members have also come together to compose letters to the editor, which have been printed in The Village Times Herald.

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said she first learned about the TVICA several years ago when she was invited to the annual interfaith Thanksgiving program. She said she finds the events warm, inclusive and responsive to the issues existing in the country, including political and religious segregation.

“Since that time, my staff and I have attended their events whenever the schedule permits,” Cartright said. “The TVICA is a vibrant, dynamic community group within Council District 1.”

She said the association’s mission is not only of critical value and importance to the area but also to the world.

“The act of bringing together religious and spiritual ministers and leaders from all backgrounds has created a ripple effect that encourages diversity of thought, compassion for others, and respect for the rich cultural and religious diversity that exists in our area,” Cartright said.

Since the association’s inception, Joan Marino, an elder at Setauket Presbyterian Church, has attended many of the events along with her husband, Frank. She said events such as the prayer vigil for Tree of Life not only recognize the pain of those who are suffering but the pain of the mentally ill.

“Everybody has a different theology of various types, but we all recognize the sanctity of life and loving your neighbor and standing up for those who are oppressed,” she said.

“Everybody has a different theology of various types, but we all recognize the sanctity of life and loving your neighbor and standing up for those who are oppressed.”

— Joan Marino

Marino added one of her favorite events is the Thanksgiving service because she enjoys witnessing residents of all faiths coming together to give thanks. She also appreciates how the events are held in different houses of worship.

“That’s really wonderful because you go to be with the people in their place of faith,” she said.

Jones Calone said the TVICA has held educational programs where community members have been invited to learn about each other’s faith traditions, touching on topics such as end-of-life rituals and understanding other faiths practicing of prayer.

Marino said the events make her feel optimistic.

“From singing together to praying together, to lifting each other up — when there’s a world out there that’s pretty full of hate — and to find a way to bring people together into a more loving community, we have that here in Three Village,” Marino said.

Jones Calone said the Three Village community and surrounding areas are religiously diverse, and the clergy members have seen how meaningful the events have been to residents of different faith traditions.

“People are just hungry for opportunities to support one another — to be in a relationship with one another — and hopefully doing events like this gives people that chance to really know who their neighbors are even if we spend worship hours in different places,” she said.

 

The Setauket Harbor Task Force hosted Setauket Harbor Day Sept. 29 at the Brookhaven town dock and beach located on Shore Road in East Setauket. The mission of the Setauket Harbor Task Force is to work toward clean water and healthy harbors.

At the free event, attendees had the opportunity to explore the harbor with kayak lessons, take round-the-harbor boat trips, participate in hands-on harborside activities, take maritime history tours and more.

The Town of Brookhaven has approved a license agreement to allow the town educator to live at the ranger's cottage, above, at West Meadow Beach. Photo by Rita J. Egan

By Rita J. Egan

The Town of Brookhaven is ensuring a trip to a local beach remains educational as well as enjoyable.

Nicole Pocchiare, Town of Brookhaven environmental educator, will be residing in the ranger’s cottage at West Meadow Beach. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

The town board unanimously approved a license agreement between Brookhaven and town environmental educator Nicole Pocchiare June 14. The agreement allows Pocchiare to reside at the house known as the ranger’s cottage at West Meadow Beach.

Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said she was pleased about the board voting unanimously in favor of the license agreement and understanding the importance of having a continuous presence at the beach.

“I think having an environmental educator present at West Meadow Beach is a benefit to the entire community,” Cartright said. “It allows her to keep a close eye on the sensitive ecosystem there and also provide programs in a manner that’s not ‘9-to-5-ish.’ She does programs early in the morning — she has late evening programs — and I think that the community is appreciative of that.”

Eileen Gerle became the first environmental educator for the town in 2009, and when she retired in October 2014, Molly Hastings took over the position until her suspension in September 2016, which the town has not provided a reason for. While Pocchiare has been an environmental educator for the town since April 2017, Cartright said it took some time before someone could live at the cottage again after Hastings left because the town councilmembers felt it was beneficial to set up a license agreement, where the resident could only live in the home as long as they were a town educator.

Cartright said residents have been consistent in their requests that they wanted someone present at the cottage at all times.

“Even if it’s just a tidbit that they learn, it brings them closer to the beach and the creek.”

— Nicole Pocchiare

Civic leader Herb Mones, from Stony Brook, is one of those residents. He said he calls West Meadow Beach the “Fire Island of the North Shore” due to the similarities in views and native species, and feels it’s important the town has someone in place to educate beachgoers about its importance.

“I think it’s critical because it not only fulfills the state law for the preservation of West Meadow that stipulates that there be an environmental educator at the park, but what it does, it brings about a growing awareness and an appreciation for the ecosystem and the environment which is developed by their programs,” Mones said. “I think the more robust the program, the better the future for the park and the preserve.”

Pocchiare said she was excited to hear of the board’s approval because she feels it will make her job a bit easier living on the beach and also being close to West Meadow Creek. Currently, she has been traveling from her office at Brookhaven Town Hall whenever there is a program at the beach or someone is needed there. The educator said being on the grounds will make it easier to help representatives from organizations who may need to work on the site early in the morning or late at night. Most important of all, residing at the cottage will provide her more opportunities to interact with the public, even outside of town programs.

Nicole Pocchiare releases a butterfly during an environmental program at West Meadow Beach. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

“It increases the appreciation and increases then the conservation of the beach,” she said. “Even if it’s just a tidbit that they learn, it brings them closer to the beach and the creek.”

Pocchiare said programs for the current year include educational activities for all ages including nature exploration, full moon and nature walks, and birding by the beach.

The educator, who currently lives in Selden and grew up in Holbrook, said she remembers going to West Meadow Beach for the first time 10 years ago and meeting Gerle.

“I remember loving this little beach,” she said. “I was used to the South Shore because I was a Sachem girl and grew up in Holbrook. But I think I’ve grown to really love the North Shore beaches. The sand flats that West Meadow has and those beautiful sunsets because of it being situated from north to south, overlooking the west. And then having the creek and the salt marsh on the other side of Trustees Road is something so unique to West Meadow which sets it apart from all the other beaches.”