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Stephen Ruth Jr. reached a plea deal for tampering with red light cameras, which will place him on probation for a year in lieu of prison time. Photo from Stephen Ruth Jr.

The merry adventures of Suffolk County’s “Red Light Robin Hood” continued last week as the Centereach resident who took matters into his own hands by tampering with red light cameras across county intersections struck a plea deal with prosecutors. The agreement reached will place him on interim probation for one year in lieu of any prison time.

Stephen Ruth Jr., who has been crusading against the county’s red light camera program since 2015 in an effort to “take the power back” by exposing what he considers government corruption and helping save Suffolk resident’s lives — for which he’s been called a domestic hero on social media — pleaded guilty in Riverhead Feb. 8 to a felony charge of criminal mischief.

Red light cameras along Route 25A, which is where some of the cameras were located that Stephen Ruth Jr. tampered with. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Since the county first installed red light cameras at busy intersections in 2010, which snap flashing photos of cars that run a red light or don’t come to a complete stop before turning right on red, they’ve been widely opposed across the county.

Ruth, who’s become the boastful face of the opposition — as evidenced by his smiley mug shot after first tampering with the devices in 2015 —has consistently called for the program’s repeal before the Suffolk County Legislature. He said the cameras and shortened yellow lights, “shortened to cause red light running for a profit,” are responsible for fatalities and accidents on the roads, have been illegally constructed without an engineer signing off on them, and are nothing more than a Suffolk County “money grab.”

“I was willing to go to jail from the beginning because I’m sticking up on behalf of those people who don’t have a voice anymore,” Ruth said. “These cameras are completely illegal and the [county] is not allowed to collect any money off them whatsoever … I knew this was going on and made my own news.”

Under the plea deal, Attorney David Raimondo said if Ruth successfully completes his probation, the felony plea will be dropped to a misdemeanor.

Stephen Ruth Jr.’s mug shot. File photo from SCPD

The 44-year-old real estate salesman may also have to pay up to $85,000 in restitution for all the cameras and equipment he’d left inoperable — a charge that will be challenged during a restitution hearing in April. Raimondo said he and his client will fight because “we believe that the entire red light camera system program is illegal and every single ticket issued from day one is a nullity.”

In the wake of the court ruling, Raimondo acknowledged that it was a good plea.

“This is something the county has to atone for and will atone for in civil litigation … it is not Stephen’s or his family’s cross to bear,” Raimondo said. “Why should Stephen sacrifice his personal freedom for what I think is nothing more than enterprise corruption?”

As Ruth has always worn his criminal tampering and obstruction of governmental administration as a badge of honor — even proudly demonstrating on his YouTube channel how he uses a painter’s extension rod to reach high-positioned red light cameras to turn its lens away from the road — Raimondo applauded his client for always taking responsibility for what he’s done.

“While I absolutely don’t condone or approve of any form of violence or destruction of property, I admire Stephen’s willingness to bring attention to the public the failures in the engineering behind the camera and how it’s affecting the taxpayers as a penalty and tax,” he said. “I [especially] admire that Stephen brought to the public’s attention the fact that the yellow light times have been shortened by the engineers because unfortunately people have been seriously injured and perhaps killed as a result.”

Red light camera. File photo

Ruth, in calling for a full investigation into the camera program to prove it’s an illegal operation, also wants to spotlight that the county continues to delete videos of any and all accidents that take place at intersections.

James Emanuel, a retired Suffolk County police officer, has dedicated himself to researching and testifying against the program, and is one of Ruth’s avid supporters.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of police officers who privately are a big fan of what he did,” Emanuel said. “You get to the point where you have to push back against the system; you just don’t have a choice. The guy saw a danger and his attitude was, ‘I’m gonna push back.’ He turned himself in every single time and he didn’t have to do that.”

In regards to Ruth’s plea deal, he said the county wants to prevent the program from being put on trial.

“There are thousands of infuriated people,” he said. “How would they find a jury of 12 people that wouldn’t find Stephen not guilty?”

Suffolk County Leg. Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset) said she understands Ruth’s strong feelings and acknowledges that red light cameras, although useful in some intersections, are overused and costly.

“I think what Ruth thought he was doing was making a statement, and he clearly did make a statement,” she said. “But you have to stay within the parameters of the law to make a statement that’s not going to get you in big trouble.”

 

By Bill Landon

Colin Powell once said “success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty and persistence,” and the Smithtown West boys’ basketball team has used dedication and determination to attain another success this season. On Feb. 13, the Bulls outscored Centereach 59-29 on senior night in the last game of the regular season to remain perfect, at 14-0, in League III.

Smithtown West’s seniors started the game off strong, despite four not seeing much playing time this year. Will Kass started the three-point flurry with a shot that gave the Bulls an early 8-0 lead, but Centereach junior forward Chris Witherspoon drained back-to-back 3-pointers to make it a two-point game with just over two minutes left in the opening quarter. Centereach would come no closer.

Even with a different starting five, the Bulls found their rhythm early. Juniors Chris Crespo and Michael Gannon, and senior Gordon Shouler added shots from beyond the arc to help Smithtown West take a 34-13 advantage into halftime. In total, Smithtown West had eight 3-pointers from six different players.

“Our effort is what won this,” Crespo said. “Our seniors gave 100 percent effort and we executed all game. I’m really just in awe as to how we played together as a team tonight.”

Centereach senior Josue Chery opened the third quarter with a trey of his own, to bring the score to 34-16, but Smithtown West’s defensive pressure was more than the Cougars could handle. That pressure keyed in mainly on senior Jon Agostino, who is usually a double-digit scoring threat. Smithtown West held its coach’s nephew to just three points.

“I thought the defense was the best part of our game tonight,” Smithtown West head coach Mike Agostino said.

The Bulls continued to bank 3-pointer after 3-pointer, as senior Justin Durcan, Crespo and Gannon swished their shots to break the game open at the end of the third.

“I was just happy that all of our guys got to play,” Gannon said. “We have four seniors who don’t play as much and it was fun to watch them play well.”

Durcan finished atop the scoring sheet with 14 points. Crespo followed with 11 points, Gannon added nine and senior Chris VanderBrink tacked on seven.

“I think coming out hot and confident — even though we’re not the regular starters — that’s what made us so comfortable,” Durcan said. “It’s our preparation. We work hard every day in practice even if we don’t see much playing time, and I think we work harder in practice than any team in our league, and that helped us today.”

The loss eliminated Centereach from postseason play. The Cougars finished the season with a 9-11 overall mark and 6-8 record in league play.

The Bulls, who clinched the league title with their win over Copiague on Feb. 2, finished with the best boys’ basketball record in the county, at 19-1. Only one other team, Center Moriches, finished undefeated in conference play.

Heading into the postseason on a 15-game winning streak, Crespo said his team will maintain it’s winning attitude.

“Once we know who we’ll play,” he said, “the coaches are going to show us the personnel, what they run and what we have to do to defeat them.”

But Durcan said his team will remain composed as the No. 4 Bulls prepare to host No. 13 Lindenhurst Feb. 18 at 1 p.m.

“We’ve just got to stay poised and don’t expect to win, but the county championship is what we’re shooting for,” Durcan said. “Even though we’re up there [in the rankings], we’ve got to stay humble and hopefully our games will speak for themselves.”

The big guns brought it home for Mount Sinai.

John Parente won by a major decision, 12-0, at 195 pounds, and Bobby Christ edged his opponent, 4-3, in the finals to propel Mount Sinai to a second-place finish behind Half Hollow Hills West at the Bob Armstrong wrestling tournament at Port Jefferson Jan. 21.

“I told them if you want to wrestle in the county tournament this is the last time to show us what you’ve got,” Mount Sinai head coach Matt Armstrong, who is also Bob’s son, said he told his team. “A freshman that just came up, Adam Shata, had a big win at 160 pound with a solid pin, so we have some freshmen that are really stepping up.”

Jahvan Brown at 138 pounds and Neil Esposito at 145 pounds, made some noise and, according to Armstrong, are wrestling well for this time of year despite their inexperience. Although neither made it to the finals, four other Mustangs did. The team had nine place in total.

“We’re turning it around here toward the end of the season.”

—Robert Alberti

Northport finished with 168 points, just behind Mount Sinai, which finished with 174.

Unlike the Mustangs, the Tigers brought it home in the finals, as all three representing the blue-and-gold took home tournament titles.

“We’re turning it around here toward the end of the season,” Northport head coach Robert Alberti said. Seven of his other wrestlers placed.

Junior Jake Borland, a 113-pounder, is currently ranked sixth in the county in his weight class. He topped Mount Sinai’s Matt Campo, 9-2, who is a returning county champion.

“We expect him to win every time he goes out,” Alberti said of his grappler. “It was a good test for him leading up to counties.”

Borland placed third in the Armstrong tournament last year, and brought his A-game this time around. He won his first match with a pin, and the next two by technical falls.

“I feel confident scoring points,” he said, adding that he knew he had to have a strong mentality and wrestle smart to win in the finals, using his fireman’s carry, duck under and high crotch to help him gain points.

Borland said he can see improvements in his game from last season.

“I got better at getting out on bottom, because last year I struggled with that,” he said. “Now I get right up. Right after [Campo] took me down I got out and took a shot, and I got him right to his back and scored. I got two for a takedown and three for back points and from there I started scoring.”

“[Kenny Cracchiola] wants to make an impact and he’s really done it. He’s beaten some really good guys and overall, matchup-to-matchup, he continues to be a dominant wrestler.”

—Garry Schnettler

At 132 pounds, junior Chris Esposito clinched the championship title with a 9-2 decision over Ward Melville’s Rafael Lievano, who is currently ranked third in the county. Esposito beat his opponent last weekend as well.

“That was a good statement for Chris to come out and beat the kid for a second time in a row,” Alberti said. “He’s showing the county that he’s here to wrestle, and he’s not going to be happy without winning.”

Esposito was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler after recording the most pins in the least amount of time. He pinned his first opponent in 20 seconds, his second in 59 and his third in 1:30, before sizing up his final foe. He said he came into the match knowing what he needed to do, and he wanted to prove that his win last weekend wasn’t a fluke.

“I knew the first time I wrestled him I didn’t wrestle as good as I could,” Esposito said. “Mentally, every time I go out to a match I’m calm, no matter what. I always want to score first, but even if I get scored on I never lose it; I remain calm and keep working.”

Billy Shaw was the final champion for Northport, who won 6-5 over Mount Sinai’s Joe Goodrich at 152 pounds. It was the grappler’s first tournament win.

“He had a tough match at North Babylon on Friday wrestling the No. 1-ranked kid in the county — he got beat up a little bit,” Alberti said. ”So for him to come out the next day and win his first tournament as a varsity wrestler is good for him. For him to turn around is a testament to his hard work.”

Ward Melville finished fourth with 136 points. In a unique and rare scenario, Kenny Cracchiola beat teammate Richie Munoz by a technical fall, 16-0.

Cracchiola went 4-0 on the day, winning three of his matches by technical falls and the other by a pin.

“I shoot single legs to take them down and on top I do a variety of different tilts for back points, which rack up points for me pretty quickly,” he said.

“Even before I step on the mat I’m always focused on wrestling, nothing else distracts me.”

—Vin Miceli

Unfortunately, he had to use these moves against his teammate, but he said he liked seeing two Patriots make it to the finals in the same weight class.

Port Jefferson followed in fifth place with 126.5 points, and sent seven to the podium.

Vin Miceli edged Centereach’s Luis Fernandez, 6-4, and was named the Champion of Champions. He had two pins as he battled his way through the bracket.

He said he focused to be able to bring home the gold.

“Even before I step on the mat I’m always focused on wrestling, nothing else distracts me,” he said. “I put in a lot of work in the off-season, so it really shows how much you can get out of the work you put in.”

Joey Evangelista edged Half Hollow Hills West’s Joe Costa, 3-0, for his title at 145 pounds. He pinned his first three opponents, but said his finals match was tough.

“My coaches have preached mentality is everything, so I’ve been working on strengthening that,” he said.

According to head coach Mike Maletta, the junior has been a finalist in every tournament this season, and won two.

“As long as they both stay aggressive and take smart shots and pushing the pace, they’re going to be real successful in three weeks when they’re up in Albany,” Maletta said of the possibility of the Royals competing for state titles. “The excitement is that some guys are starting to exceed expectations.”

Centereach finished in seventh with 93 points. Jett Tancsik outscored his Half Hollow Hills West opponent 9-4, for the 160-pound championship title.

Centereach head coach Ray Bruno said he was pleased with his team’s performance. He said the tournament is a good tune up to get ready for the Cougars’ matches in the League III tournament.

“This is probably the 10th year for this tournament and I appreciate them doing it keeping my dad’s memory alive.”

— Matt Armstrong

Rounding out the scorers in the top 9 were No. 8 Harborfields with 88 points, and Comsewogue with 39.

According to Matt Armstrong, his father coached at Port Jefferson from 1969 to 1990, where they were league champions for eight years and won the New York State championship cup in 1986.

“They had some very successful teams here at the time,” he said. “It’s great to come back here as I see a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time. Many of the kid’s parents wrestled for my dad. This is probably the 10th year for this tournament and I appreciate them doing it keeping my dad’s memory alive, it’s Mike Maletta who keeps it going, and he does a great job.”

Borland said his Northport team has exceeded his expectations, and he’s looking forward to rounding out the season with the final dual meet of the season Jan. 27 at Smithtown West at 6:45 p.m., before heading to Syosset for the Battle of the Belt tournament the next day.

“Coming into this year I thought we were going to be absolutely terrible,” he said. “I thought we were going to have three good kids and we were going to be that team that gets beat up on, but I realized we have a few freshmen that are going to make very good wrestlers. We’re a young team, but we’re doing damage.”

Bill Landon contributed reporting

Smithtown West's Chris Crespo prepares to move the ball across the court around Centereach's Chris Witherspoon. Photo by Desirée Keegan

It’s raining “threes.”

A total 15 3-pointers swished through the netting on Centereach’s court Jan. 17. The Cougars got off to a hot start from long range thanks to senior Jon Agostino, who hit three of the first four treys in the game, but the Smithtown West boys’ basketball team only allowed Centereach to score one more after that in the Bulls’ 87-52 win.

Smithtown West’s Greg Giordano scores his first of three 3-pointers. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Coming off a big win over Copiague Jan. 10 — a 74-67 overtime victory after Chris Crespo tied the game at the fourth-quarter buzzer — the senior said his team has all the confidence in the world.

“It really boosted us as a team and I think we all got closer,” Crespo said. “We definitely bonded over that game. It was the first big test I think we’ve had. We played a few hard games against Half Hollow Hills West [the only loss this season but non-league] and St. Anthony’s, and we respect all those teams, but especially in a league game against Copiague it was a different atmosphere. I really felt good, and I feel we have a lot of confidence running through us for the rest of the season.”

That confidence showed against Centereach, as the Bulls — now on an eight-game win streak — built momentum throughout its total team success.

Agostino scored all four of his 3-pointers in the first half of the contest. He knocked down his first on the Cougars’ first possession, and added another at the 1:33 mark to tie the game 8-8. Smithtown West seniors Greg Giordano and Kyle LaGuardia scored a free throw and 3-pointer, respectively, to close out the scoring for the first eight minutes, leaving the Bulls up 12-8.

“In spite of our slow start in the first quarter, we were able to provide a strong second quarter and basically end the game in the third,” Giordano said. “It always amazes me how resilient we are and how we are able to get so many contributions.”

Three Bulls scored in the first, and two others contributed in the team’s 24-point second quarter.

Centereach’s Jon Agostino scores a 3-pointer. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“This was really a great game,” Smithtown West head coach Mike Agostino said. “Defensively, we played consistent, but I thought our ball movement was the difference. You could see when the ball moves, people get open and we knock down shots.”

Senior Gordon Shouler and junior Michael Gannon helped extend West’s lead to 36-20 by halftime.

Shouler tacked on two of his team-high four 3-pointers in the second, and added the other two in the third.

“Copiague is arguably one of the best teams in our league this year, and after getting a win coming from behind, getting out here and playing a good team, we were ready to go,” Shouler said. “We were very confident, and the biggest thing was just not having a letdown. You beat a team like that, you win a good game like that, you want to come out and carry that momentum, and we did that.”

Gannon added 11 points in the second, including a basket of his own from beyond the arc, and a pair of free throws. Giordano, who finished with a team-high 17 points, added two assists on Gannon’s scores.

“We perform with consistency,” Agostino said of his team. “We know who we are, we’ve won a lot of games the last couple of years and we’re confident. We know who we are and we’re going to play our way, and as hard and we’re going to play in a playoff game regardless of our opponent.”

The head coach said he was excited to see the team reach its offensive potential, finding the basket more than it has been. On days like that, he said he wishes he could play 11 players at a time, instead of five.

Smithtown West’s Kyle LaGuardia makes a layup. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“They all practice hard and they all work hard every day,” he said. “It’s good to get guys in. These guys are capable — they’re all capable. And when they get the time they’re going to be able to do big things with it.”

This is true for freshman Michael Behrens, who seized his opportunity off the bench in the fourth quarter and scored nine points to help put the game out of reach. Behind Giordano was Shouler with 14 points, and Gannon with 13.

Crespo, who finished with eight points, said he’s excited to see his Bulls playing team basketball.

“I have no complaints,” he said. “We moved the ball beautifully and we were knocking down shots. Gordon and Greg form the outside and Kyle and myself were finishing around the basket. We’re really, really coming together great and I have high hopes for the rest of the season if we keep this up.”

It’s the kind of mentality Agostino said he stresses to his players, about continuing to focus on executing plays and not letting the other team disrupt how they play. And the boys have bought into it, building on the win total with each season over the last few years.

“Coach always says just play your game and the rest will follow, and that’s exactly what we did,” Giordano said. “Our defense kept us in the lead until our offense was able to connect and build a big lead. I couldn’t be more excited about the way our team has progressed throughout the season, and feel like we have a chance to do something really special.”

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Senior Dante DeBonis fights off his opponent during his sweep of Brentwood. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Centereach boys’ fencing team notched its first win of the season, 18-9 after hitting the road to take on Brentwood Jan. 7, before the snow began to fall.

Saberist Dante DeBonis struck first for the Cougars. The senior blanked his opponent 5-0, and sophomore Aiden Donnelly followed with a close 5-4 win over Brentwood’s Emanuel Santiago for a 2-0 lead.

Senior Ray Rahman pushes toward his Brentwood opponent as their weapons collide. Photo by Bill Landon

Although dropping the final saber match, Ray Rahman started off foil with a win, as the senior edged his challenger 5-3, and was followed by junior David Hatami, who outscored Brentwood’s Shaib Ali, 5-3.

Centereach head coach Glenn Schnabel said Rahman has quickly risen in the ranks to become Centereach’s top fencer.

“He’s our No. 1 foil guy — he went 3-0 today, but early in the season he was sort of one-dimensional, he was relying on one or two moves,” Schnabel said of Rahman. “We talked about what it takes to be an elite fencer. You’ve got to use three or four moves, you have to change it up and he used a lot of different moves today.”

Completing the sweep in foil for Round 1 was sophomore foilist Jarod Chang, who defeated his challenger 5-3.

Centereach was solid throughout the rest of the round, as two of the final three bouts, all epée, were won by large margins. Junior James Moore narrowly defeated his opponent, 4-3, before sophomores Abir Das and Jayden Garcia won their respective bouts, 5-1, to put the Cougars out front 8-1.

“I did a good job getting [my opponent] close to me,” Das said. “I took big steps forward and small steps back. I’m going to focus on making each move better, and you can only do that by doing it over and over again — making small improvements and then making them faster.”

Junior Abir Das gets a touch on his opponent. Photo by Bill Landon

Schnabel said he liked what he saw out on the strip.

“I like the fact that they’re committing to their moves, because earlier in the season, they were timid — maybe afraid — so now I see confidence in their moves,” the head coach said. “Now it’s easier, because they’re more comfortable; we can work on [technique], we can fix the moves and they can [hone] them, making them better for the next match.”

DeBonis, Rahman, Chang, Garcia and Das all won their second bouts in Round 2, to put Centereach ahead 13-5 going into Round 3.

DeBonis, a co-captain who was named first All-County and All-Long Island last season, and finished third in this year’s Brentwood holiday tournament, made short work of Brentwood’s Allen Bettencourt, winning his third bout of the day, 5-1.

“I think I did well defensively, which is what I like to do,’ he said. “I try to make them react [to me] and not react to them. The biggest thing I did wrong today is I looked at the blade a couple of times, and you don’t want to do that because then you lose the action.”

Sophomore Jarod Chang closes in on his Brentwood opponent. Photo by Bill Landon

Rahman, also a co-captain, who was named second team All-County last year, also capped his day with a third win, by a 5-2 margin.

“I thought I did well adapting to their style, but they’re great fencers,” Rahman said of his Brentwood opponents. “They figured me out in some situations, and controlling the tempo of the match is something I need to work on.”

Das also scored a win in the final round to sweep on the day, besting his foe 5-3.

“Abir has really come a long way, especially today with his strategy,” Schnabel said of the No. 2 epéeist, “He’s picking the right moves to use at the right time.”

Centereach, now 1-4, will host Walt Whitman, 6-1, on Jan. 10 at 5:30 p.m.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle, at center, is honored by Centereach VFW Post 4927 at its annual Gold Chevron Ball last month. File photo from Town of Brookhaven

By Daniel Dunaief

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) has worked on big projects in the 3rd Council District, although it is his ability to hone in on some of the smaller quality-of-life details that impressed Bram Weber, a partner with the Weber Law Group in Melville.

Weber worked with Kimco Realty, the owners of Independence Plaza mall in Selden, which recently brought in new tenants and renovated the property.

LaValle has “noticed things I may not have noticed the last time I was at the property,” Weber said. “He digs deep into the details of his job.”

Indeed, LaValle, whose last name has become synonymous with public service on Long Island, is earning his own admirers as he focuses on everything from rebuilding roads, to continuing construction on a new park in Selden, to improving the aesthetics and ease of shopping in his district, to searching for businesses to bring into the area and create jobs.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle, on right, welcomes paralyzed U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. William Ventura to his newly renovated and handicap-accessible home in Selden. File photo from Town of Brookhaven

For LaValle’s dedication to his work on behalf of his constituents, while maintaining a job as a mortgage loan originator at Lynx Mortgage Bank in Westbury, Times Beacon Record News Media names the councilman a 2016 Person of the Year.

“The fact that he can balance [his roles] is quite tremendous,” said Zahra Jafri, president of Lynx Mortgage Bank, who described LaValle as “honest, ethical and service-oriented.” LaValle “does what he says he’s going to do.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), who has known LaValle for 12 years, said he dug in from the moment he was elected.

“It’s impressive what he’s been able to accomplish so quickly,” Bonner said.

Indeed, Bonner cited the work the third-year councilman did to help bring businesses to Selden’s Independence Plaza.

“We were able to work with the property owner and redevelop that site,” which now has a Rite Aid and a Guitar Center, LaValle said. Five Guys Burgers and Fries is expected to move in within the next six months. “I am always looking to work with property owners who have vacant stores to bring in new businesses, whether they be big-name companies or new businesses just getting started.”

LaValle, whose district includes Lake Grove, Centereach, Selden and parts of Lake Ronkonkoma, Farmingville and Coram, said it is a challenge to fill large sites, and is excited that Ocean State Job Lot moved into the former Pathmark site in Centereach and Best Market took over the former Waldbaums site in Selden.

He sees his role as creating a way to share the community’s perspective with business.

At town board meetings, LaValle honors a business of the month. He instituted that process when he first entered office. He chooses a business that is recommended by a community organization, such as the chamber of commerce, for supporting the community through charitable acts.

Bonner said the spotlight on these businesses also helps deliver the message to residents to shop locally, work with fellow business owners and the Chamber of Commerce.

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle, on left, celebrated the Selden Dog Park festival in October with the unveiling of a memorial bench in honor of deceased police dog, Ace. File photo from Town of Brookhaven

“You can tell he knows these businesses and has visited them,” town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said. “He has taken a personal interest in knocking on doors and asking what’s going on, how can we help, and what is bothering you?”

Romaine has worked with LaValle on a sport complex in Selden that currently has what Romaine describes as two “world class” turf baseball fields, with dugouts, fencing and lights behind Grace Presbyterian Church.

LaValle was the “chief motivator and instigator in getting things moving” with this park, which sits behind Hawkins Path Elementary School, Romaine said. “He made sure everything stayed on the timetable we set.”

The park will be breaking ground soon on redeveloping a baseball field to a multipurpose field, which LaValle hopes will be done by the summer. In 2017, engineers will design the remaining part of the park as well as roadway improvements along Boyle Road and Hawkins Road to handle the additional traffic.

LaValle worked to redesign a planned dog park. He said he met with residents to talk about the park, which is divided into areas for large and small dogs, and hosted a public meeting.

LaValle worked with the owners of a batting cage site in Selden that was the regular target of graffiti. He put the property owner in touch with a security company in California that uses wireless, motion-activated cameras to take a video whenever someone walks on the property. This should reduce the number of false alarms police responded to with the other types of security systems, LaValle said. It will also help law enforcement catch those who are defacing the property.

LaValle said working as a councilman and a mortgage loan originator puts pressure on his schedule, which can require him to work 17 days in a row without a break.

“My family is understanding about my commitment,” he said. “If I show up late for a party, they get it. They understand what’s going on.”

His family has been down this road before. His cousin, Ken LaValle, has been a state senator (R-Port Jefferson) since 1976. Kevin’s brother, John Jay LaValle, is a former town supervisor and is the Suffolk County Republican Committee chairman.

“Invariably, someone comes to meetings and calls him Ken or John,” Bonner said. “He handles it really well. He has a good sense of humor about it.”

Brookhaven Town Councilman Kevin LaValle honors Centereach High School Student of the Month, Troy Lee, in October.

The councilman said each of the politicians in his family has his own style. He’s taken to the notion that working hard will bring good results.

Those who have seen LaValle in action believe he practices what he preaches.

“He’s a hard worker,” said Donna Lent, Brookhaven town clerk. “I don’t think it has anything to do with his name. I judge people by what they do.”

A resident of Selden, LaValle graduated from Centereach High School. He earned a bachelor of arts from Salisbury University in Maryland. Before running for office, he worked for then-county Legislator Dan Losquadro (R) as his chief of staff.

Bonner, who also worked for Losquadro before becoming a councilwoman seven years ago, described how LaValle’s high energy benefits everyone in the office.

“I can hear him when he’s on the phone with residents and constituents, while he’s trying to solve their problems, he’s so high energy that he’s bouncing a ball against the wall,” Bonner said.

Having LaValle as a member of the council has put a “spring in the step” of other council members. “It’s impossible not to have that [energy] affect you.”

As the liaison with the highway department, LaValle collaborated with Losquadro, who is now highway superintendent, to complete a 23-road paving project near Centereach High School and Dawnwood Middle School.

As LaValle learned from watching his brother and cousin, he knows that he’ll hear from members of his constituency wherever he goes.

LaValle is “deeply engaged with the community,” Romaine said. “It’s been a joy to work with him. He has no reticence to take the initiative.”

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From left, Councilwoman Valerie M. Cartright, Councilwoman Jane Bonner, Councilman Kevin LaValle, Island Car Wash owner Ron Kass, Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilmen Dan Panico, Neil Foley and Michael Loguercio. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

At the Nov. 17 Brookhaven town board meeting, Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) honored Island Car Wash in Centereach as Business of the Month for November in Council District 3. The award is given to a business deserving special recognition for the positive impact they have on the community. Owned by Ron Kass, Island Car Wash has been a successful small business in Centereach for 21 years.

The company has averaged 300 hires per year, and they’ve employed over 5,000 people over the course of their business history; the overwhelming majority coming from the Brookhaven and local Centereach community. “Island Car Wash has been a great community partner for 21 years, including discounts for veterans and working with the local civic association by hosting fund-raising events. I am happy to name them as the October Business of the Month, a well-deserved honor,” said LaValle.

Spectators browse through Suffolk County Community College's new photo gallery at the Eastern Campis in Riverhead. Photo by Kevin Redding

Suffolk County Community College in Riverhead held an opening reception last week for its annual Eastern Campus Student Art Exhibit, a show that takes place every fall in the Lyceum Gallery of the Montaukett Learning Resource Center on the Eastern Campus.

Centereach’s Sarah Mullen with her photo, top left, that was featured in the gallery. Photo by Kevin Redding
Centereach’s Sarah Mullen with her photo, top left, that was featured in the gallery. Photo by Kevin Redding

The salon-style show serves to highlight exceptional work created by students in the college’s applied arts programs. This year’s exhibit contains over 60 works that will be displayed in a variety of media and sizes, all of which have been done for classes on campus within the last two years.

Students majoring in photography, graphic design, computer art and interior design were able to submit up to three pieces of their choosing and have the opportunity to leave their often-isolated creative spaces and gauge a reaction of their work from the public..

Ralph Masullo, professor of photographic imagery, said that the gallery has proven to be incredibly valuable for the artists in many ways.

“When you’re an artist and put your work out, you’re basically putting yourself out,” Masullo said. “For students who tend to be very timid about that, it’s their first experience to be exposing themselves as an artist. It’s a good experience for them. Just standing around and listening to comments from strangers is very helpful.”

Sarah Mullen, 22, of Centereach, said that this was her first art exhibit on a college-level, even though she’ll be graduating from SCCC this year with a photography major.

Mullen submitted two photos that will eventually be part of a travel photography book she’s been working on this semester as a special project that highlights lesser-known locations on Long Island. One was taken at Avalon Park in Stony Brook and the other at Prosser Pines in Middle Island. The photo titled “Nature’s Tranquility” of stone steps ascending deeper and deeper into a beautiful forest is so mesmerizing that it became the official image for the reception, appearing on all promotional fliers.

Photos in Suffolk County Community College’s new gallery are observed. Photo by Kevin Redding
Photos in Suffolk County Community College’s new gallery are observed. Photo by Kevin Redding

“It’s nice to have the exposure here,” Mullen said. “Usually, as an artist, all you’d have besides a gallery is the internet, and it’s cool for someone to come physically see your work on the wall. When it’s on the computer, you can still edit it, you can still change things. Once it’s on the wall, that’s it.”

One of the most striking photos in the gallery came from Kiera Pipe, 19, of Miller Place. Taken at Peconic River Herb Farm in Riverhead, the photo captures a sundress hung up on a line in between two shutters on the top floor of a rustic and worn-down barn. One observer said it was haunting and looked almost ghost-like.

Pipe, who’s a photographic imagery major, said that she likes to see whether or not her work means something to someone else or provokes an emotion of any kind. Constructive criticism, she said, makes her a better artist.

“I’m really new to submitting my work into events like this,” Pipe said. “It’s really interesting to watch other people look at my images, while I’m kind of trying to figure out what they’re thinking. I think it’s really awesome … it’s a good feeling.”

Kiera Pipe, of Miller Place, had her photo hung up in Suffolk County Community College’s new gallery. Photo from SCCC
Kiera Pipe, of Miller Place, had her photo hung up in Suffolk County Community College’s new gallery. Photo from SCCC

Growing up on the North Shore, she naturally gravitated toward photography, with a specific focus on landscapes.

“I like all the components that go into it,” she said. “Your eye travels in so many different directions when you’re looking at a landscape. [Growing up] on the water, everything always looks so different. It’s the same place and everything, but the shores and the sky changes so much … it always becomes a different photo.” 

The exhibit is open through Dec. 14 in the Lyceum Gallery, located at 121 Speonk Riverhead Road on the Eastern Campus in Riverhead. Gallery hours are Monday through Thursday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The gallery is closed on Sundays and holidays (gallery closed from Nov. 24 to 27).

Students at Bicycle Path Pre-K/Kindergarten Center hop off the school bus. Photo from Middle Country school district

By Desirée Keegan

The Middle Country Central School District announced several new programs to engage the students throughout the Centereach and Selden communities for the 2016-17 school year.

The new programs — including specialized music, art and math curriculum for kindergarten students, as well as extra physics classes and the introduction of a Capstone Project — are made possible by the district’s strategic budgeting practices and financial planning. The academic improvements are meant to prepare students for life at the next level.

“At Middle Country, we are dedicated to educating ‘the whole child,’” Superintendent Roberta Gerold said. “We are proud of the many programs we have put in place this year that will help provide students with the resources to excel in the classroom and in the community. These brand new classroom offerings will challenge our students to think critically and prepare them for successful futures beyond the classroom.”

Students at Unity Drive Pre-K/Kindergarten Center walk into the school building on the first day. Photo from Middle Country school district
Students at Unity Drive Pre-K/Kindergarten Center walk into the school building on the first day. Photo from Middle Country school district

During the first day of school, students throughout the district took advantage of the many new opportunities provided. Kindergarten students from Unity Drive Pre-K/Kindergarten Center participated in the new art and music classes, as well as their math literacy program. These initiatives are intended to introduce students to essential Science Technology Engineering and Math concepts.

Other students are also experiencing the excitement of new programs.

Fifth-grade students throughout the district embarked on a newly introduced Capstone Project. The Capstone Project is a two-semester independent research assignment that spans fifth through 12th grade. Designated time for research is granted to seventh- and eighth-grade students, and the eighth-graders will now be able to participate in physics classes.

Outside of the classroom, other exciting news is underway, such as completed projects from the district’s 2015 Bond Referendum.

At the beginning of the school year, students and staff benefitted from the completion of roof replacements, security vestibules, high school track resurfacing, the installation of Smart Boards in the classrooms and new buses and two-student vans.

For more information about academic programs available at the Middle Country school district and a calendar of events, visit www.mccsd.net. To learn more about the student experience and news from the district, also visit www.mymiddlecountryschools.net.

The Huntington football team jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the second quarter of its homecoming matchup against Centereach, and it proved to be all the Blue Devils needed, as the team held the Cougars scoreless in the first and third quarters to pull away with a 14-9 victory.

Huntington junior running back Sam Bergman rushed three yards for the game’s first touchdown. Huntington sophomore quarterback John Paci Jr. threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Taquan Gooden-Hill in the second quarter, which put Huntington (2-2 in Division II) out in front for good.

Centereach put its first points on the board as the clock wound down in the same stanza, with a 23-yard field goal kick from senior kicker and wide receiver Rob Montgomery. Both teams remained scoreless in the third, and the Cougars held off the Blue Devils in the fourth, but managed to break through in the matchup’s final minutes, when Montgomery caught a 7-yard pass from junior quarterback Jay Morwood for six points. The point-after attempt failed.

Paci was just 1-for-5 for 30 yards and a touchdown under center for Huntington, but senior running back Kei’ron Byrams chipped in, completing two of three attempts for 28 yards. Bergman had 42 rushing yards. Huntington senior running back Jared Leake ran for 103 yards on 17 carries, and junior tight end Anthony McDonald had 10 tackles and a sack. Huntington senior tight end and defensive lineman Josh Hallman had five tackles and a fumble recovery.

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