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Cold Spring Harbor

The Northport Public Library. File photo from library

It’s budget season for libraries across Huntington Town, and they’re looking to keep costs low.

The Northport-East Northport Public Library has proposed an overall lower budget, but with a slight increase in the tax levy. The total budget is an approximate $160,000 decrease from last year’s; however, the board is proposing to collect $21,000 more in taxes than the year before.

Among the reasons for this is the fact that the library had $165,000 in unrestricted fund appropriation for last year’s budget, but not this year. Compared to revenues collected last year, the library expects to collect about $181,000 less.

The biggest costs for this year’s budget include employee salaries, health insurance, books and electronic resources.

Northport-East Northport 30-year-resident Margaret Hartough is running for re-election as library trustee. She is currently the head of the teen services department at the Half Hollow Hills Community Library.

“The Northport-East Northport Public Library has always been a special place for me and my family,” she said in a statement. “My children spent many hours at the library, and benefited from all the great resources and wonderful programs. I believe the library is truly the heart of the community and strong libraries build strong communities.”

Over at Huntington Public Library, the board of trustees has proposed a 0 percent increase for the budget; asking residents to approve the same approximate $8.8 million budget as last year.

The Harborfields Public Library. File photo
The Harborfields Public Library. File photo

Compared to the 2015-16 budget, building renovation costs are less than half of last year’s, with a difference of about $540,000. This contributes to the 0 percent overall increase. Costs are also going down by 80 percent for printing supplies and 100 percent for bibliographic utility, which is a service that provides record keeping.

Library trustee incumbent Charles Rosner is running unopposed for re-election. He first joined the board in 2011. Rosner received an MBA from Harvard Business School and before retiring in 2002 was a CEO at Gemcoware in Hauppauge.

Harborfields Public Library is following suit with Huntington and proposing a 0 percent increase for its 2016-17 budget, with a $4.8 million overall total. Most of the library’s costs mirror last year’s numbers, with the biggest difference in retirement and health insurance. Retirement costs decreased by $83,000, and health insurance costs increased by $50,000.

Centerport resident David Clemens is running for a seat in the Harborfields Public Library board of trustees. He previously served as a trustee for the Huntington Historical Society and the Greenlawn-Centerport Historical Association. Clemens is currently a trustee of the Suffolk County Historical Society and chairman of the library committee there.

Finishing out the Huntington area is Cold Spring Harbor Library, with a proposed budget of about $2 million and an overall 0 percent increase. By far the biggest item on the budget is salaries for employees, which comes in at just over $1 million.

According to the library’s website, highlights of the budget include supporting vital programs like free e-books and homework help.

Residents can cast their votes on Tuesday, April 5, at their respective libraries.

Rodger Podell became director of the Cold Spring Harbor Library about three months ago. Photo from Roger Podell

There’s a new director at the Cold Spring Harbor Library & Environmental Center.

Rodger Podell came on board about three months ago and is excited about the new bonds he has already made with residents of the area.

“I’ve really enjoyed meeting everyone in the community,” Podell said in a phone interview. “It’s been great to get out and meet with different parental groups. I’ve loved getting to know everyone.”

Podell is no stranger to Long Island, moving to Jericho in 1978 from New Jersey and graduating from Jericho High School. He worked as a freelance video camera operator for a few years on various television and news shows until the late  ’90s, when he decided to go back to school and pursue a field that had always interested him — library studies.

“I’ve always liked that libraries serve the community and serve all ages,” Podell said. “You can see infants coming in for story time, seniors coming in for social programs and everyone else in between. This is one of the few community-based organizations that serve all ages of the community.”

He graduated with a master’s degree in library studies from Long Island University in 1996, and started working at various school districts on Long Island including Middle Country.

The director also served as the head of school libraries for Western Suffolk BOCES for a few years, where he worked with school librarians throughout the district to help provide development ideas.

Before coming to Cold Spring Harbor, Podell was working as director of the Elmont Public Library in Queens, where he said he served about 1,000 people daily.

“I saw this position [at Cold Spring Harbor] and I had worked with the Cold Spring Harbor school district while at BOCES, so I was familiar with it,” he said. “It’s not only in a beautiful location, but there is also a real dedication here toward education. I could see that right away, and I knew that must carry over into the library.”

Podell said the library is dedicated to the community, not only through many educational programs but entertainment programs as well.

The Cold Spring Harbor Library offers exercise classes, story-time classes, book discussion groups and SAT prep courses.

Podell said a few programs stick out in his mind, like the Jedi Academy, an interactive Star Wars program hosted in February, and Cinderella, a musical production performed at the library in January.

Looking forward, the director said he hopes to continue to improve the library According to Podell, the children’s room was recently changed to better utilize space.

Aside from his director position at Cold Spring Harbor, Podell is also an adjunct professor at Long Island University Palmer School of Library and Information Science, and serves on the Long Island Library Resource Council’s Board of Trustees.

Police say a man exposed his genitals to a girl while she was walking to school in Cold Spring Harbor. Sketch from SCPD

A man exposed himself to a girl who was on her way to school earlier this week.

The Suffolk County Police Department said that on Tuesday the high school student was walking on Thicket Drive in Cold Spring Harbor around 8:20 a.m. when a man drove up to her, opened his sedan’s door and exposed his genitals. At that point, police said, the suspect called her over to the car.

She ran away and told security personnel at Cold Spring Harbor Junior/Senior High School, who contacted the police.

Police described the perpetrator as a young-looking Hispanic male in his 20s, with black hair shaved on the sides but long in the center, where it was pulled in a bun. His car was a small, tan-colored sedan with four doors.

Authorities are seeking the public’s help to identify and locate the man, who is wanted for public lewdness.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to an arrest. They can be reached anonymously at 800-220-TIPS.

Anyone with information can also contact detectives at 631-854-8252.

Heather Johnson has been at the helm of The Northport Historical Society for the past five years. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Northport Historical Society is searching for a new director, as Heather Johnson, who has held the position for five years, is moving on to a new job with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

“Her enthusiasm for her job radiates from her and has enabled the Northport community to become much more supportive,” society board of trustees President Steven King said about Johnson in an interview Tuesday. “All of our events that involve social interaction have improved because she enjoys doing things for people, helping people, takes pride in Northport community and that’s been very helpful over the past five years to make the historical society a more successful institution in the village.”

Johnson, whose last day is Feb. 11, arrived in January 2011 with nearly two decades of experience in various departments at Hofstra University. She spent time in their public relations department and in the office of international admissions, taught art history and even spent time working in their on-campus museum.

Johnson also had a unique upbringing, spending years living in New York City, Jacksonville, Florida, and England while her mother pursued an opera career. She returned to Long Island in 1989 and currently lives in Smithtown.

Above, the Northport Historical Society. Photo from Heather Johnson
Above, the Northport Historical Society. Photo from Heather Johnson

Her journey prior to landing in Northport, coupled with some of her own personal interests, made the position at the historical society a fit too perfect to pass up.

“I’m a history buff,” Johnson said in an interview Tuesday. “I’ve always loved history, since I was a little kid.” She laughed and added, “There are not many little girls who are interested in history.”

Johnson saw a 20 percent increase in membership in her first year alone, bringing the society’s total membership to more than 400. She maintained that number during the rest of her five-year tenure. The group also has a new website.

The outgoing director was adamant that she accomplished nothing on her own.

“I’m not going to take credit for anything that’s happened around here,” Johnson said. “It really is a team. What we have is people who are really dedicated and who really love Northport, and are very interested in the historical society, or history in general.”

During her time, Johnson was responsible for scheduling programs and exhibits for the museum, recruiting members and creating events. Some of her favorites that she mentioned were a Civil War cooking class and an educational and social tour of Northport Harbor.

“My mantra has been to educate and to entertain,” Johnson said. “When you can put those two things together, it’s a beautiful thing.”

King was not as dismissive of Johnson’s impact and accomplishments as she was.

“I don’t think that there’s any way to replace personality traits that Heather has,” King said. “We hope to settle on a final candidate who has some of what Heather has brought to us, but perhaps a different set of capabilities that will enhance our mission in the future.”

“There are not many little girls who are interested in history.”
— Heather Johnson

Johnson shared an emailed letter from a community member that she received when news of her imminent departure got out. The sender preferred to remain anonymous.

“We have learnt a lot about the village, its history and its people — and always in a welcoming and congenial setting,” the email reads.

Johnson plans to maintain a relationship with the historical society as a member of the fundraising committee and their gallery committee. She also insists that she’s not leaving the community that has become such a large part of her life, mainly due to the close bond she feels.

“This village, and Northport in general, they just really know how to come together for each other,” she said. “I plan to eat, play and shop in Northport for the rest of my life. It’s just a really, really incredible place.”

Introduces new film club, among other events

Above, a few of the many exhibits on display at The Whaling Museum. File photo

By Rita J. Egan

Celebrating 80 years of the Whaling Museum Society, the staff at The Whaling Museum & Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor is busy organizing and preparing activities for its milestone anniversary, which will include a Film Club and Whaleboat Chats.

It was 1936 when the Whaling Museum Society was founded, according to the museum’s executive director Nomi Dayan. Town residents organized the society to recognize the rich whaling heritage in the area where John H. Jones and Walter R. Jones started the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Company, which operated from 1836 until 1862.

“We thought this is a special year to recognize this important part of Long Island’s history,” Dayan said.

’There’s truly something for all ages here at the museum’ — Nomi Dayan, Executive Director of The Whaling Museum

It took the society until August of 1942 to open the official museum, which came together when members were able to secure a whaleboat from the brig Daisy. Dayan said the ship was built in Setauket in the late 1800s and was used in the last sail-powered Yankee whaling exhibition on earth. It was due to Long Island scientist, and one of the society’s founders, Robert Cushman Murphy, that the group was able to take ownership of it. Murphy, an ornithologist, started out on a journey on the Daisy planning to study the birds of Antarctica and during the trip decided to document whaling and later published the book “Logbook for Grace.”

The executive director said the staff is hoping “to get more adults in the building” with a few new programs. She said many adults walk into the museum to look around but don’t participate in the programs. This hope led to the launch of the museum’s Film Club, which will take place every Thursday at 2:30 p.m. during the months of February and March. Dayan said the viewings are free with paid admission to the museum or membership and will include free popcorn. The selection of films varies with both classic movies such as “Ship of Fools” (1965) and “Moby Dick” (1956) as well as contemporary ocean-themed films “Free Willy” (1993) and “Noah” (2014).

Dayan said it was felt that a film club would be popular after the successful museum event where six actors performed vignettes from the book “In the Heart of the Sea” in the whaleboat. She said it seems that adults enjoy films and live performances more than other activities.


A scene from ‘Moby Dick.’ Photo from The Whaling Museum A scene from ‘Moby Dick.’ Photo from The Whaling Museum

—Film Club schedule—
◆ Feb. 4: ‘Ship of Fools’ (1965)
◆ Feb. 11: ‘Noah’ (2014)
◆ Feb. 18: ‘Free Willy’ (1993)
◆ Feb. 25: ‘Moby Dick’ (1956)
◆ Mar. 3: ‘Whale Wars’
◆ Mar. 10: ‘The Whale’ (2015)
◆ March 17: ‘Treasure Island’ (1950)
◆ March 24: ‘Master & Commander’ (2003)
◆ March 31: Jacques Cousteau

On Fridays at 2:30 p.m., the museum will be offering Whaleboat Chats, which are free with paid admission to the museum or membership, too. Educators will be on hand to chat and answer visitors’ questions. “We found that when people come and visit whenever we have an educator present to talk about what they’re seeing, it tends to make their visits just so much more meaningful,” Dayan said.

On Feb. 19 the chat will be in honor of Black History Month and focus on the contributions that blacks made to the local whaling industry. In addition, on March 18 for Women’s History Month, the talks will center around the sacrifices of the whalers’ wives. Dayan said while many spouses stayed at home when their husbands were out at sea, others traveled on the ships with them and even gave birth during the trips. There were also many wives who were left to wait for long periods at far off ports, especially Hawaii.

“There are such interesting and different relationships that came about from this whaling culture,” she said.

Among other events, the museum staff is currently planning Thar She Blows, which will be held on Sunday, March 20, from 12 to 3:00 p.m. During this event, visitors can carve scrimshaws, hear live sea shanties and historical tunes, as well as touch authentic artifacts and get their faces painted.

On Sunday, April 17, there will be free admission for SoundOff! from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will be the first of its kind in Cold Spring Harbor and will focus on building awareness of the Long Island Sound conservation through hands-on activities. Museum visitors also will be able to explore how the whaling era launched the country’s conservation movement.

For adults there’s the Whales, Ales and Salty Tales on Thursday, May 19, from 6 to 8 p.m. The night will consist of the stories of whalers and their sea-brews. Alan Short, who specializes in sea shanties, will sing the whalers’ songs while visitors enjoy beer sponsored by the Brewers East End Revival.

“There’s truly something for all ages here at the museum,” Dayan said.

In addition to the events and programs being planned, the year 2016 marks the release of the book “Whaling on Long Island” written by Dayan and published by the museum through Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series. According to the executive director, the book, scheduled for release on March 28, can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

Dayan said during 2016, the museum also will be conducting membership drives with different incentives, including the initial membership price of a dollar. New members can take advantage of the offer when they purchase a second year at the 2016 cost of $40 for individuals and $75 for families.

The executive director said it’s a great year to become a member. “We’ve recently transformed ourselves. Instead of just being about only whales and whaling, now we’re more about the relationship between people and the environment. Because if you think about it whaling is a very strong cautionary tale about how people treat each other and how people treat the environment, and we’re trying to pick up on those themes,” Dayan said.

Admission to The Whaling Museum & Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor is $6 for adults and $5 for seniors and children. Event and program fees vary. For more information about the museum, located at 301 Main Street in Cold Spring Harbor, call 631-367-3418 or visit www.cshwhalingmuseum.org.

Diana Todaro stands with Francesco Ianni, who was named her successor. File photo

Change is in the air in Harborfields and Cold Spring Harbor school districts.

Superintendent Judith Wilansky, who has served Cold Spring Harbor for the past eight years, and Superintendent Diana Todaro, who has been at Harborfields for 14 years, and lead as superintendent for three, announced their retirements this past week.

While Cold Spring Harbor has just begun the search for a new superintendent, Harborfields has already named Todaro’s successor: current Assistant Superintendent for Administration and Human Resources,
Dr. Francesco Ianni.

Todaro’s contract had been extended through June 2017 by the school board, however, she said she wanted to “accelerate the timeline in order to mentor my successor within the upcoming school year and provide the opportunity for a smooth transition,” according to a statement.

Wilansky has had an unprecedented run at Cold Spring Harbor, being the first female superintendent for the district and holding the second longest term in the history of the district. She has been at Cold Spring Harbor since 2000 as a central office administrator.

Cold Spring Harbor Superintendent Judith Wilansky is leaving her position next school year. Photo from Karen Spehler
Cold Spring Harbor Superintendent Judith Wilansky is leaving her position next school year. Photo from Karen Spehler

“I’ve been here long enough to see children go through their entire school career,” Wilansky said in a phone interview. “I was at the middle school’s winter concert recently and it dawned one me that I would miss their graduation, and that’s what I’ll miss the most — seeing these kids graduate and having the opportunity to watch them grow up.”

Wilansky said she’s most proud of Cold Spring Harbor schools for meeting the needs of all students in the district because “that’s what a public school is designed to do.”

She also said she spoke to the board about what she thinks a good search project should look like, but has no idea where the decision will land on her replacement. Her final day as superintendent will be June 30, 2016.

President of the Cold Spring Harbor Board of Education, Robert Hughes, said Wilanksy was an important asset to Cold Spring Harbor and will be missed.

“She has been a steady hand at the helm,” he said in a phone interview. Todaro began her career at Harborfields as a student teacher at Oldfield Middle School.

“For the past 14 years, it has truly been my pleasure to be in the Harborfields school community,” Todaro said in a statement. “It has been my distinct honor to be the superintendent of Harborfields Central School District. I am confident that the district will continue to excel and be recognized as a leader of the state.”

Board member Nicholas P. Giuliano said Todaro has been dedicated to every student that has walked through the buildings of the district.

“She has every reason to be proud of her achievements and we, as a district, are lucky that so many of her achievements were accomplished for our children.”

Ianni brings years of experience in Harborfields, working as assistant principal at the high school for four years, and has been in his current position since 2013.

“I am humbled by the board of education’s confidence in my ability to lead our prestigious district,” Ianni said in a recent statement. “We are fortunate, at Harborfields, to have benefited from the successive leadership of our exemplary superintendent, and I hope that, in collaboration with the board of education, a strong administrative team, superior teaching staff, knowledgeable parents, and of course, outstanding students, our tradition of excellence will continue.”

Ianni will take over for Todaro in January 2017.

Accompanied by classic cars blasting out the Baha Men’s song, “Who Let the Dogs Out,” costumed dogs and their owners march in the 9th Annual “Howl-ween: Corky’s Canine Costume Parade Celebration” on Sunday, Oct. 25. The parade, created by Alyssa Nightingale, features dozens of dogs and humans parading down Main Street in Cold Spring Harbor and participating in costume contest, doggie party and sidewalk sale at Harbor Hounds.

The entrance to the new exhibit in Cold Spring Harbor, If I Were a Whaler. Photo by Judy Palumbo

By Rita J. Egan

The Whaling Museum & Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor introduced its new interactive, hands-on exhibit, If I Were a Whaler, on Sunday, Sept. 27. The exhibit launched off with the opening day event SeaFaire featuring craft-makers, including a woodworker, quilter and spinner, demonstrating their old world skills. The day also gave visitors the opportunity to create historical maritime crafts such as ship models and scrimshaw carvings.

Judy Palumbo, community relations and development manager at the museum, said the committee designed the exhibit to give guests a strong sense of what life was like on a whaling boat for the whalers. She said exhibit goers will discover how simply the seamen lived and how minimal their supplies were. According to Palumbo, some would have only a tiny trunk for a three-year voyage, and on the boat, they would sleep in tight quarters that also doubled as a place to eat since there were no dining halls.

“We’re just trying to give people a picture of what life on the ship was like … a whaler’s life,” Palumbo said.

Items ‘for sale’ in the Jones General Store at the If I Were a Whaler exhibit. Photo by Judy Palumbo
Items ‘for sale’ in the Jones General Store at the If I Were a Whaler exhibit. Photo by Judy Palumbo

The community relations and development manager said the exhibit is extremely interactive and exhibit goers can experience each stage of a whaler’s journey. One interactive station is a general store where children are given coins to purchase items, and while deciding what to buy for their voyage, learn how limited the seamen’s budgets were.

Executive Director Nomi Dayan said the store is based on Jones General Store, which once operated in Cold Spring Harbor. She said children can decide things such as if they are going to get an extra warm pair of pants or two shirts.

“They really have to think critically about what it took to endure life at sea,” Dayan said.

At the second station, visitors will discover what life was like under the decks for the whalers. Children can try out a berth and view the limited food options the whalers had at sea.

“I think one of the most fun things about it is the bunk bed where you can climb in and realize how little personal space you had,” Dayan said.

Another interactive station will show visitors what it was like to raise the sails or swab the deck, which was also referred to as holystoning, where they actually cleaned the decks with stones, according to Palumbo. The community relations and development manager said the station demonstrates the whalers’ responsibilities during their voyages.

Children can learn how to plan a voyage as well at the navigation stage and, based on their choices, find out their fate. Destinies include being shipwrecked or catching a whale among other outcomes.

Exhibit goers will discover how the whalers spent their free time, too. Palumbo explained that catching whales only used a small percentage of the whalers’ time spent at sea since the mammals weren’t that easy to catch. Maps are also on display showing the seamen’s journeys that included expeditions to the Arctic, South America and the Hawaiian Islands.

Complementing the interactive stations will be nautical tools and artifacts on display from the museum’s collection, which totals 6,000 pieces. Palumbo said the museum owns one of the largest scrimshaw collections in the Northeast and one of the last fully equipped whaling boats.

Palumbo said construction of If I Were a Whaler began Labor Day weekend; however, the museum’s educators Cyndi Grimm, Liz Fusco, Gina Van Bell, Amanda Vengroff, as well as Dayan and carpenter Peter Schwind have been working on the exhibit for months.

Dayan said the plan right now is to display If I Were a Whaler for two years. She said she believes the interactive exhibit, which was inspired by the USS Constitution Museum in Boston’s A Sailor’s Life for Me: War of 1812 curriculum, will provide children an understanding of maritime history that they may not get from a textbook or by just looking at an artifact in a museum.

“We hope families will gain a much better appreciation and understanding of local history, and we hope that will happen through making history come to life,” Dayan said.

The Whaling Museum & Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor is located at 301 Main Street, Cold Spring Harbor. Admission is $6 for adults and $5 for children. For more information, visit www.cshwhalingmuseum.org or call 631-367-3418.

When they work as they should, they become a part of a process that helps us remember the Amendments to the Constitution, the Pythagorean Theorem, or the words to a love poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. When they don’t work correctly, we can run into all kinds of problems, some of which can get worse over time.

The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor, also known as the NMDA receptor, which has parts that are bound in the membrane of brain cells, or neurons, is at the center of learning and memory.

Up until last year, only parts of the NMDA receptors sticking out of the membrane were known. A lack of a three-dimensional understanding made it difficult to see how this receptor works. Hiro Furukawa, an associate professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and his postdoctoral researcher, Erkan Karakas, provided considerably more structural details of this receptor.

“The structures of the full-length NMDA receptor that [Furukawa’s] lab generated last year are seminal,” said Lonnie Wollmuth, a professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior at Stony Brook University and a collaborator with Furukawa on other work. “They are fundamental to understanding how the NMDA receptor operates and how it can be modified in the clinic.”

Wollmuth suggested Furukawa has an “outstanding” reputation and said the structure of the receptor will “drive the field in new directions.”

Furukawa cautioned that scientists are still missing a structural understanding of a piece of the receptor that protrudes into the cell. Seeing the structure of this receptor will “provide clues for developing new compounds and for redesigning existing compounds to minimize side effects associated with nonspecific targeting,” Furukawa explained.

When NMDA receptors open, sodium and calcium ions flow into the cells. Too much calcium in the cells can cause toxicity that results in the neurodegeneration observed in Alzheimer’s disease and injuries related to strokes. Changes in the concentration of these ions can excite the neuron and cause symptoms such as epilepsy.

Seeing the structure of this receptor can provide a road map to find places on it that can become too active or inactive. Researchers typically look for binding sites, where they can send in a drug that can affect the function of the receptor. The more binding pockets scientists like Furukawa find, the greater the opportunity to regulate the NMDA receptor function.

Furukawa’s lab includes two graduate students, four postdocs and a technician. He is collaborating with scientists at Emory University to design and synthesize novel compounds based on the protein structures. As he gets more research funding, Furukawa would like to add more expertise in bioinformatics, which involves using computer science and statistics to understand and interpret large collections of data.

Experts in this field can go through a database of compounds quickly, enabling scientists to conduct the equivalent of thousands of virtual experiments and screen out candidates that, for one reason or another, wouldn’t likely work.

Furukawa is also studying autoimmune disorders in which immune cells attack these important receptors. One of these diseases is called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. Susannah Cahalan wrote an autobiographical account of her struggle with the disease in a New York Times Best Selling Book called “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness” in 2012.

Furukawa is collaborating with a group at the University of Pennsylvania to find a way to detect the autoimmune antibodies that causes encephalitis. He is working to find a way to quench autoimmune antibodies for an anti-NMDA receptor.

Furukawa lives in Cold Spring Harbor with his wife, Megumi, who used to be an elementary school teacher but is now taking care of their sons Ryoma, 7, and Rin, 4.

Furukawa, who moved from Japan to Boston in fifth grade, then back to Japan for junior high school and finished high school in Missouri, is enjoying an opportunity to grow his own vegetables on Long Island.

As an undergraduate at Tufts, Furukawa was more interested in international politics and economics than in science. When he took chemistry and physics classes, he said the work “clicked comfortably” and he wound up majoring in chemistry. As an eight-year-old, he recalled watching the stars at night through a telescope. When he saw a ring of Saturn for the first time, he was so excited that he couldn’t sleep.

Furukawa’s colleagues appreciate his dedication to his work.

“He is certainly driven,” said Wollmuth. “He is in an extremely competitive field, so he must work efficiently and hard.”

The scene of the Friday evening crash on Woodbury Road. Photo by Marilyn McDermott

By Rohma Abbas & Elana Glowatz

An elderly woman died in Cold Spring Harbor Friday evening when she lost control of her car on Woodbury Road and crashed into the woods.

The Suffolk County Police Department said 80-year-old Eugenia Kouwenhoven, a Huntington resident, was driving a 2014 Buick Regal west on the road at the time of the crash, close to 6:30 p.m. She was pronounced dead at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Woodbury Road has been the topic of much debate at Huntington Town Board meetings, as residents have cited numerous car crashes along the road. The town commissioned a traffic study of the thoroughfare, but the stretch of roadway along which Kouwenhoven crashed and lost her life is not in the traffic calming study area, according to A.J. Carter, a spokesman for the town.

“The unfortunate accident occurred on a portion of Woodbury Road that is past Cold Spring Harbor train station, which is not part of the study area,” Carter said.

Marilyn McDermott, a resident of Woodbury Road, echoed similar sentiments. She questioned whether the accident had much to do with the safety road. She was on the scene shortly after the accident and said she didn’t see any skid marks.

“I’m not sure if it was inherent of the actual dangers of the road or singular to her,” McDermott said in a Monday phone interview.

Kouwenhoven was a widow, and a mother to three children, a grandmother to 10, and a great grandmother to four, according to her obituary on A.L Jacobsen Funeral Home’s website.

Attempts to reach Kouwenhoven’s family this week were unsuccessful.

Friends of Kouwenhoven, who also went by “Jean” or “Gene,” shared some of their memories and condolences on an online tribute page.

One person spoke of Kouwenhoven’s gourmet cooking skills and her “kind and thoughtful” nature. She said Kouwenhoven would often wash and style the hair of neighborhood girls before a birthday party.

“Can you imagine someone taking the time to [style] 2 or 3 young girls’ hair?” Janet Stanton Schaaf wrote. “It took hours! I felt so pampered and so glamorous, and so cared for. What a wonderful feeling”

Schaaf continued, “Jean had such a positive impact on my life and I hope she now sees how much she added to our little Huntington neighborhood of kids. Thanks for everything, Jean.”

Cathy and Walter Kennedy also left a message honoring Kouwenhoven.

“She was so full of life and knew how to enjoy it,” they wrote. “She had a special way of wrapping herself around your heart. We feel blessed to have known her and to have shared many a time with her.”

While he’s not handling the case and doesn’t know the exact details, 2nd Precinct Dt. Sgt. James Scimoni said it’s “definitely possible” the woman could have undergone a medical emergency before crashing. But there’s no confirmation of that, he said.

On the subject of Woodbury Road traffic safety improvements, town officials have already embarked on fixes to attempt to make the road safer.

On Tuesday, the town released a statement noting that it had implemented the first phase of its traffic study consultants’ recommendations. Town highway department workers trimmed trees along the shoulder of the road, running 2.5 miles from Main Street in Huntington village to Pulaski Road in Cold Spring Harbor. The workers also replaced road signs to increase visibility — the 165 new signs are larger than the ones they replaced, including larger chevron signs to further highlight the horizontal curves in the roadway.

The town installed new turn and reverse turn signs to replace curve and reverse curve signs, bringing the signage up to federal standards. Also, the town upgraded the reflectivity of traffic signs.

“That stuff is the first phase,” Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) said in a phone interview. “Now we’re waiting for the analysis of the road for the second phase to implement the suggestions for narrowing the road, the markings and the strips in the middle.”

This story was last updated on Tuesday, Sept. 1, at 5 p.m.