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Comsewogue

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The Port Jefferson Station and Terryville communities came together Dec. 18 to show that a National Guard Airman and community member is still remembered.

Comsewogue School District and Brookhaven Town officials gathered with community members at the corner of Bedford Ave. and King Street to honor Tech Sgt. Dashan Briggs, a Port Jeff Station resident who was assigned to the 101st Rescue Squadron, 106th Rescue Wing of the National Guard. He was among those killed when their helicopter was shot down in March, 2018. The 30-year-old was one of seven airmen on board carrying out a mission in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, an American-led mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Underneath the sign for King Street now reads “Tech. Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs Way.” The street sign’s designation came after Brookhaven town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) sponsored and helped pass a town resolution in June.

“Tech. Sgt. Dashan Briggs was a husband, father, grandson, friend, neighbor,  and dedicated service member our country with honor and distinction,” she said. “We remember Briggs as a wonderful representative of our community and a leader who was committed to his work and to helping others.”

Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) said Briggs’ sacrifice can be better be remembered by both school and community.

“As a mother your heart breaks for the sacrifice the family has given for our nation and that’s
the reality for protecting our freedoms,” she said. “It’s such an honor for the family and the sacrifice, but its really important for his children to see this from the community. The kids may not remember this specific moment, but as they grow up and travel through the school they will always remember seeing their father there every day.”

Before the street sign unveiling, the school district presented Briggs’ family with a portrait of their husband and father at the Boyle Road Elementary School. Both of Brigg’s children are in the Comsewogue school district.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said the portrait does a great job as a reminder to everybody who moves up through the district.

““I think the portrait following the kids as they get older is a wonderful thing,” he said. “A whole generation of kids who grow up in this school and the school district will learn the lessons of sacrifice and service of country through the example of Tech. Sgt. Dashan Briggs. It’s a great way to honor him, it’s a great way to honor his family and it’s a great benefit to all of the kids in this school district.”

Additional reporting by Monica Gleberman

This post was amended Dec. 19 to add additional comments from Councilwoman Cartright.

Ward Melville came out firing on all cylinders in a nonleague matchup downing the Comsewogue Warriors 50-37 Dec. 10. Senior guard Giancarlo Serratore topped the scoring chart for the Patriots with five field goals and a trey for 13 points. Seniors Ted Bliznakov and Jack Holland had eight points apiece.

Senior Tyler Shannon banked 12 points while senior Jaden Martinez netted 11 for
the Warriors.

The Patriots have another nonleague matchup Dec. 13 before they take on Central Islip at home in their league season opener Dec. 17. Game time is 4:15 p.m.

Comsewogue is back in action in its league season opener at home against Deer Park also on Dec. 17 with a 5:45 p.m. tipoff.

The Comsewogue girls basketball team continued their pre-season winning ways in a non-league matchup against Centereach Dec. 9. The Warriors downed the Cougars 39-27 to make it five in a row. Comsewogue senior Veronica Riddick topped the scoring charts for the Warriors with nine points and 10 rebounds. Teammate Lindsay Hanson banked eight and Annalise Russo and Danielle McGuire netted seven points each.

Both teams have one more non-league contest before hitting the road to begin league play Dec 17. The Cougars travel to Smithtown West searching for a win and the Warriors take on Deer Park both, games tipoff at 4 p.m.

 

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The mosaic includes the Comsewogue logo and the notorious cherry tree. Photo by Leah Chiappino

By Leah Chiappino

Comsewogue High School’s lobby will soon receive a unique face-lift. The Art Honor Society and students in the advanced studios and murals class are putting the finishing touches on a mosaic that spans the entire center of the room. Fully designed by students, it consists of intricately placed pieces of hand-cut glass that reflect in the light of surrounding windows, making the whole piece sparkle.

The high school’s Art Honor Society with art teacher Gina Melton and Assistant Super Joe Coniglione on the right. Photo by Leah Chiappino

The project, which began construction three years ago, was the brainchild of Assistant Superintendent Joe Coniglione. 

“It has been a labor of love,” he said

The area on which the mosaic now sits was once a pit where students could sit and socialize. Eventually, it was filled in with concrete and a mural was painted over it. However, over the years the floor aged and the concrete began to crack, prompting Coniglione to push for something sturdier. 

“My thought process was rather than to paint it and have it crack again, we could have our amazingly talented student do a mosaic,” he said.

He brought his vision to Gina Melton, an art teacher at the high school, who ran with it.

“Both [Coniglione] and I are Italians so we appreciate mosaics,” she said jokingly. “However, mosaics are beautiful, and we figured if they could last through Pompeii, hopefully they will last through Comsewogue.”

Students then began the design process, making sure they included the school’s warrior logo, and aspects of the surrounding area of Port Jefferson Station, including the signature cherry tree outside the school’s window. They also added a starry night sky, as homage to Vincent Van Gogh’s painting, “The Starry Night,” which is a favorite among many students.

The mosaic includes the Comsewogue logo and the notorious cherry tree. Photo from Gina Melton

After the design was approved, students began to install the 2 million pieces, transitioning from glass to tile over time. They have to cut the pieces, lay them out and glue them down. 

Melton admitted the project has been a learning curve. 

“The first year the students were a little hesitant because it was so new,” she said. “545 square feet of space is a daunting task, but now that they’re seeing everything coming together, they’re very proud of it. I can’t even tell you how blessed I am to have the kids I have.”

For students who built the project, the process has had its good and bad times.

 “It’s certainly resulted in many cuts and scratches over the years,” Art Honor Society Vice President Alexa Bonacci said. She added that it was worth it to be able to look back and see what was created. 

While the Art Honor Society only meets once a week to work on it, several students within the club devote their free period and time after school to the mosaic. Bonacci works on it every day. She does not participate in any sports and said most people she knows work on it at least three days per week. She estimated Art Honor Society President Gianna Alcala has worked on it for at least 70 hours.

“This is something so many people are attached to,” society secretary Maison Anwar said. “When you see all the different techniques throughout the piece it makes you feel like everybody has a piece of themselves.”

The project was delayed because of the floor crack and the group of students subsequently having to redo the backboard. The original design was thrown out over the summer, forcing students to have to design much of the  project themselves. This has led the district to host what they call “mosaic workshops,” enabling students to work on the project for entire days at a time. “We made a lot of headway in those days,” Melton said.

Coniglione praised the impact of the program on students. 

“You would be surprised if you sat in Gina’s classroom for a day and saw students who struggle elsewhere in school,” he said. “They excel in her class because she allows students to find their creativity, and finds something good in every person,” he said.

Melton struggled to hold back tears. 

“They are amazing kids,” she said.

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Photo from Comsewogue

When Mike Mosca was formally introduced as the incoming principal of Comsewogue High School at this past January’s district board meeting, he expressed his desire to revamp the school’s business department, saying he was focused on getting his students to the next step of their lives, whether it be college or straight into their careers. 

Comsewogue School District From left: Susan Casali, Jennifer Polychronakos, Michael Mosca, Joseph Coniglione and Jennifer Quinn. Photo from David Luces

Working together with Comsewogue Superintendent Jennifer Quinn, fellow teachers and administrators, collectively they have already begun making changes to the business curriculum at the start of this school year. 

In conjunction with this strategy, the high school has revitalized its School to Career Advisory Committee, which aims to help students with their career paths and become productive members of the community. The group will be made up of teachers, administrators, business leaders, local professionals, community members, students and other stakeholders.

“We think this is something we believe will get our students to the next level,” Mosca said. “We have been reaching out to professionals and asking them, ‘What are you looking for in a candidate?’ and use that help and sculpt our students to be successful post school.”

Mosca said he hopes that the revamped curriculum and committee will help bridge the gap from school to the next stage of a student’s life.

“We want to make the business curriculum focused on career readiness and want to make sure they gain the skills needed for the 21st century and their careers,” he said.

The principal of the high school said it has already begun reaching out to community members, organizations, professionals, business leaders, among others, to see who would be interested in joining the committee. 

As of now, the district has around 50 people who have pledged to join the committee. Together they will provide input on how the business courses can be improved as well as connecting students with professionals in their preferred career path. 

Mosca said they have plans on doing mock interview days with students, job shadowing opportunities, guest speakers to talk to students and set up possible internships. 

Anthony Ketterer, business education teacher, said he believes this is a great opportunity and advantageous for students at the high school. 

“We want our students to think about their careers and life after high school,” he said. “We want to bring students and professionals together … and continue the strong relationship between the community and the school.”

Ketterer said the main goal is to better educate students and teach them practical skills that they can use in the future. He also said they want to provide resources to students who chose to pursue trade and vocational careers after graduating. 

Beginning in September, administrators and teachers began the first step in the business department revamp when it began offering a virtual enterprise business class to seniors. 

The six-credit course offered through SUNY Farmingdale allows students to essentially run a virtual business, specifically a clothing business, which was chosen by the students. 

Mosca said the class is made up of 10 students and will act as a liaison for the committee on how they can further improve the curriculum for future students. 

The principal also mentioned that members of the committee donated cubicles, desks and other office materials to mimic a real-life business setting.

“We want our students to think about their careers and life after high school.”

— Anthony Ketterer

 

“They are getting real-world experience — they are our pioneers and they are going to be working closely with the committee,” Mosca said.

He wants to make this experience accessible to all students in the district and hopes to expand it younger students down the line. 

In addition, the principal said he wants to make sure they are catering to different fields and career paths that students are interested in nowadays, adding there are “so many directions they can go in now.”

In response, administrators have reached out to professionals in the health care and medical field like St. Charles Hospital and Northwell Health. Local officials and politicians have expressed interest in contributing to the committee. 

Mosca also has plans to eventually create a senior workshop stemming off ideas from the committee. He said there are opportunities to teach students important life skills like changing a tire or filing their taxes.

The committee plans to meet several times a year and its first advisory meeting will be on Nov. 14 at Comsewogue High School. 

“Getting our students exploring these opportunities is the goal,” Mosca said. “They should be thinking about this and their careers as early as possible.”

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At 3-3 in their division, Comsewogue’s varsity football team needed a road win against East Islip when Jaden Martinez punched in from six yards out for a Warrior touch down on their opening drive in the final quarter, and with the point after tied the game at 7-7. With 10:49 left in regulation East Islip scored two unanswered touchdowns for which the Warriors had no answer, to win the game 21-7 in a Div. III matchup Oct. 26.

The loss drops Comsewogue to 3-4 forcing a must win game when the Warriors travel to Miller Place Nov. 1 in their final game of the regular season. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.

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It was the youth of the Comsewogue soccer team that delivered a gift to the senior class when freshman Angelina Ortiz retied the game at 1-1 late in the first half and delivered the go-ahead goal four minutes into the second against visiting Riverhead, senior night Oct. 21. The Blue Waves rallied back when Megan McIntosh stretched the net twice, but the Warrior’s own Gianna Gritzmacher and Alyse Then both scored for the Warriors to win the game 4-2.  

The Warriors are on a roll with their winning ways notching their 6th victory in a row, concluding their regular season at 8-5-1 in Division I.

Comsewogue is solidly positioned for the post season with their opening playoff game Oct. 28 at 2:00 p.m. Details on who and where they play was not available by press time.

Huntington Co-Captain Holly Wright takes a shot on goal in a road game against Comsewogue Oct. 12. Photo by Bill Landon

The Comsewogue field hockey team’s game Oct. 12 was scoreless after 60 minutes of regulation, forcing the Warriors into a shootout against the visiting Blue Devils of Huntington. Lauren LoScalzo and teammate Anna Wickey settled it for the Blue Devils besting the Warriors 2-1 in the shootout to snatch the victory.

The win lifts Huntington to 5-7 in league with two games remaining before post season play begins.

Comsewogue drops to 4-7 and are back in action Oct. 15 on the road against Lindenhurst before their final game of the regular season at home two days later on senior night. Game time is 6 p.m.

Huntington set themselves up against Sachem East Oct. 15 at home game time at 4 p.m. They will be back at it hosting Riverhead Oct. 17 with game time set for 4 p.m.

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Comsewogue library takes up task of preserving history

A number of artifacts now being displayed at the Comsewogue Public Library. Photo by Kyle Barr

If the old, black-and-white photos could speak, some would be crying. Others, perhaps, could be looking forward to the future.

Past Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld and Cumsewogue Historical Society President Jack Smith on a recent trip to the Gentlemen’s Driving Park in Terryville. File photo by Elana Glowatz

For 10 years, Jack Smith, a Port Jefferson Station resident and retired teacher, built the historical society from the ground up. He collected countless documents and materials and became a leading figure in local history. The Cumsewogue Historical Society, named to reflect the old spelling of the original Native Americans in that area, would be at the head of numerous outreach projects, from advocating Brookhaven town buy the Gentleman’s Driving Park in Terryville to fighting to preserve two historical structures on Main Street in Port Jefferson Station. Smith was named one of TBR News Media’s persons of the year on two separate occasions.

But by the end of 2018, Smith said he had no real choice but to dissolve the historical society, leaving thousands of artifacts to the care of the Comsewogue Public Library.

Smith said the historical society’s near 10-year run ended for a number of reasons. One was the society’s space at the Comsewogue Union Hall had mold problems and was an ill place to store items of historical significance, it not being climate controlled with structural issues. The other was the charter renewal for the historical society required that the society have five board members to vote. Smith added it had gotten harder and harder to find people willing to serve. At the start of 2019, he was also planning a half-year-long trip, and there would be very few people who could have taken care of the artifacts.

“It was just a perfect storm” he said. “I was very disappointed it couldn’t continue.”

Smith, 69, said it had grown increasingly hard to get the community active in its events.

Nick Acampora, the president of the Greater Port Jefferson Historical Society, had worked for years alongside Smith on a number of projects. He said people are busy in this day and age with work, and many have little time for volunteering. While he added his group is fortunate in the amount of support it gets, he’s always worried for the future.

“It’s a tough time for all volunteer organizations,” Acampora said. “Even some of our board members, some of them have been doing it for 30 years. When one of them steps back someone needs to take over, and who do we have to pass the baton onto?”

Brookhaven town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said town officials will continue to work to preserve historical sites in the area, all the while praising Smith for his past work.

“The Cumsewogue Historical Society has laid the foundation for us to continue to highlight history,” she said.

Instead of letting all the artifacts fall to the wayside, Smith presented all artifacts as a deed of gift to the Comsewogue Public Library, which he described as one of the real community centers in the PJS/Terryville area.

Library’s new historical role

Debbie Engelhardt, the library’s director, said she has long agreed that should the historical society dissolve for any reason the library would take in its artifacts.

“So while they understood the town historian would take very good care of the items, there was concern they wouldn’t be as readily available to the local residents,” she said. 

Lori Holtz, the exhibit coordinator and head of adult services at the library, made the connection that other historical societies often have deep roots and foundations in a community, leading to greater support, while the Cumsewogue Historical Society was born out of passion, it had that much more work to do, and needed that extra community support.

A number of artifacts now being displayed at the Comsewogue Public Library. Photo by Kyle Barr

“What he [Smith] was doing which was really noble — he was trying to gather things that really haven’t been gathered all this time and trying to create something,” she said. 

The library has displayed numerous items from the old historical society’s collection, including pictures and artifacts from the Comsewogue school district, pictures of the Gladyz family on their farm and even the rusted shell of binoculars from the old Gentleman’s Driving Park. The library plans to rotate these items in and out throughout the year.

However, the library isn’t stopping there. Holtz said they have future plans, including some things the historical society wouldn’t have been able to do, including scanning and digitizing some of the artifacts to make them available on the library’s website.

In honor of October being American Archives Month, the library is planning to put together an exhibit of several of the historical pictures and artifacts still not available at the library. The display will be available during regular operating hours. 

“We’re thinking it’s not going to be a really heavy lift to continue what we were doing and hopefully do a little bit more,” Holtz said. “Hopefully more people in the community do come forth.”

Barbara Russell, the Brookhaven town historian said the group did the right thing by donating all its materials to the library. 

“It takes a group of people to maintain a historical society,” Russell said. “They had a nice group of working members, but it was small, and you can’t have that small a pool of volunteers.” 

Smith continues to be involved with his artifacts, taking the trip to the library when the directors need help identifying artifacts. Both library and Smith have long worked together since the beginning of the historical society doing displays and lectures, but the president of the dissolved society said even then he would have a hard time getting people to come to events. 

Historical advocacy

Smith said while he will still continue to be active in the area, his advocacy days are largely over.

He and the historical society were involved in several projects, having been at the head of Brookhaven buying the Gentleman’s Driving Park property to help preserve it. Last year, Smith made a huge push to preserve 101 and 105 Main St. adjacent to the south side of the train tracks in Port Jefferson. Those buildings date to the early 1900s, one of which housed E.H. Rogers Feed Mill, a relic of the area’s agricultural roots. While the 2014 Port Jefferson Station Commercial Hub Study contained recommendations from local architects for preserving a number of those buildings, Smith had said last year they were under threat by local developers.

The above photo, taken in the early 1900s, is of the Rogers Grain and Feed Mill (a.k.a. the Remz Feed and Grain Mill) in Port Jefferson Station which serviced local and far-reaching businesses, farms and families throughout Long Island including the Brookhaven National Laboratory. This photo, along with others of the era, is on view at the Terryville Union Hall. Photo courtesy of Cumsewogue Historical Society

Sarah Kautz, the preservation director of Preservation Long Island, a nonprofit that advocates for protection and stewardship of historic sites, said Cumsewogue had reached out to them over those buildings looking for support. She added lacking support like the now defunct historical society to keep tabs on such projects impacts their ability to try and preserve such properties.

“For the work we do in helping to advocate for preservation across Long Island, we really depend on partners like that in local communities, because they’re the ones on the ground, they find out about these new proposals,” she said. “Advocacy really comes from them, the grass roots.”

Cartright said there are no new plans presented to the town about those properties on Main Street, but said she will work to protect those historic sites, along with maintaining the town-owned properties of the Gentleman’s Driving Park and Terryville Union Hall.

Acampora said he had conversations with Smith last year about those particular properties and had promised to work to preserve them. The news that his neighboring historical society had dissolved came as a shock to him and to the rest of the historical society’s board. He said his group will do its best to try and preserve those properties, along with other historical sites in the PJS/Terryville area.

“I’m hoping we can do something with those buildings on the south side of the tracks,” he said. “It’s going to be up to us, and that’s what we try to do with any of our old buildings — keep an eye on it and do what we can.”

It was a scoreless game Sept. 23 for the first 60 minutes as the Comsewogue boys soccer team looked to put more points on the win column in the early season, but the Bulls of Smithtown East peppered the scoreboard with three unanswered goals in the final 18 minutes to put the game away. Senior Noah Lavrenchik scored for the Bulls as did junior midfielder Nicholas Zodda. Sophomore forward Liam Stanley rounded out the scoring to lift the Bulls to 4-0-1 in league IV, 5-0-1 overall. The Comsewogue Warriors currently sit at 2-3.

Comsewogue hit the road Sept. 25 against East Islip. Smithtown East looked to build on their winning momentum when they took on Deer Park at home — also on Sept. 25. Game times are 4:30pm and 4:00pm respectively.