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Heritage Center

The Heritage Center Trust hosted its 11th annual tree lighting Dec. 2 at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai, drawing a crowd of several hundred who were ready to celebrate the breakout of the Christmas season.

The Mount Sinai Middle School Jazz Choir led the crowd in classic Christmas carols before fire trucks of the Mount Sinai Fire Department drove in with lights flashing, delivering Santa himself to the expectant crowd.

After the tree lighting, attendees were able to eat fresh baked cookies and kids had the opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap and take pictures.

The annual tree lighting at Heritage Park has been a part of the Mount Sinai community since 2007, but Jaime Baldassare, who volunteers for the center trust, said the lighting was a staple in the community before the Heritage Center Trust was established, first being hosted at the post office and later at the Mount Sinai Fire Department building.

Heritage Trust and community members say if a cell tower were to come to Mount Sinai, they’d prefer to see it behind the Heritage Center at the park. Photo by Tom Carbone

A beloved local park is gauging the reception of a potential development.

Members of Heritage Trust in Mount Sinai are currently evaluating a proposal made by a Verizon representative last month to build a cellphone tower on the property.

“Aesthetically, we would want it to look nice, and we don’t want it to change the whole character at Heritage.”

— Lori Baldassare

According to Lori Baldassare, the nonprofit’s president, the group was contacted by Verizon Wireless consultant, Robert Monteleone, a few weeks before the trust’s annual meeting in early February.

Without a design or any specific plan yet in place, Baldassare said Verizon’s bare-bones pitch is to install a tower somewhere on a 0.7-acre stretch of property at 633 Mount Sinai-Coram Road to help eliminate a cellular “dead zone” in the area, where weak signals and dropped calls can create safety issues. More and more cell towers have popped up across the state in recent years as less residents hold onto their landlines, instead relying almost completely on their cellphones. Phone carriers, like Verizon and AT&T, are required to make sure dangerous coverage gaps are filled.

Baldassare said she and other Heritage members requested more information from Monteleone as to how obtrusive the proposed tower would be and exactly where the structure might be located on the scenic site, which features a playground, baseball field, walking path, gardens, a plant maze and mini-golf course.

“Do we want a cell tower in the park? Every tower I’ve seen has been very big, tall and noticeable with a big concrete base.”

— Ann Becker

“Aesthetically, we would want it to look nice, and we don’t want it to change the whole character at Heritage,” Baldassare said, hoping that the tower be built behind the Heritage Center building, where there are already tall poles and transformers installed. “We certainly don’t want it in front of our building.”

But a cell tower at Heritage would come with an added benefit, Baldassare said.

“Part of the reason we’re considering it is that the income generated from the cell tower — roughly between $2,500 and $3,500 a month — would go directly to Heritage Trust to help support our programs, activities and efforts at the park,” she said. “It would certainly be a help to us as we don’t get taxpayer money, and rely on donations.”

She said she was “cautiously pursuing” the idea.

“We’re trying to weigh out the pros and cons based on what comes back to us from Verizon,” Baldassare said. “We’re doing our due diligence.”

The topic came up during a March 5 Mount Sinai Civic Association meeting. Civic Association President Ann Becker led the discussion, raising questions and making clear to the public that no application for the cellphone tower has been submitted.

“Nothing has happened yet, but it’s now on our radar,” Becker said. “I guess the downside is, do we want a cell tower in the park? Every tower I’ve seen has been very big, tall and noticeable with a big concrete base.”

“This would be an example of the money going to a true community organization with low overhead and all the benefits directly applied to the community.”

— John Leonard

Vice President Brad Arrington said there are alternative models and size options available when it comes to towers.“Would there be room on a cellphone tower to share and cooperate with other providers?” asked park volunteer Fred Drewes, referring to the service of not just Verizon customers.

Becker said there is.

“If Verizon builds it and, say, Sprint rents from Verizon by paying an additional fee, there would be that additional benefit,” she said. “One tower, more money, less construction.”

Mount Sinai resident John Leonard said via Facebook that he would support the cell tower as long as the revenue went to the Heritage Trust, which he commended for being a 100 percent volunteer board.

“They have done amazing things,” Leonard said. “This would be an example of the money going to a true community organization with low overhead and all the benefits directly applied to the community. It’ll help this group continue doing great things for our region.”

But not all residents seem to be on board.

“It’s a horrible idea,” Robyn Blumstein said. “What an eyesore for a beautiful park.”

Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park held its annual breakfast with Santa Sunday.

A buffet breakfast complete with eggs, Belgian waffles, bacon, sausage, bagels, fresh fruit, juice and hot beverages was served inside the Heritage Center as families waited to take a photo with Santa Claus. Each child also received a favor for attending one of the three sessions Dec. 10.

Following the full buffet breakfast, Johnny Whimple and the kids in attendance filled the room with Christmas spirit with a holiday music sing-along.

Non-perishable food donations were also collected during the event for a local food pantry.

Heritage Park was filled with the sights and sounds of Christmas as hundreds flocked to Heritage Park in Mount Sinai for the Heritage Trust’s annual Breakfast with Santa.

Families could sign up for one of three morning sessions Dec. 11 to enjoy a catered breakfast while waiting for Aw Snap Photobooth to take family photos with Saint Nick. Festive decorations filled the interior of the Heritage Center and a guitarist played holiday favorites while inviting children to sing and dance with him, and later, Father Christmas himself. Children were also given candy canes and small favors for participating in the sold-out event.

Some families came with non-perishable donations to be given to a local food pantry.

Heritage Center. File photo

This year, two of Heritage Park’s primary fundraisers, the SummerFest Concert and Fall Into Fun Carnival, were severely impacted by weather. Because of this, the Heritage Trust Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has an urgent appeal to close the gap in its budget.

Currently, the budget shortfall is $25,000, and Heritage Trust is in need of help to be able to continue to maintain the Heritage Park and Heritage Center, and offer its community events and programs.

Heritage Trust remains dedicated to maintaining all it has to offer.

Upcoming are the Halloween Festival, Parade of American Flags, Christmas tree and menorah lightings and a breakfast with Santa.

New and exciting things are also happening at the park, including a putting green with a water feature being installed adjacent to the walking path near The Shack, and an amphitheater, ice skating rink and splash pad, as well as repairs to the playground, are also in the works.

To make a tax-deductible contribution and help close the gap, send donations to Heritage Trust, 633 Mount Sinai Coram Road, Mount Sinai, NY 11766 or visit www.msheritagetrust.org and click on donations.

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Santa’s been sticking around the Heritage Center in Mount Sinai for the last few days.

On Sunday, Santa paid a special visit to the park for its annual breakfast. Year after year families get a closer look at Santa. Lori Baldassare, President of Heritage Trust, says residents also bring nonperishable food items that are donated to local pantries.

Tuscany Gourmet Market provided a buffet breakfast, and families met with Santa and could receive a professional photo by Faraz and Patricia Zaidi from Aw Snap Booths from Selden. Children were also given food for Santa’s reindeer to help jolly ole St. Nick find his way around the neighborhood on Christmas day.

Baldassare started Breakfast with Santa 21 years ago when she was the president of the Mount Sinai Civic Association. The event was held in the Handlebar restaurant in Mount Sinai — the restaurant owners sold the property 2008. In 2003, when the park was still in it’s early construction phase, Baldassare left the civic association for Heritage Trust, and the event followed.

“The community place is the perfect place to hold the event because it was created to be the [community’s] gathering place,” Baldassare said. “It signifies the tradition of [a] community.”

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