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History

Mount Sinai Scout Michael Muroff stands with his completed Eagle Scout project Sept. 29, the front door of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society. Photo by Alex Petroski

A Mount Sinai Boy Scout literally restored an entryway to local history to complete his Eagle Scout project.

The front door to the William Miller House on North Country Road, a centuries-old building that has long served as the headquarters for the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society, was in a state of disrepair for longer than historian Edna Giffen could remember. Now, thanks to 17-year-old Scout Michael Muroff from Troop 1776, a brand new door constructed with a nod to history in mind hangs from the hinges, serving as a refurbished entry to local history.

Boy Scouts hoping to achieve Eagle status, the highest rank attainable by a male Scout, are tasked with completing a project that demonstrates leadership and benefits the community. Repairing the front door of the historical society met the criteria for Muroff, who said he and his family had been attending events — like the annual Country Fair that took place Sept. 29 during Muroff’s project unveiling — at the house since he was a kid.

Eagle Scout Michael Muroff, center, receives a proclamation from Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner, third from right, after unveiling is project Sept. 29. Photo by Alex Petroski

“I’ve always had an interest in local history, and it was always a subject I excelled at in class, and I thought by doing this project it would be a good way of giving back to the community and something that I really enjoy,” he said.

The work started with four to five weekends dedicated to just stripping the old paint off of the door frame using a heat gun and metal stripper, according to the Scout. With help from a local woodworker and others, a new, yet true to the original batten door was constructed. Batten doors traditionally have between six and eight wooden planks bound together. Muroff’s door features seven planks and includes the door’s original hinges, restored and repainted as well as part of the project. He also found authentic galvanized nails to match the original and maintain the new door’s historic integrity. The door’s original handle was left as is though, according to Muroff.

“The old door was falling apart and dilapidated, so we had to just completely make a new one,” Muroff said.

Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) attended the event and joked she had never seen the front door of the building hang so straight and close so tightly.

“We always like to take time out of our day to recognize and honor our Scouts,” she said. “So much attention is focused on the bad things our kids are doing and not on the good things they’re doing. It makes me feel good to know that we’re surrounded by some really great kids.”

In August, Muroff’s sister Rebecca completed her Gold Award project, the equivalent to the Eagle project but for Girl Scouts, which entailed cataloging the historical society’s vast collection of historic photos. The Scouts’ dad Greg Muroff served as Michael’s Scoutmaster throughout his time working through the program.

“It’s just wonderful that many years coming down to the Country Fair and to see Postman Pete, just to have my children Rebecca and Michael give back to the historical society and the community is just a wonderful thing,” he said. “Mike has a tremendous love of history and this was an ideal project for him.”

He said it will be special for both him and his son to drive past the house on North Country Road for years to come and see his hard work front and center.

“I have to say, as his dad and Scoutmaster I’m especially proud,” the Scoutmaster said. “The Eagle Scout award is more than just a project, it’s a culmination of their Boy Scout career. It means a lot of leadership, service to the community and self-discipline.”

A ‘Bill of Health’ certificate stating that the whaling vessel Splendid is free of plague or disease with 28 men on board, including the master, Richard P. Smith, on Oct. 27, 1853. From the Whaling Museum Collection

By Nomi Dayan

Have you ever been asked to please stand by? Ever told someone not to barge in? Have you hung on to the bitter end, or been given a clean bill of health? If so, you have spoken like a sailor. 

Each type of human activity, noted essayist L. Pearsall Smith, has its own vocabulary. Perhaps this is most evident in the speech of mariners. 

The English language is a strong testament to how humans have been seafarers for millennia, with a multitude of words and phrases having filtered from life at sea to life on land. Today, a surprising number of phrases, words and expressions still have nautical origins, notably from sailing terminology in the 18th and 19th centuries. While some adopted phrases have fallen by the wayside, many expressions in our everyday language are derived from seafaring.

Barge in: Referring to flat-bottomed work boats, which were awkward to control

Bitter end: The last part of a rope attached to a vessel

Clean bill of health: A document certifying a vessel had been inspected and was free from infection

Dead in the water: A sailing ship that has stopped moving

Down the hatch: A transport term for lowering cargo into the hatch and below deck

Figurehead: A carved ornamental figure affixed to the front of a ship

Foul up: To entangle the line

Fudge the books: While the origins of this term is unclear, one theory connects it to a deceitful Captain Fudge (17th century)

Give leeway: To allow extra room for sideways drift of a ship to leeward of the desired course

High and dry: A beached ship 

Jury rig: Makeshift or temporary repairs using available material

Keel over: To capsize, exposing the ship’s keel   

Show the ropes: Train a newcomer in the use of ropes on sailing vessel

Letting the cat out of the bag: One explanation links this phrase to one form of naval punishment where the offender was whipped with a “cat o’ nine tails,” normally kept in a bag  

Passed with flying colors/Show one’s true colors: Refers to identifying flags and pennants of sailing ships

Pipe down: Using the boatswain’s pipe signaling the crew to retire below deck

A new slant: A sailor will put a new slant on things by reducing sails to achieve an optimum angle of heel to avoid the boat from being pulled over

Slush fund: The ship’s cook created a private money reserve by hoarding bits of grease into a slush fund sold to candle makers

Steer clear: Avoid obstacles at sea

Taken aback: Sails pressed back into the mast from a sudden change of wind, stopping forward motion 

The author is the executive director of The Whaling Museum & Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor.

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A mural has been painted on the side of a business in Rocky Point depicting some of the hamlet's history. Photo by Kyle Barr

A local artist is using an image of the past to illustrate a brighter future.

A newly finished mural on Broadway in Rocky Point highlights the historic nature of the old hamlet while serving to continue efforts to beautify the downtown.

Natalie Rash, Edith Mahler, Geraldine Luglio and Max Braun work on the mural, which was completed last month. Photo by Julia Vogelle

Retired Miller Place High School art teacher Julia Vogelle spearheaded the project and painted the mural, located just outside Rocky Point Ship and Pack, alongside Edith Mahler, a trustee of the Rocky Point Historical Society. It is painted on the side of Belladonna Hair Design, located at 45 Broadway, and faces the entrance of Rocky Point Ship and Pack next door. Vogelle said several local community members, even those just passing by, came to help with the project. She said she even got several of her ex-students involved, including Geraldine Luglio, Max Braun and Natalie Rash, all recent graduates from Miller Place High School.

“It’s been a wonderful experience working with them,” Vogelle said. “It’s really been an effort of love for Rocky Point.”

The mural depicts several historic elements and landmarks of Rocky Point, such as the Noah Hallock Homestead, Indian Rock, The Hallock Landing shipwreck, the RCA Radio Central station, Tilda’s Clock and the Rocky Point train station. Natalie Stiefel, the President of the Rocky Point Historical Society, gave Vogelle a few suggestions on what to include.

“It would take a mural the entire size of the town to represent all the history of Rocky Point, but they did a really good job,” Stiefel said. “Rocky Point is really such a magical place.”

Vogelle said the mural was in planning since spring 2017, and after many months of work it was finally completed in mid-August.

Julia Vogelle, Geraldine Luglio and Natalie Rush work on a mural in Rocky Point. Photo from Julia Vogelle

The former art teacher is one of the people heading up plans for The Brick Studio in St. James after a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2017. The original plan was to locate the studio in Rocky Point in a brick building near the Rocky Point Farmers Market at the corner of Prince and Broadway, but the group was unable to land the deal. Vogelle said this mural project is a way of giving back to the community that originally supported her and the rest of her team.

Steven Badalamenti, who works at Joe’s General Contracting and Masonry, watched as the mural went up over time. He marveled at just how much history there is in the hamlet where he grew up.

“It really did capture the essence of Rocky Point,” Badalamenti said.

The mural was painted with supplies provided by Rocky Point Civic Association in continued efforts to continue to beautify downtown Rocky Point, according to President Charles Bevington.

“Hopefully Rocky Point grows slowly with some dynamic but still within the spirit of the local culture,” Bevington said.

Rocky Point Statuary on Route 25A has been owned by Mario Tribuzio since 1966. The business continues to sell statues made from concrete by Tribuzio despite it being down to a one-man operation. Photo by Kyle Barr

Mario Tribuzio, the 87-year-old owner of Rocky Point Statuary on Route 25A, sat in his chair among gods and angels and wondered how the deer survive the winter.

“They have to drink out of people’s bird baths and they go in other people’s gardens,” Tribuzio said. “You’re tucked into a nice warm house and they’re surviving out there in the winter, rain, ice and snow. Incredible, eh? But I feel bad for the deer. The deer got to make a living too.”

Rocky Point Statuary on Route 25A has been owned by Mario Tribuzio since 1966. The business continues to sell statues made from concrete by Tribuzio despite it being down to a one-man operation. Photo by Kyle Barr

Somehow, despite the cold and the frost, year after year they survive, just like the statuary. Every winter the business slows to a crawl, but every spring Tribuzio is there, in his chair, awaiting the next customer to walk through his gate.

Every weekday morning, he walks from his house, just across the street, and opens the gates to the sound of rushing traffic. Every day he gets customers who come to him saying they had driven by so many times, wondering at the hundreds of Jesus, Mary and Buddha statues out front, but having never decided to stop in.

That wonderland of monsters, gods and animals is something the old statue maker has been building since 1966, when he first opened. In the workshop there are hundreds of statue molds lying in heaps on worn wood shelves and floors. In his paint studio, really a small shed to the rear of the statuary property, Tribuzio gives attention to his own deer. They’re concrete and painted with an airbrush and a well-practiced hand. Without close scrutiny, a passing figure might think they’re real.

“That’s why I’m still around — because I’m making them, but I can’t pick up a bag of cement no more,” he said. His face grew into a smile as he commented on his waning strength. “I never knew it was so heavy — a bag of cement, it’s like they’re making them heavier today, something’s going on.”

Tribuzio got his start as a young kid, carving shapes and figures out of soap. Later, a newly married Tribuzio was driving by the property on Route 25A and saw a man was selling statues on his front lawn. He bought the property in 1966 and moved in. Later, he bought a house just across from that property and has lived there ever since. From his perch behind the chain-link fence he has seen things change, and he said he questions if there is still a desire for crafts like his.

Rocky Point Statuary on Route 25A has been owned by Mario Tribuzio since 1966. The business continues to sell statues made from concrete by Tribuzio despite it being down to a one-man operation. Photo by Kyle Barr

“People are running too far too fast, the pace of living today is just too much,” Tribuzio said. “Once people entertained themselves at home doing sculpting — carving stuff.”

With the majority of his family living in Maine, most of the time he is alone, even if he remains in the company of his stone brothers and sisters.

“Even the smell of a bag of cement brings back so many memories,” Tribuzio’s daughter Marjorie Adams said. “Statue making is in his blood, and he’s been doing it his whole life.”

Though all three of Tribuzio’s children moved up to Maine, several of his children and grandchildren still take the trek south periodically to help him in his workshop and also learn the art of statue making. Tribuzio’s granddaughter Megan Tribuzio said some of her family has continued their grandfather’s trade and made a small statuary in the town of Northport, Maine.

“I’m proud of his business, and I hope there is some way to keep it open,” Tribuzio’s granddaughter said. “No matter where you are, a lot of people like those statues, whether it’s a mermaid, a dolphin or a deer, people like to have them in their yard.”

Rocky Point Statuary on Route 25A has been owned by Mario Tribuzio since 1966. The business continues to sell statues made from concrete by Tribuzio despite it being down to a one-man operation. Photo by Kyle Barr

Where in earlier decades he had young people working with him to make the statues, now it’s just him. He said the liability insurance has pushed out any hope of hiring anybody new. And as he ages he finds it near impossible to lift the bags of concrete to poor into the molds. He’s contented himself by making smaller statues like his deer, or the small ornaments designed to look like bread, donuts and Italian bread real enough to eat.

David Perry, who now lives in Brentwood, worked in the statuary for nearly 25 years before heart issues forced him to stop. Tribuzio called him one of the best statue painters he ever saw, painting beautiful work on images of Jesus or Venus, back before it became too expensive to use the glossy lacquer paints.

“He was more than just a boss, he was a good friend, and he’s about the only thing that I have that resembles family anymore,” Perry said. “He’s very fair, that’s the best way to put it, he’s real old school.”

Tribuzio remains the last thread that is currently holding the statuary together, and despite the family’s desire to maintain the business it would be hard for any of them to leave Maine and take it over.

Still, the old statue maker has cement in his blood, and for now he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

“I’m fortunate, real fortunate,” Tribuzio said. “I started out dedicated to do something like this and I can’t believe how it worked out myself.”

Rocky Point Statuary on Route 25A has been owned by Mario Tribuzio since 1966. The business continues to sell statues made from concrete by Tribuzio despite it being down to a one-man operation. Photo by Kyle Barr

Rebecca Muroff, a 17-year-old Girl Scout Gold Award recipient, shows off the archive of historical photos she created for the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society Aug. 11. Photo by Alex Petroski

A piece of history has been organized and preserved thanks to the hard work of a Mount Sinai teen.

Girl Scouts looking to achieve their Gold Award, the highest honor a scout can earn, are tasked with identifying an issue in their community, conducting research, pitching a project, and shepherding it to completion in a leadership role in the hopes of achieving some greater good for the community. Rebecca Muroff, a Mount Sinai High School student heading into her senior year, stood at the William Miller House, the headquarters of the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society on North Country Road in Miller Place, Aug. 11 and shared the byproduct of months of hard work as the culmination of her Gold Award project.

Muroff and her family have long enjoyed events held by the historical society, from the annual Country Fair to the local Christmas tradition of passing letters to Santa off to Postman Pete, so exploring a project to help an organization close to her heart was a no-brainer, she said. The Gold Award recipient, beginning in October 2017, sifted through the historical society’s vast collection of old photos amassed since its inception in 1974 to create a pictorial archive, labeling the photos with numbers and a corresponding destination in a spreadsheet, including categories like location, date, names of the people in the photo and any other pertinent comments. The result is a detailed catalog available to visitors who can now quickly and easily find photos of specific people or events dating back decades. Muroff said plans are even in the works to digitize the archive in some manner.

From left, Troop 1090 leaders Tara Broome and Gretchen Lynch join Muroff’s parent Greg and Christine, right and third from right, as well as Edna Giffen of the society, second from right, in honoring the latest Gold Award recipient. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It shows people as we matured over the years and there are a lot of people — members — that, because we were founded in ’74, have passed or moved away,” said Edna Giffen, the society’s recording secretary and archivist, who Muroff said played a crucial role in working on the project. “I realized there are people in the pictures that I don’t even know. Members will be glad to see this.”

Muroff said she always liked going to events at the society as a kid and reflected on the idea that she’d created something that will enrich visits by future generations.

“It’s just nice I think to have tangible memories of the historical society,” she said. “Now people can look through the pictures and people can see themselves or their family members. It’s a nice feeling to know that I’m preserving history so other people can enjoy it.”

Tara Broome and Gretchen Lynch, Muroff’s leaders in Girl Scout Troop 1090, attended the Aug. 11 event set up to unveil the new photo archive.

“It’s really beautiful because we started with the whole troop when they were in second grade and now they’re seniors in high school,” Broome said.

Lynch added the troop had about 20 members when the girls were young, and Muroff was one of only five to earn the Gold Award.

“We’re almost like second mothers to them really,” she said. “They really persevered and did everything that was asked of them, and they’re like a family now.”

Muroff’s actual parents, Christine and Greg, also beamed with pride over their daughter’s accomplishment.

“It really hit me yesterday when we went to the Girl Scouts store to complete her sash,” her mom said. “I’m so happy she stuck with it.”

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E.H. Rogers Feed and Grain, circa 1910. Photo from Ken Brady Collection

Revitalization plans between the train tracks and Route 347 in Port Jefferson Station have an eye toward the future, but those who have dedicated their lives to the community’s history have a message: not so fast.

Five buildings with historical roots in Port Jefferson Station that fall squarely within the bounds of Town of Brookhaven’s territory slated for redevelopment, as indicated during its planning board’s July 24 presentation during a Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association meeting, could be at risk of being demolished. Two of the buildings, 101 and 105 Main St., adjacent to the south side of the train tracks, could be in more imminent danger, according to Jack Smith, president of Cumsewogue Historical Society, based on a phone call he said he had in March with Charlie Lefkowitz, a real estate developer who owns many of the buildings in the area personally or in part with business associates.

The present day Costigan building, which operates as a law office. Photo by Jack Smith

The buildings, dating from the early 1900s, one of which housed E.H. Rogers Feed Mill, serve as links back to the area’s agricultural roots, according to Smith.

“We worked with the community and town for several years,” Lefkowitz said in a phone interview about the proposed redevelopment as a whole, though he declined to comment specifically on the historical buildings other than to confirm he spoke with Smith in March. “We will continue to work with the community and the town to create the best product and vision for Port Jefferson Station.”

In 2014, the findings of the Port Jefferson Station Commercial Hub Study commissioned by the town to compile community feedback and detailed analysis from professionals to determine what redevelopment of the area might entail were released to the public. Though the study has no legal bindings, it contains recommendations from Port Jefferson-based architects and consultants for the study, Campani and Schwarting Architects founders Frances Campani and Michael Schwarting, as well as longtime Suffolk County planner Lee Koppelman, calling for the preservation and incorporation of the five buildings into future redevelopment plans.

Smith said Lefkowitz told him the two buildings nearest the train tracks specifically are in a state of disrepair and cannot be preserved, despite the fact that they are occupied by businesses currently. Smith said the developer was willing to preserve relics from the historical structures and even establish a museum to memorialize the history, which Smith called “nonsense” and “insulting.” Schwarting said he disagreed with Lefkowitz’s assertion, relayed to him by Smith during a joint interview July 20.

“They’ve got good bones,” the architect said of the buildings.

Schwarting’s partner Campani said she understood the dilemma developers like Lefkowitz face in situations like these, though she agreed she does not see a case for needing to knock the buildings down rather than refurbishing them and incorporating them into revitalization plans.

“These buildings should be celebrated not simply demolished.”

— Nick Acampora

“Part of the problem, which is one of the things we tried to address in the study, is that it’s not a very pedestrian-friendly area right now, and you sort of have to slow down to a pedestrian pace to start to appreciate these things,” Campani said. “If you’re flying by at 40 miles per hour, you’re not going to.”

Sarah Kautz, preservation director of Preservation Long Island, a nonprofit that advocates for the protection and stewardship of historic sites, said the buildings’ location on a state road and proximity to a Long Island Rail Road station would trigger review by New York State as part of the State Environmental Quality Review Act prior to demolition, though getting the sites listed on state or national historic registries would go a long way toward securing their protection.

“It doesn’t prevent [demolition], but it does put it on a longer path, and it can bring private owners to the table in a serious way and kind of leverage a little bit of a negotiation,” she said, adding that public support and collaboration between the two historical sites would ultimately serve as strong deterrents against the approval of any plans ultimately necessary from the town’s planning board when a site plan is eventually weighed. Kautz said the organization would support a push to preserve the buildings. “They’re important buildings. The local community will benefit more from a rehab than it would by a total blitz.”

Nick Acampora, president of the Historical Society of Greater Port Jefferson, pledged to support Smith in his efforts, even if it comes to “laying down in front of a bulldozer.”

“These buildings should be celebrated not simply demolished,” Acampora said.

Reviewed by Victoria Espinoza

Author Patricia Novak with a copy of her book.

With Patricia J. Novak’s new book, you don’t need a time machine to see what the Town of Huntington was like 100 years ago.

Broken into seven chapters, “Huntington,” part of the Arcadia Publishing’s Postcard History Series, looks through the lens at old postcards to get glimpses of what life in Huntington was like back in the day.

“I have been collecting postcards of the towns/hamlets in Huntington township since the 1980s,” said Novak in a recent interview, adding “Before the internet (and eBay), I acquired them by visiting postcard shows and by mail. Dealers would send me their cards for review and I would pick what I wanted. I would return the ones I didn’t want and include a check for the keepers. When Arcadia Publishing introduced their new Postcard History Series, I knew I had a book!”

Novak, who grew up in Huntington, organized her book by different parts of the community. The various chapters, which feature over 220 black-and-white images, span religious structures, schools, businesses and scenes of residents from years past enjoying their lives in the North Shore town. 

The first chapter starts off with a very familiar site, Huntington Town Hall. Initially used as a high school for Huntington students starting in 1910, it eventually changed hands to become the center of government. 

Other school buildings in Huntington and Northport are featured in this chapter as well, along with old mailers detailing and encouraging residents to support school expansion projects due to a population increase in the area after World War II. It’s quite interesting to read a message from Huntington’s school board in 1954 and see the similarities in budget pitches with school boards currently in power.

Aside from school buildings, the first chapter also shows churches in the area, some that look almost identical now as they first did in the early 20th century and some that are no longer standing.

The cover of Novak’s book

Another chapter gives readers a glimpse into the lives of the residents that came before them. Familiar structures like William K. Vanderbilt II’s mansion, Eagles Nest, in Centerport and the Huntington Country Club can be seen in their early starts, but you can also learn about impressive establishments like the Camp Christian Endeavour, located close to where the Huntington train station now stands. This organization worked to provide an opportunity for disadvantaged city boys and girls to enjoy outdoor recreation, three meals, clean surroundings and fresh air for 10 days every summer. Photos show children swinging and enjoying the Huntington scenery. 

Perhaps the most fun aspect of a book like this is comparing the old photos to what everything looks like now, including the chapter that shows the business establishments of the past featured in several postcards. 

Novak said her favorite postcards are ones that tell the greatest stories.“The real-photo postcards are exciting, but any postcard that has writing on it which gives us some insight on events and daily life from that time period are particularly interesting to me.” 

And although she was not phased with the wealth of information she had to work from, Novak said she was surprised with some of the personal stories she got to learn.

“I did extensive research on many of the individuals that I ‘met’ along the way,” she said. “The contributions they made to the social and economic progress of Huntington during the early 1900s should not be overlooked. I even went to visit their graves.”

As for why she thinks people should be interested in learning more about Huntington’s past, Novak said this town has no shortage of fascinating stories.

“Huntington has a rich history dating back to the 1600s,” she said. “It is a perfect, and well-documented microcosm of how communities grew from European settlements to our modern footprints today.”

A lifelong resident of the Town of Huntington, author Patricia J. Novak is a librarian and archivist at the South Huntington Public Library and a member of the Huntington Historical Society. “Huntington” is available online at www.arcadiapublishing.com, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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Centereach's cheerleading team competes at UCA nationals. Photo from Middle Country school district

By Desirée Keegan

All the girls wanted was to hear Centereach’s name called. When they heard they were going straight through to the Universal Cheerleaders Association national championship finals, they couldn’t have predicted the chain of events that would occur.

The Cougars had never reached the national finals. As the high of hearing they were in wore off, and they had to hit the stage the next day, the nerves started to kick back in.

Centereach’s cheerleading team competes at UCA nationals. Photo from Middle Country school district

“Nobody really talked,” junior Lynda D’Alessandro said. “We weren’t hyping each other up like we were the day before, we weren’t hitting — we weren’t confident in what we were doing.

It was just a different vibe. But as soon as we were getting ready to compete, everyone was saying, ‘C’mon, we’ve got this. Everyone’s been working so hard. It’s only 150 seconds, we can do it.’ At that point, I said to myself: ‘We’ve got it.”’

Centereach nailed its routine, and knowing they were up against three previous nationally-ranked Division II Large Varsity teams from Long Island, the girls weren’t sure where the chips would fall.

“We were shaking,” sophomore Corinne Michalski said as her team waited for the results to come in. “If you were sitting by that semicircle our team was probably the loudest because we were hysterically crying.”

The girls sat uneasy, fingers squeezed between one another as they heard team after team get called before them. Once the judges reached the Top 5, the Cougars couldn’t contain their excitement.

“If you ask me or anyone else, we would say ‘I don’t know how it looks; I don’t know if we’re going to do well,’” D’Alessandro said of her team’s mentality heading down to Florida to compete. “Hearing two national champion team’s names get called before us, I thought, ‘How does Centereach, a team that’s never made it past the preliminary round, go straight through and place ahead of them?”’

With two teams left, Centereach was finally called, and for the first time in school history Feb. 11, the cheer team placed at nationals.

Centereach’s cheerleading team competes at UCA nationals. Photo from Middle Country school district

Naturally, yelling and screaming ensued.

“It was a feeling like no other,” Michalski said. “None of us went down there expecting to do what we did. Every single week at local competitions we never even placed. We [faced] teams we never in our wildest dreams thought we could beat. It still feels like a dream; it doesn’t feel like I’m awake.”

Centereach had several members drop out at the beginning of the season, and pulled up an eighth-grader to fill the squad. Over the course of competition, the team was never at full strength, with a cheerleader or two usually sitting out due to injury or illness. Watching her team compete on the national stage in the preliminary round, head coach Stephani Catalano said she couldn’t believe her eyes. Her team was one of two from the field of 14 to hit a perfect routine.

“The first 26 seconds of our routine are the hardest part of our routine,” she said. “We say the second the arabesques hit, we know the rest of our routine we can hit without even thinking about it. It was amazing to see them use all their energy and finish a flawless routine. It truly left me speechless.”

She said her girls were determined moving into the finals. She said they never rested on their laurels.

Centereach cheerleaders excited after hitting their routine. Photo from Middle Country school district

“We wanted to earn that trophy,” Catalano said. “We didn’t want to rely on making it straight through past semifinals. We had a lot to prove. We didn’t get there by luck — we’re in a hard division, and we proved we deserve to be there. I know now their fire is going to burn brighter and bigger than it ever has.”

D’Alessandro said it’s Catalano who was the catalyst behind Middle Country school district making history. The four-year varsity coach graduated from Centereach. A former cheerleader for the Cougars, Catalano never made it to nationals, and was finally able to take her team the last two seasons. In 2017, the girls didn’t make it past the first round.

“Before her, we never placed at competitions; it was never possible,” the three-year varsity cheerleader said of her coach. “Stephani’s attitude and her heart and her passion for the sport made a complete difference. She has a lot of faith in us doing well, and that we’ll make her proud. She’s helped me not only become a better cheerleader, but a better person with the lessons that she’s taught me and my team.”

With the core of the Cougars returning next season, the girls are confident, despite the added pressure associated with finishing second. Catalano said the girls are already asking to start practicing.

“We can start off with more confidence instead of working up to it,” Michalski said.

Her teammate took it a step further.

“There’s no reason we can’t be national champions,” D’Alessandro said. “People keep coming up to me and congratulating me and all I can say it, ‘Thank you.’ Maybe in a week or two it will hit me — we’re second in the nation. I never expected us to make history for Middle Country, and we did it.”

Centereach’s cheerleading team competes at UCA nationals. Photo from Middle Country school district

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Someday other teams may be able to say they did it, but this Mount Sinai girls basketball team can say they did it first.

The Mustangs completed a perfect 20-0 regular season for the first time in school history with a 68-23 win against Hampton Bays at home on senior night Feb. 8.

Junior guard Gabby Sartori scored 21 points to lead Mount Sinai. She netted 17 points in the first half alone, going 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the first quarter and banking 11 of 12 attempts from the charity stripe by halftime.

“I don’t think we quite know yet what we just did,” Sartori said, laughing. “I didn’t know how to react at first. It’s just so surreal right now. It’s been such a long season and to see it culminate in this is amazing.”

“I don’t think we quite know yet what we just did.”

— Gabby Sartori

Senior Kayla Repperger put Mount Sinai on the board first on the way to an early 14-4 lead after eight minutes. By halftime, the Mustangs extended the advantage to 37-9 after a monster second stanza, outscoring Hampton Bays 23-5.

After the last few games the Mustangs wanted to clean up their act. Eleven players scored in the total team win. Kylie Budke finished with nine points, Casey Campo added eight and Brooke Cergol contributed seven.

“I’m very happy for the girls, and very proud of them, because they worked so hard,” head coach Jeff Koutsantanou said. “They wanted to set the right tone heading into playoffs, so they came out with a new intensity tonight — they really wanted to prove to everybody they’re back. I always believed in this team and knew if they worked hard anything can happen. They earned this.”

Mount Sinai was a step ahead of Hampton Bays all game, getting in the passing lane and stealing the ball, converting transition opportunities into points.

“They have great instincts,” Koutsantanou said. “My girls have the ability to see things — that’s what we do best sometimes. Everyone was scoring, everyone was passing the ball, they played the way we’re capable of, and when they play like that the sky’s the limit.”

“They wanted to set the right tone heading into playoffs, so they came out with a new intensity tonight — they really wanted to prove to everybody they’re back.”

— Jeff Koutsantanou

Although going undefeated wasn’t the primary goal for this season — the Mustangs are focused on defending their Suffolk County title — as the unblemished season started to take form there was some fear of history repeating itself. Mount Sinai fell in a close last game of the 2016-17 season to Shoreham-Wading River.

“It was in the back of my mind — I was thinking about it all day,” Sartori said of the potential of losing in the last game. “But we played like a team today, got the job done early and that’s what really got us on top. It’s a sigh of relief.”

Senior captain Olivia Williams said this was just another step in the direction of her team’s ultimate goal.

“This historic run is something I’m going to remember forever,” she said. “We’re definitely going to have to put in extra work, but I feel confident that if we come together we can do it.”

The Mustangs will compete Feb. 17 in the Class A quarterfinals at home. The time is to be determined.

Sartori said even though every game presents a new challenge, she thinks her team has the talent to beat anyone.

“We’re not perfect right now,” she said. “Our record may show it, but we’re definitely going to face tougher competitors. I think we can’t dwell on this for long. We’ll celebrate for the time being, but we have to get back to work tomorrow. That’s what’s great about our team — we can shift gears quick. Playoffs are definitely going to be a different atmosphere and we need to be ready for it.”

This version was updated Feb. 9 at 11:30 a.m. with additional information.

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The 'pink house’ in Belle Terre Village as it's being demolished in November. Photo from Historical Port Jefferson Facebook page

An iconic Port Jefferson landmark located on the Belle Terre bluffs and previously owned by a Bulgarian countess and movie star is no more.

Colloquially referred to as “the pink house” for its bubblegum-hued exterior paint job, the 30 bedroom home located at 161 Cliff Road was built in 1870 and was nearly 19,000 square feet, according to the Town of Brookhaven assessment roll. It was demolished during November, according to a Belle Terre Village employee, though the village declined to comment further on the house or property when asked why it was demolished or if the owner needed village permission to do so.

The home was recently owned and occupied by Countess Nadia de Navarro-Farber, who died in 2014, according to an obituary on the O.B. Davis Funeral Homes website. A November legal notice from Belle Terre Village indicated a public hearing was held Nov. 28 based on the request of the property’s current owner, Yuri Farber, who is seeking to build a new two-story residence on the premises, the notice said. Farber is listed as the countess’ husband in her obituary. He could not be reached for comment.

“It’s just a total icon, you won’t run into anyone in the area who doesn’t know it,” a Facebook user named Theonie Makidis said in a discussion that took place on a page with more than 5,000 followers dedicated to sharing stories and photos related to the history of Port Jefferson. “Kind of an enigma as well because it was extremely private and secluded — being parked right in front of it you couldn’t see it at all between the bushes and the gates, but you may be lucky enough to catch a small glimpse of the (almost as iconic) green gardener’s house. The only way you could really see this home for its true beauty is when you were on a boat on the water and you’d look up and there it was up on the bluff, comforting, reliable and breathtaking. It will be missed; it’s heartbreaking and the end of an era.”

Scenes from the 1989 comedy “She Devil” starring Roseanne Barr and Meryl Streep were shot at the pink house, which added to its iconic reputation. The countess was born to a noble family in Bulgaria and starred in several black-and-white movies in her home country, the obituary said. She moved to New York in 1949 and lived in Belle Terre for more than 40 years. She was twice honored by John T. Mather Memorial Hospital for her generosity, and her propensity to donate her time and money to help the hospital.

“The countess was very generous at Christmas time [as] she had many parties for the local kids,” poster Ernie Rositzke said in the Facebook thread. “Some of the gifts were mink teddy bears all lined up sitting on the staircase leading upstairs. She was a very generous women, lots of pleasant memories.”

Several community members lamented the loss of the local monument, where some said they attended hospital fundraisers and other events or took wedding photos. Another poster said being from Port Jefferson Station, it was a destination simply worth “taking a ride past” to see it. An area fisherman said the house even served as a marker for those fishing from a boat.

“Obviously the owner can do what he likes with his property, but this particular one means a little something to many of us,” Warren Handy, an administrator of the Historical Port Jefferson Facebook group, said in the thread.

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