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Kings Park

Bellone and Wehrheim meet at Park Bake Shop for signing of a $500,000 law for economic development project.

Popular downtown Kings Park businesses, such as the Park Bake Shop and the Kings Park Shipping and Business Center, have said for years that they lacked adequate parking for their customers. Their decade-old complaint has finally spurred action that has become one of the county’s most significant investments in a downtown: $500,000 for a new parking lot that will provide 23 stalls for local businesses. 

“I was shocked when I got the call,” said Lucy Shtanko, who owns the bakery with her husband, Gabe.

On Thursday, Oct. 3, County Executive Steve Bellone (D) sat beside Smithtown’s Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) inside the busy bakery to sign the new Jumpstart economic initiative. 

“When we’re focused on families, communities rather than political nonsense,” Bellone said. “We get things done.”

Bellone said that Kings Park had all the qualities worthy of economic development efforts. It has a train station, natural resources, a good school district and is located between Stony Brook University and Cold Spring Harbor Lab. Most importantly, people worked together to make it happen. 

“When you talk about revitalization, you have to start with community right from the start, otherwise it will fail,” Bellone said. “This community has done it right.”

Shopowners Shtanko and John Nobles, who own the shipping center, said they had gathered years ago more than 750 signatures and worked with civic groups and other businesses to mobilize action. Their persistence has ultimately paid off. 

Wehrheim, who lives in Kings Park, said that the town had already purchased in the late summer of 2018 two vacant lots for the additional parking at a cost of $279,000.  

“We cannot do this alone,” the supervisor said. “We rely on higher levels of government and there couldn’t be a better partner than Bellone.”

The jumpstart funds will pay for the entire project from start to finish, according to the supervisor’s office. But, not for the land that has already been purchased. Costs include surveying, erosion control and environmental protection, excavation, grading, pavement, concrete, handicap accessible sidewalk entrances, landscaping, all new electric lighting, traffic control signage and labor.

The parking lot is expected to be particularly useful for the Park Bake Shop and the Shipping Center and restaurants The Reel Kitchen, Dragon House, Red and Relish. The additional parking will also likely help with leasing out shops that have been vacant, according to town officials. 

Since the downtown is laid out rectangularly with the train station serving as a corner hub, some business leaders foresee Kings Park becoming a more popular destination. Joann Galletta Hahn, president of the Kings Park Heritage Museum, predicts that people will be more likely to stroll the business district. 

Bellone noted that when the chamber, civic, businesses, residents and government join together, anything is possible. 

Twenty-four hours after the jumpstart announcement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a bill that essentially secured funds for $20 million in sewer upgrades for Kings Park. The upgrades are considered essential for the downtown business development.

“I thank the governor for signing this important bill into law,” said State Sen. John Kennedy (R) who was the bill’s original sponsor. “And I am grateful the project can now proceed.”

The overarching consensus of the community after the announcements: Great things are on the horizon.

The jumpstart project will begin immediately with the surveying. The town expects to finish the parking lot in May or June of 2020.

September 2, 2019 - Sportime2 youth tennis program during an on court demonstration at the 2019 US Open. (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/USTA)

Sportime2, a youth tennis league in Kings Park, participated in a Net Generation “Kids on Court” activation at the 2019 U.S. Open on Sept. 2. Twenty-four kids from the program were part of an on-court tennis demonstration prior to the start of a match between Aidan Mayo and Shunsuke Mitsui on Court 12. Sportime2 member Diane Durante, tossed the coin prior to the match and then posed for a photo with the players. 

Kids On Court, part of the USTA’s youth tennis brand, Net Generation, is expected to give more than 1,000 youth tennis players from across the country the opportunity to play this year on the iconic courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. 

Kings Park kids on the court at U.S. Open

This year marks the first time American tennis has one unified youth brand for children to get into the sport. Net Generation will make it easier for kids and their parents to learn about tennis and get into the game in schools, parks and tennis clubs across the country. The movement embraces all aspects of youth play for kids ages 5 to 18. For more information, visit www.NetGeneration.com.

-Compiled by Donna Deedy

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The Suffolk County Junior Tennis League in Smithtown runs a demonstration Aug. 26 at the U.S. Open. Photo from Sharp Communications

United States Tennis Association, the national governing body for the sport of tennis, is shining a spotlight on its youth tennis leagues during the 2019 U.S. Open, and two local teams are participating in events. 

Children from the Suffolk County Junior Tennis League in Smithtown and the Sportime League in Kings Park are conducting on-court tennis demonstrations for fans. 

Net Generation kids on court before a match between Denis Kudla and Janko Tipsarevic at the 2019 U.S. Open Aug. 26. Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/USTA

The opportunity for young athletes to play a role in one of the world’s highest-attended sporting events has become a key component of the sport’s success. Suffolk’s founder and executive director, Joe Arias, was unavailable for comment this week, but national manager for USTA’s youth brand Net Generation, Leah Friedman, shared her insights. 

“Our on-court experiences allow us to celebrate our coaches, who are offering tennis in their communities and going above and beyond to impact their players,” she said. “Joe Arias and Suffolk County continue to inspire and engage their community. We want the next generation of greats leaving the U.S. Open with a lifetime of memories.” 

Madison De Cicco, 8, of Smithtown, tossed the coin Aug. 26 prior to the opening day match between Denis Kudla and Janko Tipsarević and then posed for a photo with the two players. The Suffolk County league delivered a demo session to fans prior to that match. On Monday, Sept. 2, the youth league at Sportime in Kings Park will put on a demo show on Court 12. 

Now in its third year, the program, called Kids on Court, has expanded each year with 60 groups nationwide participating. The demonstration program is part of the USTA’s youth tennis brand, Net Generation. The nonprofit organization expects to give more than 1,300 youth tennis players from across the country the opportunity to play on the iconic courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center during the first 10 days of the 2019 tournament. 

The youth demonstrations, called activations, will take place prior to sessions on each of the U.S. Open show courts: Arthur Ashe Stadium, Louis Armstrong Stadium, Grandstand and Court 17 as well as Courts 5, 11 and 12. They will also be held in Arthur Ashe Stadium prior to four selected night sessions.

Net Generation wants to make it easier for kids and their parents to learn about tennis and get into the game in schools, parks and tennis clubs across the country. The movement is designed to appeal to kids ages 5-18. For more information, visit netgeneration.usta.com.

Kings Park School District held its senior graduation June 27.

Merrick Cai and Eric Mitchko were named 2019 valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, for Kings Park High School. Cai was the captain of the math team, varsity tennis and quiz bowl team and served as co-president of the independent science research and secretary of Italian Honor Society. He graduated with a 107.36 weighted GPA. He will attend Massachusetts Institute of Technology to study mathematics. 

Mitchko was the captain of the quiz bowl team and treasurer of the math team as well as a member of Kaleidoscope, an art magazine club. The senior placed fifth in Suffolk County in the county high school math league. Mitchko graduated with a 106.92 weighted GPA. He will attend Stony Brook University in the fall to study chemical and molecular engineering.   

All photos by Rita J. Egan

CALLING IT A DAY

Tom Caruso of Smithtown captured this quintessential Long Island scene at Sunken Meadow State Park with a Nikon D850 on June 9 just before sunset.  He writes, ‘This fisherman had waded a good distance out into the water at the base of the Kings Park Bluffs and was casting for a long time.  As night fell around him, he threw his last cast, reeled in his line and returned to shore empty handed but was bathed in the beautiful colors of sunset.’

Send your Photo of the Week to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com

Aerial shot of the new solar array. Photo from anonymous

After the Izzo family leased their 26-acre Kings Park property to the Town of Smithtown for a landfill during the 1970s, the place was declared uninhabitable. Today, the site is revered as one of Long Island’s largest solar farms.

Izzo family leads Long Island into New York’s green energy future. Photo by Donna Deedy

The 4-megawatt project was showcased on June 20 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony, an event that unexpectedly coincided with New York State’s sweeping new clean energy legislation promising to become carbon neutral by 2050.

“It’s almost like we knew what we were doing,” said Tom Falcone, Long Island Power Authority CEO, who attended the event along with county and town elected officials. The achievement, he said, entailed a cooperative effort. “It took a village, a town, a state and the Izzo family.”

The state’s ambitious new energy plan renders the privately owned Kings Park solar farm a shining new example of what the future may look like with private landowners and non-developable property transformed to serve a public utilitarian purpose.

“It takes a lot of gambling but, wow, was this a good project,” said Paul Curran, founder of Wappinger Falls-based BQ Energy, a company committed to the sustainable redevelopment of environmentally contaminated sites known as brownfields. “Once you see it, people say it makes so much sense.” He expects the site to inspire additional projects. 

Curran first approached the Izzo family with the idea of using their property for a solar site in 2013. RECOM Solar leased the development rights from the family to construct the project. NextEra Energy Resources, which claims to be the world’s largest supplier of renewable energy took over in December 2018, when the site became operational. 

The solar project, which consists of 18,000 solar panels, created 50 jobs, mainly in the construction sector, according to Bryan Garner, NextEra’s director of communications. NextEra signed a 20-year power purchase agreement with LIPA, which will ultimately result in nearly $800,000 in revenue for Smithtown. That’s $33,000 per year for the first 15 years in payments in lieu of taxes and $296,000 in tax revenue for the final five years. 

The project will offset more than 4,500 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of removing 800 cars off the road. 

Unlike fossil fuel plants, the facility operates silently and requires very little maintenance. “We check it about four times a year, so it’s maintenance free,” said Aaron Benedict, who monitors the project for NextEra. His cellphone includes an application that remotely monitors the operation 24/7. 

Suffolk County and Smithtown government officials attended the event with Town Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) arriving in one of the town’s two all-electric vehicles. 

“We are all in with renewable and clean energy,” he said. The town, he said, expects to systematically transform the Old Northport Road corridor. The roof on its recycling center, which is located near the solar farm, is fitted with 50-kilowatt solar system and has a 10-kW wind turbine. The town is also discussing the development of a solar farm on the closed landfills, which could eliminate the town’s need to purchase electricity, according to Russell Barnett, Smithtown’s Environmental Protection director. Additional town projects are also under discussion and will be considered during the town’s 2020 budget process.

The financial terms of the arrangements between NextEra and the Izzo family remain confidential. 

“This is all about what good this site can do for years to come,” said Robert Izzo Jr, whose family has owned the property for decades.

PSEG reports that 161 MW of its energy supply is generated from renewable projects, mainly solar panels. 

Mount Sinai attack Russell Maher with a shot on goal in a home game against Kings Park April 12. Photo by Bill Landon

Kings Park boys lacrosse team was able to stay within striking distance with Mount Sinai through two quarters of play April 12, but the Mustangs exploded in the third quarter, scoring eight goals to put the game out of reach. Mount Sinai defeated the Kingsmen 14-5 at home to remain unbeaten at this midpoint of the season at 8-0 in division, 10-0 overall for second place behind Shoreham-Wading River.

Joey Spallina, the spark of the Mustang offense, split the pipes five times. Meanwhile Bobby Demeo found the back of the cage thrice and Brandon Ventarola and Russel Maher stuck it out with two goals apiece.

Vince D’Alto led the way for the Kingsmen with two goals while Alex Wenzler along with Jack Quaranto both scored as well. Kings Park keeper Christian Michaels had a busy day between the pipes grabbing 19 saves on the day.

Both teams were back in action April 16 where the Mustangs hosted Islip and the Kingsmen hit the road against Babylon. Mount Sinai will be taking the road to Sayville April 23 while Kings Park is hosting Kellenberg April 24. Game times are for 4 p.m. and 10 a.m. respectively.

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The Nally boys, pictured from left, Gene, Tom and John, will serve as grand marshals of the Kings Park's 2019 St. Patrick's Day parade. Photo from KP parade committee

By Kevin Matyi

Some would say the Nally family name is synonymous with Kings Park.

Tom Nally, who shares a name with his late father who died in 2017, said that his family has been deeply ingrained in Kings Park’s community. Both Tom and his father worked as teachers and coaches for Kings Park High School. His mother, Diane, worked for St. Joseph’s School of Religion. His brother, John, worked as a pharmacist at Genovese Drug Stores while Gene Nally went into local politics.

“It just feels like Kings Park is an extension of my family,” Tom Nally said.

It just feels like Kings Park is an extension of my family.”

— Tom Nally

The family has lived in the community for nearly 120 years, spanning six generations.

“This community has shown me what it means to care for your neighbors and to be there when they need you,” John Nally said. “This town has always been there for my family through good times and bad, and I am forever grateful.”

These contributions are part of why the Nally Boys, Tom, John and Gene, were selected as grand marshals for the 2019 Kings Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Together, the three brothers will lead a multitude of bands, floats and local organizations and businesses in marching along Main Street.

“Since the parade’s inception, the Nally family has been a staple in the parade, resplendent and enthusiastic in a pickup truck … emblazoned with the Nally Boys banner,” reads the parade’s website.

Both Tom and John Nally attributed the original concept of the truck and its banner to their father.

Tom Nally said one of his favorite memories of the past was seeing how excited his father would become while gathering items to decorate the truck.

“He was always figuring out ways to make more room in the back of the pickup truck to fit more family members,” he said.

His brother recalled the family’s first time preparing to take part in the Kings Park tradition.

“I remember when Tom [Sr.] first told us we would be in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” John Nally said. “He was all excited and worked hard to get the truck clean and had a banner made heralding our family’s roots in County Westmeath in Ireland.”

Each year, the number of Nally family and friends riding along the parade route in the pickup truck has continued to grow, turning it into a tradition. Upon being presented with their sashes at the Grand Marshal Ball in November, John Nally said he was filled with a sense of pride.

“Our Irish heritage has always been important to our family and to be singled out was extremely humbling,” he said.

Our Irish heritage has always been important to our family and to be singled out was extremely humbling.”

— John Nally

While the three brothers are often called the Nally Boys, John Nally said they would never forget their sister, Terri, who passed away in 2002.

“She was a very important member of our family and an integral part of the community,” he said.

John Nally said he knows that his father and sister will be with them in spirit as the three brothers take their places March 2.

“When we take our place in the front of the parade this year, I know Tom [Sr.] will be smiling down on us,” John Nally said. “He was the architect of this journey and to not have him with us will be extremely bittersweet. To have his son, Thomas, walk with us will ease the pain and we know Tom will be with us in spirit. Both he and my sister, Terri, would be extremely proud.”

The 2019 Kings Park’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade will step off March 2 at noon from the intersection of Lou Avenue and Pulaski Road at the Celtic Crossing bar.

Nissequogue River. File photo by Rita J. Egan

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is calling for state police officers to investigate who is behind anti-Semitic graffiti discovered in Nissequogue River State Park.

A photo of the swastika discovered in Nissequogue River State Park. Photo from NYS PD

New York State police received a call Feb. 10 from a jogger who discovered a swastika and a hateful white supremacist slogan written in chalk along the bike path in Kings Park.

“This abhorrent act of hate is deeply disturbing, especially at a time of great division and in the wake of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in this nation’s history,” Cuomo said.

The governor’s remarks referenced the shooting at The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October 2018 that killed 11 people.

“The message is deeply troubling to those who live in Kings Park community and all those who continue the fight against hated,” state Sen. John Flanagan (R-Smithtown) said in a statement. “I want to make it clear that all elected officials and community leaders are united in saying that hateful symbols must never be tolerated and those responsible must and will be held accountable for their actions.

The state police’s Hate Crimes Unit is investigating the matter. Anyone who may have any information on the vandalism is asked to call 631-756-3300.

Julia Witzke. Photo from Witzke family

Kings Park students are asking their community to come dine together to help raise funds to help a classmate in the fight of her life.

Kings Park High School will be hosting a pasta fundraiser Jan. 31 for junior Julia Witzke, who has been diagnosed with leukemia. The event will feature karaoke, games and raffles in addition to food with all proceeds going to the Witzke family.

“When someone in Kings Park is in need of help people come out in droves,” Judy Bishop-Hart, a retired executive assistant of the district said. “We want them to know we are with them.”

“This means everything, words can’t describe how happy we are with the love Julia is receiving.”

— Denise Witzke

Bishop-Hart said fellow classmates of Witzke came up with the idea of hosting a fundraiser. They approached Bishop-Harts’s son, Jack Bishop, who currently works as a 12th-grade history teacher and others for help.

“The students went to him to see if they could plan something for Julia,” Bishop-Hart said. “They’ve put it upon themselves to make this happen.”

Witzke’s mother, Denise, said what the students and the community are doing warms her heart.

“This means everything, words can’t describe how happy we are with the love Julia is receiving,” she said.

Her mother said Witzke is currently unable to attend classes at the high school while receiving treatment. The Kings Park junior has also been disappointed about being unable to take part in typical coming-of-age events with her classmates.

“It has been hard for Julia since the diagnosis,” Denise Witzke said. “She misses being in school. — It is her junior year and she felt bad missing out on her junior prom. She was looking forward to getting her learners permit and taking drivers education classes with her friends.

Bishop-Hart wants the Witzke family to know that they have the support of the community.

“We are with them every step of the way,” she said.

In addition to the event, students and school staff members are signing a poster with personal messages for Witzke to let her know that she is in their thoughts.

The fundraiser will be held Jan. 31 from 5 to 8 p.m. in the cafeteria of Kings Park High School, which is located at 200 Route 25A in Kings Park. The cost is $10 per person with children under age 5 free.

Volunteers are still being sought to help ensure the event runs smoothly. Anyone with questions or who is willing to offer time or services can contact Bishop-Hart at 631-896-9597.