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Kings Park

Eugene Coyne’s mugshot. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police Major Case Unit detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that killed a pedestrian in Fort Salonga Sept. 29.

Nicholas Pineda-Maldonado, 58, was operating a stand-behind lawn mower on Sunken Meadow Road in the roadway when he was struck by a 2008 Saturn that was traveling southbound on Sunken Meadow Road near Trescott Path at approximately 4:30 p.m.

Pineda-Maldonado was transported to Saint Catherine of Sienna Medical Center in Smithtown for treatment of serious injuries. He was later transported to Stony Brook University Hospital, where he was pronounced dead Sept. 30. The driver of the Saturn, Eugene Coyne, 69, of Kings Park, was arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated.

The vehicle was impounded for a safety check. Coyne was held overnight at the 3rd Precinct and scheduled for arraignment at First District Court in Central Islip Sept. 30.

File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Two parents are suing the Kings Park Central School District over a 2015 sexting incident, claiming handling of the matter humiliated their sons and violated their freedom of speech.

Andrew J. Fenton, of Fort Salonga, and Thomas Phelan, of Kings Park, filed a lawsuit after their sons were among more than 25 students suspended for having received a sexual video via text message.

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 19, 2017, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, alleges the “suspension of [the students] for receiving a video, unsolicited, which they did not show or send to anyone else, and which bore no nexus to an ensuing school disruption was arbitrary and capricious.” Both Fenton and Phelan seek damages for “humiliation and anguish” of their sons and their records expunged of the suspension.

On Nov. 4, 2015, dozens of Kings Park High School students received a video on their cellphones of two 14-year-olds having sex while at home, according to court documents.

When an assistant principal saw a ninth-grader playing the video in the high school’s cafeteria Nov. 6, school officials began an extensive investigation. The phones of all students who still had the video were temporarily confiscated, according to court documents. School district officials allege both Fenton’s and Phelon’s sons still had the video.

Under Kings Park’s Guidelines for Implementation of School Discipline Policy, “inappropriate texting and use of social media” and “selling, using, transmitting or possessing obscene material” are considered Level IV infractions punishable by up to five days suspension and parental contact.

On Nov. 9 and 10, Kings Park High School Principal Lino Bracco sent certified mail to Fenton and Phelan notifying them that their sons, sophomores at the time, would be suspended for one day for “inappropriate use of an electronic device.” The letter warned that the students were “prohibited from entering upon school grounds for any reason and should remain home under supervision.”

Fenton said he did not receive the Nov. 9 letter in time, and his son was escorted out of the high school on Nov. 10 by two uniformed police officers, according to court documents.

By letter dated Nov. 18, Superintendent Timothy Eagen made an offer to parents that they could submit a request for their child’s disciplinary record to be reviewed, and barring any similar incidents, the suspension would be expunged.

Both parents retained Middletown-based attorneys, partners Robert Isseks and Andrew Smith, who sent letters dated Dec. 9, 2015, requesting the suspensions be immediately removed from the students’ records alleging “they never possessed the message in school or on school property.”

Both parents said Kings Park school district’s cellphone policy also infringed on their sons’ right to free speech. “The only way that [he] or any other student could possibly make sure that he did not find himself in an ‘incident similar in nature’ during the coming year is if he stopped receiving text messages all together,” reads the Dec. 9 letter.

An appeal was made to New York State Department of Education, whose Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia ruled Nov. 10, 2016, that the district’s “suspension of [the students] for receiving a video, unsolicited, which they did not show or send to anyone else, and which bore no nexus to an ensuring school disruption, was arbitrary and capricious.” Elia ordered Kings Park school district to annul and expunge the suspension.

Eagen said that as at press time, Kings Park school district had yet to be served with the lawsuit.

“Parents will sometimes address a particular issue through a media solution rather than an administrative or due process solution,” Eagen said. “However, in choosing this path, sometimes parents will share certain personal and/or confidential information that then becomes a part of public record.”

The superintendent said the district’s policy and practice is to not comment on specific student disciplinary matters and/or pending lawsuits.

Attorney Smith could not be reached for comment by press time. Principal Bracco did not return phone calls requesting an interview or comment.

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Senior Dylan Winwood competes in final football game

By Desirée Keegan

Dylan Winwood couldn’t ask for a better way to end his football career.

Kings Park’s senior tailback/slot receiver hybrid and safety battled on the gridiron one last time Sept. 23, before getting season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum. Winwood’s injury occurred in a scrimmage Sept. 1, and he asked his doctor to clear him to play in one final game. Upon getting approval, he decided his last performance would be at homecoming.

“Any win is sweet for our coaches and our team, but having a great crowd to play in front of for homecoming made the atmosphere electric,” he said. “I can’t thank our fan base enough, truly one of the best groups on the Island.”

Although the team could credit running back Vince D’Alto for its 7-2 win over Hauppauge (0-2), Winwood also credited the Kingsmen’s fans and new surroundings for helping the team seal the deal.

“I felt great out on the field and the lights were fantastic,” he said of the stadium’s new ambiance. “I felt like homecoming made it that much sweeter — with the crowd and the team going crazy after every play.”

The junior running back scored the only touchdown of the day — on a 32-yard run in the first quarter. D’Alto said he was looking to ride a routine push play, but happened to stumble across a hole in the defensive line and carried the ball into the end zone. Senior Mike Trupiano’s point-after attempt was good to put the Kingsmen (2-2) up 7-0.

“I was just trying to get some yards to get out of our own end zone, but there was a hole and I took it,” said D’Alto, who finished with 155 yards on 15 carries. “It was a great team effort and there were a lot of ups and downs, but a win is a win.”

Despite the offense not playing up to its preferred tempo, the Kingsmen’s defensive unit was willing and able to pick up the slack, especially co-captain Winwood.

“I feel as if [the win] was due to our stout defensive effort,” he said. “The whole team rallied around a stellar defensive performance.”

The senior said he thought D’Alto was strong on both sides of the ball to help propel the team to victory.

“He was running extremely aggressive and was making plays on the defensive end that helped seal the game for us,” Winwood said. “This year’s team is definitely one of the fastest teams in our division. We have a bunch of athletes just waiting to make plays, and I’m looking forward to the Kingsmen capturing more wins in the future.”

D’Alto said he was inspired by Winwood’s willingness to put his career on the line to play football one last time, especially since he already has a lacrosse scholarship to Florida Southern College.

“Dylan had a lot of courage playing in his last game with a lacrosse scholarship on the line,” he said. “Dylan always plays great — one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen, and he played his heart out for his last game. It was great seeing him on that field risking it all for just one more game, telling us as a team how much this really means to him.”

The senior reflected on his final high school game.

“I felt awesome on the field; all I wanted was to finish my career on a win and it happened,” Winwood said. “I couldn’t ask for a better end note.”

A Smithtown business owner has put her name on the November ballot to give residents a third option when voting for town supervisor.

Kristen Slevin, 40-year-old owner of Yottabyte Craft Chocolate and Candy in Smithtown, has launched her own independent campaign for Smithtown town supervisor. A prior vice president of Swan Lake Civic Association, this is her first time running for political office.

Slevin, a Smithtown resident and Hauppauge High School graduate, shed light on her jump from business owner to political candidate.

Kristen Slevin

“As a business, we feel we are a member of the community, we have a voice and we should leverage our voices for things we believe in,” she said of her business perspective.

Slevin said after seeing her community get energized by the 2016 presidential election, she launched an advocacy group on Facebook titled Smithtown Election Watch 2017.

“People had all this energy and enthusiasm to get involved in national issues, meanwhile our local downtowns are disappearing right before us,” Slevin said.

Slevin and a team of approximately a dozen volunteers began July 11 rounding up 1,781 signatures from registered Smithtown voters, exceeding the minimum 1,500 required under state law, for an independent candidate to run in the general election. Her campaign slogan is “None of the Above.”

The independent campaign platform focuses on fixing an “obsolete” town code, addressing blight in the downtown business areas and the creation of historic districts and town council districts. One of the first projects on her radar, if elected, would be to embark on a full review of town code, its policies and procedures, as the candidate said she had found it difficult to read through and impossible to search.

“Other things I am concerned about are if the towns are suffering from intentional blight,” Slevin said. “Some landlords might have multiple properties, here or in other towns, that they allow this property to go vacant and are taking the tax credit against what they are making in more successful rentals.”

If elected, she said she would consider introducing new tax codes to increase rates on properties with long-standing vacant buildings to encourage owners to either rent or sell. Slevin said other municipalities in New York and other neighboring states have adopted such programs.

“People had all this energy and enthusiasm to get involved in national issues, meanwhile our local downtowns are disappearing right before us.”
— Kristen Slevin

In addition to addressing blight, the business owner said she’d like to see Smithtown, Kings Park and Lake Avenue in Saint James be recognized as historic districts.

“Our philosophy should be that they are quaint, small-town U.S. towns right here,” Slevin said. “While so many other places are being built up and becoming more city like, we are going to hold on to our small-town vision here.”

The candidate said she’s not against the integrated development of mixed-use properties that combine retail space with apartments designed for students, singles and senior residents. Slevin said it’s her belief that mixed-use properties would provide a more diversified business base and community that over time would strengthen the local economy.

Her platform also proposes splitting the Smithtown town board into council districts, similar to the Town of Brookhaven, to improve elected officials’ accountability.

“If everyone had their own councilperson elected from their district, they are both aware of the issues in their districts and they can be held accountable,” she said.

Slevin said she did weigh running for the town board seat prior to launching a campaign for supervisor. However, she felt that the town codes give the supervisor position significantly more power and control over other elected town officials, something she plans to remedy if elected.

Slevin will face off in the Nov. 7 against Democratic candidate William Holst (D) and the winner of the still undecided Republican primary between incumbent Supervisor Patrick Vecchio (R) and Councilman Ed Wehrheim (R). The Republican primary results will not be available until after Sept. 25.

A 10-year-old student of William T. Rogers Middle School was hit by driver Pasquale Izzo, 81, of Kings Park, while attempting to board the bus Sept. 15. File photo by Rachel Shapiro

A 10-year-old Kings Park boy struck by an SUV on his way to the school bus was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious injuries, according to Suffolk County police.

A William T. Rogers Middle School student was walking across First Avenue, near Carlson Avenue, at about 7:54 a.m. Sept. 15 to board his school bus, police said. The bus had its flashing red lights on and stop sign activated to warn approaching motorists.

Pasquale Izzo, 81, of Kings Park, was driving a 1998 Dodge Durango northbound on First Avenue when he allegedly attempted to pass the school bus, and ignored its flashing lights. Izzo failed to stop his vehicle and struck the student, according to police.

The 10-year-old boy was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious, but not life-threatening injuries, according to police. Izzo was not injured. 

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen notified district parents that it has additional mental health staff available at the middle school to provide  support to those students who witnessed the accident, students who know the injured student and anyone else, as needed.

“Unfortunately, this incident is a terrible reminder that we cannot always assume that motorists will follow traffic safety rules at all times,” Eagen said in a message posted on the district’s website.

Under New York State Law, drivers who pass a stopped school bus can be fined $250 for the first violation and face up to a maximum fine of $1,000 for three violations in less than three years. Individuals convicted of three violations in a three-year span may have their driver’s license revoked.

Kings Park Central School District announced the bus’s route has been changed in order to avoid any potential future tragic accidents at the intersection, and so that the student involved and those who witnessed the accident don’t have to return to the scene of the accident on a daily basis.

The neighboring Commack school district sent out an email to parents reminding them to, “Please drive slowly with no distractions, and be especially vigilant of where our precious children are playing, walking, riding or standing.”

Most school bus-related deaths and injuries occur when children are loading or unloading from a bus, according to New York State Department of Motor Vehicle’s website, not in collisions that involve school buses.

The driver’s vehicle has been impounded for safety checks and the incident is under investigation. Suffolk County’s 4th Squad Detectives are asking anyone who witnessed the accident to call 631-854-8452.

The state department of motor vehicles has recently issued several safety recommendations for drivers sharing the roads with school buses:

* When a stopped school bus flashes its red light(s), traffic that approaches from either direction, even in front of the school and in school parking lots,  must stop before  reaching the bus. Drivers should stop at least 20 feet away from the bus.

* Before a school bus stops to load or discharge passengers, the bus driver will usually flash yellow warning lights. Drivers should decrease speed and be prepared to stop.

* When you stop for a school bus, do not drive again until the red lights stop flashing or until the bus driver or a traffic officer signals that you may proceed. *You must stop for a school bus even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway.

* After stopping for a school bus, look for children along the side of the road. Drive slowly until have passed them.

File photo

A 10-year-old Kings Park boy struck by an SUV on his way to the school bus was airlifted to Stony Brook Hospital with serious injuries, according to Suffolk County Police.

Police said a William T. Rogers Middle School student was walking across First Avenue, near Carlson Avenue, at about 7:54 a.m. Sept. 15 to board his school bus, police said. The bus had its flashing red lights on and stop sign activated to warn approaching motorists.

Pasquale Izzo, 81, of Kings Park, was driving a 1998 Dodge Durango northbound on First Avenue when he allegedly attempted to pass the school bus, and ignored its flashing lights. Izzo failed to stop his vehicle and struck the student, according to police.

NYSDMV on sharing the road with buses

  • When a stopped school bus flashes its red light(s), traffic that approaches from either direction, even in front of the school and in school parking lots, vehicles must stop before it reaching the bus. Drivers should stop at least 20 feet away from the bus.
  • Before a school bus stops to load or discharge passengers, the driver will usually flash yellow warning lights. Then, decrease speed and be prepared to stop.
  • When you stop for a school bus, do not drive again until the red lights stop flashing or when the bus driver or a traffic officer signals the you can proceed.. You must stop for a school bus even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway.
  • After stopping for a school bus, look for children along the side of the road. Drive slowly until have passed them.

The 10-year-old boy was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital with serious, but not life-threatening injuries, according to police. Izzo was not injured.

Kings Park Superintendent Timothy Eagen notified district parents that it has additional mental health staff available at the middle school to provide additional support to those students who witnessed the accident, students who know the injured student and anyone else as needed.

“Unfortunately, this incident is a terrible reminder that we cannot always assume that motorists will follow traffic safety rules at all times,” Eagen said in a message posted on the district’s website.

Under New York State Law, drivers who pass a stopped school bus can be fined $250 for the first violation and face up to a maximum fine of $1,000 for three violations in less than three years. Individuals convicted of three violations in a three-year span may have their driver’s license revoked.

Kings Park School District announced the bus’s route has been changed in effort to avoid any potential future tragic accidents at the intersection, and so the student involved and those who witnessed the accident don’t have to return to the scene of the accident on a daily basis.

The neighboring Commack Union-Free School District sent out an email to parents reminding them to, “Please drive slowly with no distractions, and be especially vigilant of where our precious children are playing, walking, riding or standing.”

Most school bus-related deaths and injuries occur when children are loading or unloading from a bus, according to New York State Department of Motor Vehicle’s website, not in collisions that involve school buses.

The driver’s vehicle has been impounded for safety checks and the incident is under investigation. Suffolk County’s 4th Squad Detectives are asking anyone who witnessed the accident to call 631-854-8452.

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Students of all ages were able to learn about local history and engage in hands-on projects through the Smithtown Historical Society’s summer programs. Photo from Marianne Howard

By Marianne Howard

The Smithtown Historical Society was fortunate to be able to provide children of all ages an opportunity this summer to step away from the screens, iPads and TVs to take an active role in volunteering and participating in its programs, camps, and daily activities this summer.

The historical society offers a Portals to the Past summer camp for children ages 6-to-12 for nine weeks throughout the summer. Cooking, sewing, drawing, painting and helping on the farm are all a part of the regular camp offerings. This year, Melissa Clemens,  director of education, created a junior educator program which bridges the gap between the camp years and the college years to create a well-informed core of teens to act as ambassadors in their schools and communities to promote an interest in history and education. The first training session in June had eight teens who spent the summer learning all about the historical society and their community. These 13- and 14-year-olds will continue to assist the society at various events throughout 2017.

Students of all ages were able to learn about local history and engage in hands-on projects through the Smithtown Historical Society’s summer programs. Photo from Marianne Howard

The society had two college-age interns volunteering with its education department this summer: Robert Rock, a Smithtown resident attending Williams College who has not declared a major; and Jacqueline Michels, a Hauppauge resident attending Providence College as a history and secondary education major. The two students tackled every task given to them and were able to make headway in some of the historical society’s newest projects. Rock assisted at all of the public programs this summer from goat yoga and movie night to the community barbecue. He also initiated a butterfly garden and helped to oversee its planting by volunteers from the Smithtown Youth Bureau at the end of August.

Michels worked diligently to draft a new field trip curriculum for the society’s Obadiah Smith building in Kings Park and reworked the “Long Island Kids: Then and Now” field trip program, which was offered for the first time last year.

“It’s great to see that the future of museums is in great hands,” Michels said. “Based on my time at Smithtown Historical Society this summer, I feel that SHS presents a community-building mission to the public. The organization works to bring together Smithtown residents over their shared local history through community events and programs. This summer, I’ve watched the Smithtown Historical Society make efforts to reach out to Smithtown residents of all ages to bring them to the historic buildings on their property and to bring local history out to the public.  All of their efforts build community by bringing together the residents of Smithtown to experience their shared history.” 

Rock also agreed that increasing involvement of younger members of community is essential. 

“I see the historical society as continuing to provide these programs for public involvement but increasing the involvement of younger members of the community,” he said. “As SHS has made a strong, and so far successful effort to further the involvement of this group through programs such as goat yoga, history happy hour, the movies on the lawn, and yoga on the lawn, I see this trend as continuing to mark the society’s path.”

Marianne Howard is the executive director of the Smithtown Historical Society. For more information on the society, its events or programs or on becoming a member, visit www.smithtownhistorical.org or call 631-265-6768.

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With nine returning starters Kingsmen have eyes set on postseason play

Kings Park goalie Nick VanDuesen sends the ball into play during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Kings Park’s Matt Anderer heads the ball during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Last year Kings Park needed to win the final game of the regular season to make the postseason, but after two overtime periods that left the game resulting in a tie against Hauppauge,  the Kingsmen were held back from making that playoff appearance — by a single point.

But that was then, and the Kings Park boys soccer team has shaken off the stalemate and is looking to make strides toward a better start to the season and not leave a postseason hope hanging in the balance. With nine returning starters, the chance of achieving that goal increases this season.

“We lost seven seniors to graduation, but what’s great is that we have those returning starters, which is tremendous,” Kings Park head coach Bill Hender said. “They all had big minutes last year, and our bench guys are also tremendous and I think they’re much stronger than they were last year, so we have a lot more depth.”

Because of reduced enrollment, Kings Park moved down to League V as a Class A team this season but won’t escape its nemesis because Hauppauge also dropped down in the division standings.

“We’re considered a Class A school now, which is good,” the head coach said. “When we go into the playoffs we won’t go against the Brentwoods, which have four times as many kids as we do, so it’ll be a little bit more fair for us.”

Kings Park’s Eoghan McGovern and James Sicardi fight for possesion during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

He said he’ll be leaning on Eoghan McGovern, Liam Thompson and Matt Anderer to steer the ship, but said he’s hoping junior Connor Brady can contribute some guidance.

“He really turned it on in the second half of last season,” Hender said. “In a game against Eastport-South Manor he scored two goals in a span of about 48 seconds — they were both beautiful shots.”

Thompson, a two-year varsity center back, said he thinks his team has its best chance to pick off Hauppauge this year.

“We’ve always been close with Hauppauge — we’ve always been right there but never actually made it over the hump — we’ve always wanted to beat them,” he said. “I think we have it this year with this team — we have returning guys and we’ve all been best friends forever, so we’re excited.”

Senior center midfielder Robbie Catoir agreed with Thompson in that the Kingsmen’s pros this season could help them get the better of the team who ended their last season early.

“It makes us hungrier,” Catoir said. “We’ll have to work on our communication to start, but Hauppauge is still the team to beat.”

Kings Park’s Eric Escobar catches a pass during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Defensively, the team returns three out of the four core from the back line.

Guarding the net will be starting goalie Nicolas VanDuesen, who didn’t see action last year due to an injury, but is now at full strength.

“I’m most pleased with our defense,” McGovern said. “I think we have to focus on just scoring goals. We’ll see once the games start up if we can finish.”

Hender agreed his team’s defense is a force to be reckoned with, pointing to McGovern as the biggest driving force to back up his claim.

“We have a three-year All-Conference player in Eoghan McGovern, and I think he’s the best center back in the county — he’s that good,” the head coach said. “Other coaches have made comments about how good he is. And Alex Graci is a junior who came in and gave us a lot of minutes in a lot of different positions last year, so he’s looked great throughout training camp this year. He’s really come into his own.”

Kings Park will play a pair of nonleague games, against Wyandanch and Shoreham-Wading River, before its season opener at home against Rocky Point Sept. 6 at 6:30 p.m.

York Hall, formerly the recreational center of Kings Park Psychiatric Center, has deteriorated after years of vandalism and disuse. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A historical society is holding out hope that a unique piece of Kings Park community history can be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

The Society for Preservation of Long Island Antiquities has placed York Hall, the auditorium and community center of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center, on its 2017 List of Endangered Historic Places.

Sarah Kautz, director of preservation for SPLIA, said the historic building located at the entrance of Nissequogue River State Park is in critical need of preventative maintenance and security to preserve it for future community use.

York Hall, built in 1930, was used by the psychiatric patients for recreational activities and later as a community civic center and public meeting place.

“In a place where there are some darker stories to tell, it was a place where people came together to celebrate and enjoy life,” Kautz said.

When the hospital was decommissioned in the 1990s, the property was transferred to New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Since then the building has been vacant, with the exception of trespassing ghost hunters and graffiti artists, and has fallen into disrepair.

Kautz said York Hall has signs of advanced deterioration over time. The roof is damaged, allowing rainwater to leak inside, and many of the windows and doors are damaged and spray painted.

“The interior is in very poor condition due to roof leaking, copper stripping and extensive vandalism over an extensive period of time” Kautz said. “It’s been the same cyclical and recurring concern with all the buildings of Kings Park Psychiatric Center.”

SPLIA is advocating for York Hall to be secured by sealing off the building, including boarding up the roof, and mothballed. The group is seeking a public-private partnership to rehabilitate the building. Kautz said she has reached out to the Kings Park Civic Association and Kings Park Chamber of Commerce to open avenues for collaborative discussions.

“The community still wants it to be used as a theater and civic center,” Kautz said. “It’s a great mid-sized performance space that is rare to find in this area. I think because of its history and why it was built, the community would like to see it returned to that role.”

The state launched a remediation initiative in 2012 to transform the former psychiatric center into Nissequogue River State Park. Phase one of the project, which was started in 2013, focused on demolition of 19 buildings, removal of the steam tunnels and asphalt, site restoration and reconstruction of the north boat launch to improve access to the Nissequogue River. In April 2016, phase two was announced and is currently underway to remove nine additional buildings and a segment of a 10th building, according to the state parks department’s spokesperson Randy Simons.

“We have our concerns about the wider context of the former Kings Park Psychiatric Center,”  Kautz said “There’s no master plan. There’s never been a master plan which would include the former psychiatric center.”

Simons said that two former psychiatric center buildings, Buildings 130 and 132, which both served as medical staff housing, have been preserved for future adaptive reuse as the development of the park progresses.

Gunther's Tap Room caught fire in May, and a fundraiser was held this week to help restore the historic bar. File photo from Photo from Chris Ciaci.

By Sara-Megan Walsh

It’s said that many hands make for light work, and if that’s true, the outpouring of community support for Gunther’s Tap Room will hopefully have it rebuilt in record time.

The uplifting refrain of “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey could be heard as dozens of Northport residents and their families attended a fundraiser Aug. 13 for Gunther’s Tap Room at the Park Lounge in Kings Park. Gunther’s has been closed since being consumed by an early-morning fire May 23.

John Weeden, owner of Park Lounge, said he hosted the $25-per-person community barbecue and extensive Chinese auction to raise money to help reopen Gunther’s Tap Room, and to financially aid its employees who have been without a job. Weeden declined to say how much was raised in total.

“I’d like to raise enough money to help them pay for whatever bills they have to reopen it. I thought it was the right thing to do.”

— John Weeden

“I’d like to raise enough money to help them pay for whatever bills they have to reopen it. I thought it was the right thing to do,” said Weeden, who worked as a bartender at Gunther’s for 13 years. “I feel [Pete Gunther] would want that bar reopened. It was his legacy.”

Peter Gunther Sr., a late Northport native and ex-chief of the Northport Fire Department, owned and operated Gunther’s Tap Room since the 1960s, according to current co-owner Brad Vassallo.

“Gunther’s is the bar of the people,” he said. “It’s been basically built amongst the patrons.”

Vassallo, who purchased Gunther’s with Eddie McGrath in 2016, said they are currently in the process of completing structural repairs to the more than 100-year-old building to make it safe and compliant with modern building codes.

“The town has been remarkable in terms of helping the process,” Vassallo said. “They and the community have been fantastic in trying to help us out — letting us do what we need to get this place reopened.”

How much it will cost to rebuild and restore the landmark bar to its former glory is still an unknown, according to Vassallo, saying that “it will be substantial.” The owners said they have run into a number of unforeseen repairs that have slowed down the process.

But several community members have stepped forward, offering donations of building supplies and skills to speed up that process. Some have offered their help to lay down new hardwood floors, and others offered to fix up the bathrooms.

“The community [has] been fantastic in trying to help us out — letting us do what we need to get this place reopened.”

— Brad Vassallo

“We are going to keep the aesthetics as similar as we can,” Vassallo said. “There will need to be some changes, but the color scheme and the way the bar was set up — we are going to keep it as close as we can to the original form.”

With Gunther’s closed for reconstruction, bartender Jani Zubkovs said it’s been difficult for him and the other employees. They’ve stayed in touch over the last few months on updates on the repairs and in trying to find other work.

“It’s an eyesore right now,” Zubkovs said. “I miss all the people, all my regulars. It’s the local Northport place where everybody knows each other.”

In an attempt to offset the financial hardship, Zubkovs has picked up bartending two nights a week at Elijah Churchill’s Public House on Fort Salonga Road in Northport.

Dozens of area businesses contributed to Sunday’s fundraiser by donating goods and services for the Chinese auction.

For those who missed the event, a GoFundMe campaign has been set up, with a goal of $75,000 to help the business reopen. Visit www.gofundme.com/gunthers-tap-room for more information or to donate to the restoration cause.

Despite the disruptions in construction, Gunther’s owners remain hopeful that beer will be flowing again within the next couple of months.

“It’s disappointing that me and Eddie just bought the place to have this kind of situation happen,” Vassallo said. “The primary reason we took it over is that we made a vow. We wanted to keep Gunther’s Tap Room as it was, as Pete Gunther made it to be. We are doing everything we can to do that.”

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