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Legislator Sarah Anker

County officials joined Legislators Sarah Anker and Kara Hahn and County Executive Steve Bellone in announcing new changes to Cathedral Pines County Park. Photo by David Luces

County to increase accessibility options

As the weather begins to improve and with summer just around the corner, residents may begin to enjoy Suffolk County-owned parks. With their minds on attracting nature tourism, county officials came together April 26 to announce the start of a $5 million multiyear modernization project at Cathedral Pines County Park in Middle Island. 

“We are announcing our next phase of the Stay Suffolk campaign, where we are encouraging our residents to stay local,” County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said. “We want them to enjoy the things that we have here particularly in the summertime.” 

The renovation project is part of an effort to promote Suffolk County parks, local tourism and highlight popular destinations, as well as regional attractions. 

The first phase of the project will be a restoration of some of the park’s most used areas. Roads will be widened and realigned to reduce congestion, while areas are planned to be reconfigured to accommodate 74 additional campsites. All sites will be outfitted with concrete paved picnic table pads, barbecue grills, fire rings, a Wi-Fi system, water and electricity. 

Additionally, the renovations will create a designated recreation area away from the current campsites in the center of the park, where visitors can have oversight over children without disturbing other campers. 

“When we invest in our parks, it improves our quality of life,” Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), the chair of the Legislature’s parks committee, said.

“This is the place to be, and it will be even nicer once we are done with the improvement plan.”

— Kara Hahn

In 2012, the county had an analysis and study done on the park to develop a master plan, which has led to the $5 million expansion.

A playground will be converted into additional visitor parking, while the county would create a new children’s playground located adjacent to the activity building. New projects also include a new picnic pavilion area, additional picnic tables and grills, bathhouses with upgraded showers that meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards for accessibility, five new horseshoe courts, two new boccie courts and a new sand volleyball court. The final phase of the plan is to create a new drive-up check-in station for campers to streamline the check-in process and updates to sanitary systems and the installation of a new central dump station with tanks to store sanitary waste from the bathhouses.

Hahn added that the project will go a long way in providing the necessary activities for residents to take a vacation locally.  

“There are so many spectacular spots available for hiking, camping and biking,” she said. “This is the place to be, and it will be even nicer once we are done with the improvement plan.”

Cathedral Pines consist of 320 acres of parkland located along the headwaters of the Carmans River and is one of 10 Suffolk County parks that offer overnight camping and possesses a 6-mile mountain bike trail system.  

The county has also announced new accessibility options at other county-owned parks.

Handicap-accessible golf carts will be available at West Sayville Golf Course for free for disabled veterans. Wheelchair-accessible beach chairs will be available at the Cupsogue, Meschutt and Smith Point beaches. Patrons can call the beaches in advance to have the wheelchairs ready upon their arrival. Mobility mats will be rolled out this summer at Smith Point to make it accessible for wheelchair users, elderly and families traveling with children.  

“I’m a part of the senior committee and I hear a lot of complaints that some residents are not able to come to our parks because it’s not accessible,” Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said. “So now moving forward we are investing in this very important issue.”

Suffolk legislators Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) and Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) along with women’s groups and members of local soccer teams attend a press conference April 2 for Equal Pay Day. Photo from Kara Hahn’s office

Suffolk County and Town of Brookhaven officials celebrated Equal Pay Day April 2 by vowing to call attention to the gender pay gap between men and women, especially in the sports world.

Members of the Island-wide Gender Equality Coalition, soccer coaches and student athletes joined forces at a press conference in Hauppauge to highlight workplace gender discrimination in compensation and call on the U.S. Soccer Federation to end gender discrimination in soccer for the sake of future generations of young women athletes and the integrity of the sport. In addition, they called for women all over the country to sign their petition and help them send a message in the world of athletes and beyond. 

“As the mother of a young girl, I want my daughter to know that her mother fought for equal rights and equal pay for women when I had the opportunity.”

— Valerie Cartright

On International Women’s Day March 8, the U.S. women’s soccer team filed a gender discrimination suit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, citing salary disparities and unequal support, including inferior training, promotion and playing conditions than their male counterparts. Despite consistently greater success on the field than the U.S. men’s soccer team, the three-time world champion, four-time Olympic gold medal U.S. women’s soccer team said they continue to be paid a fraction of the salary paid to men’s team members. They also allege, unequal treatment by the federation often exposes female athletes to more hazardous conditions to practice, train and compete.

“Young girls around the world idolize the U.S. women’s soccer players because they exemplify unmatched strength, skill and fearlessness,” said Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). “Their lawsuit sends a message of solidarity with women worldwide who are fighting for equality in the workplace and presents an important teachable moment for our children about gender disparity and the ongoing fight for women’s equal rights.”

At the Town of Brookhaven board meeting March 27, Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) sponsored a resolution to make April 2 Equal Pay Day within the town, which was passed unanimously by the board.

“Pay equity is critically important to having a fair and just workplace,” Cartright said. “Unequal pay and gender discrimination impact a woman as an individual; it impacts her family and the larger society. On a personal level, as the mother of a young girl, I want my daughter to know that her mother fought for equal rights and equal pay for women when I had the opportunity.”

“Their lawsuit sends a message of solidarity with women worldwide who are fighting for equality in the workplace.”

— Kara Hahn

In New York State, the gender pay gap, or the earnings ratio of women’s median earnings divided by men’s median earnings, is 80 percent. In 2017, women living in Suffolk County earned 78% of what men earned, according to Hahn’s office. Women who are identified within minority groups fare even worse, with black woman earning 79% and Hispanic woman earning just 58% as compared to white men.

“Today, we are wearing red to symbolize that women are ‘in the red’ in terms of pay, as compared to men performing similar work,” said Colleen Merlo, the executive director of L.I. Against Domestic Violence and chair of the Gender Equity Coalition. “This issue is not just a women’s issue, it affects children and families.”

Hahn said she created a letter writing campaign and petition about attaining gender pay equality and to help the U.S women’s soccer team. The petition can be accessed at Change.org under the title Pay and Treat Women Soccer Players the Same as Male Players at http://chng.it/k54wZZqJH6 and a sample letter can be found at http://tinyurl.com/yycb3f8v.

During the next two months leading up to the World Cup in France June 7, the group hopes to obtain 75,000 signatures for the petition, which they will then deliver to U.S. Soccer Federation officials. A 2015 petition supporting the team garnered more than 69,000 signatures, according to Hahn’s office.

Narcan kit

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai)and the Sound Beach Civic Association will host an opioid overdose prevention and Narcan training class at the Sound Beach Firehouse, 152 Sound Beach Blvd., on Monday, April 8 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. This class meets the NYS Department of Health requirements and includes training on how to recognize opioid overdose, how to administer Narcan and steps to take until EMS arrives. Participants will receive a certificate of completion and an emergency resuscitation kit that includes Narcan. Free but advance registration is required by calling 631-854-1600.

Kym Laube, executive director of Human Understanding & Growth Services Inc., a nonprofit organization in Westhampton Beach that provides educational and recreational programs for youth in Suffolk County, discusses the effects of drugs and alcohol on the youth and student athletes at Legislator Sarah Anker’s Youth Sports Safety Forum. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Sports are fun until safety becomes an issue.

In light of two incidences in Shoreham-Wading River where children where harmed while playing sports, Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) hosted a Youth Sports Safety Forum on Wednesday, Sept. 30 to raise awareness of the issue.

The death of 16-year-old Tom Cutinella, who died last year after a collision on the football field, and an incident involving 15-year-old Jack Crowley, who was revived after he was struck in the chest with a baseball at the batting cages, sparked an even greater desire to help prevent these incidents from occurring,

Despite the poor turnout, as about 20 community members attended, the forum’s goal remained the same: to educate the public about keeping student-athletes safe on and off the field. The forum consisted of several speakers, including Anker, County Executive Steve Bellone (D), school sports coaches and athletic professionals.

Although student-athlete safety is traditionally perceived as the coaches’ sole responsibility, guest speakers like Rick Mercurio said parents and players are also responsible for an athlete’s safety. Mercurio is currently part of the Federation of International Lacrosse’s Development Committee and used to coach the Sachem High School boys’ lacrosse team.

He also admitted that coaches have the power to make a student feel stressed or happy.

“We forget that when we talk about safety … it’s not just about an athlete’s physical safety,” Mercurio said during the forum. “It’s mental safety as well.”

While athletes may jeopardize their own safety during practices or games if they feel pressured to go above and beyond for their coach, Frank McCoy, an orthopedic physical therapist from Advanced Sports Physical Therapy in East Setauket, said parents are also a source of pressure for student-athletes. He mentioned some parents may push their children to reach the professional level in their sport. He added that that pressure causes young athletes to surpass their own limits.

“They don’t want to necessarily mention that they have pain or that they’ve had some discomfort during practice or a game because they don’t want to be taken out of the game,” McCoy said during the forum.

Mark Passamonte, Frank McCoy, Dan Nowlan, Rick Mercurio, Legislator Sarah Anker, Kym Laube, Don Webster, Jeremy Thode and Dr. Hayley Queller were all speakers at Anker's sports safety forum. Photo from Theresa Santoro
Mark Passamonte, Frank McCoy, Dan Nowlan, Rick Mercurio, Legislator Sarah Anker, Kym Laube, Don Webster, Jeremy Thode and Dr. Hayley Queller were all speakers at Anker’s sports safety forum. Photo from Theresa Santoro

According to McCoy, 90 percent of athletes sustain an injury while playing sports and 50 percent continue to play when they are injured. Injuries from overusing parts of the body becomes a concern when athletes are pushing past their pain to appease parents or coaches. These types of injuries are usually preventable provided that athletes do preventative exercises, which they don’t always learn from their coaches or parents.

McCoy also mentioned that athletes should not play more hours than their age and should not play one sport year-round or multiple sports in one season.

Aside from resting the body, Jeremy Thode, the athletic director at Center Moriches High School, said positive reinforcement is also vital to an athlete’s safety. Student-athletes may suffer added stress if they are faced with degrading comments like “you throw like a girl.”

“We’re telling little boys — number one that they’re not good enough in their performance, but we are also saying negative things about girls,” Thode said.

The idea is that these comments may encourage young athletes to ignore their mental or physical discomfort or both to prove their worth in their sport or sports.

Kym Laube, executive director of Human Understanding & Growth Services Inc., a nonprofit organization in Westhampton Beach that provides educational and recreational programs for the youth in Suffolk County, acknowledged how drugs and alcohol may affect players — especially those who may not have family support or a healthy living environment.

Laube said they can’t build treatment centers big enough or fast enough to accommodate the magnitude of athletes struggling with alcohol or drug issues. According to Laube, alcohol is still the number one killer of high school students. Combatting this issue, especially concerning student-athletes, is a group effort since athletes may drink to relieve stress and anxiety, but are more susceptible to injuries 24 hours after they drink.

“We know that if coaches take a strong policy — if families take a strong policy, we begin to stop saying it’s just kids being kids,” Laube said during the forum. “It’s about wanting to keep them safe on the playing field.”

Anker not only agreed with the forum’s guest speakers on their concerns and viewpoints regarding safety in sports, but reemphasized the importance of keeping athletes safe and informing the public how to ensure the safety of young athletes.

“As a community, we must learn from past incidences and go forward to create safe programs for our young athletes,” Anker said in an email. “Everyone has the ability to protect our kids, however, if they do not have important information regarding sports safety, our children may be at risk for injury. By providing valuable information we can limit injuries on the field and keep our kids safe. I will continue to work with our sports experts to bring their information to communities across Suffolk County.”

This version corrects the spelling of Jeremy Thode’s name.

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