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Maria Hoffman

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Jane and Rob Taylor: Maria and George Hoffman; and Gretchen and Herb Mones are familiar to many in the Three Village community. Photos from Jane Taylor, Maria Hoffman and Herb Mones.

The Three Village area is filled with movers and shakers, so it’s no surprise that many of them are married to each other. Recently, three of the area’s community-minded couples took time out of their busy schedules to talk about their relationships and balancing their active lifestyles.

George and Maria Hoffman

“We make time to balance all the busyness. So, I think that is part of keeping things alive.”

— Maria Hoffman

George Hoffman, of East Setauket, is a familiar face in the Three Village area. He is first vice president of the Three Village Civic Association and co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force. Maria Hoffman is chief of staff for state Assemblyman Steven Englebright (D-Setauket), a local beekeeper and a volunteer with the harbor task force.

The Hoffmans married in 2009 in Frank Melville Memorial Park, and they said it’s the second time around for both of them. A couple of years before they tied the knot, the two met through Englebright’s office. George Hoffman, who has worked in the political field for 35 years, was living on the South Shore working with a former county legislator, Wayne Prospect, when he first met Englebright. One day when he saw Maria at the office, she asked him to take a walk in the park and soon after they started dating.

The husband said with both being community activists they understand each other’s schedule, like when she’s under deadline or he has a night meeting, and they don’t get as stressed as some couples might. George Hoffman said it also helps that their interests overlap, and they have easygoing temperaments.

“I think we are respectful of each other’s responsibilities,” he said. “We have separate spheres that overlap a little bit in terms of the environment and community. She’s involved more in government, and then it overlaps into environment and community.”

The husband, who said his wife is the first one he goes to for editing his work, added the two are good for each other especially making sure the other doesn’t procrastinate. Maria Hoffman said they also work on ideas together.

The wife said it’s important for busy couples to spend time alone with each other too, calling the time “regeneration periods.”

“We also make time for things that are important, whether it’s walking or in the summertime boating — being on a sailboat,” Maria Hoffman said. “We make time to balance all the busyness. So, I think that is part of keeping things alive.”

Herb and Gretchen Mones

Herb and Gretchen Mones, from Stony Brook, have been married for 28 years and have three grown sons. The two met while teaching at Centereach High School where she was an English teacher and he was a social studies teacher.

“Gretchen has such an integrity to do the work she does correctly and immaculately, and with a degree of professionalism, that it becomes a model to attain to.”

— Herb Mones

Gretchen Mones is the first vice president at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium, an organization where she has been an active board member for 15 years, and has chaired the education and exhibits committee for more than a dozen years.

Herb Mones has been a board member of the Three Village Civic Association for almost 30 years. A past president of the civic, he currently serves as the organization’s land use chair. In addition to his work with the civic association, he is a board member of the Three Village Community Trust, which works to preserve and protect buildings and properties in the community. He co-chaired the civic’s task force for more than a decade which eventually resulted in the construction of the Setauket-Port Jefferson Station Greenway Trail. Herb is a past chair of the Greening of 25A and was active in the movement to restore the West Meadow peninsula. He currently serves on a Town of Brookhaven West Meadow Beach steering committee.

Herb Mones said his wife’s commitment to everything she does inspires him to do things to the best of his ability. It’s something he noticed when they both taught at Centereach High School.

“Gretchen has such an integrity to do the work she does correctly and immaculately, and with a degree of professionalism, that it becomes a model to attain to,” Herb Mones said.

Gretchen Mones said her husband has never met a project he couldn’t conquer and has the energy of four of five people. He is up early every morning and walks the Greenway trail, where he cleans up any graffiti he sees.

“He’s just so capable and optimistic — dedicated,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a short term or long term. Once he starts, he’s in it until he finishes it. It’s really incredible. I don’t know how he does it. All my friends tell me how lucky I am and how lucky the community is, and I have to agree with them. He’s an incredible person.”

Gretchen Mones said sharing calendars helps them manage their schedules and attending each other’s social functions, especially fundraisers and annual events, is important.

Herb Mones said volunteer work helps with one’s personal growth as well as a relationship, even when a husband and wife may be involved in different community activities.

“You have a greater understanding not only of what you’re doing but what the other person is doing,” he said.

Jane and Rob Taylor

Jane and Rob Taylor, who have been married for 47 years, were introduced by a friend at a Doors concert. Three Village residents know Jane Taylor from her various roles with The Stony Brook School during her 44-year career. Her husband graduated from the private school in 1967 and worked in the school’s business office for a time after college.

“Blending all the parts of your life together is never easy and it’s never going to go smoothly, and there are going to be bumps. And you have to accept that fact that it’s going to be bumpy. Some seasons are going to be a little harder than others.”

— Jane Taylor

Last summer Jane Taylor stepped down from her role as assistant head of school and is currently the executive director of The Three Village Chamber of Commerce. Rob Taylor, a CPA and a former partner in the Manhattan office of CapinCrouse, still provides virtual chief financial officer services for local organizations.

Successful careers haven’t kept the couple from being involved in the community. Jane Taylor serves on a West Meadow advisory committee, co-chaired the Route 25A Corridor Citizens Advisory Committee, is a long-term member of the Walk for Beauty Committee, among others. Over the years, Rob Taylor has served as an elder of a local church, is a founding president of Leadership Huntington, and is on the boards of The Jazz Loft and Citygate, which works with the homeless. He is also a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

The couple said a wife and husband don’t have to be involved in similar activities, and sometimes one’s community work not only helps them each to become a better person but improves relationships. The two have also learned from each other.

While Jane Taylor admires her husband’s knack for writing, she also appreciates his energy. Rob Taylor said he takes joy in seeing how his wife works with people from many different perspectives. He also credits her for bringing order to his life.

Jane Taylor said a shared calendar is helpful to keep their schedules in sync, even though she admitted sometimes they forget to tell one another about an activity here and there.

“Blending all the parts of your life together is never easy and it’s never going to go smoothly, and there are going to be bumps,” she said. “And you have to accept that fact that it’s going to be bumpy. Some seasons are going to be a little harder than others.”

Rob Taylor, who together with Jane has two grown children, said commitment helps with balancing, too.

“I think some of it is a matter of just, from a philosophical and practical standpoint, knowing that you want to be involved in community and to make a commitment to business and family at the same time and just working together to make it work,” he said.

Know someone in the Three Village area who is mover and shaker? If so, send an email to rita@tbrnewsmedia.com, and you may see his or her story in a future edition of The Village Times Herald.

Snowy Owl by Rainy Sepulveda

By Heidi Sutton

Something special is in the air. From Feb. 9 to 21, the Four Harbors Audubon Society (FHAS) will present a photography exhibit titled A Valentine to Whitman’s Paumanok, featuring the wildlife and landscapes that influenced the early life of one of America’s greatest poets, at The Bates House in Setauket. The venue is a fitting one as it is nestled in the 26-acre Frank Melville Memorial Park where many of the photographs in the exhibit were taken. 

In a recent interview, curator Patricia Paladines, outreach chairman of the FHAS board, said the show will feature the works of 12 photographers who were invited to submit up to five images each. 

The concept for the exhibition came about when Paladines heard from her friend Lise Hintze, who manages The Bates House, that the venue was interested in hosting an art exhibit of some sort. A shutterbug herself, Paladines was familiar with many talented nature photographers who shoot locally. “The whole idea worked very well with the mission of the Four Harbors Audubon Society,” she said. 

Kingfisher by William Walsh

Indeed, the 60-piece collection features breathtaking images of nature, from a great blue heron searching for his next meal, a juvenile kingfisher perched on a branch, a seahorse gripping onto a blade of seagrass in the swift current, to a nest of fluffy cygnets, each more visually stunning than the next.

Exhibiting photographers include Dr. Maria Bowling, Maria Hoffman, Joe Kelly, Anita Jo Lago, Luke Ormand, Christopher Paparo, Derek Rogers, Rainy Sepulveda, Alexandra Srp, Kevin Walsh, William Walsh and Debra Wortzman

“I wanted the show to be a platform for the work of these photographers who dedicate a lot of time capturing the natural beauty of Long Island and hopefully in turn inspire the viewers to make time to go out and enjoy it too in the many parks, preserve and natural shorelines that surround us,” Paladines explained, adding that the idea was to “raise awareness of the variety of wildlife that we can see if we just look around this lovely island.”

The fact that Whitman’s 200th birthday will be celebrated all over the country this year was just coincidental in referencing America’s most celebrated literary figure in the title. “Actually I found that out later,” said Paladines. “I was delighted to learn that it is the bicentennial of Walt Whitman’s birth. I like his poetry and Long Island is where, of course, he was born and where he was inspired early in his life. He uses nature in a lot of his poetry. [When deciding the title] I though it’s Valentine’s Day, this exhibit should be about Long Island and I’ve always liked Whitman’s poem that starts out “Starting from fish-shape Paumanok …” 

Lined Seahorse by Chris Paparo

Paladines is hopeful that this show will become an annual event. “We’ll see how it goes this year,” she laughed.

Join the Four Harbors Audubon Society for an opening reception on Saturday, Feb. 9 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Special guest Darrel Blaine Ford, historian, ornithologist and Walt Whitman personator, will read a few poems from “Leaves of Grass” including “There Was a Child Went Forth.” Refreshments will be served. The exhibit will be on view at The Bates House, 1 Bates Road, Setauket through Feb. 21. All the photographs will be for sale. Call 631-689-7054 or visit www.thebateshouse.org for viewing hours.

Serving the Townships of Smithtown and Northwest Brookhaven, the Four Harbors Audubon Society’s mission is to advocate education and conservation efforts for the enjoyment, preservation and restoration of birds, wildlife and habitat in our communities. The society hosts monthly bird walks at Frank Melville Memorial Park and West Meadow Beach in Setauket, and Avalon Park & Preserve in Stony Brook; lectures at Emma S. Clark Memorial Library; Friday movie nights at the Smithtown Library; field trips; and bird counts including the popular Stone Bridge Nighthawk Watch. For more information, visit www.fourharborsaudubon.com.

A stormwater retention pond on Route 25A created by the state continues to cause problems for residents, including those living in the Village of Poquott. Photo by Maria Hoffman

Village of Poquott officials are keeping a close eye on a Route 25A stormwater retention pond directly outside of the hamlet.

Richard Parrish, Poquott’s stormwater management officer, sent a letter last month to New York State Department of Transportation calling for the state to fix persistent problems with the stormwater retention pond slightly east of Route 25A and Van Brunt Manor Road on the south side of the roadway.

Poquott residents complained that the retention pond creates unsafe and unsanitary conditions, according to Parrish’s letter. The unfenced structure is constructed of earthen walls and an earthen base, and residents are concerned about stabilization issues, where the sidewalls can collapse and cause a person or animal to fall or become trapped. Parrish said after a heavy rainfall the structure can fill with up to 4 feet of water.

It is the second letter in a year that Parrish, president and CEO of environmental consulting company Impact Environmental, has sent to Margaret Conklin, DOT’s acting transportation maintenance engineer.

“It’s not working because it’s always full of water, and it’s supposed to drain.”

— George Hoffman

After the first letter Parrish wrote in June 2018, the state sent DOT workers to the site July 10 to investigate the reported issues, but village residents still see it as a nuisance and have not seen any improvements.

Residents are worried that the standing water has attracted rats and mosquitoes; the structure has no controls when it overflows for capturing sediment and preventing the distribution of sediments; contaminants such as nitrates, chlorides and pathogens can possibly run into the road and village; and runoff might go directly to the water table and cause possible contamination.

“While we are aware that the department is exempt from certain environmental regulations with respect to road maintenance, we believe it is your requirement to operate within the intent of these regulations,” Parrish said in the December letter.

George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said placing a filter system at the location was an opportunity for the state to create a rain garden that usually has vegetation that thrives on the nitrogen in the water, with rocks and stones to improve drainage.

By comparison, he said the current structure looks like a big pit with an asphalt strip to drain water.

“It’s not working because it’s always full of water, and it’s supposed to drain,” he said, adding he’s heard stories of animals getting trapped in it.

Maria Hoffman, a volunteer with the task force, said the particular stretch of Route 25A on the south side is known for clay under the surface, which causes poor drainage.

Stephen Canzoneri, a DOT spokesman, said the agency is aware of the situation and continues to investigate options for a more permanent solution.

During the Jan. 10 Village of Poquott work session, the board of trustees decided to table a decision as to how to proceed about the matter until its next meeting Feb. 11 and allow the state additional time to respond to Parrish’s December letter.

HELLO WORLD! Maria Hoffman of Setauket was in the right place at the right time when she snapped this photo of a diamondback terrapin hatching at West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook on Aug. 20. She writes, ‘I met a young woman, Emmy Silver, who was standing watch over a diamondback terrapin nest that had begun to hatch on the side of the path to the Gamecock Cottage. She was a volunteer for Friends of Flax Pond, which monitors the turtle nesting. While I spoke with her, we watched this one egg hatch. The little turtle was only about 2 inches long. Once it broke its head out of the egg, it rested for a long while. But once it was ready to come out, it made a fast push and then all its movements were fast. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen!’

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

Maria Hoffman, Jane Fasullo, chair of the Long Island chapter of the Sierra Club, and George Hoffman attended the People’s Climate March in Washington D.C. Photo from Maria Hoffman

By George and Maria Hoffman

Two years ago the United States was the leading voice on global climate action at the Paris conference. Then came the November election and this week the new president will be deciding whether or not the U.S. will even remain in the Paris climate agreement.

Facing such a policy sea change, we decided to travel to Washington D.C. April 29 and join with more than 200,000 people from across the U.S. to show our support for continued government action in reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are dangerously warming
our planet.

At 2 a.m. our journey began, meeting a bus at Stony Brook University that was chartered by the local chapter of the Sierra Club. There we were joined by dozens of Long Islanders who like us were compelled to travel to Washington and take part in the People’s Climate March.

The bus was filled with college students, retirees and people of all ages in between, who joined together because of their concern about our planet.

We arrived at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in the early hours of the morning, converging on Washington with hundreds of other buses filled with people from other states across the U.S. There was a friendly, small-town camaraderie as we were given instructions by march organizers about the day’s events and where we were to meet up by the Capitol building.

It was heartening to see so many people who were willing to wake up in the middle of the night to travel hundreds of miles to the Capitol for the purpose of using the power of our numbers to show our leaders that the issue of climate change needs action now.

As the sun climbed the morning sky, the April temperatures started to feel like summer, eventually reaching a record 91 degrees Fahrenheit degrees. But the marchers were not discouraged by the heat and marched from the Capitol down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House with signs and banners supporting clean energy, staying in the Paris agreement and warnings that our seas were rising and the planet was in jeopardy.

As we walked to the White House, we noticed there were a lot of people carrying signs about the effect of climate change on honey bees. As beekeepers ourselves, we know that the effects of climate change—from extreme weather fluctuations to earlier flowering times—can have a devastating impact on both pollination and the survival of local bee colonies and wild pollinators.

One of the most powerful moments of the march happened as we passed the Newseum, the museum dedicated to the five freedoms of the First Amendment, and we saw etched on its facade the solid and simple words of the First Amendment that gave “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” To read this amendment carved in stone before us as we exercised the very freedoms made real by those words was profound and moving.

After the march was over and we returned to our buses for the long drive back to Long Island, many of us shared stories about the day’s events and how energized we were by taking part in a show of strength in our nation’s capital in support of continued action on climate change. 

After almost 24 hours from the start of our journey, we pulled back into the university. We were tired from our long march down Pennsylvania Avenue. But a spark returned as we spoke of that moment as we passed the Newseum and saw the words of the First Amendment. That moment seemed to be fundamental both to the day and to what it meant be an American citizen. We had peaceably assembled, and petitioned our leaders to accept the scientific consensus that the Earth is warming and to take action to prevent further harm.

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