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Middle Island

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County police last night arrested four people after conducting State Liquor Authority inspections on June 20 in the Town of Brookhaven.

Seventh Precinct Crime Section officers conducted SLA inspections utilizing an underage police agent.

The police agent attempted to purchase alcoholic beverages from targeted businesses within the Town of Brookhaven.

The following businesses did not comply with the New York State Liquor Authority and sold an alcoholic beverage to an underage police agent:

  • 25A Gas Plus located at 613 Route 25A in Rocky Point
  • BP Gas Station located at 367 Route 25A in Rocky Pont
  • Handy Pantry located at 280 Echo Ave. in Sound Beach
  • BP Gas Station located at 1470 Middle County Road in Ridge

The following people were charged with NYS penal law 260.20 — first-degree unlawfully dealing with a child. They were issued field appearance tickets and will be arraigned at a later date.

  • Natwarbhai Patel, 55 of Rocky Point
  • Alican Mavruk, 54, of Port Jefferson
  • Amir Riaz, 55, of Riverhead
  • Nicholas Derosa, 16, of Miller Place

The following businesses complied with the New York State Liquor Authority and refused to sell an alcoholic beverage to an underage police agent:

  • USA Petroleum located at 681 Route 25A in Rocky Point
  • BP Gas Station located at 779 Route 25A in Rocky Point
  • USA Gas Selda Corporation located at 1146 Middle Country Road in Middle Island

File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police 7th Squad detectives are investigating a motor vehicle crash that seriously injured a 4-year-old girl.

Heather Lee and her daughter, Willow Lee, were walking westbound and crossing a parking lot entrance on the north side of Route 25 when they were struck by a Suffolk County Transit bus at approximately 6:55 p.m. The bus had been traveling eastbound on Route 25 when the bus driver made a left into a parking lot, located at 1175 Middle Country Road in Middle Island, when the crash occurred.

Lee, 27, and Willow, 4, of Shoreham, were both transported by Middle Island Rescue to Stony Brook University Hospital. Willow suffered head trauma and is in serious condition. The girl’s mother suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The bus driver, Thomas Lowitt, 63, of Islip, was not injured.

Highway Patrol Motor Carrier Safety Section officers responded and conducted a safety check on the bus. The investigation is ongoing.

Melissa Firmes, at center, the founder of Kids Need More, with her husband John, at the Kids Need paint night fundraising event. Photo by Kevin Redding

Locals unleashed their inner artists this week to ensure a fun summer for local kids coping with cancer.

At the Paint Pallet Party for Kids Need More, hosted at Recipe Seven in Miller Place May 16, families, friends and complete strangers bonded for a night of painting and fundraising to benefit the nonprofit’s six-week summer camp at Saddle Rock Ranch in Middle Island. The proceeds will help cover the expensive costs of transporting kids from their home to the camp.

North Shore residents attended a paint party at Recipe Seven in Miller Place to help support nonprofit Kids Need More. Photo by Kevin Redding

The camp, which kicks off June 26 and runs until July 28, is a fun-filled program where kids with life-threatening illnesses and special challenges overcome their obstacles through horseback riding and other equine-assisted activities. It’s one of several selfless events put on by the volunteers at Kids Need More, a nonprofit organization started in 2013 to enhance the lives of kids between 4 and 14 and their families.

So when Kayla Vigorito and Lula Lukasiewicz, members of the Bohemia-based accounting firm Cerini & Associates, were on the lookout to recognize and help out charitable companies in the area that are making a difference in their community, it didn’t take long to hit the ground running with a fundraiser for the organization.

“Kids Need More is basically Make-A-Wish on steroids,” Lukasiewicz said. “They do so much for the kids, they’re a family to them, and we wanted to help as much as we could. Kayla thought up the idea of a painting fundraiser — it’s all for a good cause and we definitely want to do it again.”

Vigorito said she was thankful so many people came out in support of the cause.

“Every day, we see the kids struggling and they’re sick and we wanted to do our part to help them experience things that the rest of us experience,” Vigorito said. “It’s very exciting that it all came together.”

North Shore residents attended a paint party at Recipe Seven in Miller Place to help support nonprofit Kids Need More and Bohemia accounting firm members and helpers Lula Lukasiewicz and Kayla Vigorito, above. Photo by Kevin Redding

Forty-five painters, all from towns across the North Shore, signed up with an entry fee of $30 to $50, which went toward painting materials supplied by JL Designs and for Kids Need More — and could choose from seven inspirational sayings to paint on either a wooden pallet or mason jars in a flower box. Some of the sayings included “this is us” and “begin each day with a grateful heart.”

Anybody not interested in painting could attend for free with an option to donate to the nonprofit at the door; raffle tickets, a 50/50 and a door prize were given out.

Kristen Pondini, of Wading River, got involved as soon as she heard where the money was going.

“I just like supporting anything that has to do with cancer awareness,” Pondini said. “I think everyone is personally affected by cancer, in one way or another, and I just always like to support those who need it.”

Mount Sinai resident Carol Dunne said she loved the combination of art and donation.

“I just love doing stuff like this,” Dunne said as she made brush strokes to a flower-box. “And doing something for a great cause is always fun. I love getting together and making a difference.”

Melissa Firmes, who founded Kids Need More with her husband John, said the organization runs on small grants and individual donations, so she’s grateful for what Vigorito and Lukasiewicz have done.

North Shore residents, like Michael Carnes, above, attended a paint party at Recipe Seven in Miller Place, on right, to help support children with cancer through the nonprofit Kids Need More. Photo by Kevin Redding

“It’s really overwhelming and it really came from their hearts,” said Firmes, who was recently diagnosed with cancer herself. “It also makes me feel that I’m around the right people, and really good people. That’s the reason I do what I do … there’s a lot of wonderful people out there who want to do good and sometimes you just need to find an opportunity to do it.”

She said the ideal fund goal for transportation and activities for the kids would be $20,000.

Miller Place resident Fariba Pallas, whose son Jesse was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 when he was  4 and is currently in remission, said the nonprofit makes the kids forget the pain they’re going through.

“My son calls them his family,” Pallas said. “This is not just an organization … they’re involved, they came to visit my son in the hospital day after day. These volunteers that never get paid, who all have jobs or go to school, still find time to get involved with the families and kids. They’ll come to your house if they need to, they’ll dress up in costumes if they need to … these people are amazing.”

Michael Carnes, of Corrective Chiropractic in Miller Place, and his niece Ashley Leung were there as honorary guests for their work in personally delivering Christmas gifts to kids battling life-threatening illnesses. Carnes, who said many of his patients have cancer, assumes the role of Santa for the annual gift drop-off.

“I think it’s important to help children that are in need, that are hurting and struggling,” Carnes said, “and try to make a difference in their lives.”

Mount Sinai Harbor. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Suffolk County Police officers and firefighters from the Mount Sinai Fire Department rescued three hunters after their boat capsized in Mount Sinai Harbor the morning of Jan. 22.

James Knipe and his son, also named James, along with Kendrick Pisano, were duck hunting in a boat in Mount Sinai Harbor when their vessel took on water and overturned. After the three entered the water, they clung to the overturned boat and the elder Knipe, 47, called 911 on his cell phone.

Suffolk Police notified the United States Coast Guard and the Mount Sinai Fire Department. When Sixth Precinct officers arrived on scene, they observed all three clinging to the overturned boat and holding onto life jackets. Members of the Mount Sinai Fire Department launched an inflatable vessel and rescued the younger Knipe, 17, and Pisano, 16, from the water. Suffolk Police Marine Bureau Officers John Castorf and Christopher DeFeo, aboard Marine November, pulled James Knipe from the water.

All three victims were brought to the boat ramp and transported to local hospitals for treatment of exposure and hypothermia. Pisano, of Miller Place, was taken to John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson and the Knipes, of Middle Island, were transported to Stony Brook University Hospital.

Marine Bureau officers recovered and secured the vessel, the victims’ belongings and three shotguns from the harbor.

The water temperature at the time of the incident was approximately 45 degrees. The Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau reminds boaters and hunters that New York State Law requires that personal flotation devices be worn at all times on vessels less than 21 feet in length, from November 1 to May 1.

Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco signs $10,000 check presented with Legislator Sarah Anker, on right, to the North Shore Youth Council for a new family counseling initiative to combat substance abuse. Photo from sheriff's office

A strong support system is vital in a fight against drug abuse, and now North Shore families will have more options to help struggling loved ones manage their addiction.

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco delivered a check for $10,000 to the North Shore Youth Council in Rocky Point this week, which will be designated for its new family counseling initiative to combat substance abuse. The grant, which is funded from the sheriff’s office asset forfeiture monies, will engage whole families in therapy designed to help them cope, understand the root causes of addiction and support their loved one’s recovery.

Anker proposed the pilot initiative following a conversation with Father Frank Pizzarelli from Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco with members of the North Shore Youth Council after presenting the check for it's new substance abuse program. Photo from sheriff's office
Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker and Suffolk County Sheriff Vincent DeMarco with members of the North Shore Youth Council after presenting the check for it’s new substance abuse program. Photo from sheriff’s office“Father Frank is on the frontlines in our battle against addiction in Suffolk County,” she said. “He impressed upon me the importance of the family unit in successfully treating addiction.”

When Anker approached the sheriff about the possibility of using asset forfeiture funds dedicated for this purpose, DeMarco was all in favor of the project.

“Family therapy can lower relapse rates, help parents with addicted children find effective ways to support their loved one’s recovery and even help children with addicted parents deal with their struggles,” he said. “ I am hoping this initiative will serve as a model and get more families involved in recovery.”

The North Shore Youth Council serves communities across the North Shore, including Port Jefferson, Wading River, Middle Island, Ridge and Coram. The agency helps hundreds of families each day through their school-based prevention and before and after care programs. According to the youth council’s Executive Director Janene Gentile, many people within the community can’t afford family counseling, because money is tight due to lost wages and the cost of treatment.

“Treatment is the first step, but ongoing family therapy is often essential to getting to the root of the problems that led someone to use drugs in the first place,” she said. “This grant will defer the cost of family counseling, which will eliminate the most common barrier to families engaging in therapy.

North Shore Youth Council’s Board President Laurel Sutton joined with Gentile in thanking the County sheriff and legislator for their support.

“I want to thank Sheriff DeMarco and Legislator Anker for giving us this opportunity to enhance our counseling services to struggling families impacted by the opioid [problem],” she said.

For more information about the family counseling initiative, or to schedule an appointment with a counselor, call the North Shore Youth Council at 631-744-0207.

A woman Nicole sits on the grass in Port Jefferson remembering those who were lost to and those who survived heroin addiction during the third annual Lights of Hope event on Aug. 31. Photo by Nora Milligan

Rebecca Anzel

When Daniel Scofield died in 2011 from a heroin overdose, his mother Dori decided to do something.

“I wasn’t going to keep [his death] under the carpet,” she said. “I just said, ‘I’ve got to bring this out into the world. My son was my life and I’m not going to bury his addiction with him. I have to help others. I have to bring awareness.’”

In April 2014, the founder of Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue and Adoption Center started Dan’s Foundation for Recovery, a not-for-profit organization that provides assistance to those suffering from alcohol or substance abuse. The group uses its donations to help an addict get help — it assists addicts in covering insurance copayments, treatment and travel costs to recovery centers in other states.

Scofield co-hosted Lights of Hope on Aug. 31 at Memorial Park in Port Jefferson. The event, which is in its third year, brought together families and friends to remember those who died from a drug overdose and to support those who are recovering from drug addiction.

Lit luminaires light up the night during the third annual Lights of Hope event in Port Jefferson on Aug. 31. Photo by Nora Milligan
Lit luminaires light up the night during the third annual Lights of Hope event in Port Jefferson on Aug. 31. Photo by Nora Milligan

The event’s other co-host was Public Relations Director Debbie Gross Longo of the New York Chapter of Magnolia New Beginnings, an advocacy, education, support and addiction resource group.

“Each year, unfortunately the crowd gets bigger,” Longo said. “We lose about 129 kids a day throughout the United States. This is something that is an epidemic. It has gotten out of control and there’s no reason for it.”

Longo’s son was a soccer player at Ward Melville High School. He was so talented, she said, he was being scouted by colleges. That was before he tore his quadricep.

The doctors at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson prescribed him oxycodone, and he became addicted. The price per pill of oxycodone is expensive — about $45 each, Longo said. So he switched to heroin, a much less expensive but more potent drug. Before long, his personality began to change.

“The changes happened pretty quickly until I couldn’t ignore it any longer, and that’s when he went to rehab,” she said. “It didn’t work the first time, it didn’t work the second time and it didn’t work the third time.”

Longo said her son is now living in a sober community in Florida helping other addicts get into recovery.

According to a 2015 New York State Opioid Poisoning, Overdose and Prevention report, there were 337 heroin-related deaths in Suffolk County between 2009 and 2013 — more than any other county in the state during that period.

“We come together to celebrate the lives they lived, we’re celebrating the recovery and we’re celebrating the people who are still struggling. We will never give up hope. Where there is life, there is hope.”

—Tracey Budd

In a brief speech at the Lights for Hope event, Scofield stressed the importance of helping those addicted to the drug get into recovery. Earlier that day, she said, she helped a young girl who lost her mother get into the Long Island Center for Recovery in Hampton Bays as well as three other young people get into a rehabilitation facility in Arizona.

In starting Dan’s Foundation, Scofield “wanted mostly to help kids that sought treatment now — not 10 days from now,” she said. “In 20 minutes, they’re gone. You have a small window of opportunity to help them and you’ve got to do it when you can do it.”

Scofield’s son David, 28, went through heroin recovery. His mom said her sons were best friends and they did everything together, including using heroin.

“I struggled with this disease for a long time,” he said to those who attended the Lights for Hope event. “I found a way to live sober. I found a different way to live my life.”

Event attendees decorated white paper bags with the name of a loved one who died from heroin or who recovered from it, and a message. Toward the end of the evening, a candle was placed inside each bag, and they were arranged in a large circle around the cannon in the park.

“We come together to celebrate the lives they lived, we’re celebrating the recovery and we’re celebrating the people who are still struggling,” Tracey Budd, a Rocky Point resident and founder of North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates, said. “We will never give up hope. Where there is life, there is hope.”

Budd’s son Kevin died in September 2012 from a heroin overdose. Her daughter Breanna has been drug-free since May 2014.

She said the stigma of addiction has changed dramatically since 2008 at the height of her son’s struggle with heroin. There is now a community of families that support each other through a child’s struggle with addiction or an addict’s death.

Tracey Budd, a Rocky Point resident and founder of North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates, displays her luminaire in memory of her son Kevin during the third annual Lights of Hope event in Port Jefferson on Aug. 31. Photo by Nora Milligan
Tracey Budd, a Rocky Point resident and founder of North Shore Drug Awareness Advocates, displays her luminaire in memory of her son Kevin during the third annual Lights of Hope event in Port Jefferson on Aug. 31. Photo by Nora Milligan

“It’s sad to say, but when you feel the hug of another mother who’s lost a child, even if you’ve never met, no words need to be spoken,” Budd said. “It’s a connection that we wish we didn’t have, but we do, and it’s actually pretty amazing.”

Middle Island resident Hugh Rhodus said the worst part of the heroin problem on Long Island is going to a funeral for a young person. He recently attended the funeral of a friend’s 24-year-old nephew.

“Going to a kid’s funeral is the hardest thing, but unfortunately we do it all the time,” he said. “It’s so hard to do. Kids that age laying in a casket is awful.”

Rhodus and his wife helped their daughter Amanda through her 13-year struggle with heroin. He said when they first tried to get her help, they took her to Mather Hospital, where they waited for a couple of hours after speaking with a nurse in a “room in the back.” Eventually, they were told to go to a hospital in Nassau County because Mather Hospital was unable to help Amanda.

“It’s your daughter, she’s sick, she’s a drug addict and that’s how we found out how powerful the stigma was,” Rhodus said. “We fought for years to get her in and out of treatment — it was tough. It was really tough.”

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) praised families and recovering addicts for not giving up.

“We can’t give up,” she said. “Everybody has to be engaged and participate because it is our lives and our children’s lives and our loved ones lives that’s on the line.”

Legislator Sarah Anker is hoping to turn the empty lot, which used to house a Kmart on Middle Country Road, into a local park. Photo from Sarah Anker

At the general meeting of the Suffolk County Legislature, Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) introduced two resolutions that could forever change Middle Island.

The two introductory resolutions, if approved by the Legislature, will begin the appraisal steps for the blighted Kmart property on Middle Country Road in Middle Island. One of the resolutions will appraise the southern portion of the property, approximately 21 acres, to be used as active parkland, and the second resolution will appraise the northern portion of the property, approximately 28 acres, to be designated as open space.

Since entering public office, Anker has been interested in having Suffolk County acquire the property to create a community park with athletic fields. The old Kmart, which was recently demolished by the owner, remained vacant for over a decade.

This year, Anker has been working with the county, the Town of Brookhaven, community organizations, including the Longwood Youth Sports Association and Middle Island Civic Association, and the current owner of the property to bring the idea to full fruition.

A community park, according to Anker, would help decrease crime and improve the quality of life for residents in Middle Island, as well as provide a safe space for youth sports leagues from across the area to come play.

“This blighted parcel is in great need of revitalization,” Anker said. “Having been part of the creation of Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park, I know with strong advocacy and public support we will be successful in Middle Island. After meeting with a number of stakeholders interested in creating Middle Island’s community park, I feel very confident that working together we can make this field of dreams a reality.”

To voice support for this project, contact Anker’s office at 631-854-1600, or email the Suffolk legislator at sarah.anker@suffolkcountyny.gov.

Robert Cariddi, of Mount Sinai, was arrested yesterday for burglarizing 16 businesses between August and October. Photo from the Suffolk County Police Department

Police arrested a Mount Sinai man Monday for allegedly burglarizing 16 Asian restaurants and nail salons over the last couple of months in Centereach, Selden, Setauket, Miller Place, Rocky Point, Sound Beach, Patchogue, Bohemia and Middle Island.

According to the Suffolk County Police Department, 6th Squad detectives, after noting a pattern of burglaries in which someone broke the front windows at the restaurants and nail salons and took cash, began patrolling potential targets similar to the burglarized businesses. On Monday, Detective Michael Fales allegedly observed suspect Robert Cariddi commit a burglary at Ho Ming Kitchen, on Route 25A in Miller Place.

Cariddi, a 49-year-old Mount Sinai resident, was arrested shortly afterward. He was charged with 16 counts of third-degree burglary and with false personation, and was scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday.

Attorney information for the suspect was not immediately available.

According to police, Cariddi allegedly targeted the businesses because they did not have alarms or surveillance systems.

Detectives are investigating whether Cariddi was responsible for other burglaries. Anyone with information is asked to call them at 631-854-8652, or to call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800-220-TIPS.

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