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Miller Place

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By Desirée Keegan & Bill Landon

The Miller Place football team has seemingly been playing catch-up all season, and with a 21-14 homecoming win over Shoreham-Wading River Oct. 14, the Panthers have climbed up another rung on the ladder toward their destination: the top of the Division IV leaderboard.

“It’s kind of been our M.O. all season — we’ve been playing catch up a lot this year, but the kids believe,” Miller Place head coach Greg Murphy said. “They believe that they’re going to get it done and these kids have tremendous character. I couldn’t be prouder of this bunch.”

Miller Place quarterback Anthony Seymour tries to shake off a tackler on a keeper play. Photo by Bill Landon

The Panthers snapped the Wildcats’ 12-game winning streak, and with the victory, also avenged a 49-6 blowout at the hands of Shoreham-Wading River in the Suffolk County semifinals last season. Junior tight end Tom Nealis sealed the homecoming victory with a 5-yard go-ahead touchdown catch from senior quarterback Anthony Seymour with six minutes left in the game.

Seymour faked a handoff and dropped back to pass to Nealis, running a slant pattern, who despite having double coverage on him, came down with the ball as he slid on his knees in the end zone.

“Our defense played their butts off — we only allowed 14 points from a lethal offense [like theirs],” Nealis said. “We ended their 12-game winning streak. They came here [on our homecoming] and we ended it — that really means a lot.”

During that game-winning play, Nealis was matched up with Shoreham-Wading River sophomore quarterback and defensive back Xavier Arline, who had a 48-yard touchdown run of his own in the game.

“Arline, he’s a great defender,” Seymour said. “But [Nealis] came down with the ball for the touchdown — he’s been really big for us this year.”

Shoreham-Wading River senior running back Kyle Boden struck first for the Wildcats, but things changed when he went down with a knee injury late in the third quarter and sat out the rest of the game.

Miller Place tight end Tom Nealis reigns in the ball for a catch during the homecoming football game Oct. 14. Photo by Bill Landon

Miller Place’s Sebastian Cannon helped propel the Panthers to tie the game up first, after the Wildcats jumped out to a 14-0 lead with three minutes left in the first half. The junior running back returned a kickoff 60 yards before being forced out of bounds at the 8-yard line, and then finished what he started two plays later on a 14-yard dash into the end zone for his team’s first score. He also ran in an 8-yard touchdown to tie the game on the way to 48 yards on eight attempts in the contest.

“We jumped on them early, and we had a chance to capitalize on that momentum, but I think one of the big plays was that kickoff return after [our] second touchdown,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Matt Millheiser said. “It was a big return which gave them some momentum — it got the crowd into it because they had been quiet for awhile. When they scored on that drive, that put us on our heels.”

Cannon said his team was poised to make the plays needed to turn the game around.

“I was confident that we could make a comeback — giving us momentum going into the second half,” Cannon said. “But it was our defense that won the game for us.”

Shoreham-Wading River and Miller Place are now tied at 5-1 behind undefeated Babylon in the standings. The Wildcats have dominated their division like few other Long Island teams ever have, winning the last three Long Island championship titles. No team has ever won four straight since the LIC began in 1992.

“In the end they out played us, they out coached us; they did a great job and they beat us all the way around,” Millheiser said. “We’ve been here before, so we’ll get back to work on Monday [to get ready for Babylon at 6 p.m. Oct. 20] and see if we can right the ship.”

Nico's Way serves as reminder of child's character

Vincent Sr. and Kim Signore embrace one another while their son Vincent Jr. speaks during the street-renaming ceremony. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

After her son was fatally struck by an SUV earlier this year, Kim Signore of Miller Place feared 14-year-old Nico would be forgotten. But a new street sign on the block where the budding lacrosse star grew up will help preserve his memory forever.

The Signores huddled together alongside family, friends and elected officials Oct. 6 during an unveiling of the sign labeled Nico’s Way. The dedication was done on the corner of Miller Place Road and Islander Court in Miller Place for the boy who died riding his bike on a busy intersection on Route 25A in February. The street sign, which stands only a few houses down from the Signore residence, was installed by the Town of Brookhaven at the request of members of the family.

“This block is where it all began for Nico,” the boy’s older brother, Vincent Jr., said before the unveiling. “Nico left us too soon, but in the little time he was here on this Earth he taught us how to live life to the fullest. He will never be forgotten. We hope that this street serves as a compass when you are lost and can’t find your way.”

Nico Signore’s Miller Place lacrosse teammates attend the ceremony to pay their respects and remember their fallen friend. Photo by Kevin Redding

Kathleen Perry, a longtime friend of the Signore family, agrees the dedication is a wonderful way to help Nico live on.

“Nico just lit up this block,” Perry said, remembering the 14-year-old as the most kindhearted boy she’d met. “I think this is a great thing for the town to do.”

Nico’s aunt, Mary Alipo, said although the family will never be the same after the tragedy, townwide support is helping with the healing process.

“He was such an amazing individual and to see this many people who cared about him coming forward and serving as a support group is just incredible,” Alipo said.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) commended the Miller Place community for rallying around the Signores in their time of need.

“Thank you for opening your hearts and your arms to the Signores — I know you will forever keep Nico’s memory in your embrace,” Bonner said to the large crowd, including Miller Place school district faculty, members of Nico’s lacrosse team and neighbors, as well as Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R). “You have all been there to prop them up, hug them when they needed it and dry their tears. This is a wonderful community.”

Kim and Vincent Sr. Signore unveil the new Nico’s Way sign in memory of their son. Photo by Kevin Redding

An emotional Kim Signore held back tears as she thanked everyone in attendance.

“You guys are amazing,” she said.

Upon losing Nico, the mother’s greatest fear was that, over time, her son’s legacy would disappear.

“This is a way to always remember him because he was such a good kid — a beautiful boy inside and out,” she said. She laughed recalling the impromptu dance sessions to Frank Sinatra songs that Nico often initiated. “He would come downstairs in his lacrosse shorts, and no shirt and say, ‘Let’s dance, ma.’ He was a good boy. He loved this community. He loved everybody.”

The idea for a street sign initially came from Kim and Vincent, Nico’s father, and was carried through by Nico’s aunt and uncle, Kelly and Charles Butruch, who were in contact with Romaine and Bonner for most of the year. As Brookhaven policy requires a six-month window between a person’s death and public memorialization, a resolution for Nico’s Way was approved at the end of August.

Vincent Signore hopes that the sign will serve as not only a memorialization of his son but as a reminder to drivers to be more careful.

“I would like for people to be more aware of their surroundings when they’re driving and not be distracted,” he said.

Since Nico’s death at the intersection of Miller Place Road and Route 25A, there have been significant changes to the location to ensure better safety for pedestrians and drivers alike.

Sophia, Vincent Jr., Vincent Sr. and Kim Signore are overwhelmed with emotion recalling memories of their brother and son Nico Signore during a street-renaming ceremony in Miller Place. Photo by Kevin Redding

Around what would have been Nico’s 15th birthday in April, the road saw the implementation of a red left-turn signal to stop cars from entering the crosswalk when pedestrians and bicyclists are given the go-ahead to get to the other side. No turn on red signs were also added.

“It’s bittersweet,” Kelly Butruch said. “A year ago, did I think we would be here today? No, and I wish we didn’t have to be, but it’s the best way to memorialize him.”

Michael Lombardi, a Miller Place 10th grader
and lacrosse player, remembers his friend as an amazing person on and off the field.

A scholarship fund for Miller Place seniors who show exemplary spirit, courage and love of community was given out to two students this past May. The family intends to continue the fund throughout the future.

As the Signores and community members gathered under the sign, they shared stories of the highly regarded student-athlete.

“Nico was astounding,” Lombardi said. “He had a great personality — he was funny. He was always nice to everybody and a great player. Whenever we needed a goalie, he stepped up. He’s greatly missed.”

Another of Nico’s former teammates, Kevin Thompson, said his friend will never be forgotten.

“Whenever you pass the sign here and look at it, we’ll think of him,” he said.

Miller Place AP English Literature teacher Brian Sztabnik was a finalist for New York state's Teacher of the Year award. Photo from Miller Place school district

It’s easy to pick out Brian Sztabnik among the students and staff at Miller Place High School. The 6-foot, 8-inch English teacher and boys varsity basketball coach is a towering figure not just physically, but as a molder of minds in and out of the classroom, serving as a role model for students and faculty in the district for the past 10 years. And New York state recently took notice.

Sztabnik, 39, who has taught AP English Literature and Composition and English 12 at the high school since 2007, was the runner-up for 2018 New York State Teacher of the Year. The award, issued by Albany-based New York State United Teachers union through a lengthy application process, honors exemplary educators who go above and beyond what’s expected of them.

Miller Place High School Principal Kevin Slavin, Superintendent Marianne Cartisano and Nancy Sanders, president of the Miller Place teacher’s association, present Brian Sztabnik with an award for his second-place finish for state teacher of the year. Photo by Kevin Redding

As a College Board advisor for AP English Literature; a speaker on behalf of English education on the state and national levels; the creator of  “Talks with Teachers,” a top iTunes podcast aimed at inspiring teachers; a published author and the person school administrators turn to for advice, it makes sense why Sztabnik was chosen as one of five finalists out of hundreds in the running.

“Brian is a once-in-a-career type of teacher,” said Kevin Slavin, Miller Place High School principal, before presenting Sztabnik with a certificate for his achievements during the Sept. 27 board of education meeting. Slavin, alongside dean of students Diana Tufaro, nominated Sztabnik for the award last October. “He’s somebody that sees things in a way I could never envision myself. The impact he has on a daily basis is tremendous. Our librarian said it best — when you walk into his classroom, ‘students are invited to learn, not expected to learn.’ We are beyond lucky to have him.”

Slavin said, as protocol during the application process, two previous recipients of the state award observed Sztabnik in the classroom. In May, the pair paid a visit to Miller Place and were impressed to say the least, the principal said.

“The New York state guys said they had never seen a classroom like that — they were in absolute awe,” Slavin said.

Sztabnik consistently provides innovative and immersive curriculum for students, such as “wacky Wednesdays,” a weekly experimental approach to lessons, “Shakespearean musical chairs” and competitive trivia games revolving around novels, poems and works studied in the class.

“School shouldn’t just be sitting at a desk listening to someone talk. It should be about students interacting, moving around and working together to create a unified body of knowledge.”

— Brian Sztabnik

“School shouldn’t just be sitting at a desk listening to someone talk,” Sztabnik said. “It should be about students interacting, moving around and working together to create a unified body of knowledge.”

His wife, Jessica, a fellow English teacher, said she’s pleasantly surprised by his recognition, but not too surprised.

“He works very hard and is such a creative person, so that translates in the classroom,” she said. “He also found a district that really supports him and allows him to use that creativity. Miller Place has been great to Brian.”

Sztabnik, who grew up in Mastic and graduated from William Floyd High School in 1996, has been teaching English, as well as creative writing and public speaking, for 13 years. His career in education began at the Frederick Douglass Academy in West Harlem in a classroom overlooking the original Yankee Stadium, where he taught sixth- and seventh-graders and coached basketball. He then spent a year each at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip and Islip School District before settling in at Miller Place.

After receiving his undergraduate degree in communications from New York University and pursuing a career in journalism for two years, Sztabnik was inspired by his wife to get his master’s degree in English education from Stony Brook University in 2002.

While he is grateful for any accolade he gets, Sztabnik said he first and foremost teaches to make a difference in young people’s lives.

“I love being in the classroom and having that interaction with the students,” Sztabnik said. “I’m just fascinated by how they think and I constantly want to hear how they think. I think that’s what makes English so cool — everyone can have an opinion and as long as they can back it up from the text we can have really varied and diverse discussions from which we can learn about each other.”

Brian Sztabnik reads to his son. Photo from Brian Sztabnik’s website

Part of his goal in the classroom is to push students to think critically, a skill he said transfers beyond English.

“It’s such an important skill in life,” he said. “I want them to notice the small things and be equipped to respond to those things. If you put learning in the foreground, the grades take care of themselves, but the opposite is not always true.”

Jake Angelo, a senior in Sztabnik’s AP Literature class, said his teacher encourages students to learn and take action.

“He doesn’t prepare us; he teaches us how to prepare ourselves for the future,” Angelo said, saying something like studying Shakespeare’s play “The Merchant of Venice” becomes a theatrical production under Sztabnik’s tutelage. “He had us act out the play, giving us props while teaching the impact of every symbol and character. He makes it interesting.”

Former AP student Brianne Ledda, who graduated last year and attends Stony Brook University, said Sztabnik deserves all the recognition he gets.

“His teaching style depended very much on student interaction and the class was always engaged and active,” Ledda said. “I appreciated that he valued our input as students, and I loved that we were given more freedom of choice in our reading.”

At the end of the board meeting, Slavin joked that sooner or later, “Somebody in the larger state is going to steal Mr. Sztabnik away from us,” so Miller Place needed to get as much out of him as it could as long as he’s there.

Sztabnik’s response sent a sigh of relief over the room.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he said with a smile. “I think, and this is also true of Miller Place, the best is still yet to come.”

Rocky Point resident Maryann Horton picks out fruit at the Stop & Shop on 25A in Rocky Point's grand opening Sept. 29. Photo by Kevin Redding

A new Stop & Shop on Route 25A in Rocky Point officially opened its doors to the public Sept. 29, offering its customers an expansive selection of organic and natural foods, fresh meats and locally-sourced produce, as well as the company’s only fresh herb garden and its largest deli department in the region.

The 58,000 square foot store replaces the former Super Foodtown and stands as the second Stop & Shop in the immediate area, with a location down 25A in Miller Place. It has created 20 new jobs for Suffolk County residents, while keeping 99 percent of Foodtown’s associates employed.

The new Stop & Shop in Rocky Point is located at 277 Route 25A, which was previously Super Foodtown. Photo by Kevin Redding

“We’re trying to give the customers absolutely everything,” said Bob Harman, the director of deli and bakery. “We’ve gone above and beyond to try to make this the best offering for them, and we’re trying to make the old Foodtown customer happy as well as any Stop & Shop customer — just trying to blend the best of both worlds to make everyone happy.”

Kelly Scott, of Ridge, said she’s happy to have a new Stop & Shop close by.

“It was definitely needed here,” Scott said. “And it seems to have a lot more of a selection of everything. I’ll be coming back here all the time.”

Monica Stone, from Mount Sinai, called Stop & Shop her supermarket of choice and said she understands why a second location was put on 25A.

“I’ve always shopped at the Miller Place one, but it’s always crazy in there,” Stone said, referring to that location’s crowds and it being under-stocked as a result. “This one is well-stocked and everything’s new and it looks great. I’m glad they handed out aisle guides because items aren’t exactly in the same places as in Miller Place, but it’s very nice overall.”

“When you only have one store, you have one choice. I don’t like when there are two next to each other because then they’re the only game in town.”

—William Pellenz

Manager Paul Gallo pointed out the “bigger and better” aspects of the store, including the organic herb garden.

“We’re here for the community ,and this is one of our bigger facilities where the customer can really shop more freely,” Gallo said.

The store has an all-new layout with wider aisles and selection. The deli department offers customers the same Boar’s Head sandwiches and grab-and-go coldcut offerings, but also boasts a new slider program and slab bacon.

There is a variety of fresh sushi available in the prepared food department and even fresh-fried tortilla chips. The bakery section is not only stocked with store-made cakes, but local Long Island pies and shelves of gluten-free, sugar-free and peanut-free treats.

Customers will also experience all-natural seafood, like shrimp, scallop, smoked salmon and crawfish pulled straight the Great South Bay.

“You name it, we have it,” said Al Apuzzo, director of meat and seafood.

Rocky Point resident Kathy Gallup said she feels good about what the store has to offer.

“I like to eat organic food and it definitely offers more of that than Foodtown,” she said.

The Stop & Shop on 25A in Rocky Point boasts the only local, fresh her garden. Photo by Kevin Redding

But Rocky Point’s Susie Capell said she’s going to miss Foodtown.

“I loved Foodtown,” she said. “I liked the setup and the sales were good.”

But Capell also understands why what Stop & Shop has its benefits to the community.

“For my nephew, gluten-free is a big deal,” she said. “My sister only goes to Stop & Shop for that reason. She’s thrilled, I know that.”

William Pellenz, of Sound Beach, raised concern over this one being so close to the one down the road.

“That doesn’t give you any choices,” he said. “When you only have one store, you have one choice. I don’t like when there are two next to each other because then they’re the only game in town.”

But Maryann Horton was all smiles while she picked out fresh fruit.

“I love it,” the Rocky Point resident said of the new store. “We always went down to the other one and we just love the store. Now that Stop & Shop’s here, I’m very happy.”

Miller Place resident Paul Partlow, above, created a new board game, Plank & Rank. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

After grabbing the attention of Hasbro last year, a Miller Place artist is unleashing his very own board game to the masses.

With Plank & Rank, a two-player tabletop game that combines the fun of a board game with the strategy of a card game, professional graphic artist Paul Partlow was one of five finalists in Hasbro’s 2016 Next Great Family Game Challenge — a worldwide competition that aims to discover and develop the next Monopoly or Clue.

Partlow, 36, didn’t win that challenge but was soon contacted by a multimedia company called Golden Bell Studios, whose Long Island-based owners saw the board game through an Indiegogo campaign online. The company told him it was interested in helping with distribution on a national level.

“We immediately saw Plank & Rank and thought, ‘This could be something really awesome,’” the company’s founder Marc Goldner said.

Creator Paul Partlow demonstrates how to play his game Plank & Rank. Photo by Kevin Redding

Goldner and his team have since set up a successful Kickstarter campaign and made the game available for purchase online, all in close collaboration with its creator. The plan now is to get the name out there and explore wider manufacturing options, from Amazon to big-box retailers to niche hobby stores.

“We hope the game is going to be even better than when we first started looking at it,” Goldner said. “[Partlow] is one of the most accommodating and passionate creators. He really takes the time to go above and beyond what’s asked for.”

In Plank & Rank — inspired by Partlow’s interest in history, specifically the Roman conquest of Gaul “with a whimsical slant” — two players, as Roman Red and Barbarian Blue, must build a bridge plank-by-plank across the mighty Rhine River while also moving their armies rank-by-rank to the opposite side. However, as the game’s warning reads, snags and surprises await the players along the way.

The vibrantly designed family game, sprinkled with Partlow’s cartoon-style illustrations and humor, was originally developed as a final project for a class while he was a student at Rhode Island School of Design, from which he graduated in 2016.

The assignment was straightforward: Create a board game to tell a story without words.

While his professor told students they could take an existing game and slap a new story over it, Partlow preferred a challenge.

“If just one person sees it and says, ‘That’s cool,’ then that’s good enough for me.”

— Paul Partlow

“I always tend to go a little above and beyond, so I said, ‘I’d rather create my own game,’” he said.

That professor informed Partlow of the Hasbro competition, encouraging him to blow the dust off his game.

“I’m most proud of the fact that it’s something of mine that’s out there,” Partlow said. “I love the idea that I’ve got something that people can look at, and if just one person sees it and says, ‘That’s cool,’ then that’s good enough for me.”

Partlow said he first discovered his knack for drawing as a fourth-grader in the Longwood school district, greatly inspired by what was regarded as the Disney Renaissance in the early 1990s, and his interest in it only grew stronger in high school.

“I took every art class possible,” he said. “They had all different levels from sequential art to painting and all the teachers there always pushed me forward.”

He and the Golden Bell staff are currently designing an expansion to make Plank & Rank a four-player game, with the add-on revolving around a concept of Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps.

“He’s just so creative and artistic and always has a thousand ideas,” Partlow’s wife Helen said. “He puts everything into what he’s working on. When I first played it, while he was developing it for Hasbro, I actually beat him at his own game.”

To see Paul Partlow’s Kickstarter campaign, visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/287606634/plank-and-rank.

Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) discusses red light cameras during a press conference in Miller Place Sept. 21. Photo by Kevin Redding

Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) is calling for an investigation into the county’s annual Red Light Camera Program Report, which he said has purposefully, and illegally, eliminated data on car accidents involving pedestrians and bicyclists.

Trotta stood with fellow legislators and colleagues Sept. 21 at the intersection of Route 25A and Miller Place Road in Miller Place to address his ongoing concerns with a lack of available statistics surrounding accidents, injuries and deaths due to the county’s red light camera program, highlighting a conversation he had last month with a traffic engineer of Nelson & Pope, the company that prepares the annual reports.

The traffic engineer, according to Trotta, advised him that the company was instructed not to include the pedestrian and bicyclist-involved accidents at red light camera locations in reports, in order to paint a better picture of the program. The reports are submitted to the state and made available to the public. The most recent report was released in April and highlighted statistics for 2015. While pedestrian and bicycle-involved accidents have been reported in a scattered few reports since the program began in 2010, the data has not been included in the last two years’ reports.

Trotta said the data exclusion is a violation of the state’s motor vehicle and traffic law, which states the mandatory annual report must include the number, type and severity of all accidents reported at these intersections with traffic control devices.

He also said it is not clear who is behind the data exclusion, the county or the company behind the red light camera program, but urged the state attorney general to get involved so the guilty party can be held accountable.

“How can anybody adequately look at the positive or negative features of a program when they’re not getting all the data?” Trotta said during the press conference. The legislator has long been opposed to the program, which he said he believes is the cause of an uptick in accidents throughout the area and is merely a ticket and revenue-generating scam by the county. “There are multiple reasons why this program should be shut down immediately and I’m aghast by the fact that we’re doing nothing and we are lying to the public by not including the pedestrians and the bicyclists. When I found about this, I couldn’t believe it.”

Trotta was joined by Legislators Leslie Kennedy (R-Smithtown) and Tom Muratore (R-Selden), as well as county legislature candidate Gary Pollakusky (R), at the busy intersection where two teenagers have died after being struck by cars, which features red light cameras.

“We lost a child here on a bicycle and a child here as a pedestrian,” Trotta said, referring to 14-year-old Nico Signore who died earlier this year, and 16-year-old John Luke, who died in 2015. “But I guess that doesn’t mean anything to anybody because they’re not even including [those accidents] in the report. I absolutely think there’s cohersion with the county and this company to keep the money stream coming in. This entire program is just a calamity of errors.”

Pollakusky said he supports the suspension of the red light camera program due to its negative impact on public safety.

“The red light camera program is a money grab by [County Executive Steve Bellone] and the Democrats in the Legislature and has been sold to the public as a public safety program — it is anything but safe,” Pollakusky said, stressing that accidents have increased after the red light cameras were installed.

He also took issue with his opponent, Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who initially voted against the program but has since come to agree with its mission of changing poor traffic.

“[She] is famous for saying ‘if it saves one child’s life,’ it’s worth it [but] this program that you and your cohorts support, Mrs. Anker, has hurt innocent drivers, pedestrians and children alike,” Pollakusky said.

Personal injury lawyer David Raimondo, based in Lake Grove, represents the Luke family and pointed to an omission of data, including fatalities of pedestrians in auto accidents, in a presentation before the Suffolk County Legislature in 2014 led to the red light camera program’s renewal.

“It’s up for renewal in 2019 and if we don’t have the proper data before the Legislature, it will continue to be renewed and we cannot let that happen,” Raimondo said. “It’s very important this program come to an end, it be suspended and that the suffering of the taxpayers of Suffolk County — both financially and physically — end.”

The home at 73 Henearly Drive in Miller Place has residents on the block up in arms over its purchase for redevelopment by the Developmental Disabilities Institute. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Residents in and around Miller Place are rushing to the defense of a group home for adults with autism and other developmental disabilities that will soon open on Henearly Drive after some neighbors said they didn’t want the facility on their block.

The neighbors, interviewed earlier this month, said they believe the Developmental Disabilities Institute home — which will house six, low-functioning autistic adults over 21 years old and full-time staff members — will damage the family-friendly community’s quality of life by increasing traffic flow and lowering property values of homes on the street.

“It doesn’t make any sense — why you would put this in the middle of a neighborhood, how is that fair?” said Janice Simon, a Henearly Drive resident.

Her concerns were not aimed at the six individuals who will live in the home, she said, but the overcrowding of vehicles and possible dumpsters around the property. Other neighbors agreed, adding unease toward the group home’s rotation of employees.

“So sad that we have people so heartless in our town … makes me sick.”

—Maureen Le Blanc

“I don’t want strangers up and down my block … all day and night,” one resident said. “[With] everybody smoking and on their phones and hanging out — no way — it doesn’t work like that.”

But these voices of opposition were not shared by all.

Between Sept. 12 and 14, in a closed Mount Sinai-Miller Place Community Facebook page, waves of support for the group home, as well as anger and shame toward those against it, came from more than 50 North Shore residents in the comments section, when a TBR News Media article about the incoming group home and its critics was posted.

“So sad that we have people so heartless in our town … makes me sick,” Maureen Le Blanc wrote of the neighbors.

Sound Beach resident Patti Kozlowski, who previously lived in Miller Place, said she was horribly ashamed by the comments made by residents on Henearly Drive.

“I say, if you don’t want a group home next door to you, let your neighbors vote to see if they want you to be next door to them,” Kozlowski said. “They key word is group home. It’s the home for people to live. It needs to be a big house in a nice neighborhood. That’s where it belongs.”

Eileen Walsh said no one is better than anyone else.

“We can and should all learn a lesson in kindness and acceptance from DDI residents,” she wrote on the Facebook page. “The only people upset about this are selfish elitists.”

Rich Pistone said the residents on Henearly aren’t setting a good example.

“Teach your children diversity [and] that we occupy this planet with many other people … some a tad bit different than the norm,” he wrote. “Residents on Henearly better get over themselves.”

Suzanne Cloke said the comments made by the residents on Heanerly Drive do not speak for the entire community.

“[The original] article put a bad taste in my mouth, making Miller Place look like a town full of horrible people that would steal candy from a baby’s mouth,” she said. “There are people who would welcome the home with open arms and would also treat the residents with respect and compassion.”

“I would really like them to think, what if it was their child?”

—Wendy Flammia

Several residents who posted in the group also vouched for the reputation of DDI, a Smithtown-based nonprofit founded in 1961 that has launched more than 30 group homes throughout townships in Suffolk and Nassau counties.

“DDI is an amazing company and the developmentally disabled population consists of wonderful individuals who deserve to live in a community just like every other person,” wrote Ryan Nelson. “What some of those people are saying is disgraceful.”

A majority of the people who commented said their own lives have been touched by the special needs population.

Kim-Marie Duckett of Miller Place Road, who travels three hours a day to a group home in Pennsylvania to visit her 18-year-old autistic son, whose behavior she said was too extreme for local homes, said in an interview the Henearly Drive facility will be a welcome addition to the town. Her son will never be able to live on his own, Duckett said, and this could end up becoming a living destination for him down the line.

“It’s just such a positive thing for me because when my son does age and become an adult, the better chance he will have to be closer to me with this home,” she said.

Duckett said the neighbors’ complaints regarding the home boils down to a lack of education, which she’s willing to provide for them.

“It’s just ignorance and people just looking for something to complain about,” she said. “It chokes me up that people have such an opinion. They have no idea what it’s like living in this situation. The individuals have a right to be somewhere. DDI is excellent and I’m sure the house will be kept nice. Shame on Mrs. Simon. I would take the opportunity to use my big mouth and she would feel really small by the time she walked away from me.”

Deanna Landy-Marino, of Tyler Avenue in Miller Place, worked at DDI as a college student and has a 6-year-old nephew with special needs. She said a DDI home is usually the most beautiful home in its area.

“It has a wonderfully cut landscape, there’s no uptick in traffic, it causes no aggravation and the residents of the house are wonderful,” she said, not understanding concerns over an increase in traffic. “There are a bunch of cars all over Miller Place, whether it’s a DDI house, my house or somebody else’s house. If anything, they should pay attention to some of the people that actually speed down their roads. I don’t think it’s going to happen from a DDI house.”

“It chokes me up that people have such an opinion. They have no idea what it’s like living in this situation. The individuals have a right to be somewhere.”

—Kim-Marie Duckett

Kathi Yaldei, a Mount Sinai resident whose 25-year-old son has special needs with life-threatening seizures, challenged the neighbors’ reasoning for complaining.

“I think it’s a cover-up and not what their real issue is,” Yaldei said. “I think they used that as an excuse when in reality they don’t want the residents there. The individuals should be welcomed to any area that a group home has purchased.”

As the mother of a 15-year-old daughter with special needs, Wendy Flammia, who lives on Gristmill Lane in Miller Place, wants to introduce her daughter to the neighbors against the group home.

“She’s a loving kid, and when I bring her out, she makes people smile,” Flammia said. “I would really like them to think, ‘what if it was their child?’ What if, God forbid, tomorrow their child had a brain injury and needed a place for them to go, how would they feel then? It really upsets me, but I think the Facebook comments have shown there’s a lot more support for it.”

But Henearly Drive resident Dominick Caroleo, who is among those in opposition to the group home, said he volunteers at local churches helping cook for homeless people and those with disabilities and maintains that his stance has nothing to do with the special needs individuals.

“It’s not the people we’re against,” he said. “It’s what the home is going to do to the appearance of the neighborhood. There’s always going to be traffic moving back and forth over there and people coming in and out of the house with different shifts and all that [and] they’re not paying property taxes. It’s just going to bring our property taxes up. Time’s going to tell.”

Miller Place resident Taniya Faulk, who has been diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta, also known as brittle bone disease, said the neighbors are basing their concerns on hypothetical situations.

“Let’s not build around the possibility of a problem,” she said. “If there is one, then address it at the point where the problem occurs. I don’t understand what the big uproar is. It upsets me to think that I grew up in a town that is this close-minded.”

The home at 73 Henearly Drive in Miller Place has residents on the block up in arms over its purchase for redevelopment by the Developmental Disabilities Institute. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

A group home for young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities is heading to Henearly Drive in Miller Place, but some residents on the block are up in arms over the purchase.

The group home will be the most recent in a string of homes across Suffolk County set up by the Smithtown-based Developmental Disabilities Institute, and will house six  low-functioning autistic  adults over 21 years old, as well as three full-time staff members.

The establishment will function as a place to call home for those with disabilities who have aged out of the nonprofit’s  residential programs for children.

DDI’s director of development, Dan Rowland, said the company went into contract May 23 to buy the house at 73 Henearly Drive for redevelopment.

“It’s a family neighborhood. It’s just very upsetting the amount of traffic it’s going to bring. They’re going to create a nuisance.”

— Janice Simon

Despite speculation of turning the entire front yard into a parking lot, he said there is only a plan in place to widen the property’s driveway to accommodate four vehicles for employees and visitors, and rules will be put in place for the home’s residents to keep neighbors at ease. The parking will also accommodate minivans used to transport group home residents anywhere they need to go in the community.

Residents near the property said the new development will disrupt the community’s quality of life, pointing to staff members entering and exiting the property as potential risk for an increase in traffic and safety hazards in the area — which, they said, is predominantly quiet, peaceful and occupied by children.

“It doesn’t make any sense why you would put this in the middle of a nice neighborhood, how is that fair?” said Henearly Drive resident Janice Simon, who is worried there will be a congestion of vehicles and possible dumpsters in the street around the property, where children currently play.

“Everyone deserves a place to live, but you don’t just disrupt what we have,” she said. “It’s nice, it’s a family neighborhood. It’s just very upsetting the amount of traffic it’s going to bring. They’re going to create a nuisance.”

A letter sent out by DDI’s director of adult services Aug. 18 invited residents living within 500 feet of the property to an information session to discuss the group home, and how the organization operates, at the Comsewogue Public Library Aug. 29.

Following the meeting, a letter circulated among neighbors addressing concerns surrounding the group home and urging them to contact community leaders if they oppose it.

“This block has enough traffic on it,” the letter titled “Attention Neighbors” read. “We do not want people rushing to get to work driving down this block that is very populated to begin with.  … Although we are not begrudging the residents the ability to live in a group home, we feel that the choice of 73 Henearly in the middle of a highly populated block is not the right one.”

A resident on the block, who asked to remain anonymous, agreed.

The home purchased by the Developmental Disabilites Institute is located on the corner of Willmington Street and Henearly Drive in Miller Place. Photo by Kevin Redding

“That’s the main concern,” the resident said. “It’s not who’s going to be living there or what type of people are going to be living there, but the increased traffic and the effect on home values, opening a business in the middle of a very quiet neighborhood. I just think putting it in a busier area like Miller Place-Yaphank Road would be more appropriate.”

However, Rowland expressed objection to the home being seen as an imposing business.

“Just because people are providing services in the home for someone who needs it doesn’t make it a business … this is a home,” Rowland said.

According to the director, the organization has launched more than 30 group homes throughout townships in Suffolk and Nassau counties, including Brookhaven and Islip,  and many of them sit in residential neighborhoods.

He said, in choosing a location for its group homes, DDI works alongside the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities in Albany to gauge the amount of care facilities in a town — including other group homes, hospitals, vocational centers and nursing homes — to ensure it won’t be opening a home in an area that is oversaturated.

The house at 73 Henearly Drive was chosen because of the surrounding neighborhood, the features of the structure and its suitability to house the six adults, Rowland said, adding that the individuals who will live there deserve a home in a safe community as opposed to being confined inside an institution.

“We understand that people are going to be uncomfortable with the idea of something like this being introduced to their neighborhood, and we’re sympathetic to the viewpoints of the neighbors in the neighborhood we’re moving into, but we also have to protect the rights of the people we care for,” Rowland said. “We hope to overcome their discomfort with it by demonstrating that we can, and will be, good neighbors with everybody.”

In response to those on Henearly Drive anticipating a neighborhood eyesore in the group home, the director of development said the 55-year-old nonprofit’s track record speaks for itself.

“We keep them looking good, we maintain them and we respect the neighborhood values in terms of noise or any sensitivity of increased traffic,” he said.

“Group homes don’t have quality of life problems. There’s no loud music, there’s no speeding and no unkept properties. And what about the people who need the services? What about their quality of life? They’re human beings.”

— Jane Bonner

Dawn McCarthy, president of the Miller Place Special Education Support Group, said she doesn’t see the home as a blight on the neighborhood either.

“I don’t think it’s going to interrupt quality of life at all,” McCarthy said. “Miller Place has a fairly decent-sized population of autistic children. I wonder how residents would feel if it was their children’s home. I can’t imagine it’s going to have an impact on anyone’s resale value.”

An anonymous resident expressed concern over a purported risk of individuals leaving the home at night, which she said is why the residence will be electronically locked and equipped with alarms.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) called the opposition to the group home disheartening.

“I’ve explained to everybody, and this is the truth, that in almost 10 years in office, I have never ever had a problem with a group home in my council district,” Bonner said. “Group homes don’t have quality of life problems. There’s no loud music, there’s no speeding and no unkept properties. And what about the people who need the services? What about their quality of life? They’re human beings.”

Henearly Drive resident Janine Biancaniello made it clear her opposition was aimed at the group home’s employees and not its six individuals.

“When I come home from work, my home is my safe haven,” Biancaniello said.“I don’t want strangers up and down my block, 500 times, people I don’t know coming and going all day and night … [with] everybody outside smoking and on their phones and hanging out — no way — it doesn’t work like that. We’re going to have to pay their taxes while our property values go down. They’re going to change our way of life.”

The group home is protected under the Padavan law, which allows group homes to supersede local zoning as long as they meet state codes.

DDI said it is uncertain at this time when the group home will open.

Susan and Bob Dow, along with professional golfer Patrick Reed, at center, hold up the PGA TOUR tournament trophy. Photo from Wellspring Communications

By Kevin Redding

As cancer continues to touch his family’s life, a Miller Place golf lover is raising thousands of dollars on and off the course to combat the disease. Bob Dow, the winner of last year’s PGA volunteer tournament, which raises a total $15,000 to local charities, is back at it this year to raise more money and awareness.

Dow remembers it as clear as day. Following his wife Susan’s routine breast health exam at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip in September 2011, the 58-year-old business owner recalls his fear when the phone rang and the doctor on the other end asked Susan to come back in. They found something.

“I was sick to my stomach when I heard this,” Dow said. “I just didn’t know what that meant, whereas my wife is the type of strong person who just said, ‘OK, what do we have to do here?’”

“I’m a super competitive person both in business and in life, and I’ve always approached everything in my life with the mindset that I will do my best.”

Bob Dow

For Susan, 55, who was soon diagnosed with breast cancer, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before she got this call, as the disease had been so prevalent in her family. Her grandmother died from ovarian cancer and her mother is a 30-year breast cancer survivor.

The Dows attacked the diagnosis head-on, spending the next few years in and out of the hospital through six surgeries. Bob Dow said his wife never missed out on the big family moments, such as their daughter’s sporting events, senior prom or graduation.

But Dow has been no slouch either. Aside from taking part in cancer awareness walks and events over the last five years, he was determined to do something more for the cancer cause than merely serve as a caregiver. He got his opportunity last year when he volunteered as a PGA marshal at the Barclays golf tournament, which took place on Bethpage State Park’s Black Course in Farmingdale.

A longtime lover of the sport, Dow was drawn in, excited to be around professional golfers like Stewart Cink and Patrick Reed, but it was when he discovered a PGA Tour Volunteer Challenge offered by Barclays that he was able to against cancer his way to help his wife and others fighting cancer.

The nationwide challenge, which began in 2015, is a friendly fundraising competition among the thousands of volunteers that participate to try to drum up as many votes as possible for “favorite volunteer,” mostly through a ready-made website and individualized campaigning.

The person with the most votes presents a $10,000 check in their name to a charity of the tournament’s choosing, and an additional $5,000 to one of the winner’s choice.

Bob Dow, at left, holds up his $10,000 check for The First Tee of Metro NY after last year’s win. Photo from Wellspring Communications

When he wasn’t helping to keep the flow of the tournament going by controlling the crowds or making sure the players are able to move from one hole to the next without a problem, Dow as volunteer went above and beyond to collect a total 1,460 votes through Twitter, Facebook and email blasts.

He won the challenge, and presented a $10,000 check to The First Tee of Metropolitan New York and $5,000 to his chosen charity, American Cancer Society, Hauppauge chapter.

“I’m a super competitive person both in business and in life, and I’ve always approached everything in my life with the mindset that I will do my best, will work the hardest and, in this case, there wasn’t a doubt in my mind I was going to win,” Dow said, adding that his wife was his biggest inspiration. “She is the love of my life.”

His wife, who is currently in remission, said in a series of texts that although she’s the one who inspired him, he’s truly her hero.

“I am so blessed to have married my best friend,” she wrote. “I am incredibly proud … a little overwhelmed, but that is just par for the course (no pun intended). I wish I can say I was surprised, but that is just who he is — always willing to be there, lend a hand and fight for a cause. When he has a passion for something, he will move heaven and earth to see it through.”

That passion continues to burn as Dow sets his sights on winning this year’s challenge, now sponsored by Chicago-based company, Northern Trust.

In a competition of 1,200 volunteers, he’s campaigning to raise more money for the American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer and the tournament’s charity of choice, Tackle Kids Cancer, with a new inspiration: his sister-in-law who was diagnosed six months ago with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.

“I’ve seen [Bob[’s not just passionate about being a volunteer, but also about doing everything he can to advance the research for cancer cures and treatments…”

Peter Mele

This year, he’s also volunteered to be the face of the American Cancer Society’s Real Men Wear Pink campaign, which advocates men to take on the cause of the fight against breast cancer.

“Bob is one of those people who, when he puts his mind to something, he perseveres and has no other goal but the finish line,” said Katie Goepfrich, specialist of community events at the society. “He’s going to do everything he can to make a difference in the world right now.”

Peter Mele, executive director of Northern Trust, called Dow an ideal volunteer.

“He’s very passionate about what he does and is quite passionate about the American Cancer Society,” Mele said of Dow, who spoke recently at the organization’s media conference. “As I’ve come to know Bob, I’ve seen he’s not just passionate about being a volunteer, but also about doing everything he can to advance the research for cancer cures and treatments to help people survive this terrible disease. I think his message gets out there really well.”

In true fashion, Dow is eager to be the one to present the checks again this year.

“When they calculate the votes next Saturday, I want to be on top again,” he said.

From now until 2 p.m. Aug. 26, people can vote for the Dow family in the volunteer challenge at www.tourchallenge.com.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine and Councilman Dan Panico, on left, with the new food scrap composters. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

As far as the Town of Brookhaven is concerned, going green is not just a casual practice — it’s a moral obligation to ensure Long Island’s future.

In the last few months, Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and members of the town board have launched a series of environmentally friendly initiatives and continued ongoing efforts that encourage local residents to
reduce their carbon footprints and preserve the serenity of their surroundings.

“Whenever there are ways to benefit the environment, I’m 100 percent involved [and] I’m blessed by an extremely supportive town board,” Romaine said, highlighting an especially strong partnership with Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point). “I don’t want to say Jane is my environmental soulmate, but she and I are on the exact same page. She is one of my cheerleaders in every manner, shape or form.”

Other environmental actions taken by Brookhaven:

– A 127-acre solar farm called Shoreham Solar Commons will be constructed on the recently closed Tallgrass Golf Course.

– The extension of the Pine Barrens to include 800 acres of national property around the former Shoreham nuclear plant will go forward upon Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) signed authorization.

A multiyear project to convert all 40,000 of Brookhaven’s streetlights to LED bulbs has begun with 5,000 already converted.

– Through a partnership with U.S Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the town has secured funding to fix stormwater infrastructures along the North Shore, from Miller Place to Shoreham.

– A center at Ceder Beach in Mount Sinai  has been established to grow millions of oysters and sea clams that filter and clean the water.

In May, Bonner held her fifth bi-annual Go Green event at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai. It’s the town’s biggest recycling event where residents can dispose of unwanted medication and prescriptions and recycle old TVs and computers, as well as paper. The e-waste drive gathered 15,000 pounds of electronic waste and shredded 13,580 pounds of paper products and 26 boxes of unwanted pharmaceutical drugs, according to the town.

The councilwoman also hosted a Homeowner’s Guide to Energy Efficiency forum at the center later in the month, educating residents on how to get a free energy audit, affordable home energy improvements and save $1,000 a year on home energy bills. Through this effort, less fossil fuels are used to heat and light homes.

“We take it very seriously,” Bonner said of the town’s green initiatives. “We have a moral obligation to be good stewards of the Earth and this transcends party lines. Regardless of party affiliation, we all know we can do a better job of taking care of the planet.”

Aside from providing free compost and mulch to residents at Brookhaven Town Hall, officials also recently utilized a $5,000 grant to rip up the back lawn of the property to plant and restore native Long Island grasses, from which seeds can be collected and used.

In June, the town officially authorized the nonprofit Art & Nature Group Inc. to transform Brookhaven’s historic Washington Lodge property into a community nature center that offers environmental education programs.

Romaine and Councilman Dan Panico (R-Manorville) organized Brookhaven’s Food Scrap Composting pilot program at town hall last month, with hopes to expand it as a townwide initiative.

Through the program, town employees can deposit food waste, such as banana peels and coffee grinds, into organic material collection containers placed throughout the buildings, which are then collected and composted to be used for garden beds around town buildings.

“We must provide alternative waste management solutions like these if we are going to provide a cleaner, greener earth for future generations,” Panico said in a statement.

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