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Miller Place

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Miller Place sophomore Lauren Mancini carries the ball downfield with a Mount Sinai defender on her back during a scrimmage. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Miller Place boasts a mix of youth and experience in its girls lacrosse team this season, including nine eighth-graders, many   of which were on the Panthers playoff team last year.

Miller Place sophomore Madison Murphy gains possession off the draw. Photo by Bill Landon

The team finished its 2017 campaign with a 7-6 record, making the playoffs but falling to rival Shoreham-Wading River in the opening round. The girls scrimmaged Syosset before going toe-to-toe March 17 with New York State champion Mount Sinai, scoring several goals against their formidable neighbors.

Being a young team, boasting just four seniors with sophomores, freshmen and the nine eighth-graders making up the rest of the roster, Miller Place head coach Thomas Carro is under no illusion as to what’s in store for his squad this season.

“We’re going to have some growing pains in the beginning,” he said. “They’re going to make mistakes. We turned the ball over like 11 times in that last scrimmage [against Syosset], so we’ve got to limit those — and we will.”

Carro said five-year senior goalkeeper Hailey Duchnowski, along with returning defenders, should keep the Panthers in games.

“I think we have one of the best goalies we’ve ever had,” Carro said of Duchnowski, also pointing to junior defender Ava Burns and sophomore midfielder Madison Murphy, who he said is “going to have a good year.” “If those girls play hard, that stuff becomes contagious and the younger group will follow them.”

Miller Place freshman Alexa Corbin moves the ball through midfield in a scrimmage against Mount Sinai. Photo by Bill Landon

Duchnowski pointed to areas of promise and areas of concern she has with her unit up to this point in practice.

“We are doing really well at moving the ball fast on offense, coming together on defense, working hard,” she said. “But we’ll have to get better in transition.”

Murphy’s assessment of her team’s progress so far she said belies its age, but also noticed moments of weakness.

“We have a bunch of athletes,” she said. “We need to play together as a team, and if we do that it’ll all come together. We’ll need a lot of communication on the defensive end as well as on offense, and if we can do that fluently we can win.”

Senior Nicole Beck will also provide the Panthers with the leadership they need, and said, like her coach always does, Miller Place doesn’t rebuild, it reloads.

Miller Place junior Ava Burns battles for a ground ball against Mount Sinai. Photo by Bill Landon

“We lost a great amount of talent last year, but so far we’re still able to put up the numbers offensively,” Beck said. “It’s been impressive — we didn’t think we’d be able to do that — we have a lot of young girls who are playing really well.”

Murphy said her team’s preparation for the league opener at home against last year’s nemesis won’t have anything to do with the athleticism of the team, but with the mental preparedness. Miller Place will host Shoreham-Wading River March 28 at 4 p.m.

“If we go into that game with a positive mindset, work as hard as we can, I think there could be a positive outcome,” she said.

Carro said his team competes with some of the sport’s top Long Island talents, and said finding a way to neutralize high-caliber opponent’s threats will be key to competing with the cream of the crop.

“Shoreham lost a lot [of talent] last year, but it’ll be a test for us to play a team that’s next door to us; the girls all know each other,” the coach said. “We have Rocky Point and Mount Sinai [as neighbors and opponents this year], and those are tough teams. These girls come out and play hard against those teams, and if we take care of the ball and make good decisions, we can be in the game with anybody.”

Matt Ryan, a Miller Place graduate, is a former Olympian and captain for Team USA in 1996. Photo from Matt Ryan

Miller Place native Matt Ryan keeps a phrase in his back pocket: “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”

“I knew I could control the hard work, and where it led I didn’t know,” he said. “But I knew the hard work would get me there.”

His athletic determination led him to a nine-year professional handball career, becoming Team USA’s 1996 Olympic captain and three-time U.S. Handball Player of the Year. His 225 official international matches are an American record and he’s noted as one of the greatest handball players in American history. Now, he’s part of the 2018 Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame class.

Matt Ryan, now the Executive Director
of Regional Development at Georgia Tech, shows off his Olympic jacket. Photo from Matt Ryan

“It certainly paid off,” the current executive director of regional development for Georgia Institute of Technology, said laughingly.

A three-sport athlete for Miller Place, his Panthers success started in basketball. He also played for the baseball team and ran cross country.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child, and that was my case in Miller Place,” said Ryan, who has two older brothers and a younger sister. “Everyone was wonderful from teachers to coaches to parents, and the bond with fellow classmates, it’s a bond like none other. It’s reinforced daily, even now through Facebook. We always supported each other.”

Being in a large family on a block with many kids pushed him to his athletic limits.

“Older friends in the neighborhood pushed me to come up to their level,” he said. “I learned a lot in that — how to overcome obstacles and battle through any circumstance. A lot of my work ethic came from that as well.”

In 1984 as a high school senior, Ryan was the New York Basketball Player of the Year. As a junior, he was second team All-Long Island and won a gold medal at the Empire State Games with the Long Island squad.

Physical education teacher and baseball coach Don Pranzo met his soon-to-be outfielder in seventh grade, and said he knew he was destined to be a great athlete.

Matt Ryan competes in the Olympics for team handball. Photo from Matt Ryan

“He was amenable to teaching,” Pranzo said. “He was a good, nice kid who listened to you and tried out what you suggested.”

Pranzo introduced handball to his students during class after former Miller Place physical education teacher and field hockey coach Judy Kopelman presented it to the other teachers. Kopelman, a 2008 Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame inductee, was selected to the U.S. national handball team from 1974-76.

Pranzo said he had one problem asking Ryan if he’d play the game — the footwork was completely opposite of basketball. In handball, an athlete runs three steps before dribbling, and after dribbling once, can take three more running steps before dribbling again, passing or leaping into the air to shoot. Ryan was willing to give it a shot, and Pranzo said the teachers concluded that if it affected his basketball game, he’d be excused from class.

“As it turns out, he played with some intensity, especially during the tournament, and he continued to play basketball and had no problem with the footwork,” Pranzo said. “He had the visual skills, the physical ability at 6-4 to go over the defense and fire the handball at the goal cage. He was very good.”

Ryan went on to play basketball in college and said he thought it would be the last time he’d play handball.

The U.S. Olympic committee doesn’t have a pipeline for nontraditional sports, where team handball would fall, and instead sends recruiters out to college campuses trying to identify elite athletes across the country. Ryan took part in NFL combine-style testing after graduating, and emerged as one of the top 30 entering training camp.

“I was fortunate enough to know a lot about handball thanks to Miller Place,” Ryan said. “I took a shine to it there, looking forward to those end-of-the-year tournaments.”

“I was blessed, given a tremendous opportunity, and I wasn’t going to squander it. I was
going to make every drop of sweat matter.”

— Matt Ryan

He immersed himself into training three or four times a day, six days a week and competed internationally.

He said representing Team USA was the experience of a lifetime.

“I was blessed, given a tremendous opportunity and I wasn’t going to squander it,” Ryan said. “I was going to make every drop of sweat matter, whether it was in the weight room, on the track, through mental preparation and visualization, or being out on the playing field. I didn’t want to have any regrets. I wanted to walk away knowing I gave it my all.”

He said while many look forward to the opening ceremony of the Olympics, he was in it for more than that.

“I couldn’t wait for competition to arise,” he said. “That was an absolute charge, not only representing my team in the opening ceremony in 1996 but leading my team into competition for the six games we played.”

Miller Place pitched into his Olympic appearance. Having to fund his own training and trip to the 1996 Atlanta games, his mother hosted a variety show fundraiser that thousands attended.

“I was just overwhelmed with the response,” he said. “I shook everyone’s hand or gave them a hug. They sent me off with their well wishes and I was completely moved by that. It’s one of those experiences I’ve taken with me through the journey — to realize my life of sport wasn’t just on the court, but I was able to make an impact in the community and on other people in a positive way.”

Matt Ryan met then-president Bill Clinton during his Olympic journey. Photo from Matt Ryan

In 2004, Ryan was honored with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America National Service to Youth Award. In 2013 he was inducted to the Miller Place Athletic Hall of Fame.

“The success Matt achieved both as a Miller Place student and as an alumnus is a testament to his hard work and drive,” Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Cartisano said. “His commitment to positive sportsmanship is emblematic of Miller Place athletics.”

Ryan said he struggled through his Miller Place hall of fame acceptance speech because his father had just had a heart attack and wasn’t able to attend. He said he’d hoped his dad would be around if he were to be inducted into the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame. He will be attending the induction ceremony May 10 at 7:30 p.m. at Watermill Caterers in Smithtown.

“My father drove me everywhere — completely gave of himself, and now being the parent of a 12-year-old who plays sports, I know how difficult it is when he did that with me, and had three other kids involved in sports,” Ryan said. “The opportunity for him to be there and embrace this recognition with me, which is an extension of him and my mom, it’s completely overpowering.”

Almost as moving as the induction honor itself.

“This whole thing is humbling, quite frankly,” Ryan said. “I never set out for successes. I just put the work and effort in, the focus and drive, and let the chips fall where they may. To be part of this 2018 class, mentioned in the breadth of so many Long Island greats, it’s pretty remarkable.”

Miller Place and Rocky Point will host indoor forums, Shoreham-Wading River is undecided

Mount Sinai High School students will be able to leave the building for 17 minutes and head to the athletic field to reflect on the Florida school shooting. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

In the aftermath of the most recent mass shooting, students across the nation are planning to rise up and walk out — a movement that is being handled very differently across local school districts.

On March 14, exactly one month after gun violence at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, left 17 students and faculty members dead, students plan to walk out of their schools for 17 minutes starting at 10 a.m. — both in honor of the Parkland victims and as a call for legislative action to help put an end to deadly shootings. The nationwide protest, the seeds of which have spread across social media with the hashtag #ENOUGH, was launched by the activist group Women’s March Youth EMPOWER, whose members are demanding Congress do more than “tweet thoughts and prayers in response to gun violence” and that “students and staff have the right to teach in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms,” according to the group’s website.

The movement was initiated by Parkland survivors, whose outcry against guns following the shooting has reverberated throughout each and every state. An impassioned speech given by senior Emma González Feb. 17 went viral by stating that she and her fellow classmates would change the law in the country so that her high school would be the location of America’s last mass shooting.

“I told my kids I do not want them participating. There are other ways to learn, protect and voice your opinions.”

— Keri Rooney

Across the North Shore, school districts have begun addressing how they will handle the localized version of the movement, with Miller Place and Rocky Point firmly opposed to letting their students leave the building — echoing widely shared concerns over safety. Mount Sinai is on board with letting students participate in the national movement, while Shoreham-Wading River is still weighing the situation.

Miller Place

During a board of education meeting Feb. 28, where Superintendent Marianne Cartisano outlined for parents the district’s enhanced security measures, including the newly assigned four armed guards for its four buildings, she addressed the walkout.

“We are looking to see how we’re going to manage it here to allow students to have a voice, but I can tell you right now — there is no way that I’m going to have students walk outside at 10 o’clock in the morning,” Cartisano said to applause in the room. “The reason is that if everybody knows that children are walking outside at 10 o’clock in the morning, then who are the obvious victims? And that may or may not happen in our nation — and I pray every night that it doesn’t — but what I can tell you is that’s not going to happen here.”

She explained to residents that she and other administrators want students to have a voice, but in a way that doesn’t create a health and safety issue, or turn into “a political movement.”

“Our students’ voices do have to be heard about ending school violence and returning schools to the safe havens that they once were,” the superintendent said. “We’re spending a tremendous amount of time talking about student demonstrations and how we can provide students with a voice against school violence while also recognizing those who have lost their lives.”

She said students will be able to participate in a safer alternative inside the building March 14. Senior Jake Angelo, student representative on the board, later suggested the indoor event could involve an anti-bullying sentiment and a flower sale to raise money for those in Parkland.

Students in Miller Place will host in-school reflections during the national walkout March 14. Photo by Kevin Redding

Amanda Cohen-Stein, a parent in the district, said later in a community Facebook post that while she originally supported the walkout, she changed her mind following Cartisano’s comments.

“It is best they not leave school grounds,” Cohen-Stein said.

Keri Rooney, a Sound Beach resident with ties to Miller Place, said she didn’t feel comfortable about the walkout.

“I told my kids I do not want them participating,” Rooney said. “There are other ways to learn, protect and voice your opinions. Walking out of school is not the answer and leaves them as an easy target.”

Rocky Point

Michael Ring, superintendent of the Rocky Point district, recently sent a letter to parents in which he said that organized, student-run walkouts “are not a viable option for our schools,” and that any student who chooses to participate in the movement via exiting the high school, will be “subject to administrative action.” He did not specify what the specific consequence would be.

“No Rocky Point student will be permitted to leave the premises as part of any of these upcoming events or otherwise, without appropriate permission, whether on March 14 or at any time during school hours throughout the school year,” Ring wrote. “Any student found to have left school without appropriate permission on any school day during the year will be subject to administrative action in accordance with the district’s code of conduct.”

He made it clear that this decision was based on heightened attention to school safety and security, and that, despite not being allowed to leave the grounds, students wishing to participate in the movement March 14 can do so through districtwide activities planned for the day by administration and staff.

“Many in our schools have expressed interest in engaging in activities aimed at not only honoring the lives lost in this national tragedy, but also giving voice to the hope that a similar event does not happen again,” Ring said.

“No Rocky Point student will be permitted to leave the premises.”

—Michael Ring

For high school students, these include a moment of silence and the viewing of a tribute to the 17 lives lost in Parkland; a discussion led by teachers encouraging students to participate in 17 acts of kindness during the day in order to “increase positive interactions within the school community”; and opportunities
during social studies classes to voice their opinions on ways to better enhance safety and security in the school; and write letters either to elected officials or the survivors and family members of victims in Parkland.

Although this is considered a high school initiative, Ring said that there will be similar activities, including the letter writing, in the middle school and a moment of silence and kindness-geared activities in both Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School and Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School.

Mount Sinai

After Principal Robert Grable met with 20 members of the student government last Friday to gauge student’s perspectives on the walkout, it was decided — in correspondence with Superintendent Gordon Brosdal and the board of education — that Mount Sinai students who wish to participate can do so March 14.

The students will stand outside on the high school’s athletic field for 17 minutes, school officials said, during which time the campus is expected to be shut down with tightened security by the entrances on the North Country Road and 25A sides of the property, which will be closed and locked.

Grable said in speaking with student leaders he made it clear that he wanted the walkout to be structured, safe and well supervised.

“I didn’t want to cut them off, so if there was a way to do this safely and securely, I was certainly willing to do that.”

— Rob Grable

“It’s a very hot topic right now,” Grable said. “I think everybody is emotional about it, including the student body, and I didn’t want to cut them off, so if there was a way to do this safely and securely, I was certainly willing to do that. I don’t think it will be that major of a distraction and it will accommodate both parties — the administration as well as the students who wish to demonstrate their support of this initiative.”

Student Council President Joe Kelly, a senior, said he and his peers believe the event should be focused on reflection.

“I talked to a lot of students and we think the walkout should be more for remembering the 17 lives lost with a moment of silence rather than bringing up anything political,” he said. “I talked to many people, all of whom have differing political opinions, and they all wanted it to not be political. They only wanted to do the walk if it was in respect for those in Florida.”

Available teachers, administrators, aides and the district’s school resource officer will be asked to monitor the students. While Brosdal said currently there is the potential for all 800 students to be out there, he predicts there will be many who wish not to be involved. Those students will be able to remain in their classrooms with their teachers.

The superintendent said he supports the students’ rights to take part in this national movement if they choose to.

“I guess we’re getting to the point where enough is enough, not just in terms of the horror of the shootings and the kinds of people that come in, but how unsafe schools are now,” Brosdal said. “I believe truly, in a student’s heart, if they want to experience this and reflect and commemorate this tragic event, they should be permitted to do it. I don’t anticipate misbehavior. I believe in our kids.”

Shoreham-Wading River

“The district is currently discussing this matter, and once a decision is made it will be communicated with our parents and students,” said Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Gerard Poole in an email March 6.

“It will make the students walking targets.”

— Chris Albinski Simion

On a closed Shoreham-Wading River community Facebook page, parent opinions on the walkout ranged from adamant support to heated opposition.

“Definitely against it,” Chris Albinski Simione wrote. “It will make the students walking targets. Every wacko in the country will know when and what time these kids will be outside the schools.”

Another resident, Linda Kelly, asked, “And a walkout will accomplish what exactly? No need to do this on school time.”

But Judy Shaffer Noonan said it will, and always will, be young people who make the biggest changes in society.

“The adults failed,” she said. “Historically, the young have impacted change. The young are the future. I don’t think these kids are doing this out of a sense of entitlement … I’m very proud of the Parkland students who are standing up and demanding change.”

Tyler Holmes, a district graduate, said it will be a historic day.

“I’ll do my part to engage in any positive and well-represented protest instead of sitting home,” he said.

Retired NYPD officers with pistols are stationed outside district schools following the Parkland, Florida school shooting

Miller Place School District parents and students gathered inside the high school library Feb. 28 to voice concerns and support for allowing armed guards outside schools in the district. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Coming back from mid-Winter recess, one armed guard stood outside each of the four schools in the Miller Place district, sparking controversy Monday.

The decision to station retired NYPD officers armed with pistols outside Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School, Andrew Muller Primary School, North Country Road Middle School and Miller Place High School was made Sunday evening, and an email about the decision was sent out around 9 p.m. stating temporary “increased security measures” would be in place.

Miller Place parent Amber Buscemi is concerned about allowing armed guards to be stationed outside schools. Photo by Kevin Redding

Some residents praised the district for taking quick, drastic action in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, shooting that left 17 students and faculty members dead Feb. 14. Others raised concerns that the school’s decision was unnecessary and dangerous, sharing their feelings at a board of education meeting Feb. 28.

“Adding armed guards to our schools is not a solution to the problem of school shootings,” said Nina Thompson, the parent of a fifth-grader and a kindergarten student in the district who pleaded with the board not to make this a permanent implementation. “The school in Florida had one, but it didn’t prevent or minimize devastation. Kids should not have to grow up with guns in school. Period.”

But Lou Gallo, a retired teacher in Longwood, said in the immediate sense, armed security is crucial.

“We have to get rid of this notion that our lovely little schools are fuzzy, wuzzy wonderlands, because they’re not anymore — we have to raise our consciousness to the extent that our school is now a potential killing ground,” he told the board. “The criminal mind preys on defenselessness, weakness and vulnerability.”

Superintendent Marianne Cartisano explained to residents during the meeting that the board’s assignment of armed security was done so urgently to ensure that all precautionary measures were being taken.

“You send me your children in the morning and you expect me to send them home to you in the afternoon. There are 14 parents in Florida right now that don’t have that expectation.”

— Marianne Cartisano

“I just don’t want it to be me,” an emotional Cartisano told the residents packed inside the high school library. “I am responsible for 2,800 children and nearly 500 staff members every single day, and you, as parents, have reasonable expectations of me. You send me your children in the morning and you expect me to send them home to you in the afternoon. There are 14 parents in Florida right now that don’t have that expectation. And I can’t tell you how much that nauseates me, saddens me and frightens me.”

The Florida shooting occurred just days before the school district closed for its mid-winter recess, and Cartisano said she and other board of education members spent the break in constant communication. They ultimately met in person at central offices at 4 p.m. Sunday to gather information accumulated in the past week, evaluate the concerns coming from students and faculty members and weigh their options. After meticulously reviewing the pros and cons of each security suggestion, from installing metal detectors in each building to enforcing strict bans on parent drop-offs and pickups, the conversation ultimately led to armed guards.

“We know that we fit the perfect active shooter profile as an upper-middle-class, basically white-community that doesn’t think it’s going to happen here — that makes us a target,” Cartisano said. “Questions kept coming up — are we doing enough? There was a real community fear that we were feeling.”

Cartisano said, in total this week, the guards cost the district $5,750, and, moving forward with enhanced security, the new hires will not financially affect any athletic or extracurricular program, educational course or faculty and custodial staff members.

“The purpose of this was to reduce crisis response time and open up the conversation with law enforcement,” the supervisor said.

Roughly a dozen residents made their voices heard at the meeting.

Lou Gallo talks at the board of education meeting. Photo by Kevin Redding

“There is no evidence that an armed guard with a handgun will, or even can stop a shooter with an AR-15,” said Miller Place mother Amber Buscemi, referring to the style of assault rifle that has become the weapon of choice of mass shooters, including the suspect in Parkland’s massacre. “It is illogical. And, now, you have hired an armed officer to be suspicious of all students who attend our schools as they look for potential shooters. … It’s an unnecessary risk.”

Sound Beach resident and Miller Place graduate Patrick O’Hanlon said he doesn’t believe the armed guards would be effective against an active shooter.

“I don’t believe any of you should allow someone with a gun in here,” he said. “They’re not going to protect your children with a pistol in the lobby.”

Despite admitting he was not a gun advocate, Pete Conelli said he was in support of the armed guards. For him, he explained, the Parkland tragedy wasn’t just a story in the news. His wife’s closest friend lives in the Florida town, and her son is a freshman at the high school where the shooting occurred.

“He’s going to live with the mental scar for the rest of his life,” Conelli said, recounting the student sending his parents “I love you” texts from underneath a desk in a classroom while the shooter was in the hallway. “I’ve read a lot of school shooting statistics and one I read reported that 18 percent of shooters are shot by police … and I’ll give my kid the extra 18 percent any day of the year.”

Mount Sinai and Miller Place also come in first, Northport and Ward Melville second

Rocky Point's cheerleading team placed first in the county for the third straight season. Photo by Jim Ferchland
Miller Place’s cheerleading team rocks the house. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

The Eagles’ consistency and dominance is second to none when it comes to high school varsity cheerleading.

Rocky Point claimed its third cheerleading county championship in Division I medium varsity Feb. 24 at West Islip High School in front of a boisterous crowd shouting out Rocky Point’s name. The Eagles finished with 94.6 points, the highest overall score of the day.

“It feels amazing,” head coach Anna Spallina said. “There’s so much pressure on me to always compete and be on top. I think it’s just my personality. Climbing to the top is always good but once you’re up there, it’s harder to stay at the top.”

A Mount Sinai cheerleader atop a pyramid. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Before the meet on Saturday, Rocky Point was down in Orlando, Florida for nationals. After earning a pass straight to the finals, the Eagles’ performance put them in a disappointing seventh place.

“It’s a sport,” Spallina said. “Like any other sport, you’re going to have a good day and a bad day. It’s just the way it is.”

Northport finished second (81.2), Newfield third (67.3) and Kings Park fourth (65.9).

Mount Sinai was the only Division II large school in the competition. They finished with a score of 87.7. Mustangs head coach Kara Bochicchio said there still was competition — themselves.

“It was really just about going out there and trying to perform the best routine they could,” Bochicchio said. “Throughout the whole routine, there was fight. It might not have been the most perfect routine of the day, but they fought for everything tooth and nail. I’m really proud of them.”

Mount Sinai senior Charlotte Fiordalisi said there’s no way better to finalize the season with a county championship, especially after the Mustangs also finished nationals in fourth place.

Northport’s cheerleading team brings the excitement. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“I’m just really proud of my team,” Fiordalisi said. “My first ever competition six years ago was here and my last competition being here is bittersweet. It was a great way to finish the season. I’m just living in the moment.”

Miller Place finished first in Division II Medium varsity. The Panthers had 68.5 points to Hampton Bays’ 45.2. The pair are the only two teams in the division.

To wrap up the day was the Division I large school, Sachem North (88.7) earned first place over Ward Melville by one point.

“They really amaze me,” Ward Melville head coach Christine Perretta said of her team. “They never let anything defeat them. We pushed through every routine and they’ve definitely gone further than they’ve ever gone for Ward Melville. They don’t stop until the end.”

A Newfield cheerleader shouts a chant. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Ward Melville senior Kara Manuud has been with the team since her sophomore year. She said she was confident in the Patriots’ routine.

“Just being on that mat one final time, I knew nothing could go wrong,” Manuud said. “We have the skill, we’ve had all the practice we could have and it was just the matter of perfecting that and showing it on the mat.”

The Patriots took eighth place in nationals this year, and senior Courtney Cardillo said it feels good to finish her high school career on a higher note.

“After getting eighth, we worked really hard this past week,” Cardillo said. “We came in stronger than we’ve ever been. We hit a bunch of routines. We showed them what we deserved and who we are.”

 

 

Ward Melville’s cheerleading team. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Town of Brookhaven submits grant application to pay for dredging

A grant would help pay for dredging of Miller Place Duck Pond. File photo by Giselle Barkley

A local ecosystem needs saving.

The Miller Place Duck Pond — located at the intersection of North Country Road and Rocky Point Landing Road — is too low, looks dirty in the summertime and appears to be invaded by destructive species.

Those are some of the complaints residents have made to Tom Carrano, Brookhaven’s assistant waterways management supervisor, who, along with his team, has been monitoring the pond in recent years, determining that the concerns are valid.

The small but vibrant pool of water, which sits across from Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School and has long served as an educational tool for its teachers, has been found to be overrun with a multitude of plant species not native to Long Island, some identified and some not, which Carrano said have the potential to “wreak real havoc.”

“There aren’t that many areas left where local amphibians and reptiles can go on the North Shore, so these small systems are extremely important.”

— Tom Carrano

The pond currently contains water lilies, plants that thrive in areas of high nitrogen loading and sedimentation, and, possibly, Caboma and watermilfoils — plants whose root systems are known to threaten the quality of fresh waters, greatly affecting swimming and fishing.

Because of these findings, the town board recently submitted a grant application to the Suffolk County Water Quality Protection and Restoration Program as well as the Stewardship Initiative in hopes of acquiring funds to eradicate the invasive species and restore and maintain the health of the water.

“We’re just hoping to make this little ecosystem — which is very special to the community — better than it is today,” Carrano said. “There aren’t that many areas left where local amphibians and reptiles can go on the North Shore, so these small systems are extremely important.”

The restoration, of which the projected cost is $240,000 with a $120,000 town match, will include dredging the pond to remove excess sediments and all invasive plant matter and using the highway department’s Vortechs unit — a hydrodynamic separator that “combines swirl concentration and flow controls into a shallow treatment unit and retains trash, debris, sediment and hydrocarbons” — to reduce stormwater runoff and filter clean water from natural wetlands. If the grant is received, Carrano said he expects work would begin in the summer of 2019.

“We have a very comprehensive plan that we’ve worked on and we’d like to go after some grant funding to go and take care of it,” Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) said. “We’re taking it piece by piece. We know we can do the dredging in-house, because we’ve done so in the past.”

Bonner said the pond was dredged and invasive species were taken out in the 1980s, but said the problem is, over time, people dump their own fish into the water.

Miller Place Duck Pond, which has been contaminated by nonnative fish and plants being dumped into it, warns against dumping on a sign by the pond. Photo by Kevin Redding

“[Dumping] what’s in their own fish tanks, such as plants, and they’re not native to the Island,” she said. “Birds drop seeds, animals drop seeds and then you have invasives. The grant funds will go toward bringing the pond back to where it was.”

Carrano said by installing the Vortechs unit and creating a cleaner water filter, he is confident it would stop all sediments from entering the water again, eliminating the need to have to worry about dredging the pond for a “very long time after this.”

Although the wetland is outside of his district, state Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) spoke highly of the plan to save it, calling the pond “a crown jewel” in the Miller Place community.

“This is a very important water body simply because it anchors one end of the historic district in Miller Place and is, visually, critically important to the sense of place for that whole area,” the assemblyman said, noting insects reproduce in the water, and it attracts birds, reptiles and local wildlife. “We don’t have many ponds on Long Island on an overall landscape basis and open freshwater bodies are extremely rare, so I would strongly support the idea of restoring it.”

He did, however, warn dredging too deep with a perched pond like this runs the risk of taking away the clay base that holds the water.

“That would not be good,” Englebright said. “So, while dredging makes sense, it also makes sense to try to restore the pond a shallow depth rather than gauging down deeper, which could be dangerous.”

The William Miller House had a new roof installed to protect the historic building. The renovation was made possible with local donations. Photo by Kevin Redding

When it comes to saving the oldest existing house in Miller Place, the community has it covered.

In its 298th year, the William Miller House on North Country Road stands stronger than ever thanks to a brand new, $18,300 roof made possible by donations from residents, local businesses and community groups. The roof’s installation, by Patchogue-based Ultimate Exteriors, began Dec. 26, 2017, and was completed the following week.

Miller Place-Mount Sinai Hisotrical Society Vice President Antoinette Donate and
historian Edna Davis Giffen show off some of the old shingles. Photo by Kevin Redding

Replacing the historic structure’s dilapidated roof has been a top priority for the Miller Place-Mount Sinai Historical Society members since 2015, when a campaign was launched to complete all needed repairs in time for the house’s 300th anniversary in 2020.

“The roof was open partially — you could see the sky when you were in the attic,” said Antoinette Donato, vice president of the historical society. “It’s so nice to know that the community supports us and understands the importance of this house, because it’s not just Mount Sinai and Miller Place history, it’s American history.”

Built in 1720, the house is the ancestral residence of the family the town was named after, and is on the National Register of Historic Places, significant for its lack of interior changes over the centuries.

Historical society members said they saw a spike in community donations in May 2017 after their goal was reported by local news outlets. On the day the story got out, a resident who wished to remain anonymous approached the society and promised to donate a dollar for every two dollars it raised. Local residents pitched in, as well as large contributors,including the Suffolk Federal Credit Union and PSEG Long Island.

“It’s so nice to know that the community supports us and understands the importance of this house, because it’s not just Mount Sinai and Miller Place history, it’s American history.”

—Antoinette Donato

According to members, the most memorable donor was 12-year-old Jack Soldano, who rushed to the society’s rescue by selling 1,000 comic books over the summer at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai. In the end, he raised more than $1,220 for the project, which, at the time he presented the check, brought the repair fund to $7,500. He said he did so because of his strong connection to the town landmark, as he and his family were regulars at its annual Postman Pete and Spooky Lantern Tour events.

“I remember when I was younger and having so much fun” he said. “I want the younger kids to be able to experience that too.”

Gerard Mannarino, treasurer of the historical society, announced the historical society reached its $18,300 goal in December, and shingles were delivered right before Christmas.

Society board member Edna Davis Giffen said she couldn’t believe her eyes as construction crews began the repair.

“We’d been talking about this for years — wanting to get this roof done — and never had the money to do it,” Giffen said. “Now, all of a sudden, here it was. And now it’s all done. It’s just so wonderful.”

The historical society hopes to tackle its second priority, restoring the house’s 16 windows, as soon as possible.

A demonstration is done at the King Kullen in Patchogue, showing how to use the drug take-back drop box. Photo from Adrianne Esposito

By Kevin Redding

With the recent launch of the first statewide pharmaceutical take-back initiative, New York residents are encouraged to be more careful, and environmentally friendly, when it comes to getting rid of their old and unwanted medications.

On Dec. 28, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced that 80 retail pharmacies, hospitals and long-term care facilities across the state will be the first to participate in its $2 million pilot pharmaceutical take-back program, and encouraged more to get on board.

This program allows residents to safely dispose any unused and potentially harmful pills into a drop box at these locations beginning in April, when the boxes are slated for installation.

Once collected, the drugs will be weighed, tracked and incinerated.

The free, volunteer public service, funded by the state Environmental Protection Fund, is modeled after a successful safe disposal program started at King Kullen in 2014 — which, in the past three years, has safely disposed more than 7,600 pounds of pharmaceutical drugs — and aims to improve the region’s drinking water, which has become increasingly contaminated by people flushing medications down the toilet and pouring them down the sink.

Flushed pharmaceutical drugs have been found in state lakes, rivers and streams, negatively affecting the waterways and the wildlife that inhabit them.

Roughly 40 percent of groundwater samples have trace amounts of pharmaceutical drugs, with the most common being antibiotics and anticonvulsants, according to Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens
Campaign for the Environment.

“Prescription drugs should come from our pharmacists — not from our faucets,” said Esposito, whose Farmingdale-based organization founded the King Kullen program and lobbied the state to provide funding in its budget in 2016 for the DEC to create the pilot program. “Pharmaceutical drugs are considered an ‘emerging contaminant’ in our drinking water and the flushing of unwanted drugs is one contributor to this growing problem. Safe disposal programs [like this] are critical in combating this health risk. The goal really is to provide people with an easy, safe and convenient option to dispose of their drugs. We can get ahead of this problem now rather than wait until it becomes a bigger problem later.”

The pilot program is currently open and is accepting applications, according to the DEC website, which also outlines that the $2 million  will be used to cover the full cost of purchasing U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration-compliant medication drop boxes, as well as the cost of pickup, transport and destruction of collected waste pharmaceuticals for a two-year period.

Esposito said the program also serves to prevent accidental exposure or intentional misuse of prescription drugs.

“This is a service that all pharmacies should be providing their customers,” she said. “Not only does it protect the environment, it will keep drugs out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.”

While there aren’t many participants so far in Suffolk  — among six volunteers are Huntington’s Country Village Chemists, St. James Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center and Stony Brook Student Health Services — many local pharmacy owners said they were interested in enrolling, while others have already been offering something similar.

At Heritage Chemists Pharmacy & Boutique in Mount Sinai, owner Frank Bosio said he offered a take-back box for more than two years, but funding ended.

“It was a great program and the community loved it,” said Bosio with interest in enrolling in the new pilot program. “I definitely want to get on board with this.”

Manager of Echo Pharmacy in Miller Place, Beth Mango, said her store has a disposal box system in place that complies with Drug Enforcement Administration requirements.

“We had a lot of customers asking us what they could do with their old medications,” Mango said. “We wanted to do something for the community. We’re trying to save our Earth for our children and for future generations — this is one way we know is safe.”

Esposito made clear that most disposal systems outside of the launched program aren’t authorized by the DEC or other agencies, and hopes the list for this particular effort will grow.

Retail pharmacies, hospitals and long-term care facilities can enroll to participate in the pilot pharmaceutical take-back program on the DEC’s website at www.dec.ny.gov/.

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Tyler Ammirato races toward the rim on a steal. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Miller Place started off hot with a 24-18 lead over Amityville at the end of the first quarter, but it went downhill for the Panthers, which fell to Amityville 98-58 Jan. 8.

In the blink of an eye, the Warriors pushed the tempo and went on a 22-0 run to start the second quarter. Amityville was ahead of the Panthers 32-12 over the eight-minute span, and could not come back from being outscored 80-34 in the final three stanzas. Amityville improves to 9-1 on the season and 6-0 in League VI while the Panthers drop to 4-7 on the year and 3-4 in conference play.

Miller Place head coach Brian Sztabnick was content with how his team played in the first quarter, saying he thought there were three things his Panthers did well.

Daniel Berrios moves the ball around a defender. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“No. 1 we switched defenses a lot so we can get them off guard, giving them different looks,” Sztabnick said about the positives in the first quarter. “No. 2, we hit shots, so that’s always going to help. No. 3, we took care of the basketball. We didn’t have many turnovers; we did everything in our game plan that we wanted to do.”

Senior Alex Herbst led Miller Place with 11 points, and sophomores Daniel Berrios and Thomas Cirrito added 10 each. Herbst was not pleased with the loss, mainly because he believes Amityville can be taken down.

“I’m frustrated because I feel like [Amityville] can be a beatable team,” Herbst said. “We showed that we can play with them in the first quarter, and then everything just dropped off.”

Four players scored in double-figures for the Warriors. Senior Joshua Serrano led Amityville with 24 points, and behind him was sophomore Divaahd Lucas with 20, senior Jayson Robinson with 18 and freshman Julius Goddard with 13.

Berrios was expecting a hostile environment playing in Amityville. He said he was amped up to compete.

“I was excited,” Berrios said about playing against Amityville. “I was expecting it to be crazy; I wanted that. I couldn’t wait to play in that atmosphere. I couldn’t wait to take it all in and play against them and against adversity.”

Despite the 40-point win, Amityville’s Gordon Thomas said he’s learned to always keep his foot on the gas pedal against any team. He added his team used the first quarter as motivation to bounce back.

Matthew Hirdt moves the ball into Amityville’s zone. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“Never underestimate your opponent,” Thomas said. “In the first quarter, they were beating us. I said to my guys that you can’t put the switch on and off at any time. When you go out there, you have to be ready to play.”

Sztabnick understood Amityville was undefeated in League VI coming into this game, and for him, it wasn’t about winning, it was about testing to see if his Miller Place team can play with an undefeated one like Amityville.

“I wanted to see if we can maintain poise,” Sztabick said. “With a team like this that’s as talented as they are, highly-ranked as they are, you know they’ll be ready to go on a run especially on their home court.”

In the second quarter, Amityville was reckless with points off turnovers. Sztabnick said his team’s transition defense struggled to respond.

“With the way we started, we proved we can play with them,” he said. “One of the things we have to work on is maintaining that over a period of time. It’s one thing to do it for eight minutes in a quarter. After they went on a 22-0 run, we cut it to seven at one point, so we still fought back, but eventually their speed, size and athleticism was overpowering us.”

Miller Place looks to bounce back today, Jan. 11, against Hampton Bays. Tipoff is currently scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

Tuscany Gourmet Market owners Rich Fink and Tommy O’Grady are known for helping families in the community, whether it be donating food and gift cards to a charitable event, or volunteering time to cater and serve at an event with company volunteers. Photo by Jennifer Brunet

By Desirée Keegan

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

That’s what it’s like when entering Tuscany Gourmet Market. Customers step through the sliding doors of the 10-year-old establishment’s new location on 25A in Miller Place and are immediately greeted by staff members. Restaurant-quality foods, imported cheeses and fine meats are available everywhere the eye can see at the family owned fare. Owner Tommy O’Grady is even known to whip up specialty items if a customer can’t find exactly what they were looking for, and if they can’t do that, they’ll find a way to get it.

But that’s not even half of what Miller Place residents say makes the market so special. To many, it’s that the warm, welcoming atmosphere is coupled with sincere care for the community.

Tuscany Gourmet Market manager Rich Fink and owner Tommy O’Grady are known for helping families in the community, whether it be donating food and gift cards to a charitable event, or volunteering time to cater and serve at an event with company volunteers. Photo by Jennifer Brunet

Sound Beach resident Patti Kozlowski first visited Tuscany Market five years ago as a customer. She said right away, she knew it was a place she wanted to shop.

“It felt like family, like they were family,” she said of her first experience, which was at the business’ previous location closer to Mount Sinai. “It didn’t feel like a corporate place. It felt like a mom-and-pop shop where they knew everybody in the neighborhood and everyone in the neighborhood knew them.”

O’Grady gets to know each customer, his or her family and usual orders in what many consider a very tight-knit Miller Place community.

“They are consistently going above and beyond, and in many cases it’s unsolicited,” Kozlowski said. “I try to give them my business every opportunity that I have. I always recommend them. One, because I truly think that their service and their products are well above average — exceptional. And two, because I always think that their service to the community should be recognized.”

Kozlowski, who is also the founder of North Shore Neighbors Breast Cancer Coalition, a nonprofit that raises funds to provide support services for local families fighting cancer, approached the owner seeking donations as part of a fundraising effort for local boy Thomas Scully, who was fighting anaplastic ependymoma, a form of brain cancer.

O’Grady said he’s known Thomas since his mother was bringing him into the store in a bassinet.

“To hear this happening to someone in your community, it’s like it happened to your own family,” he said. “I immediately knew I wanted to do all I could.”

Jennifer Brunet, Thomas’ aunt, said there were two fundraisers held for her brother’s family — at the Miller Place Fire Department and at Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub in Miller Place, which is now Recipe 7. Brunet said at the second fundraiser, in 2015, O’Grady ran the show.

“They genuinely wanted to be there for Thomas,” she said. “Not only did they donate stuff, every staff member came and donated their time to help — brought food, brought raffle items — they did everything.”

Tuscany Gourmet Market owner Rich Tommy O’Grady is known for helping cater a myriad of fundraisers. Photo From Patti Kozlowski

The business kept raising money for the family until Thomas died in summer 2016 and continued to help amid the wake and funeral.

“When Thomas passed away they reached out to me immediately and said, ‘We want to take care of everything,’” Brunet recalled. “And they did. They could have very well shown up at my house with a hero, but when we came back from the first wake session with my entire family everything was set up — salads, entrées, vegetables; there were choices for kids to eat, everything. And when I came home from the second wake everything was wrapped up and the place was clean. I didn’t have to do a thing. They were unbelievable.”

Thomas’ mother Debbie Scully said the kind, giving, selfless nature of the Tuscany Market owner and employees moved her beyond words.

“We were busy doing what we needed to do to take care of our son and they were giving us gift cards to come get food and showed so much support,” she said. “Tom would never let us pay for anything when we’d go there, he’d say, ‘When you get back on your feet then you can pay, until then, no.’ And it was endless, because after Thomas passed away they continued to give. It was over three years of them taking care of us and not asking for a thing in return.”

Scully said the family started a foundation in Thomas’ memory to help other children with cancer, and Tuscany Market members wanted to remain involved.

“He goes, ‘All right, what can I do? Let me know when the next event is,’” she said of O’Grady. “When you go through what our family went through, you don’t know what you need, but you do need help. And to have somebody preempting that and just being there and being supportive, it made it a little bit easier for us. That’s priceless.”

That caring, community-centric, no-questions-asked attitude reverberates beyond Miller Place.

Jennifer Hunt works with Kozlowski for team Fight Like a Girl, which participates in the LI2Day Walk, a 13.1-mile walk that celebrates cancer survivors and raises funds for local Long Island families battling cancer. The team hosts its own fundraiser, a Chinese auction, for which Tuscany Market has provided gift cards and what Hunt referred to as “high end” baskets.

Tuscany Gourmet Market workers volunteer time to help cater an event. Photo From Jennifer Hunt

“Without businesses like that, the money that we raise to help people in our neighborhood fighting cancer, it wouldn’t happen,” she said. “The fact that they’re willing to step up is tremendous. Not many people do as much as they do.”

Most recently, the owners stepped up to help Shoreham-Wading River freshman Alexa Boucher, who was diagnosed with orbital rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer in the eye socket. A sold-out spaghetti fundraiser was held at the Wading River Fire Department, and Tuscany Market catered the event, donating food, paper goods and wait staff for a 150-person dinner.

“Originally, it was going to be a spaghetti dinner at the firehouse,” Hunt said. “But no one knew how it was going to run — it was a little overwhelming — so Tommy decided he would just do it and cater it from soup to nuts. I’m there shopping all the time because the food is so good and everyone is just so nice and helpful, but it’s also nice that they’re willing to step up in any way you ask them to.”

It’s said it takes a village, and O’Grady is said to emit so much joy doing what they’re doing to support their neighbors.

“Their kindness is alive and kicking in them,” Scully said. “It’s like you’re watching a movie of this little community where everyone comes out and supports each other and has each other’s back and looks out for each other. They are at the heart of that, they embody that. We’re very lucky to have them in our community.”

Tuscany Market helps provide for those that need it most, in a place where everybody knows your name.

This version was updated to correct that Tommy O’Grady is the owner of Tuscany Gourmet Market. Rich Fink is a manager there.

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