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Mount Sinai

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Security footage of man who allegedly broke into Mount Sinai home. Photo from SCPD

Suffolk County Police are looking to identify and locate two men who allegedly broke a door and illegally entered a Mount Sinai home at the end of August.

Police said two men broke a rear glass door to gain entry to a Liso Drive home Aug. 29 at around 8:40 p.m. The men fled the home without any proceeds.

Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about these incidents can contact Suffolk County Crime Stoppers to submit an anonymous tip by calling 800-220-TIPS (8477) or texting “SCPD” and your message to “CRIMES” (274637). All calls and text messages will be kept confidential.

The Mount Sinai Jetty will see reconstruction early September. Photo by Kyle Barr

After a decade delay and wringing of hands, the Mount Sinai Jetty project is going to start construction within a week as the end of summer closes in.

The ramp up East Beach in Port Jefferson is splashed with waves at high tide. Photo from Margot Garant

Ed Morris, the Brookhaven Town Parks & Recreation  commissioner, said construction is ready to start the project within the week. The contractor Bay Shore-based H&L Contracting is already in the process of gathering supplies. Materials will be stored at the Cedar West Beach Parking lot, which is down the road of the main town beach parking lot. 

“H&L will be starting up a staging area sometime in the next few days — [and will] be mobilizing everything,” he said.

H&L’s $7.4 million contract to rebuild the east and west jetties, which has been crumbled mess for close to a decade. The jetties rocks collapsed and submerged at the seaward ends during  high tide, and lower than 4 feet in some places. Holes in the jetty have also caused erosion to surrounding bluffs and beachfronts. The western jetty has been of particular concern to neighboring Port Jefferson village and its beaches.

Matt Miner, Brookhaven Town chief of operations, said an outside engineering firm did an underwater review of the jetties, which confirmed that sand is slipping through it. The rocks that will be placed in the jetties will match the size as the ones currently used and will restore the structure’s integrity.

In addition, Melville-based surveying and engineering firm Nelson & Pope is being paid $86,000 for full-time construction inspection services. 

The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year, with a finalization hopefully by spring, Morris said. Construction will be done on opposite sides of the inlet, which the commissioner noted, to allow boats through in both the on and off season.

The jetties are expected to increase in height and become slightly wider. The west jetty will extend slightly further south than the east jetty.

One element of the project that is still to be determined is the outcome of the sand sitting at the bottom of the inlet. Suffolk County has promised to dredge the sand from its bottom once the jetty project is concluded. Port Jefferson Village officials have been chomping at the bit looking to get sand back to repair its rapidly diminishing East Beach. Morris could not confirm where the sand would end up.

“Ideally, sand would be going on both sides of the jetty,” he said.

In the meantime, Port Jefferson officials have plans to piggyback the town’s contracts to aid their own beach restoration efforts.

Mayor Margot Garant said the village will be entering into contract with H&L to drop off materials at East Beach and to use the village’s East Beach parking as a staging area. She said it was still unclear how much of the parking lot they would be using. With the massive amount of rocks the company will be hauling, it could mean several trucks traveling down the steep driveway on a consistent basis. 

“I don’t know to what degree they’re going to be using the east end parking lot as a staging area for some heavy equipment, maybe not at all, but it’s mostly for access,” Garant said. 

As of Sept. 3, the village attorney was set to go over the details with the contractor.

Port Jefferson has plans of its own to revitalize its easternmost beachfront. The contract with H&L allowing them use of the beach will give them stone for use in rebuilding its cracked concrete access ramp. Plans are for a steel wall to cut back 200 feet tied into the hill along the country club property. The mayor said they originally looked at 356 linear feet to run along the tennis courts area, but New York State Department of Environmental Conservation restricted them to the 200.

However, the mayor said the state has promised to allow them to create a rock revetment wall around that tennis courts area to help offset erosion.

The village is still waiting on its permits from the DEC before going out to bid on those projects.

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People of all ages enjoy Heritage Park for its sizable number of amenities. Photo by Kyle Barr

A flash of green among the gray, the short hills that roll along the side of Route 25A in Mount Sinai are strewn with people. Men and women jog, kids scream and laugh playing baseball and soccer. Children run up those green hills, then fall and let themselves tumble down the gentle slopes. 

A mockup of what the park would look like upon completion. Image from Lori Baldassare

Some developers have talked about creating a “town square” for the hamlet of Mount Sinai, but for lovers of Heritage Park, there already is one.

“There it is, Heritage Park — it’s one of the most beautiful parks of its kind that I’ve ever seen,” said New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket). “It came together from the cooperation of so many wonderful people willing to pull together.”

Nearly 20 years ago, local residents became heated about plans to develop the site for the home improvement giant, Home Depot. The site, which was once a pumpkin farm, joined with other properties like the Davis Peach Farm in an agrarian setting. Decades of home development turned the area into small strips of business sandwiched in between residential neighborhoods.

Heritage Park went in the opposite direction. A successful agreement between Suffolk County and the Town of Brookhaven meant the county bought the site by using the Community Greenways Fund, while the town built the park amenities like the baseball and soccer fields. The nonprofit organization Heritage Trust continues to operate the park, along with Brookhaven town. The trust hosts multiple carnivals and other events throughout the year as a means of raising money. The trust also rents out the Heritage Center for public events. 

But more than that, the trust has become a lightning rod for Mount Sinai, and even well beyond. 

The history of Heritage

Very few dreams become reality, at least to specific designs.

But original plans for Heritage Park, known also as The Wedge, and mockups bear a striking resemblance to how the park has shaped up 20 years after those original designs. 

Town workers start work on the park back in the early 2000s. Photo from Lori Baldassare

Fred Drewes, a longtime park volunteer and Mount Sinai resident, originally came to the Mount Sinai Civic Association back in 1988 with the idea of a hamlet study, and the idea was resurrected in the late 1990s, co-chaired with then civic president Lori Baldassare. Within those designs, he proposed a park, one that would become the focal point for the North Shore that had once been McGovern Sod Farm. 

This was during a time when the rural past of the hamlet was being laid over with brick and concrete. One housing development after another changed the tenor of Mount Sinai. The last few farms on the south side of Route 25A started to close and look to sell their property, and a few big names started eyeing those parcels. 

“The development pattern of western Long Island was going to make it impossible for Mount Sinai to escape being visually damaged and swallowed up,” Englebright said.

Among the legal action taking place at the location of the Davis Peach Farm, one of those maligned developments was a potential Home Depot on a plot of land that had been a pumpkin and sod farm.

At the southern tip of The Wedge, a space of only about one acre that had commercial zoning, representatives of Home Depot approached the property owners who were looking to sell. The rest of the property was zoned residential.

Baldassare, who has spent the past 20 years as the on-and-off again Heritage Trust president, has long been in the trenches over the fate of The Wedge. Home Depot would end up the line in the sand for Mount Sinai residents. As civic president, she asked Drewes to revive his hamlet study and plan for a park. She also was a leader among residents campaigning against the home supply chain, getting people to tie green ribbons around their mailboxes all across the hamlet to show their support.

“We ended up competing for them with land,” Baldassare said. “We had thousands of ribbons up all over the place.”

The next task was to make sure, as Englebright put it, “the same thing didn’t come back in some virulent form.”

In 1999, the civic authored a proposal for Suffolk County to buy the parkland. Of course, in government, nothing is ever that simple.

A state, a county, a town, a civic

Rare is it that all levels of government from the top down work together on such a large project as was Heritage Park, and while it wasn’t all easy, the results stand.

Volunteers help construct the gardens at Heritage Park. Photo from Lori Baldassare

Still, the process was grueling at times. Both Brookhaven town and the county wanted active recreation, namely baseball and soccer fields. The town, especially, wasn’t into designing passive space with ingredients of a walking path and playground, but mostly a space for, as Drewes called it, “free play.” He remembers the then town parks commissioner mentioning he would never use such a space for jogging, so close as it was to two major roads.

“The way the greenways program worked is they needed a partner to maintain it,” Baldassare said. “They weren’t willing to develop it, they needed a partner, and the county said they wanted a municipal partner, but the town was not willing to do all the things we wanted in the park.”

Before they were willing to sign on to the county, the town also wanted to have a civic partner.

The assemblyman came into the picture, agreeing with the civic about needing to maintain the heritage of the area. He said he reached out to his colleagues at the state, county and town levels to help open those conversations. 

One difficulty they encountered was finding funds to buy the particular section of The Wedge that was still zoned for commercial.

The property was owned by Vinny Bove, a local entrepreneur and developer. Englebright recalled him as a “rather rugged individual,” and didn’t expect that he would be such a kindred spirit. Speaking with him, he found Bove was more than willing to keep the property up for sale until the state could gather the funds for the civic to buy the property.

“His welcoming attitude and his willingness to embark on the journey of uncertainty that was worthy of the community’s heritage, made it possible,” Englebright said.

The smiley face made from tulips is erected nearly every year. Photo from Lori Baldassare

Of course, the next issue was that the civic had to be legally able to accept state funds, needing to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, categorized as a land trust. It was then the Heritage Trust was formed, which incorporated in 2000.

The past trust president and now treasurer recalls much haggling over which municipality would fork over the funds for which part of the project. After the section was designated for park, it would be years before the first shovels finally entered the ground in 2003 when it all started to come together.

The county would buy most of the land, with one section now owned by the trust. The town would build the walking paths and baseball and soccer fields, and town lawnmowers continue to maintain the space.

“All the voices were speaking of the green space,” Englebright said. “Just amazing loving work the parks department of the town invested itself into.”

20 years, 20 more

From a few baseball fields and passive green, the park grew. More state assembly grants and loads of private fundraising helped gather the money to build the barnlike structure that has become the Heritage Center, the main headquarters not just for the trust but also for  the civic groups and a gathering spot for other local groups and events.

Amy Satchell was a volunteer since almost the beginning, helping to fundraise for the center and installation of the playground, which went up years after the park was fully built. Every year around the holidays Satchell goes to help decorate the center and the large pine tree just outside its doors.

Heritage Center at Heritage Park is used by the trust for its events. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Many people had an idea that it would be the town center, the town square of Mount Sinai,” she said. “You can see now after all this time all the wonderful amenities that are provided.”

Drewes has seen more and more amenities come to the park, including his own idea for the now-annual parade of flags, a display of flags from nations across the world on the Avenue of America, a stretch of the walkway that encloses the park.

The longtime Mount Sinai resident, now 83, is retired. He can lean back on a park bench and look at all the work he and his civic compatriots have helped accomplish.

“I’m gratified and extremely happy that what we as citizens proposed and volunteers worked tirelessly to create is valued by so many people,” he said.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said she has seen the effectiveness of the project and has proposed a similar agreement for a spot in Middle Island. The location is the site of a now-demolished K-Mart across from Artist Lake along Middle Country Road. 

“It has inspired me to take the model and replicate it,” Anker said.

Baldassare said that as the park reaches its 20th year, very few things remain as part of the original design, with only a splash pad and a few other odds and ends left. For the trust, it means the end of an era, and the start of a new one.

Fundraising has always been a difficulty, with the trust having an annual budget of around $300,000, the members have to fundraise what they don’t get through sponsorships and grants almost all by themselves. These funds also help to pay the several part-time staffers the trust needs for its ongoing efforts.

“People think it must be taxpayer dollars that take care of the center, and it’s not, we always have to raise money,” Satchell said.

They host events every year like the spring and summer carnivals, but those are dependent on weather. The trust treasurer recalled one year that was incredibly lean because of adverse weather conditions during one of its main fundraising events.

The park always requires more volunteers and is looking for more ideas to take the park through the next 20 years. 

Though many who visit the park assume that it must have always been there, for the trust and its volunteers, that can only be a good thing.

“When people say that, for them, the park has always been there, that’s fantastic,” Satchell said. “We want it to be that anchor in the community that people think it’s always been there. I do hope it always will be.”

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School board officially renames high school in honor of Robert Grable

After the devastating loss of Mount Sinai High School principal Robert Grable in July, the school district is looking for ways to move forward.

Principal Robert Grable speaks at the 2019 high school graduation. Photo by Bob Savage

In a letter posted to the district website Superintendent Gordon Brosdal announced the appointment of Middle School Principal Peter Pramataris to the high school principal position. Middle School Assistant Principal Elizabeth Hine will assume his place, while Brian McCarthy, a retired administrator, will assume Hine’s previous position.

“I am very happy to report that all three buildings are going to be fully staffed and ready to greet our students on Wednesday, Sept. 4,” Brosdal wrote in the letter,

McCarthy has been an administrator at several districts including Miller Place and William Floyd. Brosdal said he specializes in elementary schools.

According to Brosdal, the district has conducted a search from an interim principal for the last four weeks, including candidates outside and inside the district.

“Peter Pramataris has been selected to serve as the interim high school principal while the district conducts a thorough search for the right person to permanently sit as high school principal.”

Maureen Poerio, the district clerk, said Mount Sinai will not be starting the process of looking for a permanent high school principal until January 2020.

The interim positions of the administrators will be held for a year, and they are on leave from their previous positions should any wish to return.

At its Aug. 28 meeting, Brosdal said while they looked for an outside interim replacement at the high school, districts have a hard time finding a replacement at such short notice for such an important position. Otherwise, having familiar faces move within the district can help aid the transition through what may be a difficult time for students.

“We feel good about this, we’re ready to go,” Brosdal said.

Pramataris said he spent a while thinking about whether to accept the position or not, but decided based on his desire to help the district in its time of need.

“Rob [Grable] was a great friend, mentor and colleague,” he said. “It’s just a way that I think I can help the community get through this difficult time.”

At the meeting, the board officially voted to rename the high school to the Robert M. Grable Jr. — Mount Sinai High School.

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Police arrested a residential community security guard for allegedly assaulting a visitor Wednesday, Aug. 14.

Suffolk County Police said John Ruggiero, while working as a security guard at The Ranches at Mount Sinai condominium complex, located along Route 25A, allegedly denied entry to a 68-year-old man who was attempting to visit a friend Aug. 14 at around 2:55 p.m. The two men exchanged words followed by a physical altercation, during which the 68-year-old man sustained serious injuries. Police did not release the name of the other man involved in the fight.

Police could not say who provoked the incident or threw the first punch.

The visitor was transported to Stony Brook University Hospital where he was listed in serious condition. Ruggiero, 50, of Port Jefferson Station, was treated and released from St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson for injuries sustained during the fight. He was charged with assault 2nd degree and is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 15 at First District Court in Central Islip.

Above, Cayla Rosenhagen, Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) and Iris Rosenhagen pose for a selfie. Photo by Kyle Barr

Walking along Cedar Beach Aug. 2, one child’s foot scuffed along something that wasn’t rock or sand. Lifting it out, Sean Hoag and his father Benjamin looked down and saw a small straw. Sean sticks it in his bucket. After walking around for 10 minutes, his small bucket is nearly full to the brim with everything from pieces of plastic to cigarettes to bottle caps.

Mermaid Mist thanks Sean Hoag for cleaning up the beach. Photo by Kyle Barr

Over two days, young people like Sean helped dig out just under 8,000 pieces of litter from Cedar Beach, according to Cayla and Iris Rosenhagen, two 14-year-old twins from Selden who helped start the beach cleanup they dubbed Beach Bucket Brigade.

From when they were around 10 years old, the girls would strike out on their own to do cleanups at their local parks and beaches, but on Aug. 2 and 3, the environmentally-minded sisters took it to the next level, hosting their own Beach Bucket Brigade to help clear Mount Sinai’s premier town beach of garbage and debris. They had planned the event for little more than two months ago.

“We really love wildlife. We’ve always been interested in conservation,” said Cayla. “We’ve been interested in beach cleanups in the past, and we’ve done some ourselves, so we wanted to find a way to reach other community members.”

Both Rosenhagen sisters were involved in all parts of the project, from collecting garbage to showing a breakdown of all the trash they collected after the fact.

“Wherever we go here, there’s litter everywhere,” Iris said. “So, it’s really a beautification project, to help the environment and help the animals.” 

The 14-year-old pointed out that just in the first few minutes of holding their event, they already had many families walking around doing their part, adding, “So it’s not just us.”

The girls reached out to Town of Brookhaven town officials to help get everything set, including Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who said she was more than happy to oblige.

Participants walk along Cedar Beach picking up debris. Photo by Kyle Barr

“This was all on their own, and they met with Councilman [Kevin LaValle (R-Selden)] with their own agenda, their own meeting,” Bonner said. “They designed everything, all on their own.”

From a young age, the Rosenhagen twins have been infatuated with nature, especially animals, and among those, especially birds. Their mother, Raina, said before the girls could talk, they would make animal noises instead.

“They had the idea, and I just said run with it,” she said. “They took a chance on it, and we’re very pleasantly surprised it’s been well received.” 

Within a few minutes of searching, participants were already back to the main tent, handing over buckets full of debris and trash. For each bucket of trash they returned, they were given a raffle ticket in which they could win any number of ecologically-sourced and recycled toys and products. In addition to the buckets, each bucketeer was given a bingo card, where they could strike out a patch for each different type of material they found on the beach.

The day was meant to incentivize and make enjoyable the act of taking care of one’s surroundings. Local mermaid actors, Mist and Marina, came to Cedar Beach to wish the cleanup well and give “mermaid kisses and starfish wishes” to the young people who helped clean the beach.

Making taking care of the beach fun is especially important, Iris said, as she pointed out approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste are dumped into the oceans each year, while items like plastic straws and other plastic items are either ingested by marine life or otherwise harm them by being caught in gills or other parts of sea creatures.

Participants walk along Cedar Beach picking up debris. Photo by Kyle Barr

On Friday, Aug. 2, around 60 volunteers collected 3,827 pieces of litter, a majority of which was plastic, glass and cigarette butts. The following day, volunteers collected 3,885 pieces of litter, even more of which was plastic but also a heavier amount of paper products.

The sisters’ dad, Craig, said his daughters have managed to make him even more environmentally-minded than he already was, and have even volunteered to help set up another beach cleanup at Sunken Meadow State Park for him and his company.

“Most of this is just homegrown,” the father said. “They just care so much about the animals and, obviously, the planet.”

This is only the beginning for the Beach Bucket Brigade, with them already advertising additional cleanups at the beach Aug. 29 with what’s called the Beach Bucket Brigade’s Books at the Beach that involves a story time for young kids under the age of 10 then heading out to again clean the beach of litter.

“In your head, you know there’s something you can do,” Iris said.

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On Tuesday, July 30, over 100 community members came together at Cedar Beach West to celebrate the lives of three young Mount Sinai natives who perished in a single car crash along Mount Sinai-Coram Road July 9. Photo by Kyle Barr

The heart of Mount Sinai still aches, and for those who attended a vigil at Cedar Beach for the four recent deaths of their community members, tears could be seen behind the dark of sunglasses.

On Tuesday, July 30, well over 100 community members came together at Cedar Beach West to celebrate the lives of three young Mount Sinai natives who perished in a single car crash along Mount Sinai-Coram Road July 9. Dorien Lashea Brown, 23, of Mount Sinai; Rebecca Minunno, 24, of Hampton Bays and Casi Fricker, of Port Jefferson, all died as the SUV they were driving hit a utility pole, which toppled over the vehicle and the electricity caused the car to catch on fire.

“I never pictured this is where we’d be, I would lose my closest friends,” said Gianna Rubino, a friend of the girls. “Everyone’s lives have been flipped upside down.”

On Tuesday, July 30,  over 100 community members came together at Cedar Beach West to celebrate the lives of three young Mount Sinai natives who perished in a single car crash along Mount Sinai-Coram Road July 9. Photo by Kyle Barr

As residents were still trying to come to terms with their deaths, the community experienced another loss. Robert Grable, the principal of the local high school, died unexpectedly while doing his morning routine July 19. He was 49.

Families and friends laid out near the bluff spread a collage of photographs, showing the girls and the principal in the prime of their lives. Friends and close family members came forward to speak, remembering the girls as the youth they were. Brown was often called a “firecracker” who could make a person laugh with just a look. Fricker was called “strong,” willing to make sure her friends were treated well at hair salons and the like, and also having a unique way with animals.

“Casi and Dorien, you were iconic, you were both so bright,” said Nicole Branca. “You had the kind of energy that some of us just could not keep up with, and I think that’s what we loved about you.”

Minunno had become active in the retro model pinup scene with The Luscious Ladies, a group of vintage pinup enthusiasts with chapters across the world.

One of those who spoke, who goes by the name “Dizzy Doll” in the pinup world, said the entire community was mourning her.

“When a pebble is thrown in a lake, the entire lake is affected. Every life has a wider effect in people’s lives then we realize,” she said. “Becca was and still is an inspiration to us.”

Renee Petrola, a retired teacher in Mount Sinai, taught both Brown and Fricker, and read the poems they wrote for a contest in sixth grade, both titled “How did I change?”

The vigil was organized by a small community group dubbed the “angel squad,” which included several community members and best friends of the girls who passed. Opening remarks were made by Donna Murph, the lead planner for the squad who had been guidance counselor to Brown and longtime coworker of Grable.

“Mount Sinai is profoundly saddened by the loss of these four beautiful souls,” Murph said. “May these families feel the support and love of this community and a reminder they are never alone.”

On Tuesday, July 30, over 100 community members came together at Cedar Beach West to celebrate the lives of three young Mount Sinai natives who perished in a single car crash along Mount Sinai-Coram Road July 9. Photo by Kyle Barr

A few stepped forward in the grey twilight and bending over they laid their flowers in the gentle tide of the Sound. First, a little more than five came forward. Then, unbidden, members of the families came forward to the beach’s edge. The Brown family kneeled over, and sank their flowers into the Sound. Their heads low, then rising, they tossed theirs into the water.

The faces turned to the waning sunset and walked forward, first 10, then well over 100. They were largely silent, except for the music in the background and their soft murmurs, muttering memories of the loved ones they lost.

As the sky went dark, the families attempted to light floating lanterns for their deceased though the wind played against them. The Brown family managed to get theirs lit, and the lantern rose 20 feet up, hovering above the surf before gently sinking into the water, the light of the lantern’s fire staying lit for several minutes, even on the black waters of the Sound.

Stepping forward to speak, Joe Caggiano said he had worked with Fricker at the Jamesport Brewery, adding he came to see her as his closest friend at work. The day of July 9 was one they shared with laughs, also having talked on the phone with Minunno, making a joke by saying “hi” to each other, over and over.

“We had a lot of fun on that Monday — she laughed a lot,” he said.

They shared a beer with each other after work, where they spoke about “life, where we wanted to be, what we wanted to do and the people in our lives, and all those things … that was a really special time in getting to sit with her.”

Ciaria Colson, Brown’s cousin, then came up to the mike, and talked of her family member as the pinnacle of what being a friend could be.

“She made a point to have a relationship with each and every one of her friends,” she said. “My little cousin was nine years younger than me, but she inspired me … me and my cousins have a closer bond now because of her.”

Colson asked all her friends to step up and come together. They gathered together, nearly 20 in all. She asked them all to hold each other and to support each other.

“I want you guys in this time, to grab a hold of each other, support each other and develop relationships with each other,” she said. “If you have a close relationship, have a closer relationship … because I know I didn’t live my best life — I didn’t live it, my cousin lived it.”

 

File Photo
The perpetrator was in a black Hyundai Genesis

Suffolk County police are searching for a man who allegedly assaulted another man at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai back in May.

A male passenger of a left his vehicle and allegedly repeatedly punched a male driver of another vehicle in the face at Cedar Beach, located at 200 Harbor Beach Road, May 22 at 11:53 a.m. The man is described as white, approximately 38 to 45 years old, six feet tall, with thinning hair and arm tattoos, who was wearing a dark tank top.

 

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District to rename high school after Robert Grable

The Mount Sinai community held a vigil remembering Robert Grable on July 22. Photo by Kyle Barr

The storm loomed large and dark from the west, just as members of the Mount Sinai community were starting to say their goodbyes to High School Principal Robert Grable, who passed July 19.

However, instead of turning around and running for their cars, the Mount Sinai community, family and friends of Grable, turned and moved into the high school. His vigil would continue, rain or shine.

The Mount Sinai community held a vigil remembering Robert Grable on July 22. Photo by Kyle Barr

“On July 19, as he went about his business, his usual routine going off to the gym, Rob Grable passed away,” said school board President Robert Sweeney to the assembled crowd. “Use his name. It keeps him with us. No matter what we do, no matter how hard this is, what would he want us to do? Do your best, be professional, be strong.”

Grable joined the school district in 1998, teaching fourth, fifth and sixth grade before moving up to assistant middle school principal and in 2005 to middle school principal. He would become high school principal in 2010, during a reshuffling of staff where TBR News Media reported at that time he was there to help facilitate a “diversity of staff.”

In his earlier years, before he entered education, Grable played Major League Baseball for the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies. He can be found in the Suffolk County Sports Hall of Fame. The 49-year-old was a lifelong resident of Connetquot and father of three girls.

But if his true calling was education, it showed, according to both those who worked with him and those students he guided.

Lynn Jordan, a Mount Sinai resident who had been on the board of education since 2007 until this year, said the high school is where he truly thrived.

“That was his building — that was where he belonged,” she said, only a few hours after learning of his passing.

The high school principal would be instrumental in several programs that saw the high school thrive, Jordan said, including a “collegial observation process” that had teachers sit in on other instructors’ classes, having them learn from each other. While the program met with some initial resistance, it soon became an important part of teachers mentoring each other, especially for those just coming into the district.

“Teachers are very funny about having other people in their classrooms while they’re teaching,” she said. “It grew tremendously. I think about every teacher was participating in the collegial rounds eventually.”

Scott Reh, the district’s athletic director, knew Grable for nearly 20 years, having been one of his closest comrades. He said the principal cared about the students like they were his own children.

“He had a vision — he was a presence in the high school,” Reh said. “If you look at the Mount Sinai High School, Rob created that, he made it.”

Vincent Ammirato, who taught and coached alongside Grable, would later work under him as principal. He said he remembered joking, saying Grable once worked for him, and he was now his boss. Even with him moving up in the district, Ammirato said the principal never lost that personal connection to his students.

The Mount Sinai community held a vigil remembering Robert Grable on July 22. Photo by Kyle Barr

“The kids loved him, the parents loved him, the teachers loved him,” he said. “It’s very rare that you find that in education or any walk of life to be loved by so many people.”

Students who spent years with the principal, both in the middle and high schools, would come to see him as more than just an administrator.

Daria Martorana, a Mount Sinai native who graduated in 2014, said she had traveled the road from middle to high school with Grable, adding he was magnanimous to her and the other students.

“To say Mr. Grable was a passionate and dedicated educator is an understatement,” she said. “He has always been the one who his students could go to for a laugh when we were down, guidance when we were lost, and help when we were confused … he would even escort us to class, so we didn’t get in trouble for not having a late pass.”

Sidney Pirreca, a Mount Sinai graduate of the class of 2015, said Grable was a friend to students, even tacitly participating in that year’s senior prank where the soon-to-be graduates hosted a tailgate party in the faculty parking lot.

“I asked him to bring a tub of cream cheese,” she said. “He was a great person, friend, leader and mentor … A thank you will never
be enough.”

To those who paid attention to his methods, Grable took a look at teaching like a coach would on the baseball field, seeing how each individual student has strengths that had to be pushed and nurtured. He was adamant that students just looking to coast through easy courses should challenge themselves.

“[He] mentored them all through the year, making sure they were really getting what they needed,” Jordan said. “He worked with kids. He tried to make the final outcome better.”

Grable spoke at the 2019 senior commencement ceremony just last month, June 28. Jordan said that, even though he had spent nearly 19 years in the district and could have moved up higher in administration, he considered the high school his home.

The Mount Sinai community held a vigil remembering Robert Grable on July 22. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Robert Grable was so much more than a principal,” said Gabriella Conceicao, a 2014 Mount Sinai graduate who would later become a teacher in the district. “There are few educators who take the time to get to know their students on a personal level, and he was one of them. He built relationships that would last far beyond high school, and he touched the lives of countless students and faculty members … I feel so lucky to have known him as a principal, friend, mentor, and co-worker.”

Mount Sinai school district announced it would be changing the name of the high school in honor of its late principal.

“There are no words to show the impact Mr. Grable has had on each and every one of his students,” Martorana said. “We are so lucky to have had him as a mentor and teacher but more importantly as a friend.”

A scholarship fund has been created to help Grable’s three daughters. Checks can be made payable to Mount Sinai Administrators Association, mailed to Mr. Matt Dyroff c/o Mt. Sinai High School, 110 North Country Road, Mount Sinai, NY 11766.

 

Sections of roadway in Mount Sinai show heavy wear. Photos from Repave Mount Sinai Neighborhood Streets petition

“We just want our streets paved. We are not asking for much,” said Richard Colacino, who lives on Westcliff Drive in Mount Sinai. 

Sections of roadway in Mount Sinai show heavy wear. Photos from Repave Mount Sinai Neighborhood Streets petition

This past week, Colacino, along with several other Mount Sinai residents, sent a letter and petition signed by more than 160 other residents to Dan Losquadro, the Town of Brookhaven Highway Superintendent, stating that their streets are in dire need of repair and repaving and resurfacing. 

“It’s been 25+ years since our neighborhood streets have been repaved,” the letter reads. “In addition to being an embarrassing neighborhood eyesore, our streets have now deteriorated to the point of being a safety issue.” 

Two of those streets are Westcliff and Marcy Drive. Residents say many children in the neighborhood have gotten injured playing in the streets and riding down the slight hills due to uneven pothole repairs, loose asphalt pebbles, rough patch fixes and crumbling curbs. 

Residents also pointed out six other streets that have similar problems including Helen Street, Hartwell Drive, Rita Drive, Whitcomb Avenue, Walcott Court and Chestnut Street. 

Colacino said the conditions of their roads are laughable at this point. 

“The streets and the curbs are so bad,” he said. “It has gotten so bad that when it rains it just floods people’s driveways.”

Violet Baker, a fellow resident on Westcliff Drive, said within the past couple of years there have been some minor patch work and repairs down on some streets but argues the need for full resurfacing and repaving. 

“They have patched some of the potholes but that only works for a little bit,” she said. “It doesn’t last long, and it is only putting a Band-aid on this thing.”

In addition, Baker said residents have been waiting two years for the town to get rid of trees that have been troublesome and been breaking up curbs alongside their roads. During the winter months the roads have been prone to collapse and break up quicker from the adverse weather. “There are no sidewalks, so a lot of people use the streets to walk. Kids play here with their bikes and skateboards,” she said. “The [condition of] streets is devaluing the neighborhood.”

“We are not asking for much.”

— Richard Colacino

Colacino and others said they have been trying to get their streets repaved and repaired for the past four years, adding that in 2015 the highway department had sent an inspector to the neighborhood to survey the condition of the streets. After the inspection, their streets were put on Brookhaven’s 100 worst streets list. Colacino was hopeful at the time that the streets would get fixed quickly, but a year went by without any significant repairs done.

The Mount Sinai resident then sent a letter to Losquadro’s office the following year and again in 2018. On those two occasions, he was told that they weren’t on the department’s schedule for that year and that there was no need to continue to contact the office as they were already in the system. 

“They keep saying ‘next year, next year,’” the Mount Sinai resident said. “[It’s been] four years of not knowing when they are coming.”

In response, Losquadro said he appreciates the residents for the petition and it is a neighborhood they know needs to get work done.  

“We are not ignoring the community of Mount Sinai,” the highway superintendent said. 

Losquadro mentioned that they had done work this year nearby on Mount Sinai Avenue.  

Asked about the reason for the delay in long-awaited repairs in the neighborhood, the highway superintendent said he works with a finite budget each year and they do work based on the condition of the streets, not age. 

Losquadro said the work is not done arbitrarily, and some roads are worse
than others. 

“I can say this [neighborhood] will be part of our scope of work for next year,” he said. “Those streets have already been engineered and measured out.”

Sections of roadway in Mount Sinai show heavy wear. Photos from Repave Mount Sinai Neighborhood Streets petition

Besides the letter and petition sent to Losquadro’s office, residents sent packets to other local officials including Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and Councilwoman Jane Bonner
(R-Rocky Point). 

Baker said it has been so long and all they want is a definite time frame of when the work on the streets will be done. 

The highway superintendent said with the town supervisor already promising to increase this budget for next year, he hopes he can get more work done. The department’s last year’s budget was $10 million, but in the previous State of the Town address by Romaine, Losquadro was told he will receive $12 million.

“It is getting through that backlog of streets, there is far more work that needs to be done,” he said. “We ask people to continue to be patient as we continue to work on that backlog.”

Baker was disappointed with the highway superintendent’s response. 

“I wish we had a more definitive answer. We have been waiting,” she said. “It’s not the best answer but not the worst [either]. I hope it is true this time and we’ll have to wait and hope for the best.”

Colacino wasn’t surprised with what Losquadro had to say.  

“I think it’s more of the same. It’s always next year,” he said. “At least we got an answer and people are going to hold him to it. We are not giving up on this fight. This is something we believe in.”