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Mount Sinai

North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce is was in charge of the historic train car on the corner of Route 347 and Route 112. The Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Chamber of Commerce will take over responsibility of it. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Desirée Keegan

Plans for the future of businesses formerly joined under the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce are coming into focus in the wake of the organization’s dissolution.

The North Brookhaven chamber is disbanding, leaving behind smaller chambers for area communities, an idea that already existed before the formation of the now dissolved chamber. Wading River, Shoreham, Rocky Point, Miller Place, Sound Beach, Mount Sinai, Port Jefferson Station and Terryville originally had businesses forming smaller chambers before the lack of membership forced the groups to consolidate.

Many point to Port Jefferson Station business owner Jennifer Dzvonar as the reason the nine year North Brookhaven chamber has remained afloat. Dzvonar will head up the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Chamber of Commerce.

“We were losing membership because we were too spread out and some of our members were concerned,” said Carol Genua of Coach Realtors in Mount Sinai. “What Jen did is phenomenal and for her to do it that long I can’t even comprehend how much time she had to put in, and her husband and kids were even helping out.”

Barbara Ransome, president of Brookhaven Chambers of Commerce Coalition, which represents almost 20 town chambers who is also director of operations for the Port Jefferson Chamber of Commerce in the village, said she thinks the group made the right decision to reorganize its efforts.

“We all sat around the table saying, ‘OK, what’s the next move?’” she said. “There was a strong consensus that there needed to be some level of consolidation. I’m very happy that Jen is not dropping out. She’s trying her very best, she’s the glue that’s keeping it together right now.”

Ransome said smaller membership will mean less money, so the chambers will have to be frugal in their operating budgets.

“People will volunteer when it is beneficial to them and their business, which, often times, will be within their direct surrounding area town,” Dzvonar said in an email. “Many are just too busy trying to keep their local business alive. Chain stores, big box stores, online shopping and outsourcing are what is killing local businesses. However, the small local businesses are the ones supporting the communities and donating to the fundraisers in the schools and other local organizations, with minimal loyalty from the consumers.”

Some are concerned the same issues may arise with the new arrangement as the ones that plagued the larger chamber.

“What happens is a lot of merchants join, but don’t take part in the work that needs to be done — people don’t realize it,” said Millie Thomas, of Landmark Realty in Wading River, who used to belong to the Rocky Point chamber when she owned a business there before joining the Wading River-Shoreham Chamber of Commerce prior to it combining with the North Brookhaven chamber. “What happens is a lot of people want to join the chamber, they pay their dues and they get their name out on the brochures, but when it comes time to do all the work it seems the same specific people do it every year and it gets overwhelming, because we’re all running businesses and trying to do all of these things too.”

Thomas used the example of Wading River’s Duck Pond Day to make her point.

The realtor said putting together the event, which started as a wetlands coastline cleanup effort at the pond and has grown into a picnic following the cleanup with vendors, a parade and a 5K walk/run, takes a lot of time. She has to go to the town and fill out paperwork and pay fees for permits when needed, contact two different police departments to close off the roads, gather vendors, organize everyone involved in the parade and get sponsors whose names go on T-shirts.

“Someone needs to get involved to make all of these things happen — they don’t happen by themselves,” Thomas said.

Genua, who will be working with Donna Boeckel of Awsomotive Car Care to start up the Mount Sinai chamber, which may include Miller Place businesses, agreed that part of the problem was trying to support everything from Port Jefferson Station to Wading River. She’s hoping the step back in time will help regrow a better base of home businesses in hopes of recharging that community connection.

Genua is currently working on creating a list of all of the businesses in the area to make contact with, and already has reached out to local fish markets, restaurants, cleaners and the new Heritage Pharmacy drug store to generate more interest and enrollment. She said she is hoping to bring in local parent teacher organizations and even Heritage Park to create a chamber more entrenched in the community.

“We want to try a new way to get businesses involved,” she said. “We all still have to support each other. My husband had his own business for a while and it’s hard to compete with the big box companies. We want to keep our money local instead of it going out of state. We’re also neighbors. The people who live here, work here, or a lot of them.”

Marie Stewart of Brooklyn Bagels will be pushing forward with her already in existence Rocky Point local business owners group and is welcoming chamber members from Rocky Point and Sound Beach. Dzvonar will lead the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville chamber with help from Sheila Wieber of Bethpage Federal Credit Union and Diane Jensen of Teachers Federal Credit Union. Thomas will be reforming the Shoreham-Wading River chamber once again. All of which will take place in the new year.

“If you have the heart of a volunteer, it’s well worth it,” Thomas said. “Helping to adopt a family and provide relief to a single mom with four kids, or to see children and their families getting excited when Santa is coming down the street on the fire truck, it’s very rewarding. It is a lot of work, but sometimes people get caught up with their daily routine and don’t want to volunteer, and that’s the problem.”

Alex Petroski contributed reporting

Long Islanders flocked to Mount Sinai’s Cedar Beach Nov. 18 to take a dip into freezing
water with purpose.

The 8th annual Polar Plunge raises money for Special Olympics New York athletes as plungers take a dip or slow crawl into the chilly waters of the Long Island Sound. Special Olympics New York has 71,889 athletes training and competing year-round in 22 Olympics-style sports. Athletes and their families or caregivers are never charged to participate.

It costs $400 to support training and competition for one athlete for one sports season. This year’s Town of Brookhaven event has raised more than $110,000. Team Extraordinary has accumulated the most to date, with funds totaling almost $11,000.

United States Army Staff Sgt. Allen Pennington and Warrior Ranch Foundation Vice President Tony Simonetti spend time with Pennington’s horse Red. Photo from Warrior Ranch Foundation

When Marine Corps veteran StaceyAnn Castro first stepped into the round pen with a horse at Warrior Ranch Foundation, her guard was up.

Castro, who served in Operation Enduring Freedom from 2002 to 2004, and admittedly struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, was face to face with a 1,400-pound Friesian horse named BlackJack during a July demonstration by the Mount Sinai and Islip-based nonprofit, which pairs military and first-responder veterans with rescue horses in need of rehabilitation and training.

Marine Corps veteran StaceyAnn Castro bonds with
Vet therapy: Mount Sinai’s Warrior Ranch helps heal
her horse BlackJack. Photo from Warrior Ranch
Foundation

The tough-as-nails veteran was attempting to engage BlackJack in basic ground exercises, but the horse was not budging. Its guard was up too.

“I soon realized it was because I was terrified of him,” Castro later said. “When you’re with these horses they feel everything you’re feeling, even the emotions you think you’re hiding from everybody else. You can’t hide them from a horse.”

Castro relaxed, and as she calmed down, so did BlackJack. The horse began to lick and chew — a reflex associated with the animal’s release of stress.

“By the end of the session, I wound up with a friend,” she said of BlackJack. “With the horses, you have someone you’re actually bonding with in your own private, silent language. It’s beautiful.”

Officially incorporated in June 2016, the Warrior Ranch Foundation has helped reduce the stress levels and PTSD symptoms of more than a dozen veterans still recuperating from a wide range of conflicts — from the Korean War to Vietnam War to the war in Afghanistan — by teaching them how to groom, feed and train troubled horses. And much like the veterans, the nine residential horses, mostly retired race and show animals that have been trained their whole lives to compete and perform in high-stakes settings, are learning to adapt to a new, more relaxed world.

Cathie Doherty spends time with horse Cody.
Photo from Warrior Ranch Foundation

“There’s a strong parallel between them and it’s amazing to see their emotional breakthroughs,” said Eileen Shanahan, the nonprofit’s founder and president. “While the race horses are trained to run, run, run, and as a result have emotional issues, the veterans are trained to go out there and do the best they can to protect and defend us. When they come back, they have to shut that off and that’s not so easy. We provide a safe haven for these humans and animals.”

Shanahan’s organization is the result of her lifelong love of country and horses. The Queens native, who shoots and produces television programs and commercials for a living, comes from a large military family with a father who served in the Marines, an uncle and brother in the Navy, nephews in the Army, as well as several first responders.

Although she mostly rode buses and subways growing up, Shanahan always admired horses from afar, seeing them as beautiful creatures.

When she got married and moved to East Quogue in the 1980s, she took up horseback riding and, 15 years ago, began adopting rescue horses and studying natural horsemanship — a variety of rapport-based horse training techniques.

United States Army Staff Sgt. Allen
Pennington with horse Red. Photo
from Warrior Ranch Foundation

For nearly a decade, she dreamt of providing this outlet for local veterans and finally launched it with the help of longtime friends and equestrians specialists. While the group currently works out of two private barns, the future plan is to turn Warrior Ranch into a national organization.

“We want to eventually help hundreds of veterans and horses because it really works,” Shanahan said, explaining that interactions like Castro’s is very common at the ranch. “A lot of times when they come here, the veterans have their arms crossed, but by the end of the day, they have ear-to-ear grins. A lot of them break down and cry and it’s so powerful to watch.”

Tony Simonetti, Warrior Ranch’s vice president and top horse trainer, has made a career of rehabilitating emotionally distraught horses and re-interacting them with their human counterparts, resolving more than 500 extremely difficult horse cases for people across the country. When asked his most memorable veteran-horse interaction within the organization, he talked about Army Staff Sergeant Allen Pennington, Warrior Ranch’s first soldier to go through the program, and Red, a 4-year-old, retired race thoroughbred.

“[Allen’s] this big, rough and tough guy, and when the horse connected with him, I just saw all the stress he was holding inside bubble right up through his chest and then he just couldn’t keep himself composed,” Simonetti said. “He broke down and turned around and hugged that horse like it was his battle buddy. And I told him, ‘don’t feel bad about that. That’s what you’re here for.’”

During a testimonial on the Warrior Ranch website, Navy veteran Cathie Doherty, who was diagnosed with PTSD and put on medication for a number of years, said she was grateful to have attended a women veteran’s retreat at the nonprofit.

United States Army Staff Sgt. Allen
Pennington with horse Red. Photo
from Warrior Ranch Foundation

“It was really an amazing experience,” Doherty said. “I think it touched me much deeper than I imagined it would. I appreciated working with the horses and that I had to make a connection with them. I feel I was present in the moment. I didn’t care about my phone, I didn’t care what was going on around me. It was a beautiful experience for me.”

Castro said companionship with a horse might be more beneficial than a human’s.

“When you’re a veteran and you’re having a bad day, you don’t want to tell anybody, you don’t want to talk about it — you want to forget about it,” she said. “But I also don’t want to be alone and, so, when you’re there with the horse, and that horse knows what you’re going through and feeling, he feels it too. And because you love the horse and you don’t want the horse to feel that way, you’re going to try and make yourself feel better. It’s awe-inspiring.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who served four years in the Army, visited the ranch in Mount Sinai with his family Oct. 7 and saw firsthand the value of the nonprofit.

“It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to see the positive effects that you’re having on these horses, and from these horses the veterans are getting love that they possibly have never experienced
before,” Zeldin said. “In a way, you’re directly coping with the symptoms of PTSD while also productively escaping the worst of it. It’s a great concept and I’d love to see Warrior Ranch grow into something a whole lot bigger than it already is.”

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, fifth from left, meets with members of the Warrior Ranch Foundation. Photo from Warrior Ranch Foundation

Events were held across the North Shore last week in honor of Veterans Day.

State and local officials gathered to remember all those who served, and celebrate those still serving at local parks and memorials.

Events included a Veterans Day service at Sound Beach Veterans Memorial Park. Resident Debbie Goldhammer presented Sound Beach Civic Association President Bea Ruberto and all of the veterans in attendance with a themed painting and three hand-painted rocks from her client David Weinstein, a quadriplegic who couldn’t be in attendance but wanted to thank his local veterans.

Heritage Park in Mount Sinai displayed its annual Parade of American Flags. Members of Mount Sinai Boy Scout Troop 390 — Brian McCrave, Trevor Satchell-Sabalja, John Lamparter, Kim DeBlasio, Joseph McDermott, Matthew Lamparter, Brandon McCrave, John DeBlasio and Jake DeBlasio — helped assemble the flags.

A speech and presentation of wreaths ceremony commemorated the day at East Setauket Memorial Park.

Huntington Town officials paid a special tribute to all those who have served in the United States Armed Forces in a Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 5 at 9 a.m. The ceremony placed special recognition to this year commemorating the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I with a flowered wreath laid at the flagpole memorial.

In addition, Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) held a moment of silence for two Huntington veterans who have recently died.

Dominick Feeney Sr., a longtime Huntington Town highway supervisor and former organizer of the town’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade,  served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He died Oct. 15.

Northport resident Alice Early Fay, served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and Korean War and received many awards including the World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, and the National Campaign Medal.  She was a member of the Huntington Veterans Advisory Board and was chairwoman of the committee that built the town’s Women Veterans Memorial in front of town hall. Fay died Nov. 2.

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner is up against Coram resident Democrat Mike Goodman to represent the 2nd Council District Nov. 7. Photos by Kevin Redding

Coram resident Mike Goodman is running against incumbent Town of Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) because he said he thinks he could bring positive changes to the town — ones that will streamline services, create more jobs, keep young folks on Long Island and make transparency changes with lasting effects.

An English major from St. Joseph’s College, who also studied religion and computer science, the Democrat challenger said he takes major issue with the lack of job creation and affordable housing in the town.

Flooding in Rocky Point has been a cause for concern in relation to sewers on the North Shore. File photo from Sara Wainwright

“My brother is a recent graduate, he’s a really smart, great, hard-working guy and it’s hard for him to find a place to live here, and I’ve seen all my friends leave for the same reason,” he said. “I want to put a stop to the brain drain. There are a lot of companies that don’t come here because it takes so long to deal with the bureaucracy of the town. I’m personally affected by a lot of these problems.”

Bonner, who is running for her sixth term at the helm of the 2nd Council District, said during a debate at the TBR News Media office in October she didn’t know if it’s her 27-year-old opponent’s age or inexperience but he lacks knowledge of affordable housing issues.

“To say you want more affordable housing, it’s a lofty and noble goal, it just has to make sense where you put it,” she said.

She also pointed out the flaws in fulfilling some of her opponent’s goals in her district, specifically constructing walkable downtowns and affordable housing complexes.

Coram resident Mike Goodman is running for political office for the first time. Photo by Kevin Redding

“Sewers are very expensive and with that, developers are going to want density,” she said. “Density doesn’t work if you don’t have mass transportation to have these walkable downtowns, to have trains and expanded bus system, but also the county cut the bus system in the districts that I represent and the current legislator wrote a letter to not bring sewers to Rocky Point and Sound Beach. We don’t have expanded gas lines in Rocky Point either, and the seniors in the leisure communities are struggling with getting heat. As the closest level of government to the people that’s responsible for the least amount of your tax bill, we are great advocates to other levels of government to help the residents out because we’re the ones that end up cleaning up the mess.”

Goodman also suggested more housing attractive in price and environment to millennials, and Bonner pointed to the current project proposed for the site next to King Kullen in Mount Sinai, but also pointed to issues with affordable housing.

Stimulating job creation was a goal raised by both candidates.

Bonner said 500,000 positions could be created if Brookhaven wins the bid to bring an Amazon headquarters to the Calabro Airport in Mastic and the site of former Dowling College.

“Something that takes 45 days to get cleared with any other town takes two years to do here,” Goodman said in response. “I don’t think Amazon of all companies wants to deal with a town that’s bragging about recently getting computers. If we want to deal with the tech sector, if we want to have good paying jobs in manufacturing or technology, instead of the more and more retail I see happening, we need to attract big businesses here, and that happens by streamlining bureaucracy.”

Millennial housing was a topic for discussion, which there are plans to construct in Mount Sinai. Image top right from Basser Kaufman

The Newfield High School graduate pointed to his software development background at Hauppauge-based Globegistics, and side business building websites and fixing computers, as evidence of his abilities to cut administrative “red tape.”

“I would like a publicly-facing forum,” he said, referring to a ticketing system like JIRA, a highly customizable issue-management tracking platform. “Everyone can see all of the issues that have been called into the town, who in the town is working on it, how long it will take to get done and what it’s going to cost. I think town contracts should be made public so people can see who is getting the work done and how much they’re being paid, so people aren’t just getting family members jobs.”

Bonner emphasized many of hers and the town’s efforts in streamlining services, managing land use and implementation of technology, but also noted her and her colleagues’ desire for transparency.

“I think it is an overused expression, because I don’t know any person I work with on any level of government that doesn’t advocate for transparency; gone are the days of Crookhaven,” she said. “We’ve become more user-friendly, we aren’t as archaic as we used to be.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner is seeking her sixth term. Photo by Kevin Redding

Bonner has a long list of accomplishments she said she’s proud of playing a part in during her 12 years on the board. Bringing single-stream recycling to her constituents; refurbishing and redoing most of the parks and marinas; and working on a land use plan for the solar farm at the old golf course grounds in Shoreham that will generate about $1 million in PILOT payments for 20 years were some of the examples she noted.

She said she is also looking forward to improving handicap accessibility at town parks.

“When you’re walking in a particular park you see maybe a park needs a handicap swing and think about where in the budget you can get the money for it,” Bonner said. “The longer you’re at it there’s good things you get to do, they’re very gratifying.”

Goodman said he’s hoping to just create a better Brookhaven for the future.

“I’m running to make the town I’ve always lived in better, and not just better now, but better 10, 20 years from now,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of things that can be done better, I want to do the work and I think I’m qualified to do the work.”

The current councilwoman said she hopes to continue to improve and build on the things already accomplished.

“The longer you serve, the more layers you can peel back in the onion and you see problems that need to be solved,” Bonner said. “With length of service you can really get to the root of the problem, solve it significantly and hopefully, permanently.”

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker is running against Republican Gary Pollakusky to represent the 6th District. Photos by Alex Petroski

A Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency volunteer and small business owner is challenging incumbent Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) as she vies for a fourth term to represent the 6th District.

Gary Pollakusky, a Rocky Point resident since 2012 who graduated from Baldwin High School and Cornell University, said he wants to bring more fiscal responsibility to the county while working to keep young people living on Long Island. He moved to Rocky Point from Long Beach following losing his home to Hurricane Sandy.

“You have to force the government to work within its means,” he said during a recent debate at TBR News Media’s office. “We need to treat the public’s purse like we treat our own. You don’t borrow from Peter to pay Paul.”

“I will continue to provide leadership in our county government by prioritizing fiscal responsibility, public safety and protecting our health and environment.”

— Sarah Anker

While Anker, a resident of Mount Sinai for more than 20 years, who previously lived in Middle Island and Coram, said she is fiscally conservative, Pollakusky pointed to Suffolk’s recent practice of borrowing to make payroll. He criticized Anker for calling for a traffic study following the release of a red-light camera program report and for voting for the $700 million contract between the county and the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association. Though he was critical, he ultimately admitted he would have voted in favor of the contract as well, citing public safety as the primary reason.

“Each year our budget is going up $50 million and $48 million is going toward the police contract,” Pollakusky said. “We have to create sustainable contracts, we need people who understand business and have business acumen and financial acumen in government.”

Anker defended her track record on the Legislature. She voted against the controversial fees, which many have referred to as “backdoor taxes.” The legislator voted to reduce Suffolk County’s pipeline debt by closing out unused funds for unrealized capital projects; against the increase in mortgage recording fee, which would have gone up $300; against the alarm bill fee; against increased fees for Suffolk County parks; and against the proposed plastic bag fee that would charge 5 cents per bag at the grocery store.

“I also feel if you don’t have the money don’t spend it, but unfortunately, you have to provide services, it’s mandated by the government,” Anker said, adding that she took a pay freeze and also voted to freeze other legislators’ salaries. “We combined comptroller with treasurer’s office, saved $23 million by privatizing the health care centers, sold the Foley Center, reduced staff by 1,000 people, cut county services costs by 10 percent and I think we still have a lot to do.”

Democrat incumbent Legislator Sarah Anker is running for her fourth term as the 6th District representative in the Suffolk County Legislature. Photo by Alex Petroski

She fell in agreement with her challenger regarding the SCPD contract, as she said it’s important to have boots on the ground amid the opioid crisis and rise in gang violence, but said she’s still hoping the county can make cuts at the negotiation table next year when the existing deal expires.

“We have a new police class which contributes to 15 percent of their health care,” she said. “It takes them longer to reach the highest pension payout; we’re revamping the whole system once these senior officers retire. Overtime should not be included in pensions, and the best thing I can do, and I’ve done this for 20 years, is to advocate strongly — shine a light and let the county executive and police unions know that this needs to be done. I can be one of many voices to direct them to do the right thing; to have a bully pulpit and use it effectively.”

The legislator highlighted her sponsored legislation passed to create a permanent heroin and opiate advisory panel, re-established from a temporary 2010 panel, created to ensure a continuous and interdisciplinary approach to help mitigate the issue. Her challenger cited the panel’s few recommendations the last time around and said he has a more active approach he would take.

“I want to identify programs, like the Given a Second Chance program developed locally four years ago, and keep the heroin crisis more consistent in curriculum and assemblies,” Pollakusky said, also highlighting his panel work with his organization, North Shore Community Association. “We need community coalitions to push law enforcement to close down drug-dealing homes and more drug reform on the supply side.”

While Pollakusky said his organization, which is not a registered nonprofit, was created in 2013, there is no mention on the website or Facebook page prior to June, when he announced his run against Anker.

“We need to look at storefronts that left and see why, see what true development we’re doing and how it’s being led.”

— Gary Pollakusky

“The association began with a small group of community advocates who felt there was a void in their local civics organizations,” he said in response. “No money flows in or our of our group. When we raise money it is through and for 501(c)(3) organizations in need, and much of our work has no events
associated with them.”

The challenger said he is more business friendly than Anker, and his time working with the town IDA has helped him. He said by retaining talent and creating jobs, keeping residents on Long Island is more attainable.

“We need to look at storefronts that left and see why, see what true development we’re doing and how it’s being led,” he said. “I act. I create jobs.”

Anker questioned his businesses, saying he outsources jobs to countries other than the United States for Media Barrel LLC and Travel Barrel LLC. Pollakusky responded that they are support teams not employees, to which Anker responded: “Do they do your work for you? Do you have [products] that are made in the United States? That’s all I’m asking.”

“For you to perpetrate these lies I not only find disappointing, I find that shameful,” Pollakusky said, asking Anker if she owns a car, television or phone made in the United States. “I am a local businessman. I work within our local economy, I have local clients.”

Republican Gary Pollakusky is running to represent Suffolk County’s 6th legislative district. Photo by Alex Petroski

Travel Barrell only lists some of the events that Pollakusky discussed, many of which are unclickable. The website’s About Us, Our Brands, Testimonials and Contact Us tabs also do not work. Anker questioned her challenger about an event called Boobs & Tubes, also listed on the website, which he referred to as a charity event that donates to breast cancer research. Based on online photos and videos of the event, referred to as “the most fun you can have with (some of) your clothes on,” it is marketed as an exclusive weekend summer event of camping, tubing, barbecuing, music and relaxation. The 2017 New York trip was canceled. Pollakusky’s last name is the only last name not in the About Us and the only mention of charity is deep in the About Us: “After Scott lost his friend Marcelo Vandrie to cancer in 2009, Boobs & Tubes began donating a portion of its proceeds to a different charitable event each year.” There is no mention of how much or to which charities the organization contributes anywhere on the website.

Anker cited several initiatives she’s proud of contributing to locally, including land acquisition with the Little Portion Friary in Mount Sinai and Cordwood Landing property in Miller Place to preserve more open space, a single-stream recycling program and work with veterans and seniors.

“I will fight for lower utility costs and continue to educate residents about common scams,” said Anker, who used to serve on the Mount Sinai Civic Association and worked on major projects like the construction of Heritage Park and ongoing Rails to Trails recreational path. “I will continue to provide leadership in our county government by prioritizing fiscal responsibility, public safety and protecting our health and environment. I will stand strong to support our veterans who have defended our nation. I will do everything in my power to protect our children. I will use my extensive experience in public policy to create safer communities for families and to improve the overall quality of life for Suffolk County residents.”

This version was updated to correctly identify what year Gary Pollakusky moved to Rocky Point and the names of his companies. The version also adds what university he graduated from.

By Desirée Keegan

The North Shore is losing one of its most powerful lobbyists.

The North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce announced its dismantling this month, as the result of president Jennifer Dzvonar stepping down. Currently no members or outside businesses leaders have stepped up to take her place.

North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Dzvonar, also owner of Bass Electric in Port Jefferson Station, with her husband William. File photo

Dzvonar did not return requests for comment, but Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), who represents the territory that’s home to most of the area businesses involved in the chamber, said she was shocked, but not surprised, knowing the Port Jefferson Station’s Bass Electric owner has a family of young children.

“It’s very time consuming,” Bonner said of being a chamber leader. “I’m surprised no one else stepped up to the plate, but I understand the quandary they’re in. Volunteerism on any level really, really does cut into your personal life. It’s a lot of balls to juggle and I know, because I’m a serial volunteer. I have a lot of respect for people who put their family first.”

Losing the 17-year-old business network, a local organization of businesses whose goal is to further the interests of businesses, means losing a go-to organization for new small businesses owners seeking help. The towns it covers also lose a local advocate fighting on behalf of the business community in the community it serves. It is not only a welcoming committee but it also helps promote business in the area. The dismembering of the chamber will result in less funding and support for tourism and trade, and the loss of a large scholarship program for local high school seniors — including those who reside in Wading River, Shoreham, Rocky Point, Sound Beach, Miller Place, Mount Sinai, Port Jefferson Station and Terryville.

“People will miss new business owners wanting to get involved with the chamber, not having a go-to person,” said Bonner, whose comments were also echoed by Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station). “But as council people we will, as we always do, make our doors open to help with the process.”

The future of the train car

The breaking down of the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce leaves the future of the historic train car at Memorial American Flag Park on the corner of Route 112 and Route 347 in Port Jefferson Station in question, but executive director Mike Poveromo said residents needn’t worry.

Despite the dismantling of the chamber, Poveromo, although he refrained from providing specific details just yet, said a Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Chamber of Commerce will be emerging, and taking with it, the responsibility of using dues to pay for what was once the chamber of commerce’s office.

“The train is one of the first electric trains and one of the two remaining of its model on Long Island,” Poveromo said. “The train car is a 1914 baggage/passenger car, that was in use from Jamaica Station to Grand Central Station. In my opinion, it is not only a chamber office, it is a community landmark.”

At the park is also a 20-feet wide, by 30-feet long American flag. A remembrance piece from the World Trade Center is also encompassed into the foundation circle.

“The picnic tables provide visitors and residents the opportunity to enjoy the area when taking a break when shopping, driving and visiting our area,” he said. “I am not concerned when the north Brookhaven chamber closes, since a new chamber is being formed, and will continue its ongoing effort in this respect.”

Mike Poveromo, general manager of Family Times Event Rentals in Mount Sinai and executive director of the chamber, said he knows a thing or two about how demanding the position can be. He joined the then-Miller Place-Mount Sinai Chamber, a small group of 30 local merchants, and eventually moved from membership director to president in 1997. He then served as president of the Council of Dedicated Merchants Chamber of Commerce from 1998 to 2004, which is when the chamber grew to include Sound Beach and Rocky Point. His business was also active in the Port Jefferson Station and Shoreham/Wading River chambers.

“Some of the first local merchants who welcomed me, like Mike Allen of Janitorial Plus and Paul Houghton of Miller Place Sea Food made a lasting impression,” Poveromo said. “They convinced me to become the volunteer membership director. But being a volunteer officer or director of any chamber of commerce is a demanding undertaking, especially in this time in history when both residents and business owners feel they do not have enough time in their day for personal, meaningful and beneficial relationships.”

The executive director recalled what to him was the first significant program established to connect business owners with the community — the Music and Arts Festival at Mount Sinai’s Cedar Beach. It was also the place to raise funds to support the scholarship.

“The chamber membership grew quickly, the business and residential community grew rapidly once the four-lane highway was in place [on 25A],” Poveromo said.

Poveromo said he is worried about the future of the area businesses.

“The days of when your doctor knew you, your whole family, your pharmacist helped you personally, your local butcher, baker and dentist that had your family covered is gone,” he said. “Today it is all about fast food, cheap service and instant gratification.”

He said he feels the dismantling of the chamber is a huge mistake.

“I cannot answer the question of why no member business owner or director hasn’t stepped up to the plate to bring the NBCOC into the future, but it could be they feel they could not afford to volunteer their personal time and expertise away from their business and family,” he said. “With no serious candidate willing to take over, I understand and support the chamber’s decision to dismantle, and this will open up new opportunities for individual town business leaders to open a chamber of commerce and promote their community as a great place to live, work, raise a family and open a business.”

Currently, a Port Jefferson Station-Terryville Chamber of Commerce is in the works, but no merchants have stepped up to fill the void in the other hamlets.

“It is a loss to hometown recognition for small businesses embedded for years in the fabric of the community they serve,” Poveromo said. “Today’s new small business start-ups must find innovative ways and the means to become part of the community fabric. They are choosing to open and invest their time, money and talents in the American dream, and the chamber of commerce is a great resource. New chamber leaders must find solutions to show and prove to residents the value of shopping locally at small business locations where owners are making a direct investment in the towns they chose to open a business.”

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Mustangs outscore Bayport-Blue Point 38-16 for homecoming victory

Losing senior halfback JoJo Pirreca to injury last week was a huge blow to Mount Sinai’s football team, but a junior fullback stepped up to fill the void.

Fullback and linebacker Mike Sabella scored four touchdowns, one coming on a 35-yard interception return, and added a fumble recovery to lead the Mustangs (4-2 in Division IV) to a 38-16 homecoming win over Bayport-Blue Point Oct. 14.

Mount Sinai’s Mike Sabella dashes into the end zone for a homecoming touchdown Oct. 14. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“It’s a huge win for us after last week’s loss,” Sabella said. “We came together after losing at home and put up big numbers against a competitive team. We needed someone to step up when our halfback went down, and we had multiple players come ready to contribute.”

Sabella was quick to share credit despite totaling 191 yards rushing on 17 carries and returning a kickoff 80 yards for Mount Sinai’s first touchdown of the day.

“Obviously, nothing is more important than coming out and getting the win,” Sabella said. “The numbers I put up and the plays I make don’t matter unless the end result is a win. It was a bit sweeter knowing I played at a high level, but in the end winning the game is what really matters to the team and I.”

Although Bayport-Blue Point got on the board first, Sabella’s kickoff return to the house was a quick answer.

“Running down the field and beating 11 guys for an 80-yard touchdown, there’s not much you can do in a football game that is more exciting than that,” Sabella said. “Celebrating with my teammates in the end zone was an amazing feeling.”

Mount SInai’s Liam McGrath walks in a touchdown during the homecoming football game Oct. 14. Photo by Desirée Keegan

On his pick-six, which gave Mount Sinai the lead for good at 14-7, Sabella said he dropped back to watch for the slant route, which he said Mount Sinai’s coaches stressed in particular to watch for during practice.

“I saw the quarterback drop, got underneath the receiver’s slant route, and the football got thrown right into my hands,” he said. “Taking that interception to the end zone felt just like that kickoff return; it’s something teams just can’t account for. Those are plays that aren’t supposed to happen, and it felt great to make it happen and take that into the end zone.”

During its week of preparation Mount Sinai focused on Bayport-Blue Point’s potent passing attack. The Mustangs defense caused five turnovers, including additional fumble recoveries by Thomas Bokinz, Kevin Johnston and Antonio Palmiotto to go with Sabella’s two takeaways.

“My team executed the game plan the best we could today, and that result of that showed on the scoreboard at the end of the game,” Sabella said. “All week we focused on Bayport’s throwing game, and we caused a lot of struggles for their offense throughout the game, so credit to the coaching staff. On offense, we had a great performance from the linemen, which led to success in the running game. When we execute the game plan we set during the week, we are a very difficult team to deal with.”

Mount Sinai’s Thomas Bokinz holds back a tackler to protect his running back during the homecoming football game Oct. 14. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Mount Sinai junior running back Liam McGrath rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries to officially put the game out of reach. He said the continued support from the audience helped carry him into the end zone.

“It felt great to play in front of the town,” he said. “From the opening touchdown the crowd brought great energy to the team and it definitely set the tone for the rest of the game.”

Sabella said seeing his squad come away with the total team win is a big confidence booster for the important games ahead. Mount Sinai travels to Miller Place (5-1) Oct. 20 for a 6 p.m. game. The Panthers are fresh off a homecoming win of their own over previously undefeated Shoreham-Wading River. The Mustangs will head to Greenport (0-6) Oct. 27 for the final game of the season, currently scheduled for 6 p.m.

“Knowing we have two games left to play in this year’s regular season and we’ve already passed last years win total makes me feel great about our team going forward,” Sabella said. “We’re gaining momentum at the right time, and we’re going to continue to get better every week for playoffs. I believe if we continue on the path we’ve set ourselves on, we can really make some noise this postseason.”

Mount Sinai teacher Virginia Armstrong hands a netbook to a Maasai girl. Photo from Virginia Armstrong

One former Mount Sinai educator is proving what a world of difference we can make if we share the wealth.

For the past four years, Virginia Armstrong, an English teacher for 28 years, has helped the district in partnering with the Maasai Good Salvage Outreach Organization to raise donations for communities in Kenya. After retiring with a love of teaching and for students, Armstrong first climbed 19,341-foot Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania before deciding to teach in Africa. That’s when she met Chief Joseph Ole Tipanko, the leader of more than 5,000 Maasai tribal members who reside in Kenya and Tanzania. The organization builds schools for needy and vulnerable children, especially girls forced into early child marriage or who become victims to female genital cutting.

Armstrong invited Chief Joseph to Mount Sinai Middle School to give a presentation, and students and staff presented him with donations.

“We share our lifestyle and culture of the Maasai people,” Chief Joseph said of the assembly. “We got a good welcome and reception, and receiving their help is a very good feeling. It’s teamwork. They’re all able to bring us together and help my community.”

Maasai children gather around their new technology. Photo from Virginia Armstrong

Small donations of clothing eventually grew to include sneakers and 40 laptops in 2015. Armstrong’s son Matthew, now carrying on the family’s teaching tradition at Mount Sinai, helped set up the clothing drive as part of Athletes Helping Athletes, and director of information technology Ken Jockers proposed the repurposing of the laptops.

“We were impressed with their presentation and viewed them as a worthy candidate for donation,” Jockers said. “We are happy to see that the Maasai can make some use of them.”

This year, the school handed over a batch of 140 eight-year-old netbooks that were deemed obsolete by the district.

“It opens up the world to them,” Virginia Armstrong said. “They come into the world with no electricity or internet and for them to have access now is a fabulous thing.”

Mount Sinai Superintendent Gordon Brosdal takes great satisfaction in the partnership between the schools.

“Knowing they’re going to schools to educate young children and young women — to raise them up — means a lot,” he said of the computers. “They’re such kind, gentle people and extremely grateful, but I don’t know if this would be possible without Virginia Armstrong. She still has all this energy and excitement. It’s amazing what she does with this group and she makes the Mount Sinai community proud. It’s hard to think she’s even retired because she’s totally dedicated to these people.”

The high schools for the Maasai people in Kenya were  recently wired for electricity, according to Armstrong, who is also the organization’s New York representative, booking Maasai members to come to schools, libraries and churches, where they speak about their culture and sell handmade jewelry and other African-made merchandise. Chief Joseph said the schools have also been trying to make use of green power, so some of the schools are installing solar panels to generate electricity to charge the laptops.

Mount Sinai district members donate clothes to the Maasai, including Chief
Joseph Ole Tipanko. Photo from Virginia Armstrong

Chief Joseph said the clothing and sneakers have meant a lot to his people, especially because most of the women don’t have shoes, but also said the computer donations have opened their eyes to how other people live, and they’ve also become a major teaching opportunity.

“It is new technology to us,” he said. “It enables teachers to access information, to do research. It helps them to keep records and it gives the students an opportunity to learn to use technology. They’re also learning how to type.”

Chief Joseph said personal donations given to his organization go toward feeding the children, or providing school lunches.

“It goes a long way changing their lifestyle,” he said.

The well wishes and support though, especially from the Mount Sinai school district, are unparalleled.

“It allows us to exist,” he said. “We look to continue this relationship for the betterment of our communities and share what’s happening on the other side of the world. It helps our students connect, and it shows people out there are thinking about them, love them and care.”

To find out more about Chief Joseph’s Maasai tribe, visit www.magsaoutreach.org. To find out more about the Maasai’s ties to Suffolk County or to donate, visit www.leavingfootprints.org.

Tree decorated in honor of national Breast Cancer Awareness month

Sound Beach resident Patti Kozlowski, founder of the nonprofit North Shore Neighbors Breast Cancer Coalition, places a flag with her friend Camille's name under the Pink Tree for Hope at Mount Sinai's Heritage Park. Photo by Kevin Redding

Throughout October, a tree at Heritage Park in Mount Sinai will be pretty in pink in celebration of national Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Up to 5,000 lights on the Pink Tree for Hope, which sits in front of the Heritage Center on Mount Sinai-Coram Road and overlooks the park, burned bright during a ceremony Oct. 4 held by Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) and the nonprofit North Shore Neighbors Breast Cancer Coalition.

The Pink Tree for Hope glows pink at Heritage Park in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. Photo by Kevin Redding

The glowing tree will serve as a reminder to passersby of the importance of breast cancer prevention by way of early detection screenings and education. The names of local breast cancer survivors and those who lost their lives to the disease are displayed on little flags around the tree.

“There’s not one person I know that has not been affected by breast cancer in one way or another,” said Anker, whose grandmother passed away after a long fight with the disease. “I am honored to partner with the North Shore Neighbors Breast Cancer Coalition to raise awareness about the prevalence of breast cancer, honor our loved ones lost to breast cancer, and support survivors across Long Island.”

Anker encouraged residents to work together and support groups like the coalition to help find a cure for breast cancer. The North Shore Neighbors Breast Cancer Coalition, founded in 2001 by Sound Beach resident Patti Kozlowski, is a grassroots organization that raises funds to provide non-medical or support services for local families fighting breast, gynecological and other forms of cancer. If someone is out of work for a number of weeks during and after breast cancer treatment, it can be devastating financially, Kozlowski said.

“We need to help raise awareness and hopefully help people understand the magnitude of what we’re dealing with,” said Kozlowski, who will be collecting donations to support the nonprofit’s mission at the park throughout the month. “Treatment is incredibly important.”

Darlene Rastelli, assistant director at the Carol M. Baldwin Breast Care Center at Stony Brook Medicine, set up at a table during the ceremony to spread the word that “early detection is the best prevention.”

A flag placed in honor of a man’s wife, a breast cancer survivor, sits under the Pink Tree for Hope at Heritage Park. Photo by Kevin Redding

The American College of Radiology, Rastelli said, recommends women over the age of 40 have a breast screening once a year.

“It’s so important to screen not only in October, but throughout the year,” she said. “Breast cancer is not a death sentence anymore. If you get your screenings done early enough, it can be managed early and you can survive.”

Miller Place resident Felicia Lopez said she was scared when she was diagnosed in 2011, because she wasn’t educated and assumed the worst.

“I didn’t know anything about it, but the doctors comforted me and told me it was curable,” said Lopez, who is now cancer-free. “You have to be your own advocate. You have to check your own body regularly.”

Before the ceremony, Kozlowski, who started her nonproit as a way to inspire women to come together, wrote her friend Camille’s name on a flag.

“She’s a co-worker of mine who retired Aug. 31 and was diagnosed with breast cancer Sept. 1,” Kozlowski said before placing the flag under the tree. “I think this tree will give people a good feeling to know they’re not alone.”

The Pink Tree of Hope, adorned with lights donated and installed by Bob Koch of Koch Tree Services Inc., will be lit throughout October at 633 Mount Sinai-Coram Road in Mount Sinai.

Learn more about the North Shore Neighbors Breast Cancer Coalition at https://www.facebook.com/NSNBCC/.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (fourth from left) with local community members around the Pink Tree for Hope at Mount Sinai’s Heritage Park. Photo by Kevin Redding

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