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Mount Sinai

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By Bill Landon

Mount Sinai lady Mustangs had it all on the line March 9, and they walked away from the 2019 post season with their heads held high.

Nassau county champions, Sewanhaka Central High School of Floral Park, took on Suffolk title holders Mount Sinai in the Class A regional Long Island championship finals at Farmingdale State University March 9. It was a five-point game at the half, at 25-20, but Sewanhaka stretched their legs outscoring the Mustangs 41-28 over the final 16 minutes of play to clinch the title game 66-48. 

Atop the leaderboard for Mount Sinai was senior guard Brooke Cergol who concluded her varsity career with a team high 21 points, followed by fellow senior Gabby Sartori who netted 10 despite coming back from an injury in the fourth quarter. 

During the regular season Sartori averaged 21.7 points per game with 163 field goals, 38 triples with 124 points from the free throw line, ranking her fourth in Suffolk County. The Mustangs entered the postseason as the No. 5 seed where they picked off West Babylon in the opening round, upset Hauppauge the Class A No. 1 seed, went on to defeat Westhampton then followed with a victory over Pierson/Bridgehampton/Shelter Island. Mount Sinai finished their 2018-19 campaign with a solid 21-5 overall record.

A scene of construction going on behind the fences along Route 25A in Mount Sinai. Photo by Kyle Barr

By David Luces

A long mesh fence has gone up around the corner of Echo Avenue and Route 25A in Mount Sinai. Passing cars can see heavy construction vehicles already breaking the ground on what will be an assisted living community and senior rental space.

As development and construction are underway for two projects, a 120-unit Bristal assisted living community and a 225-unit senior rental complex for individuals 55 and over on a 24-acre parcel of land in Mount Sinai, the Town of Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency earlier last month offered a 13-year payment in lieu of taxes agreement to the developer.

“We’ve had a series of correspondence [with the town] going back two or three years about the need for this particular parcel [of land] to be generating tax income for the community.”

— Ann Becker

Lisa Mulligan, the town’s director of economic development and CEO of the town’s IDA, said the projects would be a major boon to the area, adding these two projects are a $138 million investment for the township, and construction would facilitate around 800 construction jobs, according to town officials. 

IDA documents show once the project is completed, the residential facility will provide four full time jobs with an average salary of $56,000. The assisted living facilty is listed as providing 50 full time and 20 part time jobs with an average salary $36,000 by year two of the facility.

Mulligan said that before construction began in January the developer paid around $46,000 in property taxes on the vacant land. 

The 13-year PILOT would see the developer continue to pay $46,000 in property taxes for the first three years while the two projects are under construction. Then in the fourth year the tax payments would increase to around $190,000 and would continue to rise to about $2.2 million at the end of the PILOT. From there, the developer would pay the full assessed value of the properties, which is expected to be more than the PILOT payments.  

“We are really excited for the projects and to be able facilitate 800 jobs,” Mulligan said.   

Mount Sinai Civic Association has largely been supportive of the senior housing construction plans, though civic leaders are not fond of the news that the developer has received a PILOT from the Brookhaven IDA. 

The civic association hosted a meeting March 4 to discuss the PILOT agreement.  

“The Mount Sinai Civic Association has been consulted by The Engel Burman Group and approves of their plan to construct the senior housing project currently underway on Route 25A in Mount Sinai,” the civic said in a statement provided to TBR News Media.  

According to the civic association, the development is a part of a 1999 legal stipulation which resulted from a lawsuit filed against the town by them on the 24-acre parcel of land, and the land has always been designated for that purpose of creating these senior facilities. However, civic members were disappointed in the loss of tax revenue due to the PILOT.

“Our community has gone through many proposals for this project, and is pleased that the development is finally underway,” the civic said in its statement. “However we were very disappointed to see that a PILOT was approved by the Brookhaven IDA as this parcel was always intended to provide much-needed tax relief for the Mount Sinai community.”  

At the March 4 meeting, civic president Ann Becker reiterated that stance. 

“We’ve had a series of correspondence [with the town] going back two or three years about the need for this particular parcel [of land] to be generating tax income for the community,” she said. “We’ve been concerned about that for a number of years.”

Becker said while they are supportive about the facilities coming to the area and understand there will be some tax benefits for Mount Sinai, they are just unsure if this was the best deal that could have been obtained. 

“We are really excited for the projects and to be able facilitate 800 jobs.”

— Lisa Mulligan

The developers, The Engel Burman Group of Garden City, are no strangers to the Long Island area with 13 other assisted-living locations on the Island, including facilities in Lake Grove and Holtsville. 

Census data shows the senior population will outstrip the younger generations. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2035 there will be 78 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.7 million under the age of 18. 

The Mount Sinai senior rental complex will include a 9,000 square foot clubhouse with a movie theater, card room, outdoor pool, living room and gym. 

Units in the complex, will range from studio up to two bedrooms. A spokesperson from Engel Burman said they have not determined the prices of rent yet.

Information added March 11 denoting number of jobs the two different projects should have by completion.

By Bill Landon

The Mount Sinai middle school all stars squared off against the high school varsity squad in the 17th annual Battle of the Educators faculty basketball game.

For yet another year, the middle school claims the bragging rights of the district as they snatched the victory in the final seconds winning 73-72. The fundraiser was played March 1 in front of a packed house where the proceeds benefit the Mount Sinai Booster Club.

All Photos by Bill Landon. Captions were provided in part by Matt Dyroff, the assistant principal Mount Sinai High School.

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By Bill Landon

Mount Sinai, fresh off their decisive 27 point victory against Westhampton for the Class A title game Feb. 20, squared off against Class C qualifier Pierson/Bridgehampton for the small school crown Feb. 22. Having already won against the No. 1 seed Westhampton, Pierson should have been a much easier match, yet there was nothing easy about it when the Whalers closed to with four points late in the 3rd quarter before the Mustangs stood on the gas and shut the door to win the game 69-55.

Mount Sinai senior guard Gabby Sartori led the way like she has all season nailing 11 field goals, a triple and seven free throws to lead the Mustangs in scoring with 32. Senior guard Brooke Cergol hit three from the floor, two treys and a pair from the charity stripe notching 14 followed by senior teammate Holly McNair who banked seven.

The win propels the Mustangs to the section XI championship round where they’ll face Longwood who currently sits atop Class AA field Feb. 27 at Walt Whitman High School. Tip-off is at 4:30 p.m.

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Mount Sinai School District's board of education during its March 8 meeting. File Photo Photo by Kyle Barr

By David Luces

The Mount Sinai School District is looking at a budget that could see a decrease in debt services and changes to school textbooks and special education.

The district continued its presentation of its proposed 2019-20 school budget at a district board meeting Feb.13. Between the January and February presentation, the district has shown approximately 23 percent of the budget, which is just about $13 million out of the $62.5 million proposed total budget for the next school year. 

At the February meeting, after hearing the needs from parents, the board said it is supporting the recommendation to make the Consultant Teacher Direct Instructor program full day for children in grades 1 through 4 in the elementary school. CTD instructors provide services and support students with disabilities in his or her general education classes. This would increase the special education budget to $4.3 million, $98,780 more than the previous school year.

“It will align with the full-day program at the middle school,” Superintendent Gordon Brosdal said. “To create that [at the elementary school] it would take the hiring of two special education teachers.”

District officials said they will examine class size and registration to figure out how many teachers they would need overall. In addition to the planned full-day program, the teachers will be supplied with additional textbooks. 

“This is a pretty big add,” the superintendent said. “But we believe this is the best for our kids and what their needs are.”

“We believe this is the best for our kids and what their needs are.”

— Gordon Brosdal

Officials also stressed the need to replace older textbooks in the middle and high school. The district would be replacing sixth-grade algebra II textbooks, replacing middle school science textbooks, seventh- and eighth-grade English books along with social studies textbooks. 

The superintendent said that some of the textbooks in the middle and high school are over 20 years old. The total for the new textbooks will cost the district $75,550.

“[With the newer textbooks] everything is accessible online,” he said. “You could have the lesson in class and then see it again
at home.”

In conjunction with newer textbooks, the board will also renew IXL site licenses, which is a platform that offers students K-12 educational practice outside the classroom.

“We have seen many students use this —we are reacting to the popularity and use it,” Robert Sweeney, president of the Mount Sinai board of education said. “When students go home they can go through lesson plans, online help — it is helping them do better in
their classes.”

A highlight of the Jan. 16 meeting was the announcement of a 25-year-old bond loan that is expected to be paid off in full at the end of the year. 

“This is good news for us,” Brosdal said. “Finally, that bond on the high school that we got years ago to borrow money will be paid off this year.”

With the bond being paid off, the school district is projected to see a decrease of close to $1 million in debt services. 

The next budget presentation will take place on March 20 at 8 p.m. in Mount Sinai Middle School. Topics of discussion will be operations, maintenance, grounds/security, athletics,
salaries and benefits.

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The Mount Sinai cheerleading team screams in exultation as they learn they won nationals. Photo from Megan McWain

Even when a Mount Sinai cheerleader falls, whether it’s in a competition or on the mat, they have the will to dust themselves off and work even harder.

That has been the theme for this cheerleading season, Mustangs coach Megan McWain said, who along with fellow coach Christina Lotito has seen the team through a season full of ups and downs, culminating with a Division II large-school victory at the 2019 UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 10. 

The Mount Sinai cheerleading team perform a routine in Orlando, Florida. Photo from Megan McWain

When the team members learned they had won, McWain said the girls could not contain their excitement.

“They were so ecstatic — some of them were jumping up and down, some were sitting on the floor crying,” she said. “It’s just a big ball of emotions. We worked since May in open gyms getting ready for this moment, and this was the pinnacle of what they wanted to achieve. To learn that you did it is just so amazing.” 

The team arrived in Orlando Feb. 7 and went down to the local football fields for one final run of routines surrounded by thousands of other cheerleaders from all 50 states. The jaw-dropping sight of seeing so many teams compete didn’t do anything to dampen their spirits. 

The squad had suffered a number of setbacks early in the season, including a few illnesses and injuries that led to a number of missed chances and defeats. Eighth-grader Emily Kandell suffered an injury in January and was only cleared to get back on the mat a week before the team went down to Florida.

During the competition, McWain said their performance wasn’t at peak the first day of the tournament. The team was in third going into the last day of the competition. During their final performance the team had a misstep, and one girl took a fall. The only way they could win despite the fumble was if they pushed themselves to their limits, and McWain said, they accomplished that.

“It’s hard to win with a fall — a lot of teams when they fall, they kind of deflate after that,” she said. “But we didn’t. We performed a thousand times harder just to fill out the rest of that score from that fall.”

The Mount Sinai cheerleading team perform a routine in Orlando, Florida. Photo from Megan McWain

While this is not the first time the team has taken home the first place trophy at nationals, having won in 2014 and 2016, McWain said it is the ultimate goal that the cheerleaders work all year round for. She hopes the team can continue the streak as nine members of the squad are expected to graduate this year.

There are three large-school cheerleading teams that compete in Suffolk County, but Mount Sinai is the only Division II squad. The Lady Mustangs will represent the county in the state’s 2019 

Cheerleading Championships will be hosted in Rochester March 2. 

“We’re trying to hit a clean routine and were actually able to put all our kids on the mat including our alternates, so it will be really good to have all of them on the mat and working together as a team to get another championship,” McWain said. 

By Bill Landon

Hauppauge’s girls basketball team led by seven after the first eight minutes of play but the visiting Mustangs of Mount Sinai, the No. 5 seed, slammed the door, outscoring the Eagles 14-5 before exploding in the 3rd quarter. Mount Sinai senior guard Gabby Sartori caught fire, swishing 3-pointers from seemingly anywhere to lead her team to a 56-43 win, upsetting top-seeded Hauppauge in a class A semifinal game Feb. 16.

Sartori’s hot hand led the way for the Mustangs, hitting four triples, four field goals and a free throw for 21 points. Sartori tallied three assists and eight rebounds to boot. Senior Brooke Cergol hit four field goals, a trey and a pair of free throws for 13 while senior teammate Holly McNair banked 12.

Hauppauge sophomore guard Kayla Bullard topped the scoring chart for the Eagles, tallying 13 followed by junior forward Lauren Romito who chipped in 10.

The win pit the Mustangs against Westhampton Feb. 20 at Centereach High School which they won, and now they will face Pierson High School for small school champion title Feb. 27 at 4:30 in Walt Whitman High School.

Wei during a long jump at a recent meet. Photo from Eric Giorlando

By Karina Gerry

For the second time this season, Mount Sinai senior Kenneth Wei knows what it’s like to be No. 1 in the country for the long jump.

The Mount Sinai senior jumped 25 feet, the current record in the nation for this year, Feb. 3, at the Section XI Small School County Championship at the Suffolk County Community College campus in Brentwood. Earlier in the season, Wei held the long jump record with 24 feet when he competed at the Molloy Stanner Games at the Armory Track & Field Center in New York City.

“It was really adrenaline pumping,” Wei said about the experience of competing at such a
level. “Your heart’s racing, it’s really exciting.”

Wei leaps the hurdles at a recent meet. Photo from Eric Giorlando

Eric Giorlando, the Mustangs head track & field coach, proudly pointed out Wei’s other accomplishments at the recent meet, including beating the No. 2 athlete in the country during the 55-meter hurdles head to head and was named Male Athlete of the Meet. 

“It’s an experience that you hope to obtain sometime in your career,” Giorlando said. “It was a pretty big day overall, not just achieving the No. 1 spot in the long jump but to have that meet, in general, it was a pretty powerful moment.”

Giorlando, who has been coaching at Mount Sinai since 2002, has been working side by side with Wei since the beginning.

“Kenny has always done everything that we’ve asked him to do,” Giorlando said. “He probably runs more than the traditional long jumper or triple jumper — he’s kind of been easy to coach and understanding of my philosophy of how to get him to that point.”

Wei has been competing at the varsity level since eighth grade when an assistant coach saw him jump for a basketball in gym class. The long jumper got serious about winning titles last year where he started hitting the weight room. Last season Wei began to see the effects of his hard work with his multiple titles, but despite all the success this year, Giorlando doesn’t think the soon-to-graduate senior has come close to reaching his potential.

“I think he has a lot of room to go,” Giorlando said. “It’s about being patient and understanding that it’s a long road ahead of us — we’re not looking for county titles or state titles at this point, we’re looking for a national title.”

Wei’s goal is to place at Nationals in March where he hopes to compete in two events: the 55-meter hurdles and long jump. Despite the pressure of being a nationally recognized athlete, the nerves don’t really get to him anymore.

“Your heart’s racing, it’s really exciting.”

— Kenneth Wei

“Especially since last year I feel like the nerves have kind of calmed down a little bit, and I just really try to enjoy the run, enjoy the meet and enjoy the atmosphere,” Wei said. 

His coach can’t think of a time that he has ever seen Wei frazzled, even under the most immense pressure.

“Always laser focused,” Giorlando said. “Always knows what needs to be done, and I’d say about 99 percent of the time he is able to achieve those things.”

Wei, who is headed to MIT in the fall, plans on competing for their track & field team because of his passion for the sport.

“My big thing is to encourage people to pursue their passions,” the star athlete said. “And this is one of mine. It’s a big part of my life now, and running with the team competing is a lot of fun, and I hope to keep doing it.”

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Mount Sinai junior Adham Shata in the final match of the championship. Photo from video by Mount Sinai School District

Several days after Mount Sinai’s wrestling team won the state championship, coach Matt Armstrong was still basking in the glow of the victory.

“It was really something coming back to school,” Armstrong said. “It was one of those things being a state champ really means
something.”

More than 800 spectators came out to watch their schools compete at the New York State Wrestling Dual Meet Championship at the SRC Arena and Events Center at Onondaga Community College Jan. 26 where 12 of the best Division 2 teams squared off. 

Mount Sinai’s wrestling team crowds onto the mat. Photo from video by Mount Sinai School District

Mount Sinai, victors in the 2018 state championship, was No. 5 seed and received a bye for the first match. Mount Sinai started off seemingly unstoppable, first competing against Cold Spring Harbor, beating them, 47-27, then against Pleasantville which the Mustangs took to the mat, 57-27, to advance to the semi-finals. 

“I knew we could beat the first two, but the semi-finals were pretty interesting,” the wrestling coach said. “We had seen them last year and we knew how competitive they were.

That’s where they met the No. 1 seed Tioga. Mount Sinai had a balanced line-up and were able to deliver a 34-27 win, advancing then to the finals against Central Valley Academy from Ilion, the No. 2 seed. 

Out the gate things took a turn for the worse for Mount Sinai and after falling behind ,31-12, it appeared they were headed for defeat. Suddenly it all came around, and Mount Sinai went on a scoring run. Junior Brendan “Goody” Goodrich started it off with a win and was then followed by wins by brothers Mike and Joe O’Brien. Then it was victory after victory with fellow teammates Ryan Shanian and Matt Campo. 

Campo, wrestling at 152 pounds, won a  crucial match with Hunter Shaut, the former New York State Champion from Central Valley Academy in overtime 4-2. This was followed by a win by Joe Goodrich, at 160 pounds, who brought Mount Sinai even with Central Valley, 31-31. Central Valley won the next match taking the score to 34-31 with one match remaining. 

The final match fell on the shoulders of junior Adham Shata at 182 pounds. With the whole team cheering him on, Shata pinned his opponent and the entire arena erupted in wails and shouts of victory, as Shata brought his team up to 37-34 and won a 2nd consecutive championship. The entire team rushed onto the mat and piled onto Shata, cheering their victory.

You could say something great about every single kid.”

— Matt Armstrong

Armstrong couldn’t pick one person out amongst the team. He was adamant that every student played their part in the win.

“I think I could go up and down the entire lineup,” the coach said. “You could say something great about every single kid. Some were just outmatched, and even though they were they wouldn’t get pinned.”

Several students gained standout wins during the tournament, with the O’Brien brothers, Shanian, Campo and Goodrich each going up to 30 season wins. Senior Mike Sabella at 195 pounds, won all his matches by pinning his opponents.

“There might have been some people who though the first time was a fluke,” Armstrong said. “To do it back to back is pretty incredible.”

The season is not yet over for the Mount Sinai wrestling team with the team gearing up to compete in the individual county and state tournaments. The individual county tournament takes place Feb. 2, and those who win in that or get a wild card will have the opportunity to head back upstate and compete in the State Wrestling Championship at Times Union Center in Albany Feb. 22 and 23. 

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Mount Sinai Mustangs after their victory against John Glenn Jan. 19. Photo from Mel Jacoby

Mount Sinai’s wrestling team is looking to make it to the top once again.

Mount Sinai High School wrestlers defeated John Glenn for a second time this season at Bay Shore High School Jan. 19. In a battle for the County D-2 Championship, Mount Sinai’s Mustangs turned around a 19-point deficit to start a winning run. After losing earlier in the season to John Glenn, sophomores Jack Tyrell and Brenden Goodrich along with freshman Joseph Sabella won their individual matches.   

“Everybody has a job — some people’s job is to make up those bonus points others are to not give up those bonus points.”

— Matt Armstrong

“We’ve had a great season so far,” said Matt Armstrong, Mount Sinai wrestling coach. “While some are young kids, when you get to some of the post season stuff, you have to be at a different level. Our kids really stepped up.”

Juniors Michael O’Brien and Joseph Goodrich along with seniors Joseph O’Brien, Vincent Valente and Michael Sabella all won their individual matches. John Glenn forfeited their match against junior Matt Campo, giving Mount Sinai the Suffolk County D-2 Championship title and sending them to Syracuse to defend their 2018 New York State title which they won for the first time in 2018.

During the 2019 season, both O’Brien wrestlers each had their 100th career win while Campo scored his 151st career win, breaking the school record set in 1995.

“100 wins is a big deal for Suffolk County,” the wrestling coach said. “To break 150 is really impressive, and he’s only a junior.”

“When you get to some of the post season stuff, you have to be at a different level.”

— Matt Armstrong

The Mustangs pocketed their first state title in 2019 in what the wrestling coach described as a perfect storm of ability and drive for the members of the wrestling team. Campo, among three other wrestlers, went undefeated during the state championships.

Armstrong said he is staying cautiously optimistic about Mount Sinai’s chances Jan. 26 when the team travels to Syracuse for the state’s Dual Meet Wrestling Championship. He added it will take the same sort of heart that last year’s team showed to pull off the same stunt this year.

“Everybody has a job — some people’s job is to make up those bonus points others are to not give up those bonus points, so we’ll see,” Armstrong said. “We really wrestled as flawlessly as we could last year, so we need some of that to go our way this year. Kids work hard, and they believe — that’s the biggest part of the battle.”

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