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New law requires all smoke alarms sold in New York to operate on batteries that function for a decade

State Sen. John Flanagan. File photo

This time, the batteries are included.

State legislation aiming to address fire safety for New York families was signed into law this week, requiring every smoke alarm sold be equipped with a nonremovable, nonreplaceable battery that powers the device for a minimum of 10 years. State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) heralded the new law he sponsored as a protective measure against house fires.

In a statement, the senator said the law would help ensure that smoke alarms are operational for a longer period of time and hopefully save lives. Since smoke alarms were first mandated in the state back in 1961, Flanagan said that deaths due to fire have been cut in half, but most deaths due to fire today happen in homes with either no smoke alarm or a nonfunctioning one. Under the new law, Flanagan said, homeowners can be protected from dangerous fires for a longer period of time without constant maintenance.

“Too many families in our state have suffered the loss of a loved one due to a fire emergency, and this new law is aimed at protecting New Yorkers from this pain,” Flanagan said. “The data is crystal clear in how essential smoke detectors are in saving lives.”

Over the operational life of the average smoke alarm, the new law could also potentially save homeowners money by eliminating the need for replacement batteries every six months, Flanagan said. After the 10-year operational time period of the device, a new smoke alarm device would need to be purchased as a replacement.

Firemen’s Association of the State of New York President Robert McConville said lawmakers, including Flanagan, have taken big steps to keep New York families safe.

“We would like to thank State Sen. John Flanagan for his leadership on this critical issue. Simply put, his efforts in passing this legislation will help save lives in New York State,” he said. “We’ve seen time and again that working smoke alarms can be the difference between life and death. Together, State Sen. Flanagan, Assemblyman Joseph Morelle (D-Irondequoit), and N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) have succeeded in making New York a safer place to live.”

The new law will go into effect in April 2019, once an agreed-upon chapter amendment between the Governor, the Senate and the Assembly is approved.

It will not apply to devices which have been ordered or that are in inventory when the law goes into effect. It will not impact devices that are powered through electrical systems, fire alarm systems with smoke alarms, fire alarm devices that connect to a panel or other devices with low-power radio frequency wireless communication signal.

Additionally, the upcoming amendment will provide the state fire administrator, through its regulatory process, the ability to designate other devices that are exempt from the legislation.

“It is critical that all homeowners who do purchase these devices in our state are able to trust them for a full decade,” Flanagan said. “The goal is to help New Yorkers protect their homes and their families, and this legislation is a great step in that effort.”

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Yogi Berra was an iconic major league baseball catcher for the New York Yankees. Public domain

By Rich Acritelli

Yogi Berra may have grown up playing baseball in Missouri, but when he was a catcher for the Yankees he was Mr. New York.

Yogi Berra was an iconic major league baseball catcher for the New York Yankees. Public domain
Yogi Berra was an iconic major league baseball catcher for the New York Yankees. Public domain

The legend died a few weeks ago at 90 years old, but he will be remembered by Long Island baseball fans for years to come.

Born in 1925, Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra grew up in the Italian section of St. Louis, the son of immigrants who worked many hours to make ends meet for their family. As a kid, Berra discovered his love for baseball and would play at every opportunity, though his equipment was not always very advanced — coming from a poor family, he used old magazines as shin guards.

The Hill neighborhood of St. Louis produced outstanding ball players such as catcher Joe Garagiola, who played against Berra. However, the legend did not get to the major league right away.

Berra’s grades were poor and education was considered a luxury during the Great Depression, so he went to work in a coal mine. But Berra was meant to play baseball — he lost his job because of his habit of leaving work early to play the game with his friends. His parents did not understand or like baseball, but their son excelled and became one of the best players from their neighborhood. In 1942, the New York Yankees brought him into their dugout.

At 17 years old, Berra was away from home for the first time. His career began slowly, and he committed 16 errors in his first season as a catcher, although his hitting was consistent. Times were tough for the young man — he made $90 a month, before taxes were deducted, and there was little leftover after covering his living expenses. There were times Berra was close to starving. At one point, his manager loaned him money to buy cheeseburgers and adoring fans made Italian heroes for him to eat. He sold men’s suits in the winters to get by.

“What you have to remember about Yogi is that all he ever wanted was to be a baseball player.”
— Jerry Coleman, hall of fame broadcaster

Soon into his career, America’s priorities changed. With World War II raging, Uncle Sam started to draft baseball players into the military. Berra joined the U.S. Navy and was in the middle of the action in Europe on one of the most important days for the Allied war effort: June 6, 1944. On D-Day, Berra was on a rocket boat that fired armaments against the German fortifications at Normandy.

That August, the catcher aided landing troops during the amphibious invasion of southern France through Operation Dragoon. After fighting on D-Day, Berra said he was scared to death during those landings, because he realized the Germans could have killed his entire crew due to their proximity to the beaches. Despite his fear, he fought valiantly and went back behind home plate with a Purple Heart.

By 1946, with the war behind him, Berra returned to the ball park. He was one of the toughest and most talented players in the league, a three-time MVP who hit 305 homeruns and earned 10 World Series rings. Don Larsen, who in the 1956 World Series threw a perfect game to Berra, believed the catcher was the best pitch caller in baseball.

Yogi Berra was an iconic major league baseball catcher for the New York Yankees. Public domain
Yogi Berra was an iconic major league baseball catcher for the New York Yankees. Public domain

The all-star was at the center of many historic plays, including when Jackie Robinson famously stole home during the 1955 World Series. Berra, who was catching for pitcher Whitey Ford, attempted to tag out Robinson, but the umpire deemed the runner safe — a call Berra did not agree with.

Once he hung up his catcher’s gear in the 1960s, Berra became a coach and manager for the Yankees, the Mets and later the Houston Astros, among other business ventures.

For a man who did not earn an education past the eighth-grade level, Berra accomplished much during his lifetime, included being known for his creative sayings, commonly known as “Yogi-isms,” such as his famous quotes, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” and “It’s déjà vu all over again.” He was an American and athletic icon who represented the grit and character of his unique nation.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin, above, speaks to local residents, business and organization members at “Meet Congressman Zeldin” on Wednesday, Sept. 16 in the Gillespie meeting room in the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages. Photo by Giselle Barkley

He’s new to D.C., but not to some of the North Shore’s most pressing issues.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) addressed people from Three Village businesses and organizations early Wednesday morning on Sept. 16 in his “Meet Congressman Zeldin” breakfast in the Gillespie meeting room in the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages. The meeting gave Zeldin the opportunity to discuss his past several months in office after he was sworn in back in January and to address issues he said he wants to tackle during his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Some of the more pressing issues, he said, included affordability, supporting local business owners and enhancing the quality of life for Long Islanders of the First Congressional District.

“We’re losing a lot of our friends and our family as our families get split apart moving down to North Carolina and South Carolina and Florida because they can’t afford to get by here,” Zeldin said while discussing Long Island’s cost of living and it’s impact on community members.

He added that some small business owners experienced or are going through tough times as they may struggle between paying their employees and paying their sales tax or other bills associated with their business.

“There needs to be a fundamental re-calibration and better understanding from different levels of government, as to how a small business is able to grow and create new jobs,” Zeldin said as a suggestion to help business stay afloat and create more jobs in the community.

He admitted that one piece of legislation would not be enough to address every business owners’ concerns or needs. As he continued discussing businesses and Long Island’s economy, Zeldin also voiced his opinion on U.S. President Barack Obama’s $15 minimum wage proposal saying that the increase is not nearly sufficient for Long Island residents — especially those who own homes and raise their family.

Long Island’s veteran population and education issues were also a topic of debate as Zeldin discussed his past eight months in congress. One of Zeldin’s first pieces of legislation to pass kept the government from financially penalizing states if schools wanted to withdraw from the controversial Common Core learning standards.

Throughout the breakfast, Zeldin emphasized that he is not the type of politician who will turn away from a difficult issue or decision. He acknowledged that making tough decisions may cost him votes, but he will support what he believes to be right for his community. The statement left those in attendance very pleased.

“I really feel like he listens to the issues that are going on at hand,” said Elizabeth Folk, owner and licensed acupuncturist and massage therapist at Hand on Health and Wellness in Stony Brook. “He seems very genuine with his speaking. I like the fact that he doesn’t care about the cost of losing his votes if it’s an issue that’s very important to him if [his opinion] is unpopular.”

Members of the museum said they agreed with Folk. Deirdre Doherty, director of development for the museum, said that Zeldin’s desire to improve the Long Island economy is not only genuine, but will also assist businesses like the museum.

“Museums go beyond just offering a cultural experience,” Doherty said. “They really have socially impactful programs. We educate over 12,000 students a year. So if the local businesses are healthy, then we can be healthy.”

Regina Miano, special events manager of the museum, said she thought Zeldin’s event was also a good way for Three Villagers to interact with Zeldin saying, “it was great to have him as a new congressman…to be here and speak at the museum…to introduce himself to people that have probably never spoken to him, [it was great].”

Zeldin also highlighted the importance of meet-and-greets with the voters such as these where residents can meet the political figures that are in charge of addressing their concerns and needs.

“Accessibility is important because as an elected representative, constituents need to know that the person they elect to office is representing their passion,” Zeldin said in an interview before the breakfast. “At the same time the elected official needs to be out in the public to listen so that he or she is as tuned in as possible to the top priorities of people elected to serve.”

Rachel Goldsmith is crowned Miss Teen New York last October. Photo by Richard Krauss

By Rita J. Egan

After being crowned Miss Teen New York International in October, Dix Hills resident Rachel Goldsmith is ready to represent her state and share the stage with teens from around the globe. The New York competition was the first time the 14-year-old entered a pageant, and she is thrilled about competing at the Miss Teen International Pageant in Jacksonville, Fla., on July 30 and August 1.

Rachel Goldsmith is crowned Miss Teen New York last October. Photo by Richard Krauss
Rachel Goldsmith is crowned Miss Teen New York last October. Photo by Richard Krauss

When she won the crown at the New York pageant, Rachel said everything was a blur to her. “It was nothing like I ever experienced before,” she said.

However, the recent graduate from West Hollow Middle School is no stranger to the pageant circuit. Growing up she, along with her father Steven and brothers Daniel and Jonathan, would watch her mother, Lidia Szczepanowski-Goldsmith, participate in pageants and win titles such as Mrs. New York America and Mrs. New York International.

Rachel said she remembers her mother looking so beautiful on stage and thinking to herself that she wanted to be in pageants, too. She also remembers how much fun the family would have traveling and attending the events.

“The whole thing was just a really positive family experience. It was positive for my mom; it was positive for the future. It was amazing overall,” Rachel said.

The pageant participant said she is looking forward to meeting contestants from all over the United States, as well as the world, at the Miss Teen International event in Florida. She is also eager to present her platform, which is to raise awareness when it comes to teen suicide.

Rachel said she went through a rough time in middle school at first. However, she quickly learned to reach out to her parents and others. Her experience led Goldsmith to research teen depression and create the website U Will B Ok, where teens can visit for information and to share their stories.

“Middle school is that one time where if you ask any parent or older teen, they’ll all say that, ‘Yeah, middle school is awful.’ And, it’s that time when kids don’t really know who they are — they’re still discovering themselves, and they are in groups and they’re trying to figure out how to treat people. There are a lot of cliques. They don’t know who they are as a person, so they need to click off of other people to feel like they belong somewhere, and sometimes around that time it’s really hard for the kids that aren’t in the cliques,” Rachel said.

Rachel Goldsmith, Miss Teen New York International, receives a proclamation earlier this year from the Town of Huntington Board of Trustees, from left, Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D); Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D); Supervisor Frank Petrone (D), Councilwoman Susan A. Berland (D) and Councilman Gene Cook (I). Photo from Town of Huntington
Rachel Goldsmith, Miss Teen New York International, receives a proclamation earlier this year from the Town of Huntington Board of Trustees, from left, Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D); Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D); Supervisor Frank Petrone (D), Councilwoman Susan A. Berland (D) and Councilman Gene Cook (I). Photo from Town of Huntington

Her mom understands the demands on teenagers nowadays, with their studies, testing and extracurricular activities. While Rachel does extremely well in school academically and is a high honor roll student, her mother said, like many young teens, she had a hard time fitting in at first.

“It was very difficult at that transition time, where everyone is trying to find themselves, because she didn’t fit in anywhere,” Szczepanowski-Goldsmith said.

Over the last few years, Rachel has become more comfortable in her own skin and said she has adapted a punk fashion sense. Her mother said when you meet her, her daughter is the epitome of what you wouldn’t expect from a beauty queen. However, while her everyday style may not say pageant winner, her volunteer work does.

In addition to her website, for several years Rachel has been the teen ambassador and a volunteer for the National Organization for Women’s Safety Awareness Inc., where she has participated in fashion shows and sold merchandise to raise money. The pageant winner also visits veterans and organizes parties with the organization Yes We Care Inc.

Rachel, who in her spare time enjoys archery, scuba diving and watching “The Walking Dead,” dreams of one day becoming a special effects makeup artist for movies, where prosthetics and makeup are needed to create monsters and zombies. She said if that doesn’t work out, she would love to do something in a creative field such as graphic design, illustrating, marketing or journalism.

Rachel Goldsmith is interviewed before being crowned Miss Teen New York last October. Photo by Richard Krauss
Rachel Goldsmith is interviewed before being crowned Miss Teen New York last October. Photo by Richard Krauss

For now, Rachel directs her energy toward preparing for the upcoming pageant, and she said she and her mother are having a lot of fun doing so. Szczepanowski-Goldsmith says her daughter’s decision to participate in this competition has provided them with more mother-daughter time. The two not only shop together to find the perfect outfits, but her mother also helps her prepare for the interview segment, sometimes even asking her questions in the car.

Rachel said she isn’t nervous about whether or not she’ll be Miss Teen International when she starts Half Hollow Hills High School East this September. She said she has learned from her mother to enjoy the overall experience of participating in pageants, including the preparation.

“You can’t just focus on the moment. You have to look at what it took to get to that point,” her mother said.

Szczepanowski-Goldsmith has also taught her daughter to go into a pageant with no expectations, and most important of all, to just be herself. “I just want her to have a positive experience. I know how wonderful and how much fun it was for me, and I think that it’s really all about the journey, and I think she’s going to have a great time,” Szczepanowski-Goldsmith said.

To visit Rachel’s website, go to www.uwillbok.com. To find out more about the Miss Teen International Pageant, visit their official site at www.missteeninternational.us.

Environmental advocates call for the banning of microbeads in order to protect waterways like the Long Island Sound. from left, Adrienne Esposito of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Dr. Larry Swanson of Stony Brook University, Dr. Artie Kopelman of Coastal Research Education Society Long Island, George Hoffman of Setauket Harbor Protection Committee, Rob Weltner of Operation SPLASH, Matt Grove of Surfrider, Enrico Nardone of Seatuck Environmental, and Katie Muether of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society. Photo from Maureen Murphy

When it comes to water pollution, size does not matter.

That’s why a group of environmental advocates gathered along the shoreline of the Long Island Sound in Stony Brook last week to call for state legislation that would ban the tiny but potentially harmful microbeads in personal care products.

The rally was organized to coincide with June 8’s World Oceans Day and zeroed in on the Microbead-Free Waters Act, which would ban personal care products made with the tiny plastic pellets called microbeads, which advocates said are hurting waterways and wildlife because New York’s wastewater treatment plants are not equipped to filter them prior to the water’s release into the environment.

The legislation passed the Assembly in April but has remained idle in the Senate.

The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Republican Environmental Conservation Committee Chair Tom O’Mara (R-Big Flats), with 37 cosponsors — a total that surpasses the 32 votes it needs to pass.

William Cooke, director of government relations for the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, helped orchestrate the rally and called on Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) to use his new role as majority leader to help ensure a microbead ban passes before legislative session ends June 17.

“While microbeads are small, the problem they are creating is very large,” Cooke said. “The solution is unbelievably simple and absolutely free. The answer is to take them out of our products now. This legislation currently has more support than is needed to pass. The only question is will the new Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan allow it to move forward.”

The New York State Attorney General reported that 19 tons of plastic microbeads enter the wastewater stream in New York annually, and the tiny beads are passing through treatment plants on Long Island and throughout the state. Plastic microbeads in state waters accumulate toxins, are consumed by fish, and can work their way up the food chain, putting public health at risk.

“The Microbead-Free Waters Act has a clear pathway to passage. If it’s not brought up for a vote, it’s a clear sign that industry has once again silenced the majority of New York’s state senators,” said Saima Anjam, environmental health director at Environmental Advocates of New York, who was at the rally. “New Yorkers expect more from new leadership. … Senators Flanagan and O’Mara need to allow a simple up or down vote on bills supported by a majority of members.”

Flanagan’s office declined to comment on the matter.

Late last year, Suffolk County committed to studying the health and economic impacts of banning microbeads on the county level to the praise of county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), who argued that Suffolk needed to follow the likes of municipalities like Illinois, which was the first state to outright ban the sale of cosmetics containing plastic microbeads.

“On a macro level, there is no doubt that microbeads are finding their way into our nation’s rivers, lakes and oceans,” said Hahn, chairwoman of the Legislature’s Environment, Planning and Agriculture Committee. “What we need to know is to what extent, locally, these additives [impact] our environment and, if corrective action is needed, what ramifications would be expected.”

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MaryEllen Elia succeeds John B. King Jr. as the state’s next education commissioner. Photo from state education department

Shortly after our newly-elected school board trustees are sworn in for the next school year, MaryEllen Elia will officially take her seat as New York’s top education official.

As a community newspaper, we understand just how much the neighborhoods we cover care about education. We’ve taken notes through countless school board meetings, forums on the Common Core Learning Standards and rallies for public education. We have witnessed the passion on both sides of the aisle when it comes to educating our kids.

But while the whole debate over Common Core, higher standards, testing and teacher evaluations — just to name a few — started out as a civil one, it has become overrun with rhetoric, anger and confusion. We hope Elia will help start a new conversation.

Critics of former commissioner John B. King Jr. often mention he had no experience in the classroom. We are pleased to see that Elia, who began her career as a social studies teacher in New York state, has nearly two decades of teaching experience.

In addition, the teacher evaluation system she helped develop received praise from the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the union that oversees many of our local teacher associations. The system uses student test scores as a factor, but also provides developmental support for teachers and utilizes a pay structure that encourages teachers to take on more challenging positions.

We see this system as a sort of compromise and we want to see similar outcomes in New York with Elia at the helm. Both sides need to cooperate with each other, remain respectful and — most importantly — leave politics out of the classroom.

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