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North Shore

Birds chirping, kids playing, barbecues firing up are just the typical sounds of summer in suburbia. 

Though with summer season close by, many residents living along the North Shore will once again have to contend with increased helicopter traffic and noise due to a known helicopter route that flies directly over the heads of many residential communities.

Despite the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 signed into law by President Donald Trump six months ago, which would require the Federal Aviation Administration to reassess the North Shore Helicopter Route, many residents and elected officials feel that the FAA hasn’t taken enough action on the issue and argue that the public workshops held in November 2018 on Long Island were inadequate. 

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) sent a letter to the acting regional director of the FAA, Maria Stanco, on May 10 stating the agency should take immediate action to address the aircraft noise on the North Fork. This is Zeldin’s second letter to the FAA calling for them to comply with the legislation’s requirement to hold real public hearings in the communities impacted by the North Shore route. 

“The ‘workshops’ held on Long Island last year did not meet the clear mandates of the law and insulted my constituents,” Zeldin stated in the letter. “The use of the questionable, insufficient format not only silenced the voices of the public but was perceived as a clear attempt by the FAA to diminish the serious impact of the NSR and the negative quality of life impacts that resulted to the North Fork.” 

In preparation of the workshops held in November, the FAA accepted public comments from residents, where 337 people responded. 

John Cullen of Riverhead left a comment in February asking what the FAA thinks of the 336 comments and will there ever be a public hearing held by them.  

“Not a single aircraft lands on the North Shore, yet the commercial helicopters need to fly over 18 miles above homes which includes northeast Queens and northwest Nassau County,” he said.

Tim Sinclair said the current practice of helicopter traffic across the Southold area is terrible. 

“An all-water route that avoids crossing Southold and the bay that separates the North and South Forks is needed,” he said in a comment online. “Helicopter traffic is constant and especially noted on Fridays en route to the South Shore and then again on Sunday leaving the South Shore headed north. In between there is constant traffic and low-flying helicopters as well as private jets.”

“The use of the questionable, insufficient format not only silenced the voices of the public but was perceived as a clear attempt by the FAA to diminish the serious impact of the NSR and the negative quality of life impacts that resulted to the North Fork.”

— Lee Zeldin

Sinclair has complained many times about the helicopters but said the FAA requires tail number identification “which is nearly impossible for most civilians to observe and record,” he said in a comment. “Moreover, aircraft comes through at low altitudes below 500 feet creating a terrible noise upsetting people, animal and wildlife in the area. This disregard for quality of life and the peaceful enjoyment of the residents of Southold is a crime. An alternate all-water route is needed for both peace and quiet as well as public safety.” 

The North Shore Helicopter Route was created in 2012 and originally had a two-year duration set to end in August 2014. It was again extended for another two years, and in the summer of 2016,  it was extended for four years. Zeldin said the FAA used questionable “emergency authority” to extend the timeline of the route. The latest extension is set to expire on August 6, 2020. 

Zeldin’s office said the congressman has requested other U.S. representatives assist in addressing the issue. He has maintained the FAA needs to consider an all-water route over the Atlantic Ocean, and has not yet received a response from the federal agency.

Jim Peters, FAA spokesperson, said in a statement that they will review Zeldin’s letter, which they received on May 14, and then respond to him directly. 

Earlier this month, the FAA extended the use of alternative noise relief routes that shifted traffic away from neighborhoods in northeast Queens. Zeldin said this is great news for suffering residents in those areas but a slap in the face to the North Fork, which has sought similar relief for years. 

“Actions by your agency to provide relief to select communities impacted by the deeply flawed North Shore Route while ignoring the pleas of others is unfair and inequitable,” the congressman said in his letter. “The residents of the North Fork do not live near any helipads or airports and receive only the negative impact of noise and none of the economic benefits associated with the air traffic that greatly increases over their homes during the summer high season. If the FAA is willing and able to provide noise relief to New York City communities suffering from the NSR through regulatory action, it must swiftly and immediately take the same action for North Fork residents.”

Similarly, on Long Island, there are plans for a new luxury helicopter shuttle to the Hamptons where residents on the East End have also been trying to reduce helicopter noise in the area. 

Wheels Up, a membership-based private aviation company, announced earlier this month that the summer shuttles will run from mid-June through August.

New state laws and prevention education for parents, children and professionals aim to eliminate childhood sexual abuse. Photo by New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

Decades-old records show that North Shore children have fallen prey to sexual predators, whether it’s been while in the Boy Scouts or church groups or perhaps even in a family setting.  But new laws, combined with education, are shifting the social paradigm, and the experts say that people need to take a more active position to prevent childhood sexual abuse.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the Child Victims Act in January, which takes effect in June. The law essentially aims to institute more sensitivity toward victims, while holding perpetrators accountable. It raises the statute of limitations for victims from 18 to 23 years of age, so victims can file criminal charges in adulthood. For civil charges, victims have until the age of 55 to file charges against the offender.

Stephen Forrester and Annie Costello are with The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, an organization that is playing a leading role toward change. Forrester, a former prosecutor with 28 years of experience addressing child abuse, successfully lobbied for better laws for the last four years, while Costello has been part of a new evidence-based program, funded by the National Institutes of Health that trains and educates professionals as well as the general public on how to prevent child sexual abuse.

“It’s everyone’s responsibility — adults, organizations, parents, children,” said Costello. “Parents need to teach children how to keep their bodies safe.” 

Assaults thrive in a culture of secrecy, she said, and when adults aren’t talking about it at home it’s harder to prevent. In order to stop child sexual abuse in the future that veil of secrecy needs to be removed.

This often requires that adults overcome their own anxieties about the topic.

Access and opportunity, two factors that underlie abuse scenarios

One in five people, by the time they’re 18 years old, become victims of childhood sexual assault, according to Costello and her organization. Rather than strangers, the society finds that 90 percent of the time the perpetrators are people a child knows and trusts.

“It can be difficult to believe that a beloved uncle, favorite coach, or respected clergy member could abuse a child,” Forrester said. “Perpetrators can be very charming, manipulative and believable.”

Offenses typically occur in scenarios where adults are entrusted with the care of children without the supervision of parents. Whether its music lessons, Scouting groups, sports clubs or schools or churches, parents need to ask up front to review the organizations policies and practices. Every organization, Costello said, should have information available on both its background screening process for its volunteers or workers and its policies for handling abuse.

“Offenders are very skilled at building relationships with kids.”

— Annie Costello

Otherwise, the society has identified red flag behaviors of child molesters known as “grooming.” People should become concerned when adults repeatedly ignore boundaries and single out one child, Costello said. Secrecy or secret conversations are also warning signs to which parents and other adults should respond.  

“Trust your instincts,” Costello said. “Offenders are very skilled at building relationships with kids.”

Prevention education, Costello said, is very nuanced. In general, the society’s motto is: If you see something, say something. Depending on the context of the situation, a person can address the behavior with the person doing the behavior, alert officials at the youth serving organization, report it to child protective services or call the police.

“You want to say something until the behavior is stopped and resolved and the child is safe,” Costello said. “Always err on the side of child safety.”

Removing the veil of secrecy

Parent’s conversation with children on the topic should be casual, routine and centered on body safety.

“Kids should understand about voice and choice,” Costello said. “We teach the children that any part of the body covered by a bathing suit is private.” Her organization has developed age-appropriate programs for children as young as kindergartners.

One step that the society recommends is that parents always use the proper name for genitalia (e.g., penis, vagina) with their children, so if a child discloses being touched sexually, the risk of misunderstanding what the child is saying can be minimized.

The society developed its evidence-based program, entitled Safe Touches: Personal Safety Training for Children, with funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Trust and believe a child

It’s very important, both Costello and Forrester said, that children be believed and supported, when they disclose having been abused. It’s also important to never fault a child for the abuse.

“Children may not disclose [sexual abuse] for many reasons including being told by the perpetrator that they won’t be believed, that they will get in trouble, or that the abuse was the child’s fault,” Forrester said. “Children can be ashamed to say anything or may be afraid of the perpetrator.”

Some children immediately disclose abuse, while others don’t disclose it until adulthood; Forrester said many people never disclose the abuse.

Legally, window of opportunity opens

New York is among the first states in the nation to support new childhood sexual assault laws. Victims of any age will have a one-year window of opportunity to file civil charges beginning in August.

Victims can reach out to the county’s bar association for referral to a qualified attorney who can evaluate their case, Forrester said.  The Suffolk County Bar Association website is www.scba.org. The telephone number is 631-234-5551.

“Children can be ashamed to say anything or may be afraid of the perpetrator.”

— Stephen Forrester

For people seeking counseling, the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is dedicated to the prevention of child abuse. Serving the U.S. and Canada, the hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with professional crisis counselors who — through interpreters — provide assistance in over 170 languages. The hotline offers crisis intervention, information and referrals to thousands of emergency, social service and support resources. All calls are confidential. The telephone number is 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453. The website is www.childhelp.org/hotline/

To arrange for prevention education, people can contact training@nyspcc.org.

Stephen Forrester’s name was incorrect in the May 2 edition of the Times of Smithtown and Times of Huntington & Northport. It has been corrected in this version. This post has also been amended to revise the time victims can use to file charges.

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They are a surprise to behold, the wildlife in the suburbs. When I was growing up in New York City, the extent of the animal population consisted of pigeons and squirrels in the park. So I marvel at Long Island’s Canadian geese, rabbits, squirrels, ducks, swans, seagulls, ospreys, raccoons and deer going about their business alongside us as we humans go about ours.

Sometimes they are beautiful to watch.

On one road I frequently use, the geese will cross to the other side, holding up traffic as they do. Drivers slow to a stop and watch as the geese unhurriedly walk single file before them. Interestingly one of the geese stands in the middle of the road in front of the line of march, a sentinel protecting the rest. Only after the last one crosses does the lookout then join on the end. These geese are definitely traffic savvy, patiently waiting on the edge of the grass and avoiding the cars as they speed by, awaiting an opening before they start to cross.

My son likes to watch the ducks swimming along, one behind the other, and wonders aloud if there is a pecking order to the line. We also marvel at the birds in strict formation when they begin to migrate.

We have a wacky rabbit that lives on our property and races the car down the driveway as we arrive home. One of these days, we are going to have rabbit stew if it isn’t careful. There are gorgeous butterflies occasionally, rising together like an umbrella of color when startled, and the buzzing bees encourage the likelihood of pollination.

The other day, as I was driving along a waterside road, two deer, one in front of the other, rushed out of the wetland grass in front of my car, crossed the road, gracefully jumped the post-and-rail fence on the opposite side and raced up the hill until they were hidden in some trees. It was a heart-stopping moment because they had come close. They were also so lyrical in their movements, their russet bodies glistening in the sunlight, that they took my breath away.

We have a woodpile that is visible from the windows on one side of the house, and early each day, it seems, there is a squirrel that runs back and forth, bushy tail held high, across the chopped logs. We have named him Jack and conjectured that he is doing his morning exercises. Later, he can be seen leaping from limb to limb among the lush trees, the ultimate gymnast gathering nuts, I suppose, for his meals.

Early in our lives here, we used to see an occasional red fox and sometimes plump pheasants, but I haven’t seen those in a long while. I do know when there is a skunk nearby, and should we just once leave the garbage cans unfastened, we are aware we would be visited by raccoons.

The variety of songbirds is lovely. In addition to the mockingbird, the cardinal and the blue jay, those little brown birds are loud and numerous. A pair of ospreys apparently have made a huge nest nearby because we can see them soaring high above. Ditto for the seagulls, crying out to each other as they glide on an air current looking for dinner.

It surprises me that the dogs in the neighborhood coexist so peacefully with the rest of the animal kingdom here. Yes, they will occasionally chase a rabbit, almost as a duty, but not for long. And they will bark at a chipmunk as it scurries along but not in any sort of vicious way. I suppose that means they are well fed by their owners. The cats, however, are a different story. We’ve got one on the block that’s a real hunter, a lion in miniature.

The cliché is that the suburbs are sterile places, but they certainly are more interesting for their variety of natural life than the pigeons I used to be thrilled by as they landed on the fire escapes and city windowsills. To take just a few moments from an otherwise busy day, draw a deep breath, and enjoy the beauty of living beings around us this summer is a pleasure we should allow ourselves.

An eroding bluff at Long Beach has been stabilized by constructing a stone seawall at the bluff’s base. The bluff has been terraced to capture material that rolls down from the top and can be planted with vegetation that will help stabilize it. Photo from R. Lawrence Swanson

By R. Lawrence Swanson

Much has been proposed, written, and even implemented, to sustain, armor, adapt, make resilient and conserve the low-lying areas of Long Island’s South Shore since Hurricane Sandy five years ago. That coast is vulnerable to extensive inundation by accelerated sea level rise, the vagaries of storm surges and climate change. Indeed, there are core areas that now flood regularly on the semi-monthly spring tides.

The North Shore of the Island has been largely neglected in the sea level rise/storm surge discussions and planning even though it is equally vulnerable to these processes. The entire geomorphology of the North Shore is subject to change with or without anthropogenic intervention. The challenge is to be able to manage this change so that the environmental services — harbors of refuge, beaches, wetlands, fisheries, aesthetics — provided by the complex, precarious topography of the North Shore remain functionally stable for the region, communities and private interests.

Much of the North Shore is composed of unconsolidated morainal bluffs — many 50 feet or higher — accompanied by down-current cobble barrier beaches. These spits form the small pocket bays and harbors that are the locations of historic settlements. They provide refuge for people and marine ecosystems from the energy of waves and storms. The beautiful pocket bays of Mount Sinai, Port Jefferson, Stony Brook, Northport, Huntington, Cold Spring Harbor and Oyster Bay are now the cultural centers of the North Shore.

The protective spits that form these bays are fed by erosion of the adjacent coastal bluffs. In order for the pocket bays to be maintained, spits must have a sufficient sediment supply to overcome erosional forces and sea level rise, which is currently increasing at about 1.5 feet a century in Long Island Sound, but undoubtedly will accelerate here and globally. The general process is that the bluffs are undercut at their base or toe by waves and extreme tides. This undercutting will become more severe as sea level rises and we experience greater and longer lasting storm surges in the coming years. The bluffs then slump — about 2 feet per year — creating new beach material, some of which is transported by littoral (near-shore) currents to create and sustain the barrier spits. The small beaches at the toe of the bluffs reduce the wave run-up and thus bluff erosion.

“The North Shore of the Island has been largely neglected in the sea level rise/storm surge discussions and planning even though it is equally vulnerable to these processes.”

— R. Lawrence Swanson

Construction of seawalls for which there is increasing demand along the bluff faces hinders these natural processes. Beaches fronting the bluffs will disappear so that waves will be beating directly on the seawalls. Little material will be available for transport to maintain the barrier spits with rising sea level. Those spits will then be subject to overwashing — perhaps exposing the embayments behind continuously to the open waters of the Sound.

What can be done in the way of resiliency to preserve the character of the North Shore and yet also protect individual properties on the Sound — both those on the cliffs and those on the barrier spits? Is hardening the bluffs and beaches at great expense the answer? Do we let nature take its course? Do residents on the barrier beaches have rights to the sediment of eroding cliffs in much the same way that downstream California claims rights to Colorado River water? If hardening of bluffs is allowed, will there be enough sediment at the toe to maintain a beach to reduce wave run-up?

New York State needs to examine this issue and develop guidance that works for all. Current policies are confusing and perhaps conflicting. This is a regional issue that cannot be solved property by property or even on a town-by-town basis.

With the state of development on the North Shore, some form of intervention or adaptation is probably required; nature cannot be left totally unchecked, given the grim climate projections for this coming century. Extensive hardening of the shoreline is equally unpalatable. There are negative downstream effects from almost all anthropogenic solutions. We need to understand and minimize them. Once started, hardening will eventually result in entombing us, totally eliminating the natural beauty and functionality of the North Shore that we enjoy. Perhaps there are softer forms of resilience that will allow preservation of natural processes yet significantly reduce the anticipated severe erosion from wind, rain, accelerated sea level rise and climate change. We need to find those techniques and implement them consistently.

In the meantime, there are zoning measures that can be practiced that will reduce erosion of these steep coastal faces — establish respectable setbacks, reduce or eliminate clearing, minimize variances resulting in overbuilding and consider downstream impacts of stabilization measures.

Long Island’s low-lying South Shore is at risk to the negative impacts of storm surge, sea level rise and climate change and much attention is being given to it. The North Shore, while seemingly elevated from these impacts, is not. Because its steep coast consists of unconsolidated sediments, it will experience extensive erosion. We need to understand, plan for and implement regional adaptive measures to reduce potential adverse effects to assure resilience of this vulnerable coastal environment.

R. Lawrence Swanson is the interim dean and associate dean of the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

Cougars celebrate a three run standup double to tie the game at four

Athletic success was contagious on the North Shore this spring.

We boasted 13 boys lacrosse, 11 baseball, eight boys tennis, 13 girls lacrosse and 11 softball squads in the playoffs this season. Local teams like Comsewogue boys lacrosse, Ward Melville baseball, Ward Melville boys tennis, Smithtown East girls lacrosse and Walt Whitman softball reached the semifinals. Seven of those 56 postseason qualifiers went on to be crowned Suffolk County champions, including the Commack baseball team, which grabbed the program’s first title in 20 years, and Mount Sinai’s softball team, which won its third straight county final.

Ward Melville boys lacrosse and the girls lacrosse teams from Mount Sinai and Middle Country all nabbed Long Island championship titles, and all three won their state semifinal games. The Patriots and Mustangs won state titles. And after the Middle Country Mad Dogs won the program’s first county, Long Island and state semifinal games, the girls narrowly lost in overtime, after the nation’s No. 1 lacrosse recruit and New York’s new all-time leading scorer Jamie Ortega netted the equalizer with just 1:37 left in regulation.

Districts like Mount Sinai, Shoreham-Wading River and Ward Melville have been dominating team and individual sports, creating powerhouse programs. Besides posting playoff teams in nearly every sport, Shoreham-Wading River junior Katherine Lee won a myriad of titles across the track and field season. She became a part of history when she and three other teammates swept the top three spots in the 3,000-meter state qualifier run, and placed second in the state with a new personal best.

Port Jefferson sophomore Shane DeVincenzo placed sixth overall and fifth in the Federation at the state golf tournament. Northport track and field’s 4×800 relay team placed first in the state and Federation finals, and Huntington’s Lawrence Leake placed third in the state track and field finals in the 400 high hurdles. His teammate Kyree Johnson won a state title in the 400 dash and third in the long jump, and led the Blue Devils to win the Federation team title, toppling every public, private and parochial high school in New York.

A load of other talented track and field standouts across our schools placed in the county finals and state qualifier meets. We’ve seen more and more talent across every team and individual sport with each season, and our schools continue to sneak into national rankings, perhaps creating budding dynasties for years to come.

With the end of another successful season, we want to recognize all the hard work and dedication put in by our student-athletes, many of whom excel to a similar level inside the classroom, and their coaches who help lead the way. Every student needs some guidance, and it’s clear guidance from coaches this season helped bring these athletes great success.

To overcome any kind of competition, students spend years learning their chosen sport or sports, practicing skills and developing their physical fitness. It takes a lot of patience and positive thinking to not give up at one loss or the next, and trust that the years of sacrifice will pay off. We’re proud to have covered those wrapping up their high school careers who have represented our six paper’s various coverage areas with class and pride, and we look forward to seeing what the returners can do next year. Congratulations, and keep up the good work.

Photo by Rita J. Egan

Sills Gully Beach, Shoreham:

Sills Gully Beach in Shoreham is a prime example of erosion due to storm events, according to Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point). “When you harden the shoreline by constructing hundreds of linear feet of vertical retaining walls or bulkheads, you create a condition where the energy stored in the waves caused by tidal surge and storm events hits up against the hardening structure and reflects back to the Sound,” Bonner said. “These reflected waves cause scour at the base of the bulkhead and a loss of sand from the beach. To minimize this impact, both the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the town require armor stone, big rocks, in front of any bulkhead to dissipate the reflected wave surge, reducing the impact that bulkheads have on the beaches.” According to the councilwoman, bulkheads that were constructed in the past “increased the rate of erosion but also separated the beach from its natural sand source.” The practice led to either a narrow or non-existing beach during high tide. With recent changes of bulkheads being moved landward or reducing their elevations, plus the installation of armor stones, erosive impacts have been reduced, and “the beaches tend to be wider and more resilient to storm events.”

 

Photo by Rita J. Egan

Port Jefferson Village:

Port Jefferson was originally known as Drowned Meadow because the area that now comprises most of the commercial district was a marsh that flooded every high tide, according to the book “Images of America: Port Jefferson,” written by Port Jefferson library staffers Robert Maggio and Earlene O’Hare. They wrote, “That flooding, and the steep hills and deep ravines that surrounded the marsh, made farming difficult, and the village grew slowly. In fact, by 1800, there were only a handful of houses.”

 

Photo by Maria Hoffman

Setauket Harbor:

In the last decade, Shore Road along Setauket Harbor has flooded approximately a half a dozen times a year, which is more than in the past due to astronomical tides. “All coastal communities will be increasingly impacted by rising sea level, and sea level rise goes hand in hand with climate change,” George Hoffman of the Setauket Harbor Task Force said. “One way to identify the areas that will be impacted is to look at the areas that are now impacted by storms and astronomical tides. All the low-level shore areas in the Three Village community are the most vulnerable. And, they tend to be the areas that we like to go down to, along the shore, such as beaches and docks and harbor areas. It is projected that in the next hundred years as sea level continues to rise that we will see portions of Route 25A flooding during storm events that we haven’t seen before.”

 

Photo by Rita J. Egan

Nissequogue River, Smithtown:

According to Jan Porinchak, educator and naturalist, the Nissequogue River watershed would be threatened by rising sea levels due to climate change. The river consists of two main branches that start near the southern boundaries of the town in Hauppauge, and then the water flows into the Sound. “Rising sea levels will drown out the native marsh grasses which dissipate wave action and anchor the sediments comprising the shoreline,” Porinchak said. “With the marsh grasses such as Spartina removed, areas further inland would be threatened with shoreline loss from erosion.” Erosion can also have a negative impact on marine species. “With rising sea levels compromising marsh land vegetation, salt water can reach the roots of non-salt-tolerant woody plants further inland, which kills those plant species,” he said. “This creates a domino effect, resulting in yet more erosion when the roots of those plants are eliminated. Increased sediment from these eroded areas will wash into the Nissequogue and similar ecosystems. This sediment can negatively impact shellfish and other marine species, and fuel algae blooms to the widespread detriment of the marine food web.”

 

Photo by Rita J. Egan

Long Beach, Smithtown:

Visitors to Smithtown’s Long Beach, a narrow land spit, will find an artificial berm to keep stormwater out during the winter. Many of the private roads slightly east of the town beach experience flooding when it’s high tide. Larry Swanson, interim dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at Stony Brook University, said the cause of the problem is the disruption of sediment due to a combination of rising sea levels and homeowners building sea walls to protect their property. “Long Beach is a spit that needs sediment supplied from the erosion of the bluffs of Nissequogue,” he said. “There are places where the supply is somewhat diminished to maintain sufficient elevation, perhaps where currents are stronger than elsewhere water can overflow.”

 

Photo by Rita J. Egan

Asharoken, Huntington:

The incorporated village of Asharoken in the Town of Huntington provides the only essential land access way contacting the Eaton’s Neck peninsula to Northport, with its Asharoken Avenue. Due to hurricanes and nor’easters, the Long Island Sound side of the peninsula has experienced moderate to severe beach erosion. In 2015 the Asharoken village board took into consideration a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-backed proposal to replenish the community’s eroding beaches. The plan consisted of creating a berm and dune system with groins on the northwestern end of the project area. The area includes properties on the Long Island Sound side of Asharoken Avenue. However, in January Asharoken officials voted to bring an end to the restoration project after many residents rejected part of the plan that included creating public access points at certain private properties, which would leave residents liable for any injuries or mishaps that happened when the public was on the shoreline of the property.

Just in time for the holidays, Suffolk County has received a gift that will keep on giving.

Suffolk is slated to receive funding through New York State’s Regional Economic Development Councils for the creation of a countywide Blueway Trail.

According to the National Park Service, a blueway trail is a water path that provides recreational boating opportunities along a river, lake, canal or coastline.

The application submitted by the county earlier this year was based upon a recreational water trail plan Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) was developing for her North Shore district.

When Hahn took up paddle boarding about three years ago, she said it was a transformational experience.

“I was so excited to get a whole new perspective of our community,” she said, adding that although she grew up in the area, she only recently discovered water sports that provide a view of the shore.

“As more and more tourists seek out off-shore recreational activities … there’s no reason why Suffolk County’s lure should end at the water’s edge.”

— Kara Hahn

Reading an article about an established trail in Nassau County gave her the impetus to get a working group together, she said.

After evaluating the economic benefits and increased tourism a more comprehensive blueway trail would bring to the region, the preliminary plan was expanded to include all of Suffolk.

In June, Hahn sponsored bi-partisan legislation authorizing the county to pursue state funding, which resulted in the awarding of a $60,000 grant. She is hoping the seed money will give the county access to other grant funding.

“For generations, Long Island has attracted visitors from around the globe and international acclaim because of its shoreline of world class beaches,” she said. “However, as more and more tourists seek out off-shore recreational activities like canoeing, windsurfing and stand-up water paddling, there’s no reason why Suffolk County’s lure should end at the water’s edge. Once completed, this project will help drive new opportunities for regional tourism and serve as a catalyst to the local economy as our residents — and those vacationing here — discover Suffolk is amazing both on and off shore.”

According to the proposal, during its first phase, Suffolk County — in collaboration with its towns, villages and paddling organizations — will develop a blueway trail plan for the north and south shores as well as the Peconic Estuary in Riverhead. A schematic design of the trail route will include potential launch and landing locations, and there will be signage drafted and project identification for public access and facilities — an implementation plan will complete this phase.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) sees the project as an economic win.

“The funding for the blueway trail plan is a significant breakthrough for Suffolk’s local economy and its regional tourism industry,” he said.

Kristen Jarnagin, formerly of the Long Island Convention and Visitors Bureau in Hauppauge, and now president and CEO of Discover Long Island, a marketing website that facilitates the booking of vacation plans, envisions an increase in tourism.

“Tourism is a $5.5 billion industry on Long Island, which translates to more than $356 million in local and state tax revenues for Suffolk County,” she said. “We applaud Legislator Hahn’s effort to develop the new Blueway Trail that reflects the beauty of our destination and will assist in meeting the demand of our 9.1 million annual visitors.”

Jarnagin is one of many supporting the project.

Long Island Paddlers, Inc. President Steve Berner echoed her sentiments.

“Tourism is a $5.5 billion industry on Long Island, which translates to more than $356 million in local and state tax revenues for Suffolk County.”

—Kristen Jarnagin

“The Suffolk Blueway Trail will be a real benefit to prospective, novice and experienced kayakers alike,” Berner said. “The Long Island Paddlers commend legislator Hahn for spearheading the effort, and New York State for recognizing the economic potential of such a plan.”

George Hoffman, a founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said he doesn’t forsee any downsides to the plan.

“It gets you out on the water,” he said in a phone interview, “and in addition to the environmental aspects, you get to see colonial history from a different vantage point. There should be markers to flag what you’re looking at.”

He mentioned the Nassau County south shore blueway trail that opened last June.

Ann Strong, of Strong’s Neck, who is on the board of Strong’s Neck Civic Association, is a member of the Three Village Historical Society and is a real estate broker whose family has been in the Setauket area for over 350 years, said she thought it seemed like a good thing for a lot of people.

“I can’t see it would be anything but favorable,” she said, adding that she looks forward to learning more about it. Upon hearing that Hahn was the prime mover of the project, she said she felt heartened that it would be done well.

A total of 10 Regional Councils were established by the state — including the Long Island Regional Council — to assist the regions in jumpstarting their economies. The Councils empower businesses and leaders, as well as citizens to develop strategic plans tailored to their region’s unique strengths and resources.

During the most recent round of funding, the Long Island Region awarded $62 million in grants to support 101 projects, which includes the Suffolk County Blueway Trail Plan.

Lit luminaires light up the night during the third annual Lights of Hope event in Port Jefferson on Aug. 31. Photo by Nora Milligan

It’s no time to pass the buck.

When it comes to the rising opioid abuse issue coursing through Long Island’s veins, we want to make sure we continue the open dialogue.

As you finish reading this edition, we hope you reflect on how this growing problem affects you, your family, your friends and everyone else around you — we can’t hide from this.

We need to take a more head-on approach to this medical issue, and accept that it is a medical problem, and not as some say a moral failing.

Parents shouldn’t let the stigma attached to drug or substance abuse keep them from talking about it. If we are to learn and grow and recover, we need to be talking. If we hide from the issue, the results will most certainly be fatal.

This is a problem that requires a collaborative effort, including prevention through education and early identification of at-risk people, enforcement with sharper penalties to dealers and prescription writers and improved rehabilitation resources and strategies. And as this issue should reflect, many groups on the North Shore are dedicated to working together to fight this crisis.

A cooperative combination of all of these things can help get Long Island headed in the right direction. Listed below are several resources if you or a loved one is struggling with substance or drug abuse.

• Suffolk County Substance Abuse Hotline: 631-979-1700

• Hope House Ministries: 631-978-0188

• Response of Suffolk County 24-hour hotline: 631-751-7500

• Prevention Resource Center: 631-650-0135

• Phoenix House’s Edward D. Miller substance abuse treatment center: 844-296-9046

• Samaritan Village’s Suffolk Outpatient Treatment Program: 631-351-7112

• St. Charles Hospital rehab program: 631-474-6233

• New York State HOPEline: 1-877-8-HOPENY

Suffolk County Division of Community Mental Hygiene Services: 631-853-8500

Visit http://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/substanceabuse for a downloadable prevention, treatment and recovery services directory, which gives a list of service agencies and treatment centers on Long Island.

A man touches the wall to pay respect to someone he lost on Sept. 11, 2001 at Rocky Point Fire Department’s 9/11 memorial service. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Residents throughout Suffolk County will have their choice of memorial ceremonies to attend this Sept. 11.

Huntington

The East Northport Fire Department will be hosting its annual memorial service this Sunday, with two separate events, both being held at the Ninth Avenue side of the firehouse at the 9/11 Memorial Monument on Sept. 11. The morning ceremony will begin at 9:45 a.m., and the evening candlelight vigil will begin at 8 p.m. Both ceremonies are set around an eight-foot, 8,000-pound steel beam from Ground Zero that the department received from the Port Authority. During the ceremony, firefighters will read victim’s names, and sirens will sound to commemorate the collapse of the twin towers. The Northport High School Tights will sing the national anthem and “America the Beautiful,” with “Amazing Grace” played by the Northport Pipe & Drum Band. There will be a 21-gun salute from the Marine Corps League and the release of memorial doves.  A memorial banner will be displayed on a fire engine that lists all of the victim’s names. A Suffolk County Police Department helicopter will be doing a flyover during the ceremony. 

Huntington Town will also be holding a small ceremony at Heckscher Park at noon this Friday, Sept. 9.

Smithtown

Members of the East Northport Fire Department participate in the annual 9/11 memorial service on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Members of the East Northport Fire Department participate in the annual 9/11 memorial service on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

The Commack School District will be presenting a candlelight ceremony of remembrance. It will be held at the Commack High School football field at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11. The 9/11 Memorial Players, Mimi Juliano, Mark Newman and Joe Zogbi, will perform music, and honorary guest speakers will attend.

The St. James Fire Department will also be hosting a service at 6 p.m. Sunday at the 9/11 memorial at the firehouse. Local legislators will speak, the Smithtown High School band and choir will perform, and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9486 will perform a gun salute. The names of Smithtown residents and community members who lost their lives on Sept. 11 will be read including New York Police Officer Glenn Pettit, New York Fire Department Chief Lawrence Stack, New York Fire Department Chief Donald Burns, Port Authority Officer Jean Andrucki and New York Fireman Doug Oelschlager.

Brookhaven

The Order Sons of Italy in America will host its seventh annual 9/11 tribute. The candlelight remembrance is at 6 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 11, at Harborfront Park at Port Jefferson Village Center located at 101A East Broadway. The event will feature guest speakers and refreshments. All are welcome. For more information contact Anthony Rotoli Jr. at 631-928-7489.

The Sons of Italy Lodge was renamed the Vigiano Brothers Lodge to honor Port Jefferson residents. John Vigiano Jr. was a firefighter and Joseph Vigiano was a police detective.  On Sept. 11, 2001, both Vigiano brothers responded to the call to the World Trade Center, and both were killed while saving others. John Vigiano Sr. is a retired NYC firefighter whose two sons followed him into service.  The attacks of 9/11 inflicted a tremendous loss on his family and also on our country. Therefore, we honored these two heroes and their family by naming the Sons of Italy Lodge after them in Port Jefferson.

The Port Jefferson Fire Department will host its annual 9/11 memorial ceremony on Sunday, Sept. 11, at 9:30 a.m. At the Maple Place firehouse, firefighters and residents will gather to pay their respects to those who died in the terrorist attacks in 2001, including first responders from the Town of Brookhaven who perished while answering the call of duty at the World Trade Center. The ceremony includes a memorial service in which the names of the town firefighters who died that day will be read aloud.

An official plays the bugle at Port Jefferson Fire Department's 13th annual 9/11 memorial ceremony. Photo by Giselle Barkley
An official plays the bugle at Port Jefferson Fire Department’s 13th annual 9/11 memorial ceremony. Photo by Giselle Barkley

The Rocky Point Fire Department 9/11 Memorial Committee invites the communities of Rocky Point and Shoreham to its 15th Annual 9/11 Memorial Ceremony on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. This ceremony will take place at the 9/11 Community Memorial site which is located on the corner of Route 25A and Tesla Street in Shoreham, next to the Shoreham Firehouse. Light refreshments will be served after the ceremony.

In honor of the 15th anniversary of the events that took place on Sept. 11, 2001, the Setauket Fire District will host a community 9/11 remembrance ceremony Sunday, Sept. 11, beginning at 10 a.m. The program will take place at the district’s 9/11 Memorial Park, located at 394 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook. The ceremony will include brief remarks from department representatives, a moment of silence and the official dedication of the two “survivor trees” recently planted in the fire district’s 9/11 Memorial Park. These trees were seeded from the 9/11 survivor tree located at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center. Light refreshments will follow the ceremony, and attendees will be invited to visit the different sections of the expanded Setauket 9/11 Memorial Park, which also includes a stone monument inscribed with the names of those lost on 9/11 and a patriotic water display.

The Alumni Association of Stony Brook University will sponsor a commemoration of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, throughout Monday, Sept. 12, with a field of pinwheels on the Academic Mall. This is the third year that the event will be held. Students and faculty are invited to take a moment to remember those lost.

Three Mount Sinai children began making music on the piano at a young age. Now their youth ensemble is making memories with residents across the North Shore.

Playing at veteran homes and senior centers, the North Shore Youth Music Ensemble, created by brother and sister Claire and Joshua Cai, focuses on giving back to the community through the arts.

“I know many people who do volunteer work, and I thought music would be a different thing to do,” Claire Cai said. “I feel happy when I play. It’s really nice to know that they appreciate our music and that they give us their time to play for them.”

The 17-year-old learned the violin and the piano at the same time from her mother Dana, who teaches the violin and viola to young students at her home. Claire Cai said she switched her focus to solely the violin almost 10 years ago because she thought there would be more opportunities.

The North Shore Youth Music Ensemble’s, from left, Daniel Ma, Joshua Cai, Claire Cai and Claire Xu performed at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai. Photo by Rebecca Anzel
The North Shore Youth Music Ensemble’s, from left, Daniel Ma, Joshua Cai, Claire Cai and Claire Xu performed at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai. Photo by Rebecca Anzel

One came knocking when she was accepted into the Juilliard Pre-College Division, which is for elementary through high school students who exhibit the talent, potential, and accomplishments to pursue a career in music. It’s a competitive program, yet the young talent only had to audition once. This month marks her fifth year in the program. She will graduate next year.

“It’s really inspirational,” she said. “I get to meet a lot of people there and I learn a lot from the teachers. It’s a good thing to surround yourself with other people who come from all around the world with different talents.”

Joshua Cai, 14, first learned the piano and violin, but after being rejected by the Juilliard program, switched to playing the viola. He was accepted into the school the following year.

“My sister was always the one that was better than me so it was satisfying to do the same thing as her,” he said.

Their father, Yong Cai, used to play the violin years ago and is currently a physicist at Brookhaven National Laboratory. While his oldest daughter Mattea no longer plays, she is attending The University of Texas at Austin, majoring in architecture, and she and her younger sister both draw. The father said he believes music was important for his children to learn.

“We just thought that they should learn to play music — it’s always a good thing for young kids to not only enhance them talent-wise, but it can help develop their personality and it’s a form of training your brain in some sense,” he said.

Claire Cai performs in 2014. Photo from Yong Cai
Claire Cai performs in 2014. Photo from Yong Cai

When he heard his children were creating an ensemble he was thrilled.

“It’s a way for them to appreciate how music can help others,” he said.

The two teamed up to create the core trio with friend Daniel Ma, who plays the cello.

“It’s fun playing with my friends,” the 14-year-old said. “It feels like any other performance, but you know you’re performing for seniors, and that makes you feel good about yourself.”

The trio sometimes performs with Claire Xu on violin and Xavier Tutiven on viola. Most recently, at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai, Xu played classical songs with the trio. Duet Katherine Ma and Rachel Zhang also performed for the crowd.

“It’s really nice because we’re able to spread our enjoyment of music to other people,” Joshua Cai said. “It shows up on their faces.”

Claire Cai’s favorite piece to play is Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Opus 96, “American,” because of its spirited vibe, while Daniel Ma enjoys Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik for its classical elements, she said. At the most recent event, the ensemble also performed a more contemporary piece to close out the performance — “You Raise Me Up,” which was made popular by Josh Groban.

From left, Yong Cai, Joshua Cai and Xavier Tutiven perform over the holiday at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai. Photo from Yong Cai
From left, Yong Cai, Joshua Cai and Xavier Tutiven perform over the holiday at the Rose Caracappa Senior Center in Mount Sinai. Photo from Yong Cai

Michele Posillico, the manager for the senior center, said she loves when the ensemble comes to perform.

Their playing was “magnificent, over the top,” she said. “The parents’ hearts must be so full of joy to see their children play like that. It’s just remarkable. The seniors enjoy it. What this group of players from the younger generation is doing, their accomplishments, it fills their heart with happiness and love and pride. I just loved it — it brings tears to my eyes how they play.”

Yong Cai agreed, and added that he gets overly excited watching his children play.

“I take videos all the time,” he said with a laugh. “I go to all of their concerts when I can make it. They come to my house to practice and they really enjoy playing music. I have a huge collection of their performances. Some of which I post on YouTube.”

Although their parents instilled an appreciation for music in them, the musicians couldn’t imagine a life without it.

“It’s always been a part of my life and I don’t know what I’d do if I ever gave it up,” Joshua Cai said. “It’s the foundation of my everyday life. I’ve never experienced my life without music.”

To book the North Shore Youth Music Ensemble, email Yong Cai at yong.q.cai@gmail.com, or call 631-403-4055.