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North Shore

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Mayor Dee Parrish signs a document at Thursday evening’s Poquott Village board meeting at Poquott Village Hall. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

In the early morning, on Tuesday, Aug. 4, a surprise extreme weather event literally took the North Shore by storm, leaving floods, fallen trees, and power outages in its wake, and causing Village of Poquott officials to declare a State of Emergency.

Nine days later, on Aug. 13, it was clear that effects were still very much being felt in the Three Village area, with uprooted trees and debris lining the roadways up to Poquott Village Hall. There, at 7 p.m., citizens of the village gathered to voice their reactions to board members’ handling of the storm, and to express requests for how the remaining damages should be handled.

A major complaint many meeting attendants shared involved communication between board members and the public. Residents at the meeting voiced concerns of a lag in response time from Poquott Mayor Dee Parrish and her administration, which one trustee took issue with.

“The only way we found out the road had re-opened was to drive down there and look, make a U-turn, and go back.” Trustee Harry Berry said in defense of the accusation. “We heard nothing. First off, there was no power— a lot of people didn’t get their power back until Saturday. There was no Internet, and cellphone coverage was terrible.”

Still, residents argued the village officials could have done more to communicate with the greater Poquott community after the storm.

Indeed, the storm did bring with it increased safety concerns. Village resident Carol Pesek emphasized the importance of future communication in terms of relaying how to avoid some of the unique dangers brought about by the storm. She specifically noted the necessity of avoiding trees touching downed telephone wires.

Parrish said she would note these considerations for the future, and then brought the public commentary section of the meeting to an early close. After this, the board approved resolutions authorizing Parrish to draft and submit a FEMA application requesting financial support to cover storm damages, directing Clerk Joseph Newfield to schedule, and notice accordingly, public bids for cleaning of village drains per the list from the Commission of Environmental and also directing the clerk to schedule, and notice accordingly, public bids for tree clean up and removal in the village from the storm.

A resolution approving a village carting company to conduct an additional pick-up of residential landscaping debris, not to exceed $5,000, was tabled, on the condition that enough debris may be cleared by individual residents to render the additional expense unnecessary.

The Poquott Civic Association and Village of Poquott also held a fundraiser on the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 15, at the park on the corner of Washington Street and Chestnut Avenue. Tommy Sullivan, of Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge, performed a free, old-time rock n’ roll concert, and attendees donated money and participated in a raffle to raise funds for storm repairs.

With community participation and cooperation between elected officials and constituents, the Three Village area will recover from this storm quickly and, perhaps more importantly, gain the tools and experience necessary to prepare for future incidents of extreme weather.

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Sea bass will continue to remain on the North Shore in August. Above, Angelo Peluso and Adrian Mason show off their catches. Photo from Angelo Peluso

By Angelo Peluso

As we move into late summer, fishing has hit peak strides throughout the entirety of the Long Island Sound. Despite the sweltering heat that often accompanies August, the eighth month of the year contains National Smile Week, and if you play your fishing cards right you just might smile broadly while finding some of the best local fish of the year.

August brings many surprises along the North Shore of Long Island. Many anglers take time off during the often scorching days of late summer, relenting to the call of the beach and BBQs. But succumbing to the myth of the dog days is a big mistake. August brings with it numerous and exciting fishing opportunities. The cool depths of the Long Island Sound and abundant bait can keep fishing vibrant and at times hectic. This is especially true of the central regions of the Sound where, striped bass, bluefish, fluke, porgies and seas bass can be caught with a high degree of regularity.

Water quality in the Long Island Sound is at its finest along the central portions of the North Shore. The month, named in honor of Augustus Caesar, also brings with it the strong possibility of visitations by some highly anticipated pelagic species: Atlantic bonito, little tunny and Spanish mackerel. With conducive bait and water conditions, those highly coveted light tackle gamesters should show in numbers sufficient to warrant expanded time on the water. All significant recreational species are in season and several ocean-roaming species visit local waters.

Summer flounder, also called fluke, have been in abundance and will continue to be caught through to the season’s end on Sept.  21.  Although it appears at times that anglers need to weed through dozens upon dozens of undersized fluke and sea robins to be rewarded with a limit of keeper summer flounder, bigger fish are still around and patience pays dividends. August usually also witnesses some of the largest striped bass catches of the season. Nighttime moon tides and drifted eels will typically relinquish some of the finer specimens of bass. While some of the largest bass will succumb to large natural baits, casting artificial lures early and late in the day will yield bass.

All the other popular summer game fish species will also continue to remain along the North Shore: bluefish, scup and sea bass. Bluefish have been prolific, but beginning in July, larger pods of marauding “choppers” began moving inshore to feast on snappers. That predation pattern should continue through August and into the fall. This is a great time to cast large top-water plugs to snag what just might be the largest bluefish of the year. Porgy, aka scup, fishing is now as hot as the weather. There are lots of these tasty scup around, but finding the jumbo porgies will take some searching in deeper water. At this time of year, smaller scup can be found well inshore and often well within reach of shore anglers fishing around jetties, rock groins, boulders and other structures. Porgies are the most democratic fish that swim in the Sound, and they can be caught by just about anyone who fishes for them. If you’d like a little different kind of fun with porgies, try feeding them small artificial baits. Scent-infused plastic lures work wonders on porgies, as do small flies. Sea bass will also present themselves this month.  To date, there have been some impressive catches of quality sea bass, and those results should continue for the remainder of the season. Deep water structure is the key to this form of bass fishing. So get out there and have a great, safe month on the water. The fish will be waiting.

Red ribbons are one way North Shore residents are remembering the fatal crash victims. Photo from Smithtown Historical Society

One week has passed, but no amount of time can ever truly heal the wounds endured by the greater North Shore community since four of its own were killed in a horrific limousine crash.

Anyone driving through the streets of Smithtown and its surrounding communities this week could notice the red ribbons wrapped around trees in memory of Smithtown’s Brittney Schulman, 23, and Lauren Baruch, 24, as well as Stephanie Belli, 23, of Kings Park, and Amy Grabina, 23, of Commack. The four girls were killed when Steven Romeo, 55, T-boned their limousine with his pickup truck in Cutchogue last Saturday, injuring Romeo, along with limo driver Carlos Pino, 58, of Bethpage, Joelle Dimonte, 25, of Elwood, Melissa Angela Crai, 23, of Scarsdale, Alicia Arundel, 24, of Setauket, and Olga Lipets, 24, of Brooklyn.

After the crash, Romeo was arraigned at Eastern Long Island Hospital and charged with driving while intoxicated. He was initially ordered held in lieu of $500,000 cash bail, or $1 million bond, but that bail was reduced to $50,000 cash or $100,000 bond last Thursday, according to Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota. At a press conference on Friday, Spota said Romeo had recorded a blood alcohol content of .066 percent when he was tested roughly one hour after the crash. The DWI charge, however, was not dropped despite his BAC coming in below the legal limit of .08, Spota said. No additional charges were filed against Romeo as the investigation continued.

Romeo’s court date, which was originally set for last week, was adjourned to Sept. 18.

The past week saw the funerals of all four of the victims, while those injured were released from hospital care by the middle of this week. The North Shore community planned to take one of its first steps toward closure on Wednesday night at Smithtown High School West, where residents, elected officials and members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving were scheduled to meet. The event was borne out of a Facebook page titled “Candlelight Vigil for Our Girls,” which was put into action in the days following the tragedy. By Wednesday, the page had collected more than 6,000 names to its roster and countless photos of mourning and support for the victims’ families.

Marianne Howard, executive director with the Smithtown Historical Society, was one of the several Smithtown residents to tie red ribbons around trees in front of the society’s property. She said various businesses throughout town, including Towers Flowers of Nesconset and James Cress Florist of Smithtown, helped donate the ribbons to the cause.

“We mourn the loss of four beautiful souls who were taken too early from our community,” she said. “We send our deepest condolences to their families and friends. May they rest in peace.”

Chabad at Stony Brook also signed onto the cause of finding good in a tragic situation, launching its own Facebook event page, “responding to dark, with light,” in memory of the four girls and challenging residents to commit 400 random acts of goodness and kindness in their honor.

Chaya Klein Grossbaum of Chabad at Stony Brook said once the goal was reached, the group would print a book detailing each singular act.

Asharoken Village beach. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Asharoken Village residents will soon have to decide if they want support a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-backed proposal to replenish the community’s eroding beaches.

The $30 million idea involves building the beach back up with more sand to fight erosion. The issue concerning many residents is that in order for the plan to go into effect, public access must be granted to private properties that have new sand put down on their beaches.

Currently, the public is only afforded access of a private beach property below the water line. However, if the village board approves this proposal, the public would have access above the mean high water line to certain private properties.

Some trustees on the village board have said they will not approve a plan that residents don’t agree with.
According to Village Trustee Mel Ettinger, five public access points need to be established for this pitch to go through. He said currently the public can access private beaches from two different areas, and are not trespassing as long as they are below the mean high water line.

Since the Army Corps of Engineers is largely funding the project, public access is a must in order for the proposal to go through. The Army Corps would pay for 89.5 percent of the $30 million costs to help fight beach erosion, and the village would have to pay 10.5 percent, or about $3 million dollars.

“The board of trustees and the mayor are doing our due diligence in exploring the issues associated with putting sand on the beaches and making sure residents are being heard,” Ettinger said in a recent phone interview.

At the end of June, the Army Corps presented the board with five different versions of the proposal, all varying in costs and methods.

On June 30, the Army Corps met with the village board and recommended a plan that consists of a berm and a dune system with groins on the northwestern end of the project area. This area includes the properties on the side of Asharoken Avenue that touches the Long Island Sound.

Berms are wedges of sand that face the sea. They are composed of sand from offshore, and help indicate that the beach has been gaining sand in recent weeks or months. Dunes are hills of sand that have either accumulated over time or have been bulldozed in. Artificial dunes help to hold an eroding shoreline in place.

“Groins in combination with new sand would reduce the erosional effect of existing groins and reduce the frequency of re-nourishments needed,” James D’Ambrosio, public affairs spokesperson for the Army Corps of Engineers said.

According to D’Ambrosio, if the residents of Asharoken do not approve this idea, then the Hurricane Sandy funds that were allocated this project would be used elsewhere.

Ettinger said once the board decides on a plan, it is required to write a letter to the Army Corps requesting which plan they want to go ahead with. Then, assuming the Army Corps approves the decision, the board will prepare a presentation to the village residents that explain all aspects of what it would mean to move forward with the plan.

“The best decision is to come up with a plan that the residents are in agreement with,” Mayor Greg Letica said in a recent phone interview.

Letica also mentioned that there are other options to ensure the safety and longevity of the beaches in Asharoken while still maintaining private access. If residents themselves entirely footed the bill, then there would be no need for the Army Corps financial assistance, and thus no obligation to make private beaches public.

“We need to protect the beaches, I understand the residents that don’t want to give access to their private property, but I think this is something we need to do,” Christine Peterson, an Asharoken resident said in a recent interview. “It’s not like we’re opening up a new beach and expect many new visitors to come and use it.”

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Umbrellas, usually necessary to ward off blazing sun, protected spectators from light drizzle as Ward Melville High School honored around 600 graduates Sunday.

Graduating seniors took their places in bleachers set up alongside the high school’s entrance, which still featured the “Journey to Neverland” backdrop from Thursday night’s prom.

Salutatorian Jayne Green told the women in the audience to remember they were not alone and that as half of the population, women should unite and work together. If they did, she said, “Nothing can stop us.”

Valedictorian Eric Wang shared his moment at the podium with his classmates by mentioning many of them and their contributions by name.

From state athletic champions to talented performers, innovators, “extraordinary leaders,” “patriots serving the country” and those always ready to offer a lending hand, “Each and every one of us is exceptional,” Wang said.

He then urged his classmates to “pay it forward” and channel their energies into their future endeavors.

Following student government president George Zenzerovich’s presentation of the class gift were words from Principal Alan Baum and school board president William Connors. The rain subsided in time for Baum and assistant principal Rosanne DiBella to hand diplomas to the members of the Class of 2015.

Setauket Harbor file photo by Rachel Shapiro

Setauket is harboring a working relationship with North Shore officials as advocates flood their offices with environmental projects.

The newly formed Setauket Harbor Task Force has been in talks with various elected officials, including Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) and Parks Commissioner Ed Morris, as the group continues its push to sustain the beauty of the North Shore spot. The group gathered for a walking tour of the town-owned Setauket Harbor properties on May 12 to highlight areas around the harbor that need attention.

Laurie Vetere, a North Shore-based attorney and president of the volunteer task force, said the meeting was a step in the right direction.

“The task force is encouraged by the town’s swift response in meeting with us and their receptivity to our concerns,” she said.

Some of those concerns included making sure the town pays attention to the road runoff retention basin and pond that forms near the inlet at Setauket Harbor, and maintaining park property just to the west of the area’s footbridge, Vetere said.

The group also urged town officials to keep their eyes on the beach and dock along Shore Road, where a combination of winter ice and 8-foot tides had severely damaged the dock, upending the pilings and twisting the aluminum gangplank, the group said. The town had already replaced both the pilings and the dock as the winter came to a close, and Morris confirmed the gangplank leading down to the dock would be repaired by the beginning of summer.

Charlie Lefkowitz, a board member and Setauket-based businessman, said the town was more than receptive to the task force’s concerns, and results were already tangible.

“We want to be partners with the town in improving the harbor and working with them to put in place corrective actions that will help water quality and enhance the general enjoyment of the harbor view-shed,” he said.

The Setauket Harbor Task Force was formed last year over concerns about the harbor and the deteriorating water quality, and it recently held a meeting about the health of the harbor that drew more than 60 local residents.

State funds should help bolster the Stephen D. Matthews Nature Preserve. Photo from Three Village Community Trust

The North Shore region is cashing in on its green pastures thanks to $6,000 in grant funding, the Three Village Community Trust said this week.

Three Village was one of three Long Island trusts to be awarded the money through the state’s Conservation Partnership Program, administered under the Land Trust Alliance, and will utilize the money to bulk up its conservation management of the roughly 10-acre Stephen D. Matthews Nature Preserve, Trust President Cynthia Barnes said.

“The grant will help tighten up the way we look after the preserve and will provide for more targeted control of the invasive species that threaten its native flora and fauna,” she said. “This grant represents an investment of $8,000 in the Stephen D. Matthews Nature Preserve.”

Barnes said the money would help enhance monitoring and management protocols at the preserve while also establishing a volunteer training and stewardship program. The end result, she said, should make for a more volunteer-friendly atmosphere to attract residents in the nearby communities of Poquott and beyond.

Louise Harrison, a conservation biologist and principal of the consulting firm known as Conservation and Natural Areas Planning, said interest in the area has been at an all-time high among Poquott natives.

“Poquott’s citizens turned out in large numbers for the local civic association meeting last month, primarily to hear about the preserve,” she said. “They had plenty of questions for me. We’re looking to recruit volunteer stewards who want to help monitor and manage the preserve and also to study it. We’ll be offering new and expanded programs to connect directly with the community that the Trust serves.”

Barnes said the wooded strip that is the Stephen D. Matthews Nature Preserve traverses land that is bordering communities in Port Jefferson and Poquott and includes several coastal forest types. It acts as a buffer between Poquott and Port Jefferson’s power generation station and is particularly vulnerable to invasive species because of its narrow configuration with long boundaries.

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) heralded the grant funding as a necessary step in the North Shore’s environmental health.

“It is crucial that our state continue to fund and assist local organizations like the Three Village Community Trust to safeguard our environment. This funding, along with community involvement, will help protect this valuable property, ensure its preservation for years to come and that will benefit our entire regions,” Flanagan said.

The major portion of the preserve, bounced by two sides on Washington Street and Chestnut Avenue, consists of many native plant species. Yet, an especially narrow portion that runs just along Washington Avenue and meets Route 25A has been thickly invaded by exotic species of vines and damaged by tree-fall from storms, Barnes said.

“This nature preserve is an important buffer between the Port Jefferson Power Plant and the residential village of Poquott,” said Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), chair of the Assembly’s Environmental Conservation Committee. “With this new grant in hand, the Three Village Community Trust will be able to work with village residents to restore and improve the ecological resiliency of this lovely woodland.”

The funding stemmed from a total $1.8 million that Gov. Andrew Cuomo allocated in 2015 Conservation Partnership Program grants for 55 nonprofit land trusts throughout the state. Three Village was announced as one of the recipients at a ceremony kicking off Earth Day at the end of April, along with two others on Long Island — the Peconic Land Trust in Southampton and the North Shore Land Alliance in Westbury.

Some of Toni Frissell’s work includes photographs taken of the Kennedy family. Photo from Leighton H. Coleman III

By Jenni Culkin

The artistic photography of the late North Shore resident Toni Frissell will be on display at the Village Hall in her hometown village of Head of the Harbor from May 29 to June 11. The Village Hall will be featuring some of Frissell’s rarest works from private collections.

Frissell was a prominent photographer on the North Shore of Long Island throughout the 20th century. Her work in photography included fashion pieces, wedding snapshots and various photojournalistic photos.

“She had a very good eye and a sense of style,” said Leighton H. Coleman III, the village historian for the village of Head of the Harbor. “They were very personal and engaging photos.”

Frissell also used her photographic talents to illustrate children’s books throughout the 1940s. According to Coleman, these books have become extremely valuable and highly sought after by collectors.

Frissell’s work was featured in vintage magazines such as Vogue and Life.

“She had her own career and she was a trailblazer in her career,” Coleman said in an interview last week.

Visitors can also expect to learn more about Frissell during their time at the event. A micro-exhibit of the history of the Frissell family, photographs of Frissell by other famous photographers and  a copy of “Toni Frissell: Photographs 1933-1967” authored by her daughter will be available to view throughout the exhibit.

Some of Frissell’s family members and former sitters will be attending the exhibit. Her granddaughter, who followed in Frissell’s footsteps, will be one of the people in attendance.

The Village Hall will begin hosting the historic exhibit on May 29 with an opening reception at 5 p.m. The exhibit will be open to the public every afternoon through June 11.