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Northport

County officials and environmental activists look at designs for new water system at the Vanderbilt Museum.

Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum has installed two innovative systems for processing wastewater that significantly reduce the harmful impact of nitrogen pollution in the Northport Bay. The new technology builds on the county’s efforts to address excess nitrogen from wastewater leaching into local waters, which once the epicenter of the region’s red tide. 

New water system at the Vanderbilt museum.

County Executive Steve Bellone (D) and county Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) announced the installations at an Oct. 30 press event at the museum. 

“The science is clear and the solution has been established,” Bellone said. 

He noted that it is necessary to replace outdated technologies that do not reduce nitrogen pollution with new technologies that do.

“We have a $6.1 billion tourism economy that is underpinned by water,” Bellone added. “With strong support from academia, business leaders and the environmental community, our region is no longer kicking the can down the road, but is taking aggressive action to reverse the water quality crisis to better protect our waterways for future generations.”

More than 115,000 people visit the park each year and the upgrade will benefit local waterways by reducing nitrogen discharge at the site by approximately 164 pounds annually. 

To date, the county has installed advanced wastewater treatment systems at Lake Ronkonkoma and Meschutt Beach, and is currently in the process of installing 13 additional systems at other parks. 

The major contributor to water quality issues, Spencer said, is nitrogen discharges from more than 360,000 antiquated cesspools in Suffolk. 

“I am so pleased to see this technology brought to our county parks, specifically the Vanderbilt Museum, which sits directly beside a water body that we have worked so hard to restore,” Spencer added. He said upgrades to Northport’s sewage treatment plant resulted in a massive reduction in nitrogen discharge, and produced tangible benefits including the absence of red tide and the reopening of a permanently closed Centerport beach.

The investment at Vanderbilt is expected to progress, improve and protect the region’s natural resources, Spencer added. 

Officials also announced at the press event that during the month of October alone, more than 100 residents have applied for grants through the county’s septic improvement program, and that next year the county plans to install 1,200 nitrogen-reducing wastewater treatment systems, doubling the amount currently installed. 

Adrienne Esposito, executive director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment, applauded the progress and collaborative efforts of everyone involved. 

“This is what change looks like, one installation at a time,” she said. “Good science, good advocacy and good elected officials give us good policy, and fortunately that’s what we have seen on the water quality issue in Suffolk County.”  

The installation of the new systems is part of the county’s Reclaim Our Water initiative, which seeks to reduce nitrogen pollution of surface and groundwaters. 

Homeowners outside of a sewer district are encouraged to apply for grant funding and low interest loans to assist in paying to upgrade to an innovative system. Visit www.reclaimourwater.info to find out more.

Indian Hills Country Club. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

More than 60 residents voiced their opinions on the proposed Preserve at Indian Hills development in Fort Salonga at a Town of Huntington Planning Board public hearing Sept. 18 to discuss the draft environmental impact statement on the project. Critics pointed to environmental concerns and negative effects on property values, while supporters viewed the project as beneficial to the community.   

Tony Izzo of Fort Salonga, said the development would have lasting negative impacts on the community. 

“Mr. [Jim] Tsunis [of The Northwind Group] wants to increase the size of the clubhouse by 30 percent and staff by 40 percent to accommodate a large catering restaurant,” he said. “The condos would be incompatible with the character of the neighborhood, it would double the size of the neighborhood.”

Izzo said he bought his house with his wife in 1987 with the assurance that the zoning would be R-40, which allows for the building of 1-acre single family homes. 

“We expected to be living in suburbia, instead we are told to accept a certain lifestyle — I’m not going to accept that,” he said. “These condos will negatively affect property values. Protect the citizens of Fort Salonga, not the builder. This must be rejected.”

“We expected to be living in suburbia.”

—Tony Izzo

The Preserve at Indian Hills would be a 55-and-over clustered housing development. In addition to the 98 town houses, the project also would include a new fitness center with an expanded clubhouse alongside the existing golf course.  

William Berg of the Crab Meadow Watershed Advisory Committee brought up concerns about the impact the development could have on the watershed quality and surrounding wetlands. 

“This study [the Crab Meadow Watershed plan] has not been completed or adopted by the Town Board,” he said. “Under land use the report states that the watershed is built out of its own density. I urge the Planning Board to call for the completion of the Crab Meadow Watershed study and thorough analysis of the information before making any conclusions on the project.”

Similarly, the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association asked town officials to place a moratorium on new developments in the Crab Meadow Watershed area, which includes the Indian Hills property. While most of the speakers opposed the development, a few residents were in favor of the project. William Muller, who is a member of the Indian Hills Country Club, said he was supportive of the Northwind project and pointed to the need for more senior living.  

“I have the belief that this plan will have less of an impact to the local community than the single-family alternative,” he said. “There is always a need for the 55-and-older community and this would provide a wonderful setting for that population.”

Other supporters mentioned the tax revenue school districts would be poised to receive from potential development and said the golf course and condos should be considered assets for the community.   

Barbara Duffy of Northport, had similar sentiments, stating she was supportive of the building of town houses. 

“Having lived near the 17th fairway for 40 years, I find it very exciting to see the possibility of protecting the golf course and making good use of the available open space,” she said. “As you all know condominiums are a dire need for the 55-and-over community.”

John Hayes, president of the Fort Salonga Property Owners Association, said in an interview that he thought the hearing went well and hopes the Planning Board will listen to their concerns. 

“This development has been overwhelmingly opposed by residents,” Hayes said. “We continue to challenge them on the density issues … being too close to residents homes. There are still problematic environmental issues that were not really tackled by the developers [in the study].”

The town will be accepting public comments through Oct. 18 either online or letters can be mailed to Huntington Town Hall, Department of Planning & Environment (Room 212), 100 Main St., Huntington, NY 11743.

Following public comments, the next steps for the development would be a final environmental impact statement and a possible preliminary subdivision hearing that has yet to be scheduled. 

Josephine Gruposso recently competed in a New York State bagging championship. Here she stands at the Northport Stop & Shop. Photo by Kyle Barr

What goes into bagging items in the grocery store?

It’s not a thought held by the hundreds who check out their groceries in local supermarkets every hour of every day. For Josephine Gruposso of Port Jefferson Station, it is a matter of deftness, intelligence and speed.

Josephine Gruposso recently competed in a New York State bagging championship. Here she stands at the Northport Stop & Shop. Photo by Kyle Barr

“I think it’s fun — some people might think it’s silly,” Gruposso said. “But when you work in a supermarket, with silly little things like this, I feel like bagging makes my time go quicker. It’s an amazing way to interact with your customers, an amazing way to interact with your employees.”

Just this last weekend Gruposso, 36, traveled upstate to participate in the 2019 New York State Best Bagger Finals at the Stop & Shop in Poughkeepsie. She, along with her Poughkeepsie-based teammate Joanne Chapman, huddled over shopping bags Sept. 21 to see who could stack and fill the fastest and neatest. 

First, New York grocery stores held competitions in “heats” with multiple baggers competing against each other at a time. Each store sends two employees, and the Port Jeff Station resident was chosen for Stop & Shop.

Gruposso has been working with the supermarket chain since 2008 and has only recently started training as a customer service manager. She said she started to become interested in bagging skills when she worked the register many years ago in a store in Rhode Island. She first heard of the competition there, and though she only got to the second round in that state’s competition, she found the experience fun. 

“I made it a game — and when we got really busy, I said: Okay I’ll put my timer here and we’re going to see how fast we can bag this.” 

Gruposso said she has developed a bagging method that generally allows her to bag $20 worth of merchandise in under a minute, and a $100 order in one to two minutes. First, she separates the products, then places boxes around the sides of the bag to straighten and provide structure, then lays cans and bottles in the middle, which gives the packed bag balance and ensures the sides don’t tear. 

“I made it a game with my cashiers, so at the same time I was practicing,” she said. “I would see how fast each customer would take me.”

She competed among 16 other contestants from stores around New York, including Stop & Shop, D’Agostino Supermarket, Gristedes, Hanaford, Price Chopper, PSK Supermarket, ShopRite and Tops Market. Those who win have the chance to travel to San Diego for the National Best Bagger Champion at the National Grocers Association annual convention.

Yes, there is a national competition, and there is a cash prize of $10,000. 

The competition has gone on since 1983, when the American Paper Institute sponsored the first competition. Moving on since then, and with plastic bag laws across the state, the competition has switched to reusable bags.

The competition went well, she said, and while she didn’t win, she said she had fun watching others use different rapid bagging techniques.

“There is always next year,” added Gruposso.

Stock Photo

The Suffolk County Department of Health announced 11 more mosquito samples have tested positive for West Nile Virus, with two samples collected in Rocky Point, one sample from Northport, one from Melville and one from Greenlawn.

Other samples were collected in Holtsville, Mattituck and Greenlawn.

New York State’s health department informed Suffolk County health officials Sept. 13 the new samples bring the total reports of West Nile Virus amongst mosquitos to 68. Four birds have tested positive for West Nile so far, but no humans or horses have tested positive in Suffolk County.

Dr. James Tomarken, the county commissioner of health, reiterated the need for people to report dead birds or look for other symptoms of the virus.

“The confirmation of West Nile virus in mosquito samples or birds indicates the presence of West Nile virus in the area,” he said.

Last month, 10 other mosquito samples tested positive for the virus. Three samples had been found in Rocky Point, with others located in Commack and Huntington Station, among others.

West Nile virus may cause a range of symptoms, from mild to severe, including fever, headache, vomiting, muscle aches, joint pain and fatigue. There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus. Patients are treated with supportive therapy as needed.

The best way to handle local mosquito populations is for residents to eliminate standing or stagnant water pools in their local areas.

People are also encouraged to use long sleeves and socks and use mosquito repellent.

The virus came to New York nearly 20 years ago, and samples are usually found in summertime when the mosquito population is most active. Cases, in the intervening years, have become relatively rare.

Dead birds may indicate the presence of West Nile virus in the area. To report dead birds, call the Public Health Information Line in Suffolk County at 631-787-2200 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Residents are encouraged to take a photograph of any bird in question.

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the Department of Public Works’ Vector Control Division at 631-852-4270.

People at a rally in Old Bethpage held up signs signaling for a need for gun legislation. Photo by David Luces

Close to 200 people, including activists, survivors, faith leaders and elected officials filled a room at Haypath Park in Old Bethpage, Aug. 6, to call for common sense gun reform from Washington and to collectively voice ‘enough is enough’.

Moms Demand Action has been at the forefront of LI protests against gun violence. Photo by David Luces

The rally came in the wake of two mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio that took 31 lives over last weekend.

“We are upset, heartbroken — and most importantly we are angry,” Tracy Bacher, of Moms Demand Action, an organization founded by a Dix Hills mother after the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012.  “In less than 24 hours our nation experienced two major mass shootings, this a public health crisis that demands urgent action.”

NYS Senator Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) said it’s time for federal government to act on common-sense gun reform.

“We are calling for Washington to take action, we have passed a red-flag law in the state we believe it’s going to save lives,” the senator said in an interview. “But if they can pass one in Washington it will save a lot more lives. We need to get guns off the street that are in the wrong hands.”

While the federal government has been stagnant in achieving more robust gun reform in recent years, individual states have taken it upon themselves to enact their own measures.

New York, in February, became the latest state to adopt a red-flag law, which is intended to prevent individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing any kind of firearm. It also allows teachers as well as family members and others to petition the courts for protective orders.

Sergio Argueta of S.T.R.O.N.G., a youth advocacy group that focuses against gang and gun violence, said all he and others ask is for the bullets to stop. He began his speech imitating the sounds of gunshots in front of the packed crowd.

“’Pop, pop, pop,’ in day care centers; ‘pop, pop, pop,’ in synagogues; ‘pop, pop, pop’ in houses of worship,” said Argueta. “… It is not fair that we have kids that walk into school that look like prisons. It is not fair that people that go out to Walmart to prepare their kids to start the new school year die.”

Family members of gun violence victims shared their stories.

Tracy Bacher of Moms Demand Action spoke at the rally about a need for gun legislation at the federal level. Photo by David Luces

“It is about time that we do something different, we have been here for Sandy [Hook], we have been here for Parkland and nothing changes,” said Rita Kestenbaum, whose daughter Carol was killed by a gunman in 2007 when she was a sophomore at Arizona State University. “Background checks are lovely, red-flag laws are lovely, but if we don’t get semi-automatic weapons banned, then all of this is for nothing.”

Shenee Johnson said gun violence is preventable. Her son, Kedrick, was killed in a shooting at a high graduation party in 2010. She was in Washington D.C. at a conference called Gun Sense University when she heard of the shooting in El Paso.

“For so many years, I’ve tried to hide my pain and shield my pain from others, but I’m dying inside,” Johnson said. “We can no longer go on like this, how many times do we have to go through something like this.”

Other speakers called for people to fight to end gun violence and the hate that fuels it.

“To eradicate hate, we must fight it with love and action,” said David Kilmnick, of the LGBT Network. “…We say by coming here together that this is not a normal way of life. This is not the America we know.”

Genesis Yanes, a student at Nassau Community College and counselor at S.T.R.O.N.G Youth, was one of many members who brought handmade signs to the rally. The non-profit works with individuals ages 11-21. A hand full of elementary and middle school students were at the rally.

“This is something that affects them directly and their communities, we just want to show them that there are people here who are advocating for this change,” she said.

LI and tristate distance swimmers participate in one of world’s longest swim challenges

SHU Swim teammates Victoria Catizone, Nikole Rudis, Julia Pusateri and Shanna Haddow pose for a picture after finishing the grueling 15.5 mile trek. Photo from SWIM organization

Just over 30 years ago, in 1987, three swimmers and two boats launched from Port Jefferson. For more than 15 miles they dragged themselves across the dark blue-green waters of the Long Island Sound, finally making it to Bridgeport, all for the sake of those battling cancer. 

Swimmers take off from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport. Photo from SWIM organization Facebook

This year, just over 100 swimmers sank into the cold waters of the Sound early morning Aug. 3, and in three groups took off on the 15.5-mile trek across the Sound with around 64 support boats and 20 law enforcement vessels staying in pace beside them all the way across to Captain’s Cove Seaport in Bridgeport, Connecticut. 

The event is part of Bridgeport-based St. Vincent’s SWIM Across the Sound Marathon, helping to support thousands of people in the Fairfield County, Connecticut area battling cancer. While in 1987 the swimmers raised approximately $5,000 for cancer charity, this has jumped to an average of $250,000 to $300,000 annually in modern times. So far, the foundation is halfway to its final goal of $300,000, while the SWIM program raises around $2 million a year through all their various events.

The money goes to the assistance of people suffering from cancer in the Connecticut area for financial assistance for things beyond what insurance provides, such as mortgage and tax bills. They also help provide mammograms and ultrasounds for uninsured women.

“The goal of the swim is to help patients get through the diagnosis and the cancer, a lot of them aren’t working,” said Lyn Fine-McCarthy, the executive director of St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation. “There is about 30,000 individuals every year that we help, these are patients who are going through cancer treatments, out of work, and sometimes are single moms, and just need a lot of financial assistance.”

Fine-McCarthy added they are grateful to Danfords Hotel & Marina for being the staging ground and home base for the event for years going on.

SHU Swim teammates Victoria Catizone, Nikole Rudis, Julia Pusateri and Shanna Haddow pose for a picture. Photo from SWIM organization

Each relay team is asked to raise a minimum of $7,500, while two-person teams must raise $3,500 and solo swimmers a minimum of $1,500.

While a majority of the swimmers were from Connecticut, a good portion came from the tristate area and from as far away as Tennessee and Florida. Two native Long Island swimmers and exercise science majors at Connecticut’s Sacred Heart University, Victoria Catizone, of Sayville, and Shanna Haddow, of Northport, participated in a team where they have already raised just over $3,000 for the event with a goal of reaching $7,500.

Haddow said this was the first time she and her three teammates have participated in the marathon, with her finishing in a time of 7 hours, 17 minutes.

“We had never done it before,” she said. “We knew what to expect, but not really what to expect. We were taking it swim by swim, and we knew we had a long day ahead of us.”

Haddow, has been swimming since she was 6 years old. She now swims distance for her college team, and said they trained year-round with two practices a day during the school semester and swimming all summer every day up until the start of the race.

Catizone, team captain, has been swimming for nine years, adding it wasn’t just their first time with the marathon, but collectively their first time in open water with the threat of the current, rising waves and poor visibility.

“You definitely start to feel it in your shoulders,” she said. “Once we got to mile 5 it got to be a little mentally grueling, but you just think about the reason why you’re doing it, and the people who you’re doing it for, and it helps you push through.”

Haddow said stepping into open water was at times a shock, sometimes literally as they approached the middle of the Sound where the temperature grew cold, and they swam on without wet suits. 

swimmers meet their boat professionals in front of Danfords Hotel & Marina. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Once we swam into Captain’s Cove, spirits were high again, and once we came in sight of the harbor, we kicked it into gear and all four of us were sprinting to make it to the finish,” she said, adding she was the last one to swim the last leg to the finish line. “Because you swam all day through 15.5 miles, just getting there and hearing your name being called, participating with such a great foundation, it was just the best feeling.”

Both the team and individual swimmers struggled the distance for people in their lives who have or are currently battling cancer. Catizone swam in honor of her grandparents and a friend who is a two-time cancer survivor. Haddow swam in honor of her grandfather, who was diagnosed with bladder cancer last year. As a team, they swam in memory of a SHU alumni family member who passed last year from cancer.

“Once it got really tough, I told myself, ‘Keep swimming,’ because it was not for me, it was for somebody else,” Haddow said.

The Town of Huntington will host boating safety courses for residents. File photo by TBR News Media

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) is encouraging all residents who venture out on Huntington’s waterways to register for the advanced boating safety training course Emergencies on Board, presented by Neptune Sail and Power Squadron in coordination with the Town of Huntington, at Huntington Town Hall on Monday, Aug. 12.

“I am pleased to announce that the town is expanding the boating safety training provided under the Victoria Gaines Boating Safety Program to now include advanced boating safety courses presented by Neptune Sail and Power Squadron, which address planning for and troubleshooting boating emergencies — information that can save lives,” said Lupinacci. Victoria Gaines was a 7-year-old who was killed in a boating accident in 2012.

The Town of Huntington offers free basic boating safety certification training in the spring season leading into the summer boating months. Those who register attend a full 8-hour course, and when they pass the test receive a NYS Boating Safety Credential issued by NYS Parks.

The courses now offered by Neptune Sail and Power Squadron at Town Hall provide advanced boating safety training, which complements the basic training course offered by the town. However, completing the basic boating safety course is not required to attend the advanced training presented by Neptune Sail.

Philip Quarles, education commander for the squadron, stated: “The Neptune Sail and Power Squadron was founded in 1938 and has been serving Town of Huntington for 83 years teaching boating safety and advanced boating courses. We are honored to be partnering with the Town of Huntington offering classes to residents. Emergencies on Board will be offered on Aug. 12. You can learn more by visiting www.neptuneboatingclub.com.”

“I want to continue to thank all that devote their time to ensuring the water safety of the boating community. I appreciate the unending support to my advocacy. One never thinks this could happen to them and it absolutely can! My hope is that boaters of all ages and experience levels continue to educate themselves. I believe this coupled with the new laws on the horizon will ultimately save lives,” said Lisa Gaines, Victoria’s mother.

The first presentation of Emergencies on Board at Huntington Town Hall will be on Monday, Aug. 12 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. The course cost is $20.00, made payable on the evening of the event by check to: Neptune Sail and Power Squadron. Space is limited to the first 50 students. Attendees may register at neptune11743@gmail.com or by calling 631-824-7128.

The town held a presentation of Suddenly in Command, another advanced boating safety course presented by Neptune Sail and Power Squadron on Monday, June 24 at Town Hall.

Both Suddenly in Command and Emergencies on Board courses will be offered at Town Hall periodically throughout the year.

Learn more about the Town of Huntington Victoria Gaines Boating Safety Program or register for courses: http://huntingtonny.gov/boating-safety.

 

 

Ali Mohammed, a financial industry executive, has been appointed to Long Island Power Authority as a trustee. Photo from Ali Mohammed

Ali Mohammed, a financial industry executive, has been appointed to Long Island Power Authority as one of nine unpaid board members charged with overseeing the quasi-governmental agency.

The appointment comes at a pivotal time and in the wake of controversy. The agency has come under public attack after it filed tax lawsuits against Long Island communities in an effort to save money. And as the state transitions to a clean-energy economy, state leaders are looking toward Mohammed and the board for new direction.

“One of my first priorities as a LIPA trustee will be to end LIPA’s practice of reckless tax certiorari lawsuits against communities and school districts,” Mohammed said in a statement. “LIPA must immediately cease all litigation.”, n

Mohammed’s background includes 20 years of experience working in senior leadership roles for major financial organizations, such as JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs and TD Ameritrade.

He’s been involved in restructuring Fortune 500 companies to become more efficient, while lowering costs, according to press releases. The technology sector is also one of his areas of expertise. In June, Mohammed joined Broadridge, a global financial industry analytics company, which has 33 U.S. offices, including one in Lake Success.

“I will work to modernize a board so desperately in need of good governance reforms to ensure LIPA finally starts serving ratepayers best interests,” Mohammed said. “The time has come and gone for LIPA to behave as a responsible corporate neighbor, and I look forward to bring an unequivocally ethical and honest voice to the board.”

Mohammed’s position aligns with many local elected state officials, who have written and/or sponsored bills that aim to counter the potential financial blow to communities and school districts if LIPA’s tax strategies prevail through courts.

“One of my top priorities as a state senator has been to hold LIPA accountable and protect taxpayers,” said state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport). “For too long LIPA has been a runaway authority, accountable to no one but themselves.”

He thanks Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) for prioritizing Long Island taxpayers through Mohammed’s appointment and applauds her choice.

“I am proud to appoint Ali Mohammed to the Long Island Power Authority board,” Stewart-Cousins said. “Mr. Mohammed’s expertise in transforming organizations will help usher in a new ‘green era’ for LIPA, while at the same time fighting to support ratepayers.”

Mohammed becomes the first Muslim-American to serve on the all-male LIPA board.

LIPA was created in 1986 by the New York State Legislature. In 1998, it acquired the electric transmission and distribution system of the privately owned Long Island Lighting Company, known as LILCO, through a public bailout after the failed Shoreham nuclear project incurred $7 billion in debt.

The nonprofit entity employs 51 full-time staff members, according to LIPA spokesperson Sid Nathan, and manages a budget of $3.6 billion. LIPA holds contracts with National Grid and PSEG Long Island, two shareholder-owned businesses that generate electricity and operate electric services for Long Islanders.

Mohammed was due to attend his first LIPA board meeting July 24.

Students from Northport, Huntington and Southampton high schools, as well as from Tug Valley High School in West Virginia, are working together to curb the opioid crisis. Photo from Northport-East Northport Union Free School District

Students from Northport, Huntington and Southampton high schools, along with the hard-hit Tug Valley High School in Kermit, West Virginia, have been working together to address the opioid crisis through a unique exchange program. Northport students, who are a part of the Students for 60,000 Club, visited West Virginia earlier this year on a service trip and were deeply affected by the magnitude of the crisis. 

Club advisers Darryl St. George and Kim Braha coordinated a “student exchange” in which the students from West Virginia came to visit Long Island to discuss realistic steps to solving the crisis. 

During the week of July 7, the students met in a variety of forums to learn from each other and discuss ways to address and solve the crisis. Students met with U.S. Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove) and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) in Huntington to engage in discussion and also visited Southampton High School to hear from local Southampton representatives. Students asked questions, shared personal experiences and offered their thoughts on curtailing opioid use. 

Ideas included creating more mental health programs in schools and providing a greater sense of purpose for students. 

At the end of the week, students spent some time volunteering at the Northport VA. 

“The most inspiring part of this week long student exchange experience included seeing how empowered our Northport students were working with Southampton, Huntington and West Virginia students,” said Braha, “and the incredible opportunities to have conversations about how we can all work together to improve our communities.

Mankind walked on the moon, a few locals helped us get there

The Earth as seen by Apollo astronauts over the horizon of the moon. Photo from NASA

They named it Apollo. Though the moniker has become synonymous with human achievement, a scientific milestone, the merging of a collective national conscience, the Greek god Apollo was known for many things, but the moon was not one of them. If scientists had to choose, there was the Titan Selene, or perhaps Artemis or Hecate, all Greek gods with connection to the great, gray orb in the night’s sky.

Abe Silverstein, NASA’s director of Space Flight Programs, proposed the name, and he did so beyond the surface of using a well-known god of the pantheon. In myth, Apollo was the sky charioteer, dragging Helios, the Titan god of the sun, in an elliptical high over humanity’s head.

If anything was going to bring humanity to the moon, it would be Apollo. 

Despite this, it wasn’t a myth that allowed man to take his first steps on the moon, it was humankind. Billions of dollars were spent by companies across the nation, working hand in hand with NASA to find a way to make it into space. Here on Long Island, the Bethpage-based Grumman Corporation worked to create the lunar module, the insect-looking pod that would be the first legs to test its footing on the moon’s surface.

Thousands worked on the lunar module, from engineers to scientists to accountants to everyone in between. 

Half a century later some of these heroes of science, engineers and other staff, though some may have passed, are still around on the North Shore to continue their memories.

Pat Solan — Port Jefferson Station

By Kyle Barr

Pat Solan of Port Jefferson Station can still remember her late husband, Mike, back when the U.S. wanted nothing more than to put boots far in the sky, on the rotating disk of the moon.

Pat Solan holds a photo of her with husband Mike. Photo by Kyle Barr

Mike worked on the Apollo Lunar Module at Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation in Bethpage, where he was at the head of several projects including mock-ups of the pod and working on its landing gear. He can be seen in a movie presented by NASA as workers create a scale diorama of the surface of the moon, craters and all.

“The space program was important — people don’t realize it was a huge endeavor,” she said.

Pat met her husband in Maryland when she was only 21. Mike had worked with military aviation projects all over the country, but the couple originally thought they would end up moving to California. Instead, one of Mike’s friends invited him to come to Long Island to try an interview with Grumman. Needless to say, he got the job. The couple would live in Port Jefferson for two years before moving to Setauket. 

Pat said her husband always had his eye on the sky. Aviation was his dream job, and she remembered how he was “thrilled to pieces” to step into the cockpit of a Grumman F-14 Tomcat.

Mike would be constantly working, so much that during those years of development on the module she would hardly see him at home. 

A model of the lunar module owned by the Solan family. Photo from Rolin Tucker

“He was working double shifts and he was going in between Calverton and Bethpage,” she said. “I hardly saw him at all.”

But there were a few perks. Solan and her husband would see many astronauts as Grumman brought them in to test on the simulators. She met several of the early astronauts, but perhaps the most memorable of them was Russell “Rusty” Schweickart, all due to his quick wit and his outgoing personality compared to the stauncher, military-minded fellow astronauts. Schweickart would be pilot on the Apollo 9 mission, the third crewed space mission that would showcase the effectiveness of the lunar module, testing systems that would be critical toward the future moon landing.

She, along with Mike, would also go down to Cape Canaveral, Florida, and there she was allowed to walk in the silo. Standing underneath the massive girders, it was perhaps the most impressive thing she has ever seen in her life. 

“It was absolutely mind-boggling — it was very impressive,” she said. “I can still remember that. I was stricken.” 

On the day of the landing, July 20, 1969, Pat was hosting a party to watch the dramatic occasion at her home, then in Setauket. It could have barely been a more auspicious day, as she had just given birth to her daughter Rolin July 8.

Eventually, Mike would have multiple strokes through the late 1970s and ’80s, and the stress of it would cause him to retire in 1994. He died a few years later.

“He really felt he was not capable of doing presentations to the government anymore,” she said.

Mike Solan. Photo from Pat Solan

But being so close to the work tied to getting man into space has left an impression on her. Herself being an artist, having sold paintings, both landscapes and impressionistic, along with photography and felt sculptures, the effort of the people who put a human on the moon showed her the extent of human and American achievement. 

“It was a time of such cooperation — I think it’s sad we don’t see that now,” she said.

Despite current events, she said she still believes the U.S. can achieve great things, though it will take a concerted effort.

“People have to move outside their own persona,” she added. “People are too wrapped up, everything is centered on oneself instead of a bigger picture, the whole.” 

Joseph Marino — Northport

By Donna Deedy

Fifty years ago, on July 20, 1969, man walked on the surface of the moon.  

Joseph Marino in front of the LM replica at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. Photo from Marino

Northport resident Joseph Marino spent 10 years on the Apollo mission as a Grumman systems engineer, involved from the very beginning of the project in 1962 to the last landing on the moon. He still finds the achievement remarkable.

“It was the most exciting program — the peak of my career — no question,” he said. “I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results of such a successful project.” 

Marino oversaw the design of the systems for the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), as it was originally known, and managed 300 engineers and also psychologists who were needed to work out the man/machine interface that dictated equipment design, such as visual display systems the crew relied upon during precarious moments of landing and docking.

An error in timing, particularly during landing, he said, could be disastrous. 

“Astronauts are the coolest characters capable of handling any situation imaginable,” Marino said. “It’s crucial for the crew to know when you make contact with the surface, so they know when to shut off the engine.”  

The team ultimately created an alert system with red flashing lights wired to 3- to 4-foot-long probes positioned on the module’s landing gear.

The most dramatic, awe-inspiring moment of all during the Apollo missions, Marino said, was when the astronauts witnessed the Earth rising above the horizon of the moon’s cratered landscape. The event was memorialized in what has become an iconic photo that most people today have seen. Marino cherishes that shot. 

NASA’s moon mission has been an endless source of inspiration for mankind. In fact, people can thank the space program for popularizing inventions big and little. Computers, very primitive versions of what are popular today, were first used by NASA. Velcro, Marino said, was also invented during the Apollo program and later became broadly popular.

Joseph Marino in front of the LM replica at the Cradle of Aviation Museum. Photo from Marino

Looking back, now that 50 years have passed, Marino said it’s disturbing to him that there’s been such a wide gap in time since the last moon landing and today. 

He recently spoke to his granddaughter’s high school class and told them, “Not only did man walk on the surface of the moon before you were born, likely it occurred before your parents were born.” 

The bond Marino has developed with his aerospace colleagues has lasted a lifetime.  Each month, he still meets with a dozen co-workers for lunch at the Old Dock Inn in Kings Park. 

For the 50th anniversary, Marino says that he’s been enjoying the special programming on PBS. He recommends its three-part series called “Chasing the Moon.” 

Frank Rizzo — Melville

By Rita J. Egan

For Frank Rizzo, his experience of working on the Apollo program while a Grumman employee was more about dollars and cents.

Grumman workers at Plant 5 Clean Room watching Apollo 11 landing

Rizzo, 85, was with the aerospace engineering company for 33 years. While he retired as a vice president, in the years leading up to the moon landing, he was an accounting manager with the Grumman lunar module program. The Melville resident said it was an exciting time at Grumman.

Work, he said, began on the project a few years before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the first steps on the moon. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration established a work package budgeting system with Grumman, and Rizzo, who lived in Dix Hills at the time, said he was responsible for giving the team in the Houston space center the monthly estimate to complete the actual expenditures from an external point of view and also determine profit and loss from an internal point of view.

Rizzo and his co-workers traveled to Houston frequently to review the program with NASA to give the current status from the financial, engineering and manufacturing viewpoints, though sometimes the meetings took place on Long Island. The former accounting manager said many times stand-up meetings were held due to the theory that people become too comfortable when they sit, and stand-up meetings enable for more to get done in less time.

Rizzo said he remembers the original contract, signed in the latter part of 1962, to be valued around $415 million at first. He likened the project to building a house, where it evolves over the years. Revisions come along, and just like one might choose to move a door or window, the budget would need to change regularly.

“When they discovered something from an engineering viewpoint, they had to change the manufacturing scope and materials,” he said.

Rizzo said an example of a significant change was when Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee were killed in a cabin fire during a launch rehearsal test in 1967. The trio would have been the first crew to take part in the first low Earth orbital test. Due to the horrific incident, a change was made to ensure all material within the lunar module was fireproof.

“That was a major change,” he said. “That entitled us to additional funds to put new materials in it. So those things happened quite frequently — a change to the contract.”

When all was said and done, Rizzo said the contract value between NASA and Grumman totaled more than $2 billion.

Grumman workers at Plant 5 Clean Room watching Apollo 11 landing. Photo from Cradle of Aviation Museum

During the project, Rizzo said many members of the press would come to visit the Grumman office, including Walter Cronkite who anchored “CBS Evening News” at the time.

“Here was a little place on Long Island being responsible for the actual vehicle that landed on the moon,” he said.

Since the moon landing, Rizzo said seeing similar NASA activities like the Space Shuttle program haven’t been as exciting as the Apollo program.

“A lot of people said it was a waste of money, but that money was spent here for jobs, and many of the things that we got out of the research and development, like cellphones or GPS, and so forth, the basic research and development came out of that NASA program back in the ’60s and ’70s,” he said.