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Northport-East Northport school parent Mary Gilmore urged school officials to conduct a longitudinal study of air quality in the schools. Photo by Kevin Redding

The Northport-East Northport board of education called on a specialist last week in an attempt to clear the air with concerned parents over potential health risks from gas fumes detected at Northport Middle School last spring.

At the Sept. 28 meeting, Dr. Lauren Zajac of Mount Sinai Hospital, a pediatrician specially trained in environmental health, fielded questions by the board and residents and encouraged the district to implement an indoor air quality program in all its schools.

“As a pediatrician and a mom myself, I would want to make sure our schools have good air because nobody is doing that right now — let’s become a leader in the state when it comes to indoor air quality,” Zajac said over a Skype call in the cafeteria at William J. Brosnan School.

“I hope we don’t hear 10, 20 or 30 years down the road students are developing illnesses. No level of unnecessary exposure to these chemicals is at all acceptable … ignorance to this is no excuse.”

— Denise Schwartz

She assured the agitated residents in the room that moving forward is the best plan of action.

“We can’t change what happened in the past and I’m sorry it happened, and I know it’s stressful,” Zajac said. “I recommend channeling this passion and energy into making sure a really good program is put in place.”

The board assured Zajac and residents it has begun the process of implementing a Tools for Schools program, which shows school districts how to carry out a practical plan to resolve indoor air problems such as volatile organic compounds and mold “at little to no cost using straightforward activities and in-house staff,” according to the U.S.  Environmental Protection Agency website.

“Today we had a kickoff meeting for that program,” Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer said. “Tools for Schools is comprehensive and deals with anything having to do with air quality.”

Zajac’s appearance before the board followed consistent urging from the community for a longitudinal study of the school district to get to the bottom of four chemicals commonly found in perfumes and latex paints found in high concentrations in classrooms 74 and 75 in the K-wing corridor April 24. After an earth science teacher smelled fumes in the classroom, an investigation found the source to be a petroleum-based warehouse beneath the K-wing.

That discovery six months ago led to the closure of those rooms for the remainder of the school year. It remains off limits today.

The materials were removed and a series of air quality tests have since been conducted, one by a company called EnviroScience Inc. three days after the odor was first found. A second air quality test was performed by J.C. Broderick & Associates Inc. July 22.

Although the tests came up with “nothing that sounded the alarms from a health perspective,” according to Zajac whose team analyzed the data reports, parents have long feared for their children’s health in connection to the fumes.

Zajac pushed for the school and community to forego the longitudinal study as it may not provide the answers everyone is looking for. There are many unknown factors surrounding the possible exposures, and chemical levels in general are apt to change with each day, according to the specialist, resulting in an unreliable study.

“I think I’m going to explode if I hear ‘move forward’ one more time. You have to look back, you have to protect the children and staff that were there.”

— East Northport resident

“It would be very hard to draw conclusions as to whether a student’s visit to the nurse has anything to do with exposure concerns or unrelated illnesses,” she said, steering the conversation back to the future. “It could be done, but it would have so many limitations and I wouldn’t want it to take away effort from the most important thing — reducing the exposures from here on out.”

But some residents in the room weren’t as willing to let go of past problems within the school.

East Northport parent Denise Schwartz, whose three children have gone through the middle school, said she recently uncovered old newspaper articles documenting the school’s history of being a “sick building.” Mold, fungus and gas leading to headaches and fevers is not a recent problem here, Schwartz told Zajac.

“Every time it has come up, there has been some clean up that appeased people and then we move forward,” Schwartz said, implying negligence and incompetence by those in the school district. “I hope we don’t hear 10, 20 or 30 years down the road students are developing illnesses. No level of unnecessary exposure to these chemicals is at all acceptable … ignorance to this is no excuse.”

Mary Gilmore, a mother of two students whose classrooms were in the K-wing, urged for a longitudinal study to be done despite the unknown variables.

“Isn’t that the only way to know if there will be long-term health effects on the kids and staff that were in that building?” Gilmore said.

“My concern is that a study would be intensive and may not lead to any answers,” Zajac responded. “I’d be afraid so much would be put into this study and it wouldn’t be fruitful.”

Another East Northport resident, who asked to remain anonymous, agreed with the others that more focus should be on the past.

“I think I’m going to explode if I hear ‘move forward’ one more time,” she said, pleading for a study. “You have to look back, you have to protect the children and staff that were there.”

This version correctly identifies that Denise Schwartz’s children have already graduated from the middle school.

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Michael Kuzca sends the ball into play between two opponents. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Northport came into Connetquot Sep. 9 and shut out the Thunderbirds on their home turf 8-0, the two team’s Oct. 3 matchup on the Tigers’ home field was no different, as Northport continued its play of dominance and blanked Connetquot 4-0 to remain undefeated in League II.

“We just always like to possess the ball,” Northport head coach Don Strasser said. “We want to be patient, and I think the boys did a really good job of executing the plan today.”

Jack Wetzel moves the ball across the field. Photo by Jim Ferchland

It was a one-sided affair for Northport (10-1, 8-0). Jack Wetzel, who scored 14 points coming into the matchup, added three points to his his total with two goals and an assist, moving him into the Top 10 list of Suffolk County scorers.

Wetzel assisted on Konstantine Mendrinos’ first goal of the game in the 25th minute.

“I saw Jack get the ball down the sideline and I knew he was going to drive it into space with his pace, and I ran into the middle and I saw the gap open,” Mendrinos said. “I was there to put it home.”

Northport piled it in the next few minutes, as Wetzel scored both his goals between the 32- and 25-minute marks to give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.

“Chris [Fertig] won a very good 50-50 ball for me and I could have dribbled up and got a better opportunity,” Wetzel said on his first goal, adding that his teammates gave him plenty of opportunities throughout the game. “I was able to make good contact on the ball.”

Connetquot struggled to possess the ball all game, and had one shot on goal in the first half compared to Northport’s 19.

Matt Brennan moves the ball with an opponent on his back. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“We played them better than we did the first time,” Connetquot head coach Nick Sturtz said. “We came in with three or four starters short, so it was kind of scrappy play all day.”

Northport scored its fourth goal late in the game off the foot of James Diaz to make the score 4-0.

Wetzel said he hopes the Tigers can keep their streak going.

“We’re very excited and very happy about the position we’re in right now, but we are still taking it one game at a time,” Wetzel said. “We are not trying to think about going undefeated right now. We are thinking about beating Lindenhurst. They are very good and we are away, so we are just trying to care of business.”

Northport faces Lindenhurst (7-4, 4-4) Oct. 5. At 4:30 p.m. Northport won the first battle between the teams back on Sep. 12 with a 2-0 win.

Strasser said he likes the way his team is playing this season, but also knows the upcoming games will be a challenge for Northport.

“We don’t want our forecast too far ahead,” Strasser said. “We still got to to try to win the league title, and now our focus is on Lindenhurst. It won’t be easy, so we just have to continue to work hard.”

Stacey Wohl, at center, recently reopened the Cause Cafe, a restaurant that employs people with disabilities. Photo from Facebook

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A Northport restaurateur is hoping the third time’s a charm as she attempts to blend together the best of two worlds in a newly opened Cause Cafe.

Stacey Wohl, former owner of Our Table, reopened her dining room on Fort Salonga Road Sept. 29 to bring back Cause Cafe. She hopes to pair her passion for fine food and wine with a supportive hands-on daytime-work environment for young adults with cognitive and developmental disabilities.

“I’m melding together both restaurants,” she said. “It will be an upscale eclectic Caribbean- and Mexican-inspired restaurant with food I like, but also supporting the cause.”

A patron at the new Cause Cafe bar. Photo from Facebook

Wohl first opened Cause Cafe in Spring 2016 as a small coffee shop offering breakfast foods, sandwiches and more. Inspired by her two children, Brittany and Logan who both have autism, she offered employment and hands-on job training to young adults with disabilities. Unfortunately, its doors closed in February 2017.

The small cafe was quickly transformed into Our Table, which focused on the trend of farm-to-table dining featuring local ingredients. But the upscale restaurant wasn’t a good match for the area, according to Wohl, who said she gained much from the experience.

“I learned that sometimes people just want comfort food,” she said. “I also wanted food that’s reasonably priced that I could take out for my kids, that’s also healthy.”

The restaurateur has decided to blend her former eateries together in the latest incarnation of Cause Cafe. The food will be prepared by a new chef, Seth Sloan, formerly of Hotel Indigo’s Bistro 72 in Riverhead.

Diners will find familiar dishes from Our Table’s brunch menu, according to Wohl, but the French toast gets a Caribbean-inspired makeover by adding some mango. During the day, there will be salads, wraps, paninis and baked goods,  served up by individuals with disabilities or available for takeout.

A menu item at Cause Cafe. Photo from Facebook

In the evenings, the former staff of Our Table will take over presenting upscale dishes such as marinated grass-fed skirt steak in a chimichurri sauce and pan-seared wild Salmon with a mango sauce. The drink menu features an extensive wine and beer selection now that the establishment has secured its liquor license.

“I’m a wine aficionado and love visiting the vineyards, but they require travel,” Wohl said. “Long Island has some amazing wines, but not many people know it.”

Her wine list includes Bedell Cellars as well as boutique bottles made by Anthony Nappa, who also works for Raphael in Peconic. Local beers available on tap include brews from Great South Bay Brewery, Greenpoint Beer and Ale, and Sand City Brewing.

“My goal is to open up multiple stores and get Cause Bakeries going again,” Wohl said.

She said she hopes to develop a chain of eateries that can combine job training for individuals with disabilities and a fine-dining experience.

In addition, Wohl said she wants to cultivate a business relationship with local wineries to expand the sale of baked goods made by young adults with disabilities in her shop, with proceeds going to nonprofits and organizations that help these individuals.

Elwood Middle School will get a new roof with the passage of Proposition 1 by voters. File photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Elwood school district board of education will weigh putting two proposals before voters this November for a total of $38 million in districtwide repairs and upgrades.

Superintendent Kenneth Bossert presented refined bond propositions Sept. 18 at Elwood Middle School Auditorium in which school officials have continued to gradually shave down and refine their list of desired projects into two propositions.

“We need to make sure to put up a budget that is below the state tax cap and maintains all programs and staffing we offer to our students,” Bossert said. “We see the scope of this, there are projects that are desperate needs that cannot be included in the budget without decimating our instructional program.”

The first proposition is for $34.5 million in capital projects and renovations that takes aim at health and safety issues in the schools. These funds would be used for major projects including the replacement of the roofs in each of the four buildings — Harley Avenue, Boyd Intermediate School, Elwood Middle School, and John H. Glenn High School — due to existing leaks and flooding issues; fixing sidewalk and pavement cracks; renovating cafeterias and auditoriums including air conditioning in some spaces. 

“It is cost prohibitive to add AC to all spaces,” Bossert said. “We would like to have large group gathering spaces that would be air conditioned. There are some very hot days where school is in session and there is not always a place we can bring our students to be cool.”

Several other projects take aim at legal issues required under state law including upgrading facilities to be compliant with the Americans with Disability Act, the latest state codes on fire alarms, drainage improvements and asbestos abatement for future construction.

The proposed Proposition 2, as presented by Bossert, requests $3.72 million for enhancements to the district’s athletic programs.

“The reason it is separate is there was division among opinions in the community,” Bossert said. “Some members of the community were strongly in support of this proposed $3.72 million as something they can afford to invest in, other factions said, ‘We don’t feel that way.’ The board wisely chose to make it a separate proposition.”

Proposition 2 would include a concession stand for the athletic fields with an outdoor bathroom, a synthetic turf field and sidewalks to make the fields ADA compliant, a new press box and scoreboard for the varsity baseball field.

The superintendent said if the board of education votes to move forward Sept. 28, the residents will cast their ballots on Nov. 28. The average estimated cost to taxpayers for Proposition 1 is $221 per year, or $18.32, for a home with an assessed value of $3,800; and if both propositions pass the average cost would be $333 per year for a home with an assessed value of $3,800.

Bossert stressed to residents that Proposition 2 for athletic enhancements can only be passed if Proposition 1 for districtwide repairs is approved by voters.

A video of the superintendent’s Sept. 17 presentation is available on YouTube and the district’s website. Bossert said the district will also be adding a calculator to its website to allow property owners to insert their home’s tax value to determine what their individual tax increase will be if Proposition 1 is approved, and if both propositions are approved.

“Elwood is not a village, not a town, but it is a school district,” Bossert said. “I believe our community takes good pride in our schools and I want that to be reflected.”

Smithtown east's Matthew Wertheim goes up for the kill shot. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East’s Daniel Murphy serves the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Led by the power hitting of Matthew Wertheim and Daniel Murphy, Smithtown East got the best of the Northport’s boys volleyball team, taking the away victory in four sets 25-17, 25-21, 22-25 and 25-21 in Division I action Sept. 19.

“We kind of let up a little bit — we didn’t play as well as we did in the first two sets, but we found a way to get back,” Murphy said. “Northport was a challenge, they came out hard. At first we had them, but then we slumped a little bit.”

Both teams came to the court with identical 3-1 records. The Tigers, coming off a five-set comeback win over Ward Melville the night before. Northport struggled to contain Murphy (14 kills) up front as the outside hitter nailed back-to-back kills to put the Bulls out front 15-11 in the first set. Wertheim (18 kills) made his presence known, and added a pair of his own kills to put the Bulls one point away from winning the match. The Tigers were able to score three unanswered points before the Bulls shut the door.

Smithtown East’s Kyle Shaffer sets up a play. Photo by Bill Landon

Smithtown East  had momentum on its side coming into the game, having won three in a row. The Bulls only loss of the season was the season opener against Walt Whitman Sept. 5. Looking to build on their momentum, the Bulls jumped ahead 9-5, only to have the Tigers claw their way back to tie the set 10-10. Smithtown East libero Bryan Kaplan slammed home four straight aces to get ahead once more. Both teams traded points, and Smithtown East edged ahead 23-20 before putting away set two.

Northport came out fast in the third set, and mental errors cost Smithtown East the lead, falling behind 14-9. Murphy, equally dangerous from the service line, scored three aces to close within one point.

“I don’t think they were playing to the best of their ability in the first two sets, but then we fell flat, we were overconfident in that third set [and it got away from us],” Smithtown East setter Kyle Shaffer said. “They were better than I’d thought they’d be — their middles are very good and they have great blocking.”

Northport setter Ben Sandt turned the tide with a pair of monster kill shots and the Tigers finished the job to take the third.

Northport’s Ben Sandt spikes the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

“We stepped it up and they were a little flat,” Sandt said. “We passed better, we had a lot more energy and our setter Ryan Parker pushed the ball up front so we could get some kills. We kept our serves in and we rallied off that.”

The Tigers looked to duplicate what they did the night before — winning three in a row — and found themselves in a 12-12 stalemate in the fourth set. Northport mistakes put the Bulls out front 19-17, and then 23-20 before Northport called timeout.

“Yesterday they  went down two but came back, and we were worried that they were going to do the same thing to us,” Smithtown East head coach Ray Preston said. “But we were able to battle through.”

The Tigers, desperate to force a final set, scored next, but it was too little too late.

Northport head coach Amanda DiPietro said she saw weakness in her lineup that will be addressed going forward.

“I knew they were going to be tough — we saw them in some tournaments previously and they’re a tough team, they have a lot of talent,” she said. “Our service was pretty strong today, but we need to get better at blocking.”

More than 4,000 runners raced through Northport streets Sept. 16 in the 40th annual Great Cow Harbor 10K. Competitors traveled from as far away as California and Washington state, to Lantau Island in Hong Kong to take on the rolling hills, and ranged in age from nine to 86.

The early morning fog with clouds threatened rain, but held off, making for a hot and humid day.

The weather didn’t appear to slow and runners down, and it was a downhill footrace for first place in the men’s division nearly ending in a photo finish. Donald Cabral, 27, of Hartford, won the men’s division finishing the 6.2-mile course in 29 minutes, 24 seconds. Following close on his heels were second-place finisher Craig Lutz, 24, of Flagstaff, Arizona in 29:28 and third-place finisher Timothy Ritchie, 30, of New Haven with a time of 29:32.

Natosha Rogers, 26, of Littleton, Colorado, took first place in the women’s division with a time of 33:23 for the same 6.2-mile course. Second place went to Kaitlin Goodman, 30, of Providence, who finished in 34:27, and third place was awarded to Oregon resident Renee Metevier, 35, with a time of 34:41.

Each and every finisher was cheered to the finish line by hundreds of local residents, friends and family who lined the sidewalks ringing cow bells, a part of the race’s tradition. Others held signs encouraging participants to “keep moo-ving” and stay “moo-tivated.”

The last to finish the course were a group of five firefighters who ran in dressed in full gear, including oxygen tanks, waving the American flag and others honoring firefighters and police.

Asharoken Village beach. File photo by Victoria Espinoza

Suffolk County Police Marine Bureau officers rescued five men after their boat struck a rock and began taking on water in the Long Island Sound Sept. 9.

Francisco Aguilar and four friends were on a fishing trip in a 20-foot Pro Line runabout when the boat struck a submerged rock, damaging the engine’s lower unit and breaching the hull, causing the vessel to take on water.

Alerted by a 911 call, Marine Bureau officers responded aboard Marine Bravo. Marine Delta, the U.S. Coast Guard, Huntington Harbormaster, Asharoken Police Department and a SCPD helicopter also were dispatched. Asharoken police spotted the disabled vessel from shore and guided Marine Bravo to the location.

Arriving about seven minutes after being dispatched, Marine Bureau officers Charles Marchiselli and Erik Johnson took Aguilar, 34, and the four other men, Walter Sanchez, 19; and brothers Banos Villalobos, 25; Jose Villalobos, 29; and Elmer Villalobos, 22, aboard the police boat. The Marine Bureau crew began efforts to keep the men’s boat from sinking, securing the vessel to the police boat and setting up a dewatering pump. Once the vessel was stabilized and in tow, the five men, all from Brentwood, were transported to Soundview Ramp in Northport.

Conditions at the time of the rescue were northwest winds of 15 knots and 3 to 4 foot seas. There were no injuries and all of the men refused medical attention. Aguilar was issued two summonses for violations of the New York State Navigation Laws.

The Suffolk Police Marine Bureau reminds boaters to check the marine weather forecast before boating, make sure that properly-sized life jackets are available for all passengers, and to check that all legally-required safety equipment is carried aboard, serviceable and accessible.

Determined and gutsy in goal, Northport’s Emma Havrilla has her sights set on another successful season.

After prohibiting opponents from scoring in 13 matchups last year, the senior goalkeeper secured another shutout — a 1-0 victory in the Tigers girls soccer team’s first game of the season against Ward Melville Sept. 2.

“It felt really good,” Havrilla said of the away win. “Since we were reigning county champs last year this shows we’re ready to come out hard for it again this year.”

Even when the Patriots carried out multiple corner-kick attempts and pressured inside the box to try to avenge an overtime loss in last season’s Suffolk semifinals, Northport head coach Aija Gipp never questioned Havrilla’s abilities or her judgment calls.

“Having Emma back there — we trust her with every decision she makes,” she said.

And there were some close calls to be made. The senior leaped out and grabbed possession after each corner kick the Patriots took, and when Ward Melville sophomore midfielder Kiley Hamou had a breakaway opportunity with 30 minutes left in the game, Havrilla came out and tapped the ball to her right, and dodged to the left to secure possession of the ball on the rebound shot.

“I saw her take a bad touch, that’s when I come off my line,” Havrilla said. “Considering we tied them 0-0 and won in penalty kicks last year, it’s great to win against them this year.”

She too doesn’t have any doubt, as it pertains to her defensive line, despite the crop of younger competitors this year.

“We’ve put in a lot of work and I trust the girls in front of me,” she said. “We’re still just as strong.”

Senior midfielder Emily McNelis sealed the deal for Northport with 8:20 left in the first half, with the help of a penalty. Ward Melville was called for a handball, and Isabel Yeomans stepped up to send the ball into play. McNelis got a touch on the ball and sent it past Ward Melville senior goalkeeper Samantha Tarpey for the 1-0 lead.

“She was where she needed to be,” Gipp said. “Having Emily there, the goal, it was picture perfect.”

McNelis agreed with Havrilla that with Ward Melville being one of the toughest teams the Tigers will face, the win shows Northport is ready to rumble.

“Everyone played with so much heart and such a desire to win — we had great intensity and we kept it going,” McNelis said. “Ward Melville came out for blood today, and this shows that even though we lost a lot of key players last year, we’ve come out even better, and we’re still the top team to beat.”

A scholarship has been launched to honor the memory of Northport resident Scott Martella who died in 2016. File photo

By Sara-Megan Walsh

A Smithtown family is hoping to honor the life of their son by providing others with an educational opportunity to follow in his footsteps.

Stacy and Stephen Martella announced the creation of the Scott Martella Memorial Scholarship Fund in partnership with The United Way of Long Island in memory of their son, who was killed a year ago.

Scott Martella was a Smithtown student who worked with local politicians. File photo

Scott Martella, a Smithtown native and Northport resident, died in a three-car crash on the Long Island Expressway Aug. 21, 2016.

“Scott believed in the awesome power of public service,” his parents said in a statement. “We hope to keep his legacy alive by giving future leaders the same chance Scott had in pursuing a college education.”

The memorial fund aims to provide scholarships to low-income students who will be attending college and whose studies may include international or public relations.

In conjunction with the scholarship fund, Smithtown Central School District announced it will be creating a series of service learning projects for students that will run from October 2017 to May 2018. This will be done in partnership with the United Veterans Beacon House, a nonprofit partner agency of United Way, to work together on a host of activities such as painting, planting a garden, landscaping and more.

Scott Martella, who was 29 when he died, is widely remembered for his career in public service and his involvement in New York State government and politics. Martella got started when, at age 22, he became the youngest board of education member elected in Smithtown school district’s history in 2009.

From 2011 to 2015, Martella  served as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) Suffolk County representative before being promoted to Long Island regional representative. In June 2015, he started working as the director of communications for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D).

“Scott believed in the awesome power of public service. We hope to keep his legacy alive by giving future leaders the same chance Scott had in pursuing a college education.”

— Stacy and Stephen Martella

“Scott was clearly one of the most engaging people that I’ve come across in government,” Bellone said in an interview. “Beyond the fact that he was smart, talented and hardworking, he had that something extra special that he was able to make that connection with people.”

In addition to the scholarship fund, Martella’s parents and Bellone hosted a Back-to-School Drive this month to provide supplies for underprivileged students. They said their goal was to prepare 5,000 backpacks for homeless or at-risk children.

“One of the last major events [Scott] did before he died was put together this Back-to-School Drive with Long Island Coalition for the Homeless,” Bellone said. “It’s obviously sad to think that he’s gone, but this was also a way to carry on his legacy of public service, a very appropriate way to carry on his legacy of public service.”

Charitable contributions to The Scott Martella Memorial Scholarship Fund can be made online at www.scottmartella.com or www.unitedwayli.org/ScottMartellaMemorialScholarshipFund.

All donations made by check should be written out to include The Scott Martella Memorial Scholarship Fund on the envelope as well as the memo section. Checks should be made payable to United Way of Long Island, 819 Grand Blvd., Deer Park, NY 11729.

 

Huntington and Northport residents could cruise into a different era at the Hecksher Park ballfields in their choice of classic cars Aug. 27.

The Northport Centerport Lions Club hosted the 54th annual Robert J. Bohaty Memorial Lions Classic auto show featuring dozens of classic cruisers dating back to the 1930s. This year’s show was dedicated to the Lions’ past district governor Howard Wilson and past president Clinton Strait.

Attendees had the opportunity to look, but not touch, Ford Roadsters, Chevy Coupes, a Chevelle SS Convertible, Ford Thunderbirds and even a Crown Victoria that previously served as a police squad car.

Proceeds from the show provide monetary support to the Cleary School for the Deaf in Nesconset, Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind in Smithtown, and the Lions Eye Bank for Long Island, a part of Northwell Health.

Donated funds are also used to support local Cub and Boy Scouts, food pantries, little leagues and aid victims of natural disasters.

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