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Old Field Farm

Elected officials were on hand for a ribbon-cutting at Old Field Farm. The event marked the official opening of a nearly half-mile trail that can be used for walking, running, hiking and biking. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Elected officials have made it easier for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy a county property in East Setauket.

At a press conference Aug. 12, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D), county Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), NYS Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket), employees from the county’s parks department and residents were on hand for a ribbon-cutting at Old  Field Farm. The event marked the official opening of a nearly half-mile trail that can be used for walking, running, hiking and biking.

Bellone credited Hahn’s persistence for making the trail happen. The legislator secured $100,000 from the county’s 2018 Capital Budget and Program to fund the path. The trail starts at a pedestrian entrance on West Meadow Road on the eastern side of the farm, runs around the perimeter of the farm and ends on Trustees Road right before visitors enter the Town of Brookhaven’s West Meadow Beach pathway.

“What a wonderful gem this park is for our community and for the county, and what an incredible addition this is for people,” Bellone said. “You think, well is a path that significant, and the answer is yes. It literally changes the whole environment for people.”

Hahn said she knows that trails such as the Old Field Farm are important to the community, because it allows people to be physically active, while enjoying the outdoors without sharing the road with vehicles. 

The nearly half-mile trail can be used for walking, running, hiking and biking. Photo by Rita J. Egan

“I’m a runner, and I run often on West Meadow Road here,” she said. “There are some blind curves. And, this will also function to get people — walkers, runners, bikers — off the dangerous road and on to our public space. Having people have access to these public places is so important for us as elected officials to make sure that these spaces that we invest in — that we spend money to maintain — that people use them and appreciate them, and this is a way that many more people can take advantage.”

Hahn thanked community leaders for their support, including county parks department employees, Herb Mones of the Three Village Civic Association’s land use committee, Larry Swanson from Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and Englebright, who secured the land for Suffolk in 1985 when he was a county legislator. She also thanked Sally Lynch, president of Old Field Farm, Ltd., who she called an advocate and steward of the property. Hahn said the nonprofit organization has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through the years. The funds, in conjunction with county grants, have helped to restore and maintain the historic structures on the property. The farm is also home to horse shows, and the trail will be closed during those shows to avoid spooking the horses.

Old Field Farm consists of 13 acres that adjoin the 88 acres of protected wetlands and overlooks the Long Island Sound and West Meadow Creek. Long Island philanthropist Ward Melville built Old Field Farm in 1931, and it was initially called North Shore Horse Show Grounds. Melville commissioned architect Richard Haviland Smythe to create the equestrian facility, which includes a main barn and courtyard, freestanding stables and a wooden grandstand.

“This property is exquisite, spectacular as you can see,” Hahn said.

Englebright said the property could have been sold to a developer to build a waterfront housing development in 1985. The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, who owned it at the time, decided to sell it to the county. The land acquisition was an important one, he said, because it is located right next to West Meadow Beach. The assemblyman described the area as a mosaic of public lands forming a protective encirclement around West Meadow Creek. He called the addition of the trail extraordinary.

“With the access now of this trail, when you add this trail to Trustees Road, you have more than a mile of waterfront-exclusive, non-motorized access,” he said.

In the past, Hahn has spearheaded initiatives for a parking lot and walking path at Forsythe Meadow Woods County Park in Stony Brook and a parking lot at McAllister County Park in Belle Terre.

 

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The Suffolk Classic Horse Show was held July 7 at Old Field Farm county parklands located at 92 W. Meadow Road in East Setauket. The historic Long Island show grounds were built by philanthropist Ward Melville in 1931.

Both adult and children equestrians competed in numerous categories, and results can be found at www.horseshowing.com.

The Town of Brookhaven began a capital improvements project at West Meadow Beach March 18. Photos by Rita J. Egan

While some residents are dieting and exercising in anticipation of the summer, a town beach is getting a makeover of its own.

Suffolk County plans to have a walking trail, dotted line in Old Field Farm that will wrap around West Meadow Creek and end at the beach. Photo from Kara Hahn’s office

The Town of Brookhaven will temporarily close the parking lot of West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook until Memorial Day weekend, May 25-27, according to a press release from the Town of Brookhaven Parks, Recreation and Sports and Cultural Resources Department. On March 18, the town began work on new curbs, sidewalks, plantings and pavilion renovations as part of the town’s parks capital improvement program. During the parking lot closure, residents will be permitted to park along Trustees Road.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said the work will address necessary repairs to maintain the park that she called “cherished” by the community.

“West Meadow Beach is not only a beautiful, relaxing recreation location, but also an environmental marvel,” Cartright said. “Each year, I work with the Parks Department to continue my commitment to making improvements at West Meadow Beach.”

In 2017, the town refurbished the bathrooms’ interiors and exteriors and added new outdoor shower pedestals and a lifeguard tower, according to Ed Morris, town parks commissioner.

In the near future, Suffolk County will begin work at Old Field Farm to create a walking path that will lead to the beach, according to Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket). She said the goal is to finish the trail by Memorial Day.

Hahn said there will be a pedestrian entrance on West Meadow Road on the eastern side of the farm, and the trail will run along the creek and come out on Trustees Road before visitors enter the walking section of the path. She said she’s excited about the location due to the beautiful views of the creek and historic farm.

“This is part of my efforts to make our public lands accessible to our community for recreational and respite enjoyment,” she said.

In the past, the legislator has spearheaded initiatives for a parking lot and walking path at Forsythe Meadow Woods County Park in Stony Brook and a parking lot at McAllister County Park in Belle Terre.

The Old Field Farm trail will be closed during the six horse shows that take place at the location throughout the year so as not to disturb the horses; however, the park will be open for the public to enjoy.

For more information about the town’s capital improvement project at West Meadow Beach, residents can call 631-451-8696.

MAJESTIC BEAUTY

Jay Gao of Stony Brook used a Nikon D750 to capture this incredible image at Old Field Farm County Parkland during the Long Island Classic Horse Show & Equitation Finals (Regional I) on Sept. 9. (Click on photo to see entire image)

Send your Photo of the Week to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com.

Reviewed by Rita J. Egan

Author Thomas M. Cassidy

Setauket resident Thomas M. Cassidy has taken his real-life experiences as an investigator and turned them into a detective thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. The book “Damage Control,” set in the early 1980s, travels back to a time when detectives solved crimes without the help of modern technology and had to rely solely on their instincts and wit. Using New York City as a backdrop and an array of characters, Cassidy takes readers on an interesting trip behind the scenes to see how crimes were once solved.

Recently, Cassidy took time out to answer a few questions about writing his first mystery novel.

You were a former senior investigator with the New York State Attorney General’s Office. How did you become interested in writing?

As a reader of crime fiction and a frontline investigator, I challenged myself 25 years ago to take the leap and write a book. I was amazed at how fast I was able to complete my goal. It took me two weeks to write my book. But, it was only 12 pages long! OK, it was a short book, but it changed my life forever. 

I started buying books on how to write novels and get published. Then I read in The Village Times Herald that a professor at Stony Brook University, the late Deborah Hecht, offered a free workshop called Coffee and Conversations for aspiring writers on the third Friday of each month. This program, which is no longer available, included a presentation by an author, publisher or journalist as well as time to interact with other would-be writers. I listened, learned and read. I kept adding pages to my book.

How long did it take you to write this book?

It took me more than 25 years to reach the finish line for “Damage Control.” I thought I had finished it in 1999, 2001 and 2004, but each update resulted in numerous rejection letters from literary agents and publishers. As I continued adding pages to my novel, I felt a big piece of my mystery puzzle was missing: I needed a mentor with hands-on experience in the New York City Police Department. 

I gave my father, Hugh “Joe” Cassidy, a retired NYPD detective commander, my draft manuscript. He rolled up his sleeves at once, and he spent many months working and sharing his expertise with me on every phase of my book until his death in 2011 at age 85. Plus, by this time I was an experienced author of several nonfiction books.

How many books have you written? 

My writing life took a surprising turn when friends and family members started asking me for elder care help because of my experience as a health fraud and patient abuse investigator. I then began writing books about growing old in America, including “Elder Care/What to Look For/What to Look Out For!” from New Horizon Press, “How to Choose Retirement Housing,” from the American Institute for Economic Research, and co-editor of a college textbook, “Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Aging” from Springer Publishing Company.

Is ‘Damage Control’ your first fiction novel?

Yes. I never gave up on my detective mystery. I believed that I chanced upon many fascinating detectives, investigators, FBI agents and investigations in my career, and I wanted to share my experiences in a novel.

 

The cover of Tom Cassidy’s latest book.

How would you describe the book to someone who hasn’t read it?

On September 10, 1981, Lieutenant John Patrick Donnellan, Manhattan South Homicide, is in a routine meeting with the medical examiner when he gets an urgent call about a high-profile murder in midtown Manhattan that will change his life forever. In one of the deadliest years in New York City history, this murder stands out among the rest, and with only weeks before the mayoral election, all eyes are on the city’s response.

Donnellan, well known in police, political and media circles as a straight talker with a cynical wit, is warned by the most powerful politician in the city to keep a lid on media leaks — and himself — or he will be off the case. Vintage Donnellan sarcasm, scorn and mockery have to be bottled up. But with all the buffoons, phonies and opportunists mixed up in this case, keeping his big mouth shut may be his most difficult task as he navigates through uncharted emotional media, organized crime and romantic networks in pursuit of the killer.

Tell me more about the main character, Lieutenant John Patrick Donnellan.

John Patrick Donnellan joined the New York Police Department, excelled as an investigator and swiftly rose through the detective ranks. He becomes the youngest lieutenant ever appointed commander of Manhattan South Homicide, the most prestigious command in the NYPD.

Are any of the events or characters based on real-life experiences or people in your life?

Yes, many of the events, characters and investigations mentioned in “Damage Control” are loosely based on real-life experiences, while others are a product of my imagination. In addition, all of the New York City police procedures were provided by myfather, a thirty-year veteran of the NYPD.

How close to reality are the investigations in this novel?

“Damage Control” is set in 1981, which was one of the most violent years in New York City history. The investigations in this book are close to reality because back then there was no internet or smartphones, so investigators relied on street smarts.

Do you feel your experiences as an investigator helped you when writing this book? 

Yes, being an investigator definitely helped me write this book. I knew firsthand that many cases have unexpected twists and turns that could never be anticipated when the first wave of detectives arrive at a crime scene. I was able to call upon my own experiences, as well as those of other detectives I worked with or met along the way, as I wrote “Damage Control.”

Do you have a favorite character in the book?

That’s a tough question. I have many favorites including Donnellan, the chief, who is the first female chief of detectives, the mystery woman and many others. But at my current age, I have more in common with Dugan, the oldest detective in the police department.

What is your favorite scene in the book?

I’m nostalgic for the Windows on the World restaurant at the Twin Towers. I had to include that location in the book as a reminder of life before Sept. 11.

What was it like to work with your dad on a detective mystery?

It was truly a blessing for me to share the last years of his life working together on this project. The first time I held my book in my hands, I felt his spirit with me and saw his fingerprints on every page of “Damage Control.”

Tom Cassidy with his father, Hugh “Joe” Cassidy

What do you think your dad would have thought of the finished product?

I don’t want to give away the ending, but he would have laughed so hard at one critical breakthrough uncovered by Donnellan that I would have had to help him get up off the floor. I’m also very confident that he would have written a five-star review of the book on Amazon, like he did for my book on elder care, that he would be the first person to take “Damage Control” out of the library, and he would be helping me write the sequel, “Grave Danger.”

What advice would you give to first-time fiction writers?

Believe that you have an attention-grabbing story to tell, trust yourself, take the first step and start writing. Recognize that fiction readers select from a wide range of genres, so be selective about sharing your manuscript with people who are not in your niche market. Most importantly, avoid negative people, they can be energy vampires!

When is your next book signing event?

On Sept. 7, I’ll be doing a book signing to support Old Field Farm’s free Summer Film event. The week’s movie is one of my favorites, “Casablanca.” My late brother Hugh was the former owner of Old Field Farm, and I am grateful for the opportunity to honor his legacy.

“Damage Control” is available online at www.seattlebookcompany.com and www.amazon.com. For more information about the Old Field Farm Summer Film event, call 631-246-8983. Gates open at 6 p.m. and the farm is located at 92 West Meadow Road in Setauket.