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The Tinker home that once stood in Poquott. Photo from the Three Village Historical Society archives.

A suffragist and philanthropist, who summered in the Village of Poquott, continues to help women nearly 100 years after her death.

Annie Rensselaer Tinker was the daughter of banker Henry Tinker, who bought a mansion in the Village of Poquott in the late 1800s, according to the village’s historian Christoper Ryon. Despite her death in 1924, just short of her 40th birthday, Annie Tinker’s inheritance from her father in 1914 would go on to establish a charity to aid retired women who no longer had adequate means of support.

“She died early, but she had a very rich life,” Ryon said.

Annie Tinker, shown right with a friend, was an accomplished equestrian. Photo from the John and Betty Evans Collection

Tinker, who was born in 1884, spent her younger years in Poquott swimming, sailing and horseback riding and went on to be a champion for women. She became a suffragist, Ryon said, and Tinker, an accomplished equestrian, formed and trained a women’s cavalry in 1911 that protected other suffragists when they participated in parades.

Tinker enlisted in the British Red Cross during World War I, according to Ryon. During her time giving aid to soldiers on the front lines, her father died and left the Poquott home to her. After World War I, she decided to stay in Paris, and in 1924, died due to complications from tonsillitis surgery in London.

Catherine Tinker, who is not a descendant of the Poquott family, has done extensive research on Annie Tinker’s life. She believes the suffragist saw the horrors of World War I when she was a member of the Red Cross on the front lines in Belgium, France and Italy.

“I think she was truly independent and could have lived a life of luxury in any way she chose, but she put herself in service of others and had this compassion for the fight for women’s right to vote, to nurse the wounded during World War I in Europe and to leave her money to help older working women who could no longer work for a living,” Catherine Tinker said. “That’s kind of amazing.”

A charity first called the Annie R. Tinker Memorial Home was established in 1924 shortly after Tinker’s death following wishes detailed in her will. In later years the name was changed to the Annie Tinker Association for Women Inc., according to Tinker, a former president and CEO of the foundation. The charity operated out of an office in Manhattan until 2018 when it was dissolved.

The mission of the organization was to provide small monthly stipends to retired women who applied for grants so they could remain in their homes. In 2017, the foundation provided assistance to 25 women, according to Tinker.

The former foundation president said last year the board of trustees decided to dissolve the foundation, and the remaining assets were donated to similar charities while the bulk of the money was transferred to the New York Community Trust, which created a new fund named the Annie Rensselaer Tinker Fund. The intent of the new fund is to support projects and policies that maintain the independence and dignity of aging women in New York. Tinker said the hope is that the general projects through the trust will help more women.

“It should go on in perpetuity, so the legacy of Annie Tinker is there,”
she said.

Tinker said Annie Tinker had hoped the Poquott home would one day be a retreat for older women; however, it eventually was inherited by her brother after a long probate case. While Tinker had bequeathed her estate to her friend Kate Darling Nelson with the property being donated to the charity for retired women, her mother fought for half of her daughter’s money and won. However, her friend still inherited half of the fortune and established the charity as Annie Tinker wished.

Through the decades the foundation helped women who lived alone and may not have had the support of family, Catherine Tinker said. She said women who received funds from the foundation were encouraged to mingle with each other with book clubs, holiday and tea parties, which many times the board members would attend, and the get-togethers formed what she called a “Tinker family.” The former CEO said many of the women enjoyed careers as artists and didn’t have pensions or substantial Social Security payments. During her days as a suffragist, Annie Tinker had met many female artists from Gramercy Park.

“When the foundation really tried to reach out to women artists, I think that was natural, because I think they were women Annie herself would have liked to help,” Tinker said.

For more information about Annie Tinker, visit https://lihj.cc.stonybrook.edu/#articles_4692 for a Long Island History Journal article written by Catherine Tinker.

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Evelyn Berezin. Photo by Barbara Nelson

Evelyn Berezin, formerly of Poquott, died Dec. 8 at the Mary Manning Walsh Home in New York City. She was 93 years old.

She was a computer pioneer who built and marketed the first computerized word processor and the founder and president of the tech start-up Redactron Corporation, which manufactured and sold word processors.

Evelyn Berezin. File photo

Among the honors she received in her lifetime were inductions into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame in Los Angeles in 2011 and the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, in 2015.

In an interview with The Village Times Herald in 2015, Berezin said when she was younger she thought she would pursue a career in physics, not computer science.

“I got into it by accident,” Berezin said. “It was so early in the game, I didn’t know what it was.”

Berezin was born April 12, 1925, in the Bronx. She was 15 years old when she graduated from high school and went on to study at Hunter College where she developed an interest in physics. She said the day after Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, her high school physics teacher offered her a research job. Since she was 16, she had to lie about her age in order to get the position.

“Every boy in the country was given a number to be drafted,” Berezin said. “I happened to be there at the right time.”

Berezin worked in a lab while attending college at night and went on to study math at Brooklyn Polytech, physics and chemistry at New York University and English at Hunter. In the April 10, 2015, Village Times Herald article, Berezin said while talking to a recruiter about a government job she discovered that there weren’t many positions in physics, so she asked about computers, something she admitted she never heard of at the time.

Berezin went on to work for a few companies designing computers before opening Redactron.

“In 1969 I decided I would never get to be vice president because I was a woman,” Berezin said. “I decided to start my own company.”

From 1969 to 1975, Redactron grew to employ 500 workers. In 1976, she decided to sell the company to the Burroughs Corporation and joined the company as president of its Redactron division, a position she held until about 1980. After leaving Burroughs, Berezin became involved in a number of start-up companies and moved to Long Island.

Berezin became a member of the Stony Brook Foundation in 1985, according to the Stony Brook University website. She served on the investment committee and was a member of Brookhaven Science Associates, served on the board of overseers of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of New York University and held a board position with the Sion Power Corporation. She became a member of the John S. Toll Heritage Society at Stony Brook and established the Berezin-Wilenitz Endowment.

“I feel that Stony Brook has given and continues to give a great education to children from low income families and particularly to children of immigrants,” Berezin is quoted as saying on the SBU website. She and her husband of 51 years, Israel Wilenitz, a chemical engineer, also funded the Sam and Rose Berezin Endowed Scholarship, named after her parents.

“Evelyn Berezin spent a lifetime defying expectations and pushing the boundaries of what is possible, and her guidance and generosity have helped empower Stony Brook University and its students to do the same,” SBU President Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said in a statement. “Her friendship has made Stony Brook a stronger institution, and we will forever be grateful to her.”

Berezin’s husband predeceased her in 2003. Funeral services were held Dec. 11 at the Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York City.

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Volunteers with the Setauket Fire Department respond to a fire in Poquott Aug. 16. Photo by Bob O'Rourk

The Setauket Fire Department was called to a two-story home on Singingwood Lane in the Village of Poquott at 10:31 p.m Aug. 16, according to Setauket Fired Department public information officer Bob O’Rourk.

Half of the rear deck was fully involved and almost spread to the inside of the house, O’Rourk said. Quick action by the fire department kept flames from getting past several rafters and inside of the structure. As a result, any serious damage inside was prevented.

Firefighters checked the deck roof as well as the house roof for any fire extension. Interior walls were also checked to ascertain that no fire damage reached the interior.

The Stony Brook and Terryville fire departments also responded for mutual aid. Town of Brookhaven fire marshals were on scene to determine the cause of the fire. Results of that investigation are pending.

A stormwater retention pond on Route 25A east of Old Coach Road. Photo by Steve Antos

Sometimes what seems like a simple solution to an issue can lead to pesky problems.

New York State Department of Transportation workers were on the site of a stormwater retention pond, also known as a rain garden, on Route 25A in Setauket July 10 investigating reported problems. Richard Parrish, stormwater management officer for the Village of Poquott, sent a letter June 18 to follow up with a conversation he had with NYSDOT Regional Director Margaret Conklin, on issues with the newly installed rain garden that is causing problems for Poquott residents.

“The structure always contains standing water and attracts vectors such as rats and mosquitoes.”

— Richard Parrish

Among the issues Parrish cited is that after it rains the pond is filled up to 4 feet deep with standing water. He also said the structure is made of earthen walls and an earthen base and is not fenced in, which can present a danger to people and wildlife. In the letter, he provided the example of a deer stuck in the rain garden a few weeks ago, and residents needed to enter it to release the animal.

He also stated in his letter that he believed the retention pond is not compliant with stormwater regulations under the federal Clean Water Act as it has no controls for capturing sediment or preventing the distribution of sediment and contaminants such as nitrates, chlorides and pathogens.

“The structure always contains standing water and attracts vectors such as rats and mosquitoes,” Parrish wrote, adding this was the cause of most of the complaints village officials receive.

Parrish said Conklin was immediately responsive to the issue of mosquito control as a Suffolk County Department of Health Services vector control unit came the day he spoke with her. He said road and safety issues still remain.

George Hoffman, co-founder of the Setauket Harbor Task Force, said the organization advocates the use of small rain gardens at the ends of streets leading into the harbor to contain road runoff. It is one of the biggest challenges impacting water quality. However, he agreed the Setauket one is poorly designed, a safety hazard and is not compliant with the federal Clean Water Act.

“Right now, it seems to be a small basin to collect water and doesn’t have any aspects of a rain garden.”

— George Hoffman

The Route 25A rain garden had recently been installed as a temporary solution to deal with roadway flooding.

Hoffman said rain gardens are an environmentally friendly way of handling stormwater, replacing traditional recharge basins like sumps and storm drains. The retention ponds are more beneficial as they are built differently.

“They are generally constructed in a small depression composed of porous soils and planted with native shrubs, perennials and flowers and work by slowly filtering rainwater through the soils and plants and filtering out nitrogen and other pollutants,” he said.

Hoffman said the spot, off Route 25A east of Old Coach Road, is not ideal for a rain garden. The site directs water runoff onto the side of the roadway and is not conducive to natural drainage.

“Right now, it seems to be a small basin to collect water and doesn’t have any aspects of a rain garden,” Hoffman said.

Stephen Canzoneri, public information officer for NYSDOT, said workers were at the site in early May to remove invasive Japanese knotweed and other debris to improve the drainage.

“NYSDOT has cleaned invasive vegetation and other waste out of storm drains as well as diverted water off the road to the shoulder as part of a short-term plan to curb flooding along Route 25A,” Canzoneri said. “We continue to investigate options for a more permanent solution.”

Dee Parrish will begin her third term as Poquott mayor. Photo from Dee Parish

Voters in the Village of Poquott said yes to the future while keeping the status quo.

Chris Schleider. Photo from Chris Schleider

Incumbent mayor Dee Parrish and sitting trustees William Poupis and Chris Schleider, who ran on the Future ticket in the June 19 village election, retained their seats.

Parrish defeated challenger John Richardson 240 to 204, according to village Deputy Clerk Cindy Schleider. Richardson is a board trustee who is currently serving his first term.

Trustees Poupis and Schleider received 235 and 241 votes, respectively, beating challengers Felicia Chillak, who received 199 votes, and Dianna Padilla, who garnered 204, according to the deputy clerk.

An issue of contention in the village for the last few years has been the proposal of a community dock, which all Future candidates support despite tabling a vote on the dock earlier this year due to bids coming in at more than the $150,000 originally expected.

“We have to look at everything before we decide how this is going to impact residents in the future,” Parrish said in a previous interview with TBR News Media.

Poupis and Schleider, who were appointed to their positions by the mayor in 2017, said they felt it was important to get the stamp of approval from their fellow residents.

William Poupis. Photo from William Poupis

“One of the things about being appointed you don’t necessarily feel that you have the mandate of the people behind you,” Schleider said in a prior interview with TBR News Media. “I was honored by Dee asking, but I think it’s important to have the voice of the people to elect the official.”

The day after the election Poupis said he looked forward to getting back to work with his fellow village board members.

“There’s lots of work ahead,” Poupis said. “We got a village to bring together. We got a lot of great ideas about incorporating some things into our standard once-a-month village meetings, maybe having some town hall meetings every other month, so that people in an unofficial forum can come in, speak freely, voice concerns, with those concerns voice some solutions and as a group work together to find the common goals.”

On the Facebook page Poquott Life Matters, Richardson thanked those who supported him, Chillak and Padilla.

“The plans and ideas we spoke about on your doorstep, I truly hope will become a reality in the future of our village,” Richardson wrote. “As a trustee, I will continue to be your voice on the board. I welcome all concerns big or small.”

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Village of Poquott held its election June 18. File photo

By Rita J. Egan

As the Village of Poquott board of trustees budgets for the upcoming fiscal year, the cost of a proposed dock is still at the forefront of a few residents’ minds.

At an April 12 village public hearing, board members approved the 2018-19 preliminary budget. The village plans to spend $533,839 in the upcoming fiscal year, about a $34,000 increase over the last period. The preliminary budget stays under the tax levy increase cap, with an anticipated tax rate of $15.41 per $100 of assessed property value.

Treasurer Ron Pulito said it is estimated about $34,000 of the budget will be to pay the first installment of a five-year note for the village’s proposed dock. This amount would be taken from the village’s fund balance. The dock was originally estimated at $150,000 but the board opened bids at the beginning of the April meeting and the proposals were higher than anticipated.

“We have a good budget next year with question marks next to what happens with the dock, and we’re staying under the cap.”

— Ron Pulito

Pulito said there will be an estimated $47,000 deficit the current fiscal year, which would leave approximately $55,000 in the village fund balance. He said he does not expect much change in costs like snow plowing and garbage collection, and he said not much would be needed from the fund balance in the future for those items. He said while the budget includes funding for the dock it didn’t include any work on village hall.

“We have a good budget next year with question marks next to what happens with the dock, and we’re staying under the cap,” Pulito said.

Resident Felicia Chillak said she was concerned that the fund balance isn’t as high as past years and asked what would happen if there was a microburst storm like the one that hit the village a few years ago. She said the first day of cleanup after the storm cost the village $30,000.

“I personally feel [it’s better] to leave the fund balance and raise the taxes a little bit, if that’s going to keep us on the safer side,” Chillak said.

If the board decides not to go ahead with building the dock, the treasurer said the budget would break even. Pulito said if the board does go forward with the construction and more funds are needed, the village may be able to apply for a loan with a longer payment period.

“If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it,” resident Cindy Davis said. “You don’t go ahead. You don’t bust your budget for something like this.”

A decision on dock bids was tabled until May. The board will vote on the final 2018-19 budget in an upcoming meeting.

Engineer Charles Voorhis describes the planned community dock in Poquott and answers residents’ questions at a Jan. 5 planning board meeting at Emma Clark Library. YouTube screenshot from Village of Poquott

While the divisiveness over a proposed community dock in the Village of Poquott may be lessening, some are keeping a watchful eye on the plans.

A handful of residents attended a Jan. 5 village planning board meeting at Emma S. Clark Public Library to hear a presentation given by village engineer Charles Voorhis. The managing partner of Nelson, Pope & Voorhis was on hand to discuss the design of the proposed dock, which is planned for California Park at the end of Washington Street.

Voorhis said the proposed fixed dock would be 128-feet long and 4-feet wide, and at the end, would include a landing area measuring 6-feet wide. The engineer said the dock will include water service, solar panel-powered rail lighting for nighttime and an ADA access ramp made of concrete.

During high tide, a beachgoer could walk up the stairs on the north side and down the stairs on the south side, according to Voorhis, and during low tide villagers could walk underneath. There will be a 30-foot gangway that will serve as a transition from the dock to a 30-by-8 foot float which will make it easier to get into boats, especially smaller recreational crafts.

“I will say that this is a very straightforward installation,” he said. “It’s very similar to what you see for recreational piers for residential homes around the harbor.”

“It’s very similar to what you see for recreational piers for residential homes around the harbor.”

— Charles Voorhis

Ted Masters, interim planning board chairman, said the design meets the criteria described in Chapter 64 of the village code. At a Oct. 26 public hearing, the village trustees made amendments to the chapter per suggestions made by the planning board. According to the Oct. 26 meeting’s minutes, the required water depth to build a dock was changed from 4 feet to 3 ½ feet, and the width of the dock was changed from not to exceed 3 ½ feet to 4 feet and may exceed where needed to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Voorhis said the depth of the water is taken into consideration to ensure any floats for the dock will not rest at the bottom of the waterway and 3 ½ feet is adequate.

After the engineer’s presentation, the meeting was open for public comments and questions.

“I’m just concerned about people who have difficulty maneuvering, putting steps in their way,” Cindy Davis said, after asking if there would be railings, which Voorhis said there would be.

Another resident asked what can be done to prevent icing on the dock. Voorhis said the village is addressing whether or not the dock will need bubblers, which circulates water when there are freezing conditions, and the village is looking into options as far as powering them if needed.

Roger Flood, of Poquott, asked how the dock would be moved and stored in the winter. Voorhis said large cranes are used in many areas including Port Jefferson Harbor, and he suggested an upland location for storage either in the parking lot, since its not used as much in the colder seasons, or a grassy area.

After the Jan. 5 meeting, board trustee Jeff Koppelson said in a phone interview there has been less public debate about building a community dock, a topic that disrupted prior meetings as many questioned the financial impact of installing one.

“The board of trustees are very conscious of what we have to do to keep an eye on the money angle,” he said, adding a notice was recently posted on the village’s website regarding costs.

The board is looking into a five-year bond for $150,000, according to the post, and the payments would be $32,475 per year. The first two years could be paid off if the board approves the moving of $50,000 from the fund balance plus the $16,160 from the Poquott Village Community
Association.

In order to pay the remaining balance of the bond, there would be a tax increase for each household of $80 per year for three years. There would also be the maintenance cost of the dock at $2,075 a year for the village, which would include general maintenance, the floats being removed from the water in the winter and additional insurance.

A few in attendance questioned whether enough or proper notice was given regarding the Jan. 5 meeting. Masters said another public planning board meeting regarding the dock is scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan. 29 at Poquott Village Hall. Residents can also send comments to village hall if they are unable to attend. Dock plans and minutes from past meetings are available for viewing at Poquott’s village hall and posted on its website.

The Three Village Historical Society hosted its annual Candlelight House Tours Dec. 1 and 2, Visions of East Setauket: Then and Now. The Friday night event ended with a reception at St. James R.C. Church’s parish center, which is home to a presepio, a tableau of life in Bethlehem at the time of Christ’s birth, assembled by Rev. Gerald Cestare.

This year the tour provided participants the opportunity to step inside homes that are of local historical importance or sit on property that is considered as such in East Setauket and Poquott. Each of the homes were dressed up for either Christmas or Hanukkah by local decorators and included both indoor and outdoor holiday accents.

Candlelight House Tour decorators were Allison Butera, Donna Howard, Nancy Munch, Susan Malkan, Lynn Sabatelle, North Suffolk Garden Club and Open House Country Flowers & Interiors.

Village of Poquott held its election June 18. File photo

Poquott’s village hall is finally back in business a month after the June 20 election for two board trustees.

Debbie Stevens, one of the five candidates for the position, dropped a lawsuit against the village before a July 19 hearing. Stevens came in third with 178 votes, while New York City firefighter John Richardson won one seat with 195 votes and incumbent Jeff Koppelson the other with 180 votes.

Debbie Stevens

Stevens had disputed the discarding of the rule that voters must be registered 10 days before an election. She also had an issue with voters with dual residency being able to vote, and Mayor Dee Parrish’s son being an election inspector. Due to her challenging the election results, the Suffolk County Board of Election recanvassed ballots June 29.

Attorney Scott Middleton of Campolo, Middleton & McCormick, LLP represented the village in the case. He said before the election Poquott’s village attorney called the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials and asked about residents who registered less than 10 days before the election and was under the impression that if a person was generally qualified to vote, taking into consideration that they were a U.S. citizen and met the age requirements, they could vote.

“It’s a village election,” Middleton said. “People aren’t thinking about an election in June, everybody thinks about November. Village elections are held in March or June. By the time [residents] are starting to think about it, and they want to exercise their right, if they just moved into the village, it may not be within that 10-day window. That’s why I think that the advisory opinion of NYCOM is that they can be permitted to vote as long as they qualify.”

Middleton said an elementary error in the lawsuit was that Stevens only named the village even though she was required to name all four candidates in it to proceed. Stevens said this was something she didn’t want to do, especially when it came to Richardson, who she ran with on the Peace Party ticket. If she won the lawsuit, a new election would need to take place.

“The corruption continues and that was really why I did this,” Stevens said. “It wasn’t to overturn the election.

I didn’t want that.”

Another factor in her decision to drop the case was the village cancelling meetings since the lawsuit was filed. The owner of Smoothe Laser Center and Medi Spa in East Setauket said she felt dropping the lawsuit was what’s best for the village.

“I’d rather opt for peace than justice,” Stevens said.

Richardson was sworn in as trustee July 12, while Koppelson took his oath July 19 after the lawsuit was dismissed. In an email, Koppelson said the board members accomplished a good amount at their July 20 meeting after not assembling for a few weeks.

“I have to say that the best thing about this meeting was that there seemed to be a desire among everyone to cooperate and stay task-oriented,” Koppelson said. “There were few if any contentious issues. I am optimistic that we can all work together, and if that happens, there will be little blowback from the residents who have been consistently oppositional, angry and disruptive.”

Stevens said she plans to continue attending village hall meetings, and hopes she can play her part in creating better communication between residents and the board members. For the last three years she feels residents have been extremely divided in Poquott.

Stevens said she has been thinking about next year’s election for two trustees and mayor.

“I’m not even sure of that answer,” she said when asked about running again. “I’m doing a lot of thinking. I know in my heart of hearts that I want what’s best for the village.”

After losing by two votes, newcomer is challenging validity of ballots

Village of Poquott held its election June 18. File photo

t seems the dust hasn’t settled yet after Poquott’s June 20 election for two trustee seats.

While challenger John Richardson emerged as a clear winner for one seat, it was a tight race between newcomer Debbie Stevens and incumbent Jeff Koppelson for the second spot. Stevens recently filed a lawsuit in Suffolk County Supreme Court in Riverhead to review the results.

Debbie Stevens

At the end of election night, Stevens had a slim lead over Koppelson before absentee and 10 contested votes were counted. Official results were delayed and not announced by the village until the next day, after election inspectors retained by the village and certified by the Suffolk County Board of Elections completed the count at Poquott’s Village Hall. Koppelson was declared the winner with 180 votes, while Stevens received 178.

After Stevens challenged the results, the village brought the ballots to the headquarters of the board of elections in Yaphank June 29, where the votes were hand counted by board staff members and certified by  county election commissioners Nick LaLota (R) and  Anita Katz (D).

LaLota said the village clerk handed over the ballots to their bipartisan team, and they hand counted each ballot, and their results were the same as the village’s count. However, the board of elections was not involved in any decisions involving the disputed ballots.

Stevens’ attorney George Vlachos of George C. Vlachos & Associates in Central Islip, said the village was served with a show-cause order last week to appear in court. A hearing will be held in Riverhead July 19.

Vlachos, who was originally retained by Stevens and Richardson to monitor the election, said he and his client have taken issue with the discarding of the rule that voters must be registered 10 days before an election. He said all the votes, no matter when the voter registered, were counted.

Jeff Koppelson

The attorney said he also questions whether the ballots were secured after the polls closed. He said he was on hand at Village Hall until the end of the night June 20, and there were approximately five or six ballots that were mismarked and had to be interpreted as far as what the voters’ intents were. He said he only saw one of those ballots presented to the board of elections. The lawyer said he remembers one ballot the night of June 20 where a voter chose three candidates instead of two. Vlachos said that ballot was not brought to the board.

LaLota said he had heard about the mismarked ballots before the recount, but didn’t see any major issues.

“There were up to two ballots that required a minimal review by the bipartisan team, but they easily came to a conclusion,” he said.

Koppelson declined to comment until after the matter is resolved, and Vlachos requested his client not talk directly to the press.

Vlachos added that many people from the village have offered to pay for his services to get to the bottom of the matter.

“This may just be the tip of the iceberg,” the attorney said. “I’m doing whatever investigation I need to do. I’m not sure what’s going on in Poquott, but I’m going to find out.”

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