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Port Jefferson

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The pro-Trump sign hung up Jan. 21 was the same sign the shop hung in 2017 during inauguration. Photo by David Luces

In time for the start of the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump (R),  a banner was hung above Roger’s Frigate candy and ice cream shop in Port Jeff reading “In Trump We Trust” on the building’s second floor. 

Barabara Sakovich, the village clerk, said the building and planning department has issued a new order to remedy to the owner, George Wallis, after it was hung. The village has maintained the sign violates code 250-31D regarding signs, specifically the size and material of the sign being hung across the building’s second floor.

Frigate General Manager Roger Rutherford did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The clerk said she had already received some complaints as of Wednesday, but other than the violations of code, the village cannot restrict freedom of speech.

The business owner has five days, starting Jan. 21, to remove the sign or face a financial penalty.

The sign that was first spotted Jan. 21 was the same banner hung on the building in 2017 during the president’s inauguration, which had caused both ire and praise from the local community. That sign had been ordered down by the Village of Port Jefferson, saying it violated village code.

In October last year, the village board unanimously passed a resolution reducing the number of days a sign can be up before it must be removed from 30 to five. Village Attorney Brian Egan said the change was to cut down on time that the board felt was too long for a violating sign to be up, especially when applying for a permit is “not burdensome.”

He added that the courts and village comply with a broad reading on the first amendment, but municipalities such as the village have rights to impose “content-neutral” regulations, such as size, material, ect. Those regulations were in place before the frigate originally installed the sign in 2017.

The candy store owner had put up the same sign three years ago in January 2017, during Trump’s inauguration. The banner caused several days of controversy before it was taken down. Rutherford said at the time the plan had already been to take the sign down after a few days. 

Reaction on community Facebook groups was similarly divided as it was three years ago, with some congratulating the shop while others claimed they had been boycotting the shop since 2017.

Wallis has been a character in Port Jefferson for decades, and the Frigate has become a major staple within that community. The owner of the candy store, as well as the neighboring The Steam Room, has also been known as a maverick in some of his past decisions on his properties, such as in 2002 when he briefly replaced a statue of Thomas Jefferson with one of an eagle to commemorate those lost in 9/11, according to the New York Times.

Additional reporting by David Luces

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Port Jefferson sophomore David Ford battles in the paint in a non-league matchup against Southold Jan. 13. Photo by Bill Landon

Port Jefferson went toe-to-toe with Southold on their home court, but the Settlers found their rhythm in the final 8 minutes with their three-point play to edge the Royals 50-38 Jan. 13. Port Jefferson freshman Drew Feinstein led the way for the Royals hitting five from the floor, three triples and a free throw for 20 points. Luke Filippi the sophomore, went 2 for 2 from the line along with five field goals netting 12.

The loss drops the Royals to 0-3 in league VII and 2-8 overall. They will retake the court Jan. 15 at home against Southampton. Tipoff is at 6:15 p.m.

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Site plans for the pickleball courts Photo by Kyle Barr

Port Jefferson village has put out bid requests to add several pickleball courts to a portion of the tennis space at the Port Jefferson Country Club.

Deputy Mayor Stan Loucks said the game has picked up in popularity, and has been reported as one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. 

The Sport and Fitness Industry Association reported that participation in the sport has increased by close to 10 percent over the past three years, with a total of 3.3 million participants in the country, compared to 2.815 million in 2014.  

The game of pickleball is often compared to an enlarged game of ping pong, or a shortened game of tennis. Instead of rackets, players use large paddles to get a plastic perforated ball across a net. Unlike tennis, serves are underhand. It can be played one-on-one or two-on-two.

Many people attribute the sport’s popularity to it being relatively simple. It doesn’t require a lot of rapid body movement but requires good hand-eye coordination.

Loucks, the liaison to the country club, said original plans were to include the pickleball courts to the west of the current tennis courts, but that would have required extra revetments and erosion mitigation along that end of the bluff. The new designs show the three new pickleball courts to the north of the existing tennis courts, about 32 feet from the existing parking lot. Original estimates for the project range from $85,000 to $128,000, a total that combines both the landscaping and the building of the asphalt courts. Excavation started for the courts Jan. 7.

The village has struggled in recent years to get permits from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to build new revetments and structures to halt erosion on the bluff near the country club. Loucks said they are losing a few feet of bluff every year, making it precariously close to taking out the tennis courts. Mayor Margot Garant said the DEC is finalizing everything, and they are hoping to get those permits back “soon.”

“I think it’s a great move — we’re not losing any parking area,” Loucks said. 

The pro shop for tennis will also cater to pickleball players. The village set the membership rates for pickleball at $400 for a resident, $500 for nonresidents, and each will pay a $50 annual assessment plus a $135 minimums fee. Country club members interested in playing pickleball will be charged an additional rate of $300.

Loucks said he hopes the sport will be popular.  The only other two local pickleball courts are a private space in the Village of Belle Terre and a public court in Centereach.

“I’m hoping to 50 to 100 members the first season,” he said.

Final deadline for new bids is Feb. 6. After that the village will choose a contractor and then more work can begin. Loucks said that while asphalt companies don’t open their doors until April, he expects the project to be done by the beginning of May.

Laura Aheran. Photo from campaign

Laura Ahearn, longtime crime victims advocate, is ready to take on a new challenge, running for state senate. For 43 years the state District 1 seat has been held by Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), but she said it’s time for change. 

“Many members of the community are grateful for his [LaValle’s] service as I am, but it is time now for a new voice and an advocate like me to fight furiously for our community,” Ahearn said. 

For 25 years, the attorney said she has worked to keep the community safe from sexual predators. Ahearn also founded the Crime Victims Center “from a room in her home” and over the years established it into a nonprofit organization that has worked with local, state and federal law enforcement. 

“There are some serious flaws in the criminal justice reform that took place Jan. 1 that makes our communities very vulnerable.”

— Laura Ahearn

The center’s educational programs have been shown in numerous school districts, along with local colleges and universities throughout Suffolk County. 

“I want to take my advocacy experiences, my legal skills and use it to help our community, children and families up in Albany,” the executive director said. “I know my experience over the past 20 plus years positions me to take on other issues as well.”

Some issues Ahearn hopes to tackle is the recent bail reform issues and MS-13’s infiltration into Long Island schools. 

“There are some serious flaws in the criminal justice reform that took place Jan. 1 that makes our communities very vulnerable,” she said. “Bail reform was absolutely needed, because people who couldn’t afford cash bail were incarcerated, that’s not fair. But we haven’t looked at what the implications are for the community and for victims.”

Ahearn said the recent reform needs to be amended to add some discretion for judges who may need to hold certain offenders who may be eligible for automatic release. In addition, she said law enforcement and probation officers need to be given more resources to further monitor offenders of violent crimes. 

On the MS-13 front, Ahearn stressed we need to make sure we are giving schools the resources and funding they need to ramp up their security to protect students.  

Cost of living and keeping young professionals in Suffolk County have been vexing issues for elected officials. Ahearn knows this firsthand. 

“I have two grown children and they can’t afford to live on Long Island — high taxes are driving our kids out off the island,” she said. “We have to ensure that they have fair wages, educational opportunities, safe work environments and affordable housing.” 

The Port Jefferson resident said in terms of job opportunities she thought Amazon would’ve been a great opportunity for the county and if elected will strive to continue to bring businesses into the district. 

Other issues on the challenger’s radar are the ongoing opioid epidemic, curbing nitrogen pollution in local waterways, marine/wildlife conservation, phone scams targeting the elderly, tick-borne illness, among others. 

Ahearn, who graduated from Dowling College, Stony Brook University and Touro Law School, recently had a campaign kick-off event Dec. 10 and said she is looking forward to meeting and learning from movers and shakers in the area. The senate district stretches from eastern end of Suffolk County to the eastern end of Town of Brookhaven.  

“As time moves forward, I’m going to learn a lot from the advocates in the community — I’m not an expert on some issues and I want to learn from those advocates who are those experts. They have to educate me, so I can represent them,” she said. 

The attorney said the position requires one to work with everyone, something she has done for two decades, helping develop, implement and manage crime prevention programs and assist in drafting a number of state, local and federal laws. 

“I really love what I’ve been doing,” she said. “Voters have a decision to make and I have a demonstrated history of fighting for our community and if that’s what they want — someone who will fight furiously for them — then they should vote for me.”

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Rabbi Aaron Benson of the North Shore Jewish Center hosts a ceremony condemning recent anti-Semitic violence. Photo by Les Goldschmidt

Numerous acts of anti-Semitism in the past week have left Jewish community leaders concerned for the welfare of its congregates during one of the most joyous celebrations of the Jewish calendar.

Members of the North Shore Jewish Center host a ceremony condemning recent anti-Semitic violence. Photo by Les Goldschmidt

On Saturday, a man broke into a rabbi’s home in the town of Monsey in Rockland County where he assaulted the rabbi and those assembled there. Police said the assailant, 37-year-old Grafton Thomas, allegedly stabbed five people gathered in the rabbi’s home, including the religious leader’s son. According to the Washington Post, one of those attacked remains in critical condition. Thomas has plead not guilty.

The North Shore Jewish Center in Port Jefferson Station gathered together Sunday, Dec. 29 with members of the faith and local officials from the surrounding area to show strength in the face of the violence, lighting candles on a menorah in light of the attacks. Rabbi Aaron Benson, of the Jewish Center, spoke of the need for unity and forward thinking as they looked to “come to grips” with recent anti-Semitic attacks.

The rabbi said such ceremonies are both necessary and helpful for the Jewish community, finding a way to respond to such unnecessary and unprovoked violence. While he said he has seen consistent acts of anti-Semitism over the past several years, seeing several acts of hate over the course of Hanukkah was something new and distressing.

“It was a way to express hope — that we will prevail over violence and hate,” he said. “People of the Jewish faith has faced such attacks and harassment for centuries, but we have always been able to survive, to stay strong.”

Rabbi Aaron Benson of the North Shore Jewish Center hosts a ceremony condemning recent anti-Semitic violence. Photo by Les Goldschmidt

Other recent events during the days of Hanukkah have made Jewish leaders concerned. On Dec. 23 a man allegedly shouted anti-Semitic slurs while assaulting a woman in Manhattan. On Dec. 26, another Brooklyn woman was harassed by a woman shouting other slurs towards her and her son. The next day, a woman slapped three Orthodox Jewish women in the face in Crown Heights, which is known for its Orthodox Jewish population.

Benson said around 75 people came to the ceremony Sunday night, and while many of them were from his congregation, more came from surrounding communities. Fellow clergy from neighboring churches such as the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook also came to show support.

Rev. Linda Anderson of the Unitarian fellowship said such shows of support from non-Jews are important so that all know that no one faith is standing alone in the face of violence. Earlier this year, after an attack on mosques in New Zealand, she and other members of the local Three Village Interfaith Clergy Association and Building Bridges in Brookhaven gathered at a mosque in Selden, forming a ring around the building to show support. Anderson is the president of the interfaith group.

“The idea that we have to keep doing this is discouraging,” she said, lamenting about the seemingly constant violent attacks on minority faiths around the world. “But we will keep it up, we will stand for fellow faiths in our community.”

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) attended the ceremony and called it a “beautiful display of community unity.”

She said that after numerous incidents of anti-Semitism across the country, local centers have looked to review their own policies in protecting their congregation.

In terms of Suffolk County Police, she called them “proactive” in looking to stop such incidents happening locally.

Members of the North Shore Jewish Center host a ceremony condemning recent anti-Semitic violence. Photo by Les Goldschmidt

SCPD said in a statement they have stepped up patrols at and around synagogues and Jewish community centers.

Benson said he has found that both the SCPD and sheriff’s departments have been very proactive in their efforts to confront anti-Semitism. He said the local precinct often reaches out to his synagogue and offered added protection for the location after the violent attack Sunday.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY-1) also condemned the attacks.
“Hanukkah 2019 in New York will be remembered for a sick amount of violent anti-Semitic attacks in and around New York City. From colleges to Congress to Hanukkah parties and synagogues, anti-Semitism is on the rise and on full display in many ugly forms,” he said in a statement. “The violent anti-Semitic attacks in and around NYC are being caused by raw hate, feckless leadership, a culture of acceptance, education and promotion of anti-Semitism, and lowering quality of life. All elected and community leaders need to step up to confront and crush this threat.”

Nikki and John Poulianos during the 2014 prom production of “The Wizard of Oz”. Photo by Clinton Rubin

By Julianne Mosher

Although their children graduated from Port Jefferson high school years ago, John and Nikki Poulianos still help out the students whenever they get a chance. 

The Port Jefferson Prom Committee. Photo by Drew Biondo

“The Poulianos clan has had an extraordinary impact on many families across Port Jeff,” Clinton Rubin, a parent with a child in the school district said. “Remarkably, it comes from so many different directions — they are what makes Port Jeff a family.”

John is a business owner and Nikki works for a few hours at the high school as its equipment manager, Joan Lyons, head custodian of Port Jefferson high school said. She added that the Poulianoses are constantly giving their time and energy back to the students — especially with the annual prom.

“Together the two of them work endless hours volunteering with the prom,” she said. “Without them, rest assured, there would not be a Port Jeff prom.”

The Port Jefferson prom is a big event for the school and community alike, and parents start to plan it months in advance. 

“What the Poulianoses do for the prom and kids is amazing,” Lyons added. “They’re there from the start of it until the very end setting it up and breaking it down.”

Lyons, who has worked in the school district for 33 years, said that without this couple, there would be no prom. 

“They’re good, nice people — not many people would do this stuff,” she added. “Thank God the school district and community has them.”

But the pair doesn’t just work on prom. They come to every soccer game (John is the high school boys soccer coach) and Nikki helps all the athletes in the school with their uniforms. 

“They just like to do things for the kids of Port Jeff,” Theresa Tsunis, a Port Jefferson resident said. “Nikki was in attendance at every single middle school basketball game my children were involved in. She is undeniably dedicated to the students of Port Jefferson.”

While the couple is active within the school district, John and Nikki also help out in other parts of the community. John works closely with Hope House and the Port Jeff Cub Scout Pack 41, while the couple is also active with the Greek festival every year. 

“We are all incredibly fortunate to have such a caring, committed family as part of our village infrastructure,” Rubin said. “They are what makes our town so special, and what makes it so easy to smile when thinking of our past and our future.”

So many people respect the constant volunteerism and selflessness of John and Nikki Poulianos.  

“They’re not the couple of the year, Janet Stafford, a Port Jeff resident, said. “They’re the couple of the decade.”

Long Island Coastal Steward volunteer Bill Negra, president Denis Mellett and treasurer Mark Campo at Mount Sinai Harbor. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Peggy Spellman Hoey

Coastal Steward Long Island has a three-pronged plan of attack in an unending, dirty battle — the one all environmentalists have been fighting — to keep local beaches and waters clean for years now. And it seems to be working. 

Coastal Steward board members and local divers plunge into Port Jefferson Harbor Aug. 18. Photo from Coastal Steward

What started out as loosely organized beach cleanups led by a local resident has spread to incorporate aquaculture conservation, restoring shellfish to Mount Sinai and Port Jefferson harbors, and marine education teaching youngsters about marine life and water quality. Its education programs include harbor seining and marsh exploration, shellfish hatchery tours and plankton microbiology, in which students use microscopes to identify plankton. 

Through its fundraising efforts, the group is also able to subsidize busing costs for schools that cannot fund field trips to the center.

The organization’s long-standing partnership with the Town of Brookhaven at its beach and marina complex on Long Island Sound in Mount Sinai allows for its educational programs to be run out of the Mount Sinai Marine Environmental Stewardship Center. In the complex’s maricultural center, the oyster seeds are grown for eventual release into the harbor.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point) called the organization a good partner and a nice complement to the town and its work to restore water quality.

“They are all about water quality,” she said. “Their message is the right one and their heart is in the right place.”

In addition to its beach-cleaning projects, about four years ago, the group began leading underwater cleanups, recruiting local divers to volunteer their services to remove debris such as garbage, mechanical parts, and household items like furniture that has ended up on the water’s bottom.

The addition of educational programs and underwater cleanups evolved from the group’s efforts to clean beaches after organizers realized something had to be done to address the trash coming in with the tide.

“There is no end to beach cleanups, but if we educate before it gets in the water, we keep it out of the water in the first place,” said Denis Mellett, a dive instructor who serves as the president of Coastal Steward LI.

Ashly Carabetta, the organization’s executive director, said the group has also seen success with one of its newer programs, the Youth Ocean Conservation Summit, where youngsters get to listen to guest speakers, including scientists and educators such as aquanaut Fabien Cousteau, a documentary filmmaker and the grandson of Jacques-Yves Cousteau. 

Long Island Coastal Steward volunteer Bill Negra checks oysters cages in Mount Sinai Harbor. Photo by Kyle Barr

“It’s just a great opportunity for these kids to get to be surrounded by people in the field [of marine science] and talk amongst themselves,” she said.

Another part of the program includes a segment where participants break off into groups and develop a project for which they apply for grant money and then work over the next year to complete the project. The projects can be anything from creating a children’s book about water quality to devising a plan to limit single-plastic use in schools.

Giving the group a final plug, Bonner noted it is always looking for volunteers, and it’s a well-rounded organization with which anyone of any age can become involved.

“This is a nice way to be involved and you are really making a difference — beach cleaning and water quality,” she said.

Carabetta noted the importance of a beach cleanup is that anyone can do it, but the organization does have other roles to fill.

“We are looking for volunteers, part-time educators to try to expand our reach in many ways,” she said.

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‘Red’ marks the estimated depth where the water table is less than 11 feet. Image from Campani and Schwarting

A state agency has granted Port Jeff over $80k in funds to help plan for future storms and floods.

The New York State Regional Economic Council awarded Port Jefferson village $82,500 Dec. 19 to create a Climate Resilience Plan. This comes in response to hurricanes over the past decade, including Irene and SuperStorm Sandy, as well as other storm surge events. The promised plan will integrate sea-level rise predictions to propose solutions to mitigate flooding and storm surges, along with the impacts of rising tides due to climate change.

Michael Schwarting presents the study’s findings to village officials back in August. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nicole Christian, Port Jefferson’s grant writer, said the village would have to put conducting the plan out to bid sometime early in the new year, and should cost a total of around $165,000. The $82,500 from New York State was the fully awarded amount requested.

With the funds, she said, Port Jefferson will be one of the few North Shore communities whose waterfront revitalization reports will be “on the leading edge” of current technologies and data from storms.

The funds go back to June this year, when the village presented its Waterfront Revitalization Plan to the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, describing its intention to perform immediately needed maintenance of the storm drainage system and provide emergency equipment to deploy in a rain event to protect properties in the village in catastrophic flooding.

At its July 15 meeting, the village voted unanimously to apply for grant funds from the state Division of Planning’s Local Waterfront Revitalization Program, Empire State Development and any other applicable state agencies.

In September of last year, Port Jefferson was bowled over with water, with nearly 4 inches of rain collected in a short span of time. Buildings like the Port Jefferson firehouse and the venerable Theatre Three were drowned in 3 to 4 feet of water, causing thousands of dollars in damages in the case of the theater. In July this year, the village was hit with yet another flooding event, and while this year’s was not nearly as severe as 2018, it still left many villagers wondering what could be in the future.

Christian said when submitting the grant, the village included images of that 2018 flood, giving an example of what could happen in the future if issues are not addressed.

The area outside Theatre Three was under 2 feet of water July 22. Photo from Brian Hoerger

Back in August, architects from the Port Jefferson-based firm Campani and Schwarting displayed a draft report about trouble spots for Port Jeff flooding. Michael Schwarting, one of the architects, pointed out Port Jeff has a lack of permeable surfaces, a significant amount of hardscape, and a water table that lies as close as 11 feet to the surface.

The Long Island Explorium is planning to create rain gardens at several points in the village, which may have the added benefit of creating permeable land for water to seep into during heavy rains. The gardens originally had a deadline of the end of this year, but the explorium’s Executive Director Angeline Judex said their grant was given an extension to June 1, 2020.

In a release, the village thanked Cara Longworth, chair and director of the LI Regional Economic Development Council and Denise Zani, deputy of the LIREDC, along with other state, county and town officials for continued support.

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Katherine Lewin with her newborn son Jonathan at St. Catherine Hospital's new maternity wing. Photo by Kyle Barr

St. Charles Hospital’s nearly $4 million new maternity wing has one thing at the top of the mind, privacy.

St. Catherines officials cut the ribbon on the new maternity wing. Photo by Kyle Barr

At a ribbon cutting for the new renovated 16-room maternal/child pavilion Dec. 19, hospital officials boasted rooms with “hotel-like atmosphere,” that focus on letting families stay together with their newborn in relative quiet.

“Today the standard in the community is probably for privacy for mothers, because now their husbands stay with them, so you need to have more people in the room,” said Jim O’Connor, the president of St. Charles Hospital.

O’Connor said the new wing cost around $3.8 million, most of which came from the hospital’s capital budget, and took around 10 months to build. During that time patients were moved to the 3-West wing, in order to avoid the disturbance of construction for the doctors, nurses and patients.

The hospital’s foundation and auxiliary contributed about $500,000 to the construction, said Lisa Mulvey, executive director of the hospital’s foundation. Funds were raised through trustees and events such as their annual golf outing and spring luncheons. The end result, she said, was well worth it.

“It’s beautiful,” Mulvey said. “I couldn’t have pictured something more beautiful.”

Each room features new beds and more accommodations for person’s significant others with new sofa chairs and larger, walk-in showers. The rooms also include more modern isolettes for newborn children.

One of the new rooms at St. Catherine Hospital maternal unit. Photo by Kyle Barr

Dr. Jerry Ninia, the director of obstetrics and gynecology at the hospital, said the new wing’s technology helps in emergencies, but it’s always moreso the staff involved.

“It goes beyond the nice showers and the nice digs, so to speak,” he said. “It helps the staff, it’s always nice to work in a nice facility.”

The wing officially opened about three weeks ago, and patients are already making use of the facilities.

Ed Casper, an architect from Stantec engineering company that worked on the new wing, said just that morning he had become a grandfather, his grandson being born right there in the new wing.

“Our experience through the night last night was absolutely phenomenal,” he said.

One of the first children to be born in the new maternity ward was young Jonathan Lewin, less than a week old. His sparse, brown hair is already as long as thumbtacks. His mother, Katherine Lewin, 31, a nurse from Wading River, said her care there was “excellent, everyone here is great.”

She is excited to take her new son home, where she expects her 2 ½ year-old daughter is excited to be a sister.

“She asked if she could bring him home,” Lewin said.

Jack Neiderberger a senior places 3rd overall at 195lbs in the Bob Armstrong Memorial Cup Dec. 14. Photo by Bill Landon

The Port Jefferson and Mount Sinai wrestlers hit the mat at the Bob Armstrong Memorial Cup tournament Dec. 14. Port Jeff wrestlers made a showing, with the Royal’s Frank D’Elia made the podium finishing 2nd at 99 pounds and teammate Liam Rogers finished 2nd at 113 pounds.

In the Consolation Finals, Tyler Rogers pinned his opponent at the 3:18 mark, Sam Robertson won with a major decision and Anthony Evangelista took victory at 145 pounds.

Mount Sinai fared well in the Bob Armstrong Memorial Cup. In the final round, Brenden Goodrich pinned his opponent at the 1:39 mark and Mike O’Brien, at 138 pounds, did it in 26 seconds. O’Brien took the “Most Pins-Least Time” honors with four pins on the day in just 4 minutes 41 seconds. Both Joe Goodrich, at 182 pounds and Gian Luca Ferrara at 220 pounds pinned their opponents in final round at 0:42 and 3:56 respectively.

The Royals are back out on the mat Dec. 20 when they hit the road to face Babylon. First match is 5:30 p.m.

The Mustangs retake the mat Dec. 18 at home with a 4 p.m. start against Bayport-Blue Point.