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Rita Egan

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.”

Helena Roura, on right, will graduate from Stony Brook University with her daughter Anastasia, center, May 18. In the past, the two have commuted to school together along with Roura’s son, Xavier, left. Photo from Helena Roura

As graduates of Stony Brook University fill Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium this year, one mother will be there to cheer on her daughter, but with a much closer seat than other parents in attendance.

Helena Roura and her daughter, Anastasia Roura, both of Mastic, are doubly excited for graduation day. Both will be receiving their diplomas along with more than 7,000 graduates Friday, May 18. For Helena Roura, 44, the day has been years in the making.

“Sometimes you can’t do it all at the same time. Sometimes you have to do it in piecemeal. It doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish everything that you want to.”

— Helena Roura

The wife and mother graduated from William Floyd High School in 1991, and she said she attended college for a short time like most of her peers. When she and her now-husband, Miguel, got engaged, she said she decided to concentrate on having a family. The couple first lived in Japan when her husband was in the Navy, and it was where both her children, Anastasia, 24, and Xavier, 23, were born.

“I made myself a promise that someday I would go back to college and finish my education, but for then my life was dedicated to raising my two children,” the mother said.

Returning to the United States in 1994, she hoped to go back to college once her kids were in school but  realized with all their activities, the timing still wasn’t quite right. After her
children graduated from William Floyd High School, her daughter in 2011 and her son in 2012, she knew the time had come to continue her studies.

“I wasn’t done learning,” she said. “I loved being in school. I loved learning. I knew I needed more and that I wanted more.”

Roura started her new college journey in September 2013 at Suffolk County Community College. Both of her children were at SCCC when she started, and during her time there she said she grew to love sociology after her daughter recommended a class. When the mother graduated from SCCC in May 2015 with a fine arts degree in photography, she applied to and was accepted by six colleges and chose SBU because her daughter was having such an enjoyable experience there. At SBU she took on a double major — sociology and anthropology.

Helena Roura and Anastasia Roura try on their graduation gowns. Photo from Stony Brook University

The mother and daughter have commuted and studied together ever since, and due to having similar course requirements with her daughter majoring in women’s, gender and sexuality studies, they have taken a few of the same classes together at SBU.

“It was actually really amazing to have someone in your class with you — on this journey with you — who you can look to for guidance and as not only peers, not only family but as best friends going to class together,” the daughter said of attending school with her mom.

The two admitted to giggling at times in classes, and both said they believe their shared educational journey has made their relationship, which was already close, even closer.

“It allowed our relationship to level up,” Anastasia Roura said. “I think that sometimes people aren’t able to have that opportunity, and I was so blessed to be able to have that. We take the things that we learn in class, and we bring them home and talk about them at the kitchen table.”

The daughter said she and her brother were never embarrassed about their mother returning to school later in life. She said she would advise young people who may find themselves in a similar situation to help out their parents with adjusting to college life and the responsibilities that come with it.

Helena Roura shared advice for those thinking about resuming education later in life, despite an already demanding schedule.

“We take the things that we learn in class, and we bring them home and talk about them at the kitchen table.”

— Anastasia Roura

“Sometimes you can’t do it all at the same time,” she said. “Sometimes you have to do it in piecemeal. It doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish everything that you want to, but I knew I wanted to be married and have my family and have my babies. And I knew my education was so important to me.”

The mother said she’s not done with her college studies. She has already met with her adviser and is applying for a master’s program in both nutrition and public health. She said she also plans to pursue a doctoral degree.

Her daughter said while she jokes that she took her time so the two could graduate together, she said sharing the milestone on the same day just worked out that way, and she’s happy it did.

“We’re able to celebrate each other, our education, our degrees, and I just think it’s really amazing,” the daughter said.

Events were held across the North Shore last week in honor of Veterans Day.

State and local officials gathered to remember all those who served, and celebrate those still serving at local parks and memorials.

Events included a Veterans Day service at Sound Beach Veterans Memorial Park. Resident Debbie Goldhammer presented Sound Beach Civic Association President Bea Ruberto and all of the veterans in attendance with a themed painting and three hand-painted rocks from her client David Weinstein, a quadriplegic who couldn’t be in attendance but wanted to thank his local veterans.

Heritage Park in Mount Sinai displayed its annual Parade of American Flags. Members of Mount Sinai Boy Scout Troop 390 — Brian McCrave, Trevor Satchell-Sabalja, John Lamparter, Kim DeBlasio, Joseph McDermott, Matthew Lamparter, Brandon McCrave, John DeBlasio and Jake DeBlasio — helped assemble the flags.

A speech and presentation of wreaths ceremony commemorated the day at East Setauket Memorial Park.

Huntington Town officials paid a special tribute to all those who have served in the United States Armed Forces in a Veterans Day ceremony Nov. 5 at 9 a.m. The ceremony placed special recognition to this year commemorating the 100th anniversary of the U.S. entry into World War I with a flowered wreath laid at the flagpole memorial.

In addition, Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) held a moment of silence for two Huntington veterans who have recently died.

Dominick Feeney Sr., a longtime Huntington Town highway supervisor and former organizer of the town’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade,  served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He died Oct. 15.

Northport resident Alice Early Fay, served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and Korean War and received many awards including the World War II Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, and the National Campaign Medal.  She was a member of the Huntington Veterans Advisory Board and was chairwoman of the committee that built the town’s Women Veterans Memorial in front of town hall. Fay died Nov. 2.

Eagle Scout John Ninia stands by the dogwood trees he planted at Frank Melville Memorial Park. Photo from Jerry Ninia

For one Eagle Scout, earning coveted merit badges has been more than a pastime; it’s been a mission. The undertaking has led him to earn all 137 badges a Scout can receive — an accomplishment only 6 percent of scouts in the nation have achieved, according to the Boy Scouts of America website.

John Ninia, of Poquott, a senior at Ward Melville High School, moved up from Cub Scout to Boy Scout when he was 11 years old. Ninia said it took him six years to earn all 137 badges. A scout needs 21 badges to become an Eagle Scout — 16 being mandatory ones.

“I just went for all of them,” the Troop 70 Eagle Scout said.

When he was 12 years old, Ninia said he attended Boy Scout camp, where his mission to collect every badge first became his goal.

John Ninia, an Eagle Scout in Troop 70, proudly wears his 137 badges. Photo from Jerry Ninia

“I remember after my first week of summer camp, I was on my way home and I was really thrilled,” he said. “Usually you can get five badges if you’re really into it but I got about 11, and my parents mentioned that I could go back for a second week.”

Ninia said he immediately signed up for the second week, and when he earned 20 badges that summer, he said it was a great feeling. The Scout said some merit badges, such as one for art, can take a day and a half, while personal fitness, family life and other badges require more time, even months. He said a scuba badge took several days of training to earn certification, while achieving the water skiing one was the most difficult, but he kept trying until he could stand up on the skis.

Ninia completed three Hornaday projects, which are tasks that involve the environment. He eliminated invasive knotweed, a Japanese plant, at West Meadow Beach, planted trees at Frank Melville Memorial Park and installed a rain garden in the Village of Poquott’s California Park. Working to improve the environment is a passion of his, and he plans to major in environmental studies in college.

Frank Melville Memorial Foundation Park Board President Robert Reuter said Ninia worked diligently to clear a substantial vine-choked area adjacent to the Bates House in the park. His work saved existing trees and allowed for the planting of several native white flowering dogwoods.

“It’s revealing of his commitment that I get calls from John offering to continue the work,” Reuter said. “This young man has a bright future underpinned by his extraordinary personal achievements and service to community.”

Robert Mandell, who was Ninia’s troop leader for the majority of the time he has been in Boy Scouts, said he remembers the teenager coming to him telling him how he earned badges for various activities such as glass blowing and concrete mixing. The former troop leader he said he would question him at length about what he did to earn the badge.

“I quizzed them like the FBI,” Mandell said.

He said he wasn’t surprised when Ninia earned every badge, saying he is a smart, hardworking teenager.

“This young man is driven,” the former troop leader said.

While the experiences earning the badges have provided great memories for Ninia, he said what he has enjoyed most during his Scouting years has been “providing leadership to a group of scouts and helping them with their own ability to rank up.”

“This young man has a bright future underpinned by his extraordinary personal achievements and service to community.”

— Robert Reuter

Despite a busy schedule with school, the cross-country team and DECA, Ninia said it’s important to make time for Scouting.

The high school senior said one can no longer be a scout after 18, but while his days as a scout may be over soon, he hopes to always be a part of the organization in some way, even though he’s not sure about being a troop leader.

“It’s hard, and I do have a lot of stuff and I’m a busy guy, but Scouting is something I’ve loved so I’ve always been able to make time for it,” he said. His advice to other Scouts? “Try your best and shoot for the stars.”

Ninia’s father Jerry said the family, which includes mom Lynn and siblings James and Christina, is proud of their Scout and his accomplishments.

“He’s a good kid,” his father said. “He works very hard He perseveres. He has a can-do attitude. He’s just the kind of guy that makes things happen.”

Achieving merit badges makes a Scout a more well-rounded individual, according to Jerry Ninia.

“When you think about it, 137 merit badges, it touches on everything from art to architecture to woodworking to metalworking to horseback riding to law and medicine to water sports and everything in between,” he said. “You can probably strike up a conversation with anyone as a young adult and speak to anyone from practically any walk of life because you’ll probably feel some commonality.”

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Michael Ehrlich decided to embark on a 125-mile walk to raise funds for juvenile diabetes research after his daughter Rachael was diagnosed with the condition. Photo from Michael Ehrlich

By Rita J. Egan

Walking is more than a form of exercise for one South Setauket father; it’s one step closer toward his mission to raise awareness of Type 1 diabetes as well as raise funds to find a cure.

Michael Ehrlich will begin a 125-mile walk Oct. 16 from Times Square in Manhattan, where he works, to Montauk. His hope is to raise $25,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The 46-year-old took on the mission after his daughter Rachael, 13, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes, last year. It was during a trip to Hershey Park in Pennsylvania when the R.C. Murphy Junior High School, Stony Brook, student became ill and fainted in a hotel lobby. When the family returned home, Ehrlich’s wife, Leanne, took Rachael to a doctor who diagnosed her with the life-threatening condition.

Ehrlich said the walk will take him approximately two to three days. It’s an adventure he will undertake with sporadic 20-minute rest periods and without replenishing his supplies. He will carry a hydration pack that holds the equivalent of five bottles of water and bring with him a head lamp, extra socks, a windbreaker, carb-heavy protein bars and sweets. Ehrlich will also be equipped with a GoPro camera to record his journey.

Rachael and her mother support his efforts and the preparation, which has included overnight walks, involved for the trip. 

“I’m really proud of him, because I see first of all the commitment to do it and train and walk overnight,” his wife said. “Sometimes, he would get home at 10 a.m. and get into bed because of walking all night.”

Ehrlich demonstrates the GoPro camera that will record his journey that will start Oct. 16. Photo from Michael Ehrlich

He has been preparing for Oct. 16 by increasing the miles he walks with each trip. The last few weeks, Ehrlich has been walking approximately 40 miles or more once a week. He has traveled on foot from his home to Wildwood State Park in Wading River, and after one of his daughter’s soccer games, from East Meadow to South Setauket. He has also walked from Rocky Point to West Hampton along the Paumanok Path, and one day after work, he walked to Floral Park in Queens.

Ehrlich said he has always enjoyed camping and hiking. His 86-year-old father, Richie, still walks a few miles a day.

“It must be in my genes,” Ehrlich said. 

The idea came to him one day while sitting on the train from Manhattan. Ehrlich said he knew he wanted to raise money for finding a cure for juvenile diabetes and realized it needed to be a fundraiser that would be original to capture people’s attention. He saw the Manhattan skyline and that’s where it hit him to walk from the city to the end of Long Island.

He has done more than walking to prepare for his campaign. After initial trips where his feet would hurt, Ehrlich began researching the proper way to walk. He discovered chi walking, which has helped reduce his foot pain.

He planned out his trip with Google Maps for the best possible route. Ehrlich said walking along the South Shore seems to be the best way because the roads are less hilly and winding. He will travel from Manhattan to Long Island by crossing over the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. He is looking forward to seeing the diverse neighborhoods of Queens before walking through the South Shore’s villages.

“I’m really proud of him, because I see first of all the commitment to do it and train and walk overnight.”

Leanne Ehrlich

Ehrlich has set up the Facebook page, Manhattan2Montauk, that currently has more than 100 followers to promote his walk. He is already at $15,000 toward his $25,000 fundraising goal. He said many believe that Type 1 diabetes is the result of a child not eating well or the parents feeding them sugary food, which is not true. He said the disease is genetic; however, researchers are not certain what triggers it in some individuals and not others.

“A lot of people confuse Type 1 and Type 2, and they are actually completely different,” Ehrlich said. “They shouldn’t even be called the same thing.”

He also wants others to know the obstacles those suffering from diabetes go through. The Ehrlich family is waiting for their health care insurance to approve an insulin pump that will be beneficial for their daughter. Ehrlich said his daughter regularly asks him if they received approval yet. As a father, he hopes his fundraiser will give her hope that one day a cure will be found and she won’t have to worry about things such as an insurance company’s approval for a medical device.

“They’re close to finding a cure,” Ehrlich said. “It’s going to happen in the next 10 or 15 years. Maybe the money we raise will help find a cure.”

Jason Rice, director of development with JDRF, said representatives from the foundation will join Ehrlich for the first few miles and the organization fully supports him. Rice said while others have walked a few miles to raise money, this is the longest walk he remembers being done.

“This is truly a special event to take on this walk across Long Island,” Rice said.

Updates on his journey will be posted on the Manhattan2Montauk Facebook page.  Ehrlich said he encourages others to join him for the first few miles of his Oct. 16 walk, which will begin at 9 a.m. at 3 Times Square in Manhattan.

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library. File photo by Michael Ruiz

By Rita J. Egan

Three Village’s approval was overwhelming.

The school district voted in favor of the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library’s $5,235,398 budget for 2018, with 503 “yes” votes to 75 “no.”

With the budget $36,037 more than 2017, the tax levy will increase by 0.69 percent.

“Thank you to the Three Village community for your overwhelming support of Emma S. Clark Memorial Library,” President of the library board of trustees Linda Josephs said. “The library board and staff will continue to strive to provide the highest quality library services at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers.”

Library Director Ted Gutmann said future projects include renovation of the lower level public restrooms, and the possibility of a small café that would serve coffee and light snacks. The proposed refreshment area would include seating.

He said the library staff also looks forward to the continuation of classes and one-on-one help with technology. Among other services Emma Clark provides are volunteer opportunities for teens, resources for parents, and programs for infants, toddlers and school-aged children, including a summer reading program that brings in thousands of kids each year. Every other week a bus is available for senior residents who cannot drive, providing them with transportation to the library to socialize and participate in programs. The library’s Homebound Service delivers books and other materials to those who are unable to visit the library.

“I want to thank everyone who voted, either in person or through absentee ballots,” Gutmann said. “The library is 125 years old; its ongoing success is a testament to the residents who have treasured their library over these many years. It is a team effort between the administration, staff, and most importantly, the patrons of the Emma Clark Library. As I’ve said before, the library is still a thriving and vibrant place. As times have changed, the library has changed, too, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the great relationship we have with our community.”

The Se-Port Delicatessen, located at 301 Main St. in East Setauket, will be featured on Travel Channel's 'Food Paradise.' Photo by Rita J. Egan

When a television show narrator fondly remembers his favorite hometown delicatessen, it turns into an opportunity of a lifetime for the deli’s owner to showcase his signature sandwiches.

The Se-port Delicatessen, located at 301 Main St. in East Setauket, will be featured in the Sept. 17 episode of Travel Channel’s “Food Paradise” in an episode titled “Bun-Believable.” Owned by Wisam Dakwar, the deli is a favorite of many in the area, including former resident Jesse Blaze Snider. The oldest son of Twisted Sister front man, Dee Snider, and 2001 Ward Melville High School graduate is the narrator of “Food Paradise.” When he was younger, Jesse Snider was a frequent visitor to Se-Port.

Jason Levine, co-executive producer of the show, said the deli was a perfect choice.

“Our host Jesse Snider grew up going to Se-Port Deli with his family,” Levine said. “There’s a sandwich called ‘The Snider’ on the menu, and he’s been going there for approximately 20 years at this point. And, anytime we can incorporate that much love from our host into a childhood favorite we’re going to go for it.”

Wisam Dakwar, owner of Se-Port Delicatessen, during filming of ‘Food Paradise.’ Photo from Se-Port Delicatessen

While Dakwar and Levine couldn’t discuss the sandwiches featured on the Sept. 17 episode taped earlier this summer, Dakwar said years ago the television narrator created his namesake sandwich that includes honey mustard, bacon, chicken salad, and melted mozzarella on a toasted garlic roll.

Dakwar said it was great seeing Snider again, and he was honored he appeared on screen to eat the sandwich. According to the deli owner, Snider usually only provides the voice-over and doesn’t appear on screen.

“I’ve known Jesse since high school, and his dad,” Dakwar said. “The whole family, they grew up here.”

The deli features specialty sandwiches bearing the names of other well-known residents — especially sports figures — including Mets pitcher Steven Matz, a 2009 graduate of Ward Melville. Dakwar said recently he received a call from Matz to deliver 35 sandwiches and Se-Port’s iced tea to his teammates at Citi Field in Queens.

For many, television appearances and recognition from sports figures may equal the American Dream. Dakwar has achieved the dream through hard work and long hours. He said when he emigrated from Israel to the United States in 1991 he worked at his cousin’s deli in Islip every day and played violin at Middle Eastern clubs in New York City at night to earn additional cash in order to save up for his own deli.

“I always wanted to own my own business,” Dakwar said. “I’m a workaholic. I’m not scared of working and nothing comes easy, I know that.”

Dakwar bought the Se-Port Deli and the building it occupies in the late 1990s and renovated it. Originally the delicatessen was approximately a quarter of the size it is now until he expanded when a TrueValue hardware store next to the deli closed. The Old Field resident, who only takes off Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas, still works days and nights.

Dakwar said while working with his cousin he gained the knowledge to run a deli business, and he also improved his English language skills by interacting with customers. He knew very little English before moving to the United States, because being of Palestinian descent and living in Israel, he grew up speaking Arabic and Hebrew.

The single 40-year-old, who became a U.S. citizen in the late ’90s, said his parents still live in Israel and visit him once a year for a few months at a time. Dakwar said his parents are proud of the success he has achieved while living here.

Jesse Snider, Food Paradise’s narrator, with his namesake sandwich at Se-Port Delicatessen. Photo from Jesse Snider

“I’m thankful because I do a lot of business,” the deli owner said. “A lot of people come here.”

Lately, Dakwar has been busy creating a gyro sandwich, which offers a different taste than the average one by using various meats and ranch dressing. He has plans to install an additional counter where he can offer a wider variety of foods including Mexican favorites.

Dakwar said the day of the taping the restaurant was filled with cameras and the television crew, and he appreciated the customers’ patience. Abdul Mustafa who has worked behind the counter for four and half years said it was a good day for the deli.

“The place was packed with people on the day of the taping,” Mustafa said.

Mustafa said he and the other deli employees are looking forward to seeing themselves on television. However, Dakwar said he isn’t organizing a big screening of the show, because he said he would like to view it in private.

“I’m nervous because I’m not a camera guy,” he said. 

The deli owner said he’s grateful for his regular customers, and he’s looking forward to the exposure the show will give his business.

“I’m always looking forward to seeing new people, new customers from the area,” Dakwar said.

The Travel Channel will air the “Bun-Believable” episode of “Food Paradise” Sept. 17 at 9 p.m.

Dr. Samuel L. Stanley Jr., Stony Brook University president, helps a student move into a residence hall Aug. 25. Photo from Stony Brook University

By Rita J. Egan

Stony Brook University has been doing its part to make campus life feel more like home for most students, by offering gender-inclusive housing.

For a decade, the option has allowed students to share a room with friends or siblings no matter what their gender, or choose housing based on the gender they identify with. The only requirements are that students have to be 18 or older and sign a contract stating they will respect everyone in their residence hall.

On Aug. 25, move-in day for freshmen and transfer students, resident assistant Derrick Wegner, who is transgender, was on hand to greet newcomers. The senior psychology major said he was happy to have the option when he came to Stony Brook. Wegner, who lives in Wurtsboro,  said college is a great opportunity for a fresh start, especially for young people looking to transition. 

Derrick Wegner stands in the gender-inclusive room he shares with his best friend Sydney. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Wegner said the gender-inclusive housing option at Stony Brook creates a happy and safe environment, and he feels being happy and healthy plays a big part in being a successful student.

“You’re of value, and you belong here,” he said.

This year the senior is thrilled to be sharing a dorm with his best friend Sydney Monroe Gaglio, who he met early on in college through mutual friends.

“She’s my best friend, and I’m her best friend,” he said. “Just having somebody that I know I can go home to, and [say] this happened, and she’s like ‘I’m sorry.’ She just gets it.”

Ian Rose, who majors in engineering chemistry and applied mathematics and statistics, was thrilled when he heard of the gender-inclusive option. The junior said last year he made friends with Daniel Mahoney, Brandon O’Rourke, Bianca Mugone and Brittany Voboril, and they all became great friends. They lived in the same residence hall — the males in one room on one floor and the girls in their own room on another floor. Many nights last year they would find themselves in each other’s rooms studying or talking and decided to live together.

“We’re friends just hanging out,” Rose said.

This academic year the five are living in a suite with three bedrooms and one bathroom. Rose said at first his only concern was how things would work out in the bathroom, but so far things are going smoothly.

“I just want this to show everyone that guys and girls living together isn’t weird or uncomfortable,” Rose said. “You’re living with your friends; friends are friends. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or girl or different skin tone. It doesn’t matter; we’re all the same.”

Ian Rose, right, and friends settle in their three-bedroom suite after a long day. Photo from Ian Rose

Catherine-Mary Rivera, director of residential programs at SBU, said the program began as a small pilot initiative at the university 10 years ago, and grew slowly through the years. In 2016, approximately 40 students took advantage of the housing option, while this year more than 200 students — out of 10,683 living on campus — chose gender-inclusive residences across the campus.

She said the university wants to ensure that all students feel safe and welcome because it’s their home, and they have received plenty of positive feedback regarding the housing.

“The fact that it has grown from 42 to 200 has shown us students feel that they have a place here, and that they don’t have to either feel not comfortable being themselves or feel that Stony Brook doesn’t have a place for them, or they have to remain quiet about who they are or how they express themselves,” Rivera said. “That freedom has come through very clearly that this is a place they can thrive and be their true selves and live with their friends.”

The housing option also allows couples to live together; however, the university does recommend romantic partners think twice before making that decision.

“We want you to branch out and build a stronger community and have healthy relationships, and it may not be best to live with your significant other at this point,” Rivera said.

In addition to gender-inclusive housing, she said SBU offers all-gender, multi-stall bathrooms throughout campus and on the main floors of residence halls, in addition to all-men and all-women restrooms. Software updates have also been made to the school’s system allowing students and faculty members to choose their preferred names and pronoun if they would prefer to be addressed by something other than their legal name. The change means that identification cards and email addresses now show the name a person uses on a regular basis instead of their legal name.

Former Stony Brook resident Chris Cantwell sprays mace in a man’s face during the protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo from Chris Cantwell’s Facebook

By Rita J. Egan

When Vice News premiered a documentary on HBO about the recent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the story took a local twist when it featured former Stony Brook resident Christopher Cantwell.

Cantwell, who currently lives in Keene, New Hampshire, is a white supremacist who hosts an alternative right call-in show, “Radical Agenda,” which is live streamed through Facebook and UStream. In the Vice documentary, he can be seen with other marchers holding torches and chanting: “Jews will not replace us” and “White lives matter.” During the filming, after being sprayed with mace in his eyes, he said he was attacked by counter-protesters and called them “communists.”

Cantwell did not respond to multiple different requests for comment. Calls to a residence connected to him on Skylark Lane in Stony Brook were not answered, and when a News 12 Long Island reporter approached a man in the driveway of the home, the man denied knowing Cantwell. It was seen on his website in recent days that Cantwell now fears for his life.

Vice documentary

After seeing the Vice documentary, one of Cantwell’s childhood friends, who declined to be interviewed, reacted on Facebook.

“I remember five years ago when I removed him from my page when he started spewing hate speech,” he said. “I may not agree with our government, but I’ll be dead before I align myself with people like this. All of this makes it too real, too close to home and too sad to even comprehend. I feel bad for them really, to live life based solely on hatred of people for a reason based solely in their minds.”

The last mention of a Cantwell in the Ward Melville High School yearbooks was in 1997. He was listed as a camera-shy sophomore.

His website provides insight into his white supremacist beliefs and why he participated in protesting the removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park.

Cantwell during the Charlottesville Unite the Right rally. Screenshot from HBO’s Vice News documentary

“Here at the Radical Agenda, we’ve made no secret of our utter contempt for the subhuman filth commonly referred to as the Left,” he wrote Aug. 7. “Their Marxist, anti-human war on reality is an ideological contaminant that makes HIV look appealing by comparison. So, we’ve literally made a career out of producing war propaganda against them.”

On Aug. 10, before the rally that resulted in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, he posted a message on his website that could only be seen in its entirety if the reader was an existing paying member to his site. He had disabled new membership sign-ups.

“I’m in Charlottesville, Virginia for the Unite the Right Rally this coming Saturday,” he said in a preview of the post. “Since we have been meeting so much opposition from both the criminal elements and the municipal government alike, we’ve had to exercise a great deal of caution in terms of operational security.”

Cantwell said he was with a reporter, Elle Reeve from Vice, who was covering the rally.

After the documentary aired on HBO, a photo surfaced of Cantwell attacking someone with pepper spray. In an Aug. 17 post on his website he referenced the photo. He said the man was coming directly for him and another person was approaching him from his left, and believed his safety was being threatened.

“I sprayed in self-defense, while holding a flashlight in my left hand,” he said. “In my mind, this was the minimal level of force I could use to deter this threat.”

He posted a YouTube video saying he feared he would be arrested, and appeared on the verge of tears. In the Aug. 17 website post, he said he was preparing to turn himself over to University of Virginia police. Calls to the police department to confirm warrants were issued were not returned. Although the Vice film showed him unloading guns strapped to his waist and legs onto the bed of a hotel room, he said he did not bring his guns to the rally.

Cantwell living locally

Cantwell is no stranger to run-ins with the law, according to Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, a watch group dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry. In 2000, Cantwell pleaded guilty to fifth-degree criminal possession of stolen property, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and driving while intoxicated in Suffolk County. He served four months of a six-month jail sentence. During a failed attempt to run to represent New York’s 1st Congressional District in 2009 as a Libertarian candidate, he was arrested a second time for DWI. He faced up to two years in prison. He eventually took a deal and served 28 days of a 45-day plea bargain.

Cantwell admitted to his DWI arrests in a speech he gave at a Suffolk/Nassau Libertarian Party Convention June 14, 2014. He said at the age of 19 he became very drunk and while driving his car realized he was too drunk to drive and parked his car to sleep. He said the next day he woke up in jail. Nine years later, he said he was out on a date and said he was careful with the amount of drinking he was doing. He was pulled over for speeding in East Hampton. His blood alcohol limit was measured at .01 over the legal limit. In the speech, Cantwell said before the trial his vehicle was seized and his driver’s license suspended. Due to paying thousands in bail and attorney fees, he lost his job and apartment.

“New York is a hopeless cesspool of government violence and corruption.”

— Christopher Cantwell

He began to study government, and said he started to “figure out that government is a violent, evil monster portraying itself as a peacemaker and savior.”

“That far from being that which brings order to society, it is responsible for more carnage and misery than any other institution in the history of mankind,” he said.

During the convention speech, Cantwell said he was leaving New York.

“New York is a hopeless cesspool of government violence and corruption,” he said.

In another Aug. 17 post, Cantwell said he was blocked by PayPal, Venmo, Facebook,
Instagram, Twitter, and MailChimp. He discovered his online dating profiles at OKCupid, Match and Tinder were disabled — sites he said he used for the pursuit of romance.

East Setauket’s Stefanie Werner, although hoping that others don’t associate white
supremacy with the Three Villages, can see how a mindset like Cantwell’s develops.

“The news about a white supremacist with roots in the Three Village area, although disturbing, should not be altogether shocking,” she said. “I have lived here all of my life and began my teaching career at Ward Melville. Walking the halls of Ward Melville High School, or any other high school in the country, there exists a diverse set of personalities that have yet to fully develop. Adolescent ideals turn to adult ideologies, and it only takes one experience, positive or negative, to help mold these beliefs into a solid foundation. It is sad, and a tad frightening that this particular mindset developed in a community where many may turn a blind eye to the existence of this antithetical culture. However, the current political arena is nurturing this thought process, and this community needs to heighten its awareness of the clashing principles of the modern era.”


File photo of Ward Melville by Greg Catalano

Community reaction

Three Village residents and religious leaders were asked how they felt when they heard Christopher Cantwell was from Stony Brook.

Terry Shapiro: “As an American Jew, I am horrified. Anti-Semitism has a long history in Suffolk County. That is why it is so important to have a representative who speaks out firmly against bigotry in the White House. U.S. Rep Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) has not done so. He has not held Mr. Trump accountable. As long as we have a bigot in the White House and members of Congress who refuse to censure him, I fear that anti-Semitism will continue to resurface.”

Rabbi Steven A. Moss (chairperson of the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission): “There’s no place on earth that is exempt from this kind of behavior. The question then becomes what do the rest of us do. Therefore what we try to do is model ourselves on the idea that evil occurs when good people do nothing. So we organize task forces and people. We need to speak out and make sure we condemn when appropriate this kind of behavior and speak out against it and not simply turn aside.”

Shoshana Hershkowitz: “Chris Cantwell is a reminder that hate exists in all communities. It is deeply upsetting to me that a young man who was raised in our area, was taught in our schools, came away with this frightening worldview and ideology. We need to examine the racism that exists where we live and confront it in our homes and schools. This must be our response to hate if we are to combat it effectively.”

Arnold Wishnia: “I learned that Cantwell came from Stony Brook from you. I Googled him and discovered that I had in fact seen the TV clip where this vile Nazi boasted about strengthening himself for violence, and said he would kill if he had to. Cantwell may be an extreme, but I am not shocked that violence-prone racists can be found in Stony Brook.  Suffolk County has a history of KKK and Nazi activity from the 1930s. My sons encountered this kind of unthinking, violence-threatening racism as students at Ward Melville High School, I am disturbed and disappointed to find out that anyone is a Nazi, but not surprised that Stony Brook has bred some.”

The Rev. Kate Jones Calone (director of Open Door Exchange at Setauket Presbyterian Church): “We cannot pretend that prejudice and racism do not exist in our area, whether explicit, subtle or unintentional. The question is how we address it. In my faith, God grieves over separation and longs for reconciliation. If we are to build a community grounded in equity and love, we need first to understand why things are not that way and take action to change it. This requires real commitment, hard work, humility and a willingness to confront what stands in the way. Starting in elementary school, schools, parents and adult leaders need to teach more than simple kindness; they need to teach kids to be affirmatively and actively inclusive and anti-racist. And we need to educate ourselves on why Long Island is among the top 10 most segregated places in the country.”

 

Attendees at the Three Village Chamber of Commerce annual barbecue enjoyed an evening of eating and dancing on the beach Aug. 2. Photo from the Three Village Chamber of Commerce

By Rita J. Egan

A little rain didn’t stop families from enjoying an evening at the beach Aug. 2 when the Three Village Chamber of Commerce hosted its family barbecue.

Attendees at the Three Village Chamber of Commerce annual barbecue enjoyed an evening of eating and dancing on the beach Aug. 2. Photo from the Three Village Chamber of Commerce

This was the 18th annual summer event at West Meadow Beach for the chamber. Vice president Charles Lefkowitz said while it rained for a short period, attendees weathered the storm by spending time under the beach’s pavilion or umbrellas.

“The rain made it fun and interesting, and thanks to the great volunteers we have, and David Prestia from Bagel Express, we were able to get several hundred through the food line,” he said. “It was a very successful event.”

Chamber president Andrew Polan said he estimated  400 people were in attendance, and added the number of families participating in the event has grown over the years. Polan said while the organization doesn’t advertise as much as it did in the past, many still come, looking forward to the raffles and camaraderie at the beach.

“It’s nice to see after 18 years it’s as much of a hit with the community as it’s always been,” Polan said.

Lefkowitz said Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) and Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) were among the local residents who attended.

Attendees at the Three Village Chamber of Commerce annual barbecue enjoyed an evening of eating and dancing on the beach Aug. 2. Photo from the Three Village Chamber of Commerce

“This is something that the local community looks forward to every year, and I’ve been involved in it since its inception,” Lefkowitz said. “I’m really proud that the chamber can deliver such an event to give back to the community.”

David Woods, the chamber’s former executive director, recently retired, and Lefkowitz said the board banded together to organize this year’s barbecue. He said their work together on the event has left a great impression on him.

“The true highlight was how my fellow board members really pulled together, and we worked as a group to deliver this barbecue as a successful event,” Lefkowitz said.

The Three Village Chamber of Commerce’s mission is to provide local professionals and business owners the opportunity to grow professionally through community events. The organization is planning its next event — Disco Night at The Old Field Club — Oct. 19. For more information visit www.3vchamber.com.

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