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Rita J. Egan

Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn, center, receives the Brookhaven Community Leadership Award from Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright and Holiday Inn Express owner John Tsunis. Photo by Rita J. Egan

A familiar face in the Three Village and Port Jefferson areas was honored for her career achievements the day before International Women’s Day.

On March 7, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) received the Brookhaven Community Leadership Award at a ceremony held at the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook. At the event, which was sponsored by the hotel and Gold Coast Bank, Hahn was surrounded by family members, friends and community members, including Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Setauket Fire District Fire Commissioner Jay Gardiner, and Jane Taylor and Carmine Inserra, Three Village Chamber of Commerce 2nd vice president and executive director, respectively.

John Tsunis, owner of the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook and CEO and chairman of Gold Coast Bank, said as a resident of Hahn’s legislative district he is a proud supporter of her and her work. The CEO admired her passing of policies that helped ensure emergency workers were trained in the use of Narcan to revive patients who overdose and a bill that increased background checks of daycare workers. He also called her a tireless advocate for domestic abuse survivors and a “champion of our environment,” citing her work to help to protect ground and drinking water along with her promotion of recreational activities at local parks.

“As we all know, Kara cares deeply for our community, because of her thoughtful leadership Kara was elected to serve as legislature majority leader in 2016 and again in 2017,” he said.

Cartright said when she first ran for town office in 2013 she felt “blessed” to know Hahn. The councilwoman described her county counterpart as a worker bee who looks at her job from different perspectives.

“What’s so special about Kara Hahn is that she not only looks at things from a legislator perspective, but she looks at it from a community member perspective — a perspective that she’s one of us,” Cartright said. “She’s gone through the process. She understands the struggles and tribulations that many of us have to face within our communities.”

Hahn said she was humbled and honored to represent the community. She described the legislative district as an area where people work together to help make it an even better place to live. She cited a recent example where a member of Cartright’s office reached out to her to ask how they could help members of a Port Jefferson Veterans of Foreign Wars post attend the Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade so they wouldn’t have to park too far away. Hahn reached out to the Holiday Inn Express, and Tsunis offered the hotel’s shuttle bus for the veterans’ use.

“That’s the kind of community we have,” Hahn said. “Everybody wants to chip in. Everybody wants to help. Everybody knows it’s a great place to live and knows that it can be even better. We have a vision for that, and we keep every day trying to find a way to make things better whether it’s for our environment or our schools.”

The Brookhaven Community Leadership award has been presented annually since 2014. Past winners include Charlie Lefkowitz, Three Village Chamber of Commerce vice president; Leah Dunaief, TBR News Media publisher; and Gloria Rocchio, president of The Ward Melville Heritage Organization.

By Rita J. Egan

When the weather outside is chilly, a night out on the town is better when it’s celebrated inside. With this in mind, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization will hold A “Taste” of Stony Brook Village … Ladies Night In on Tuesday, Feb. 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center.

The event, which will benefit breast cancer research at Stony Brook Medicine, will feature a fashion show celebrating Chico’s 25th anniversary in Stony Brook Village Center, according to Gloria Rocchio, president of the WMHO. The clothing chain’s Stony Brook location was the first Chico’s to open in New York.

Shelagh Stoneham, senior vice president of Chico’s marketing, said in an email that boutique associates, store managers and the district sales manager would be in attendance Feb. 26.

Roberta Fabiano

“Chico’s is thrilled to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our Stony Brook location at the upcoming A ‘Taste’ of Stony Brook Village event,” Stoneham said. “The support for Chico’s in local communities like Stony Brook is both remarkable and critical to the longevity of our brand. We look forward to celebrating with all of the friends we’ve made over the last 25 years.”

Helene Obey, Chico’s multi-unit general store manager, who leads the Stony Brook and Southampton stores, said she’s been working at the village location for more than a year. Obey said she loves hearing about the location’s history from former Stony Brook employee Jennifer Vasta, who is now a general store manager in Merrick, including how the staff opened the boutique 25 years ago during a blizzard.

She said the idea of holding a fashion show with vintage and new clothing came up during a casual chat with Rocchio and her husband, Richard. “It ended up being very organic, and then all of a sudden turned out to be this really large event which we’re so excited about,” Obey said.

She said finding past outfits was easy as many longtime employees have held on to special pieces, and Chico’s Stony Brook team and former employees will participate in the fashion show. The day of the event, the store will offer refreshments, free gifts, raffles and will have a wheel that will be spun every half hour where winners will receive gift certificates from community businesses.

Rocchio, who will be wearing a vintage outfit, said the event is all about being interactive and the goal is to raise $5,000 for breast cancer research. Guests will have the opportunity to enjoy food samples, demonstrations, raffles, giveaways and raffle baskets. There will be ’90-themed music; Roberta Fabiano, who has performed worldwide, will sing; and dancers from Roseland School of Dance will teach attendees how to dance the macarena. Virtual reality equipment will also be available.

The Three Village Inn, Sweet Mama’s, the Country House, Pentimento’s, Fratelli’s Italian Eatery, Robinson’s Tea Room, Crazy Beans, Brew Cheese and The Crushed Olive will have representatives on hand with food samplings including mac and cheese, hors d’oeuvres, scones, veggie wraps and more. Chocolate Works will present a seven-tiered display of chocolate samples, and Blue Salon & Spa will have a minispa, minimakeup demos and a raffle for a free cut and blowout.

Admission for the Feb. 26 event is $35 per person. The WMHO’s Educational & Cultural Center is located at 97P Main St. in the rear of the Stony Brook Village Center. Reservations are required and can be made via PayPal at www.stonybrookvillage.com/tsbv/ or by calling 631-689-5888.

Amber Ferrari. Photo by Rich Balter

By Rita J. Egan

Music lovers who enjoy taking a trip down memory lane will be in for a treat Feb. 9 at Theatre Three. Long Island performer Amber Ferrari returns to the Port Jefferson venue with “Joplin’s Pearl Featuring Amber Ferrari,” a production that celebrates singer Janis Joplin’s musical legacy.

The show is described on the theater’s website as a two-act musical explosion. While the second act is jam-packed with the music of Joplin including “Me and Bobby McGee” and “Piece of My Heart,” the show opens with a mixture of hits from various artists. 

Amber Ferrari. Photo by Rich Balter

Reached by phone, Ferrari said she will be singing musical hits from legends throughout the decades, including Pat Benatar, Linda Ronstadt, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Queen, Led Zeppelin and Carole King. The singer said she also plans on performing one of her own songs.

Ferrari’s artistic relationship with Theatre Three began in 2005 when she performed in the venue’s “Woodstock-mania: Woodstock in Concert,” a show that inspired her to create “Joplin’s Pearl.” The singer said through the years she has performed the Joplin musical performance many times at the Port Jeff venue and also debuted her shows dedicated to Pat Benatar and Madonna there. Last summer, she once again participated in “Woodstock-Mania.”

“That’s my home theater, that’s my heart and soul,” said Ferrari. 

Douglas Quattrock, Theatre Three’s artistic associate and director of development, said he is looking forward to Ferrari returning to the theater with the show.

“I am thrilled to have Amber back at Theatre Three,” Quattrock said. “Her show is always filled with an incredible amount of energy, and her audiences always get a first-rate performance.”

The February performance follows a busy few months for Ferrari who presented her “Material Girl Featuring Amber Ferrari” at 89 North Music Venue in Patchogue last month and Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub in Smithtown last October as well as her Joplin show at Riverhead’s Suffolk Theater back in November.

On the night of Feb. 9, in addition to paying tribute to Joplin, the singer said she is looking forward to performing a Queen number. Ferrari said she feels the show has something for everyone and hopes audience members will enjoy how she and her band interpret the music of all the artists she is featuring.

“I’m hoping the people who don’t like a specific artist will just enjoy the way we do it because I don’t try to imitate anyone,” Ferrari said.

The singer said at the Feb. 9 performance bass player Michael Chiusano, guitarist Chris Ferrari, keyboardist Chris Cuvier, drummer Gary Gonzalez and percussionist Jim Carroll will join her on stage. She will also perform with a horn section that includes Lenny La Pinta on alto/tenor sax, Jonathan Holford playing baritone sax, Dan Yeager on trumpet and trombonist Tim Cassera.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present ‘Joplin’s Pearl Featuring Amber Ferrari’ on Saturday, Feb. 9 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $39. For more information or to order, visit www.theatrethree.com or call 631-928-9100. 

For more information on Amber Ferrari, visit www.amberferrari.com.

Delegation members, above, with The Ward Melville Heritage Organization President Gloria Rocchio, front center, in front of the historic Stony Brook Post Office. Photo from WMHO

Mobile payment platforms have connected the Stony Brook Village Center to China.

The Ward Melville Heritage Organization, which operates the shopping center, recently hosted a government delegation from Anhui Province, China. The group consisted of government officials and higher education professionals who were in the United States to visit New York and Michigan State University. Their mission was to learn best practices in innovation and entrepreneurship.

Delegation leader Guang Hu, left, completing an Alipay transaction with Jeff Norwood, owner of Camera Concepts & Telescope Solutions

Last year, the Stony Brook Village Center became the first community on Long Island to adopt Alipay and WeChat Pay, which is estimated to have one billion users worldwide. The QR code point of sale terminal systems account for 90 percent of the Chinese mobile payment market, according to the WMHO. The platforms enable Stony Brook village merchants to serve travelers from China better by allowing consumers to purchase goods and services in yuan before then being settled in U.S. currency for merchants.

Gloria Rocchio, president of the WMHO, met with the delegates in her office and then took them on a tour of the village where they were able to shop and experience the mobile payment platforms firsthand. She said it was a whirlwind trip, but the visitors had the chance to shop in many stores including Chocolate Works, Madison’s Niche and Camera Concepts & Telescope Solutions.

“We were happy to host this delegation because they were sincerely impressed with our concern for Chinese customers who are accustomed to using Alipay and WeChat Pay,” Rocchio said.

Jeff Norwood, owner of Camera Concepts & Telescope Solutions, said when the delegates came to his store, one of them wanted to buy a pair of binoculars, but he decided to pay cash instead of Alipay. When he approached the store’s register, Norwood said he realized his point of sales system was offline, and he couldn’t open the register drawer to give the customer change. Another person came over and paid using Alipay, and Norwood said it took two seconds to complete the transaction. It was then that the delegate decided to use Alipay, too.

“I gave him back the fifty, and I said, ‘Look at that, you see, Alipay is easier than cash,’” Norwood said. “It was like the perfect commercial for it.”

The business owner said he’s only had the opportunity to use Alipay once before and said it’s easier to use than the store’s credit card machine. All he has to do is put in the amount, and then the customer has an app on the phone that comes up with a bar code. The sales associate scans the bar code and the store’s machine prints out a receipt.

Twelve government agencies, including the School of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, along with the Science, Technology and Intellectual Property Bureau, were represented.

Guang Hu, delegation leader and director of the Division of International Exchange and Cooperation, Anhui Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs, thanked the WMHO for hosting the visit in a statement.

“It is very impressive to know that Alipay and WeChat Pay has been implemented by the shops of the village,” Hu said. “Those two are widely used in China, and it shows the technology and innovation offered here. I believe there is great potential to work with [the] Ward Melville Heritage Organization on all levels of collaboration between Anhui and Stony Brook.”

By Rita J. Egan

For four decades the Three Village Historical Society has been illuminating the way to the holiday season with its Candlelight House Tour, showcasing historic properties dressed in all their festive finery by a team of local decorators.

On Saturday, Dec. 1, ticket holders can take part in the society’s 40th annual Candlelight House Tour. Titled 40 Years Honoring a Sense of Place, the tour will include five homes in East Setauket, the grist mill at Frank Melville Memorial Park and the historical society’s headquarters on North Country Road.

This year’s tour is the seventh one organized by co-chairs Patty Cain, historical society vice president, and Patty Yantz, a former president. Yantz said the title of the tour is a natural fit for the society that offers various programs that educate residents about former residents and local history, which in turn gives them a sense of place.

“People can come and go, but that history still lives on and is hopefully appreciated by generations to come,” Yantz said.

One of the homes on the tour this year was featured during the first Candlelight House Tour and is owned by the same owner, Eva Glaser. Glaser was one of the first co-chairs of the event and came up with the idea to hold a candlelight tour to raise money for the refurbishment of The Setauket Neighborhood House, where the historical society was initially housed. “It’s a treat to have her home on it,” Cain said.

This year’s tour includes other homes from past tours, mostly from the event’s first decade, and even though the owners have changed, the historical aspect of the houses hasn’t, according to Yantz and Cain.

“Some of these houses are favorites of tour-goers and the community, so they do like to see them again,” Cain said.

Cain said in the past some recently built homes were included on the tour because they were situated on properties of historical significance, but this year all the houses are significant on their own merits. The co-chair said they all date back 100 years or more, and the owners have maintained the unique historical character for each.

Among the spots are one structure that belonged to a sea captain and a beach house that overlooks Conscience Bay. Cain said a Dutch Colonial home that is a familiar sight to locals will also be one of the stops giving ticket holders the opportunity to see what the new owner has done with it.

The theme of each house is different either depending on the décor or the architecture of the home, according to Yantz, and each spot highlights and honors the area.

“Not only do we get to see the houses but sometimes we get a glimmer or concept of who built the house,” she said. “We get the history. We get an idea of who came here before [us], which I think is a wonderful thing in the more of a transient world we live in. Sometimes it’s very nice to be very grounded.”

Cain said she thinks attendees will take away a lot from this year’s event.

“I hope what they get out of the tour this year is to really see a beautiful sampling of the historic homes that we have in the area and can appreciate the fact that each owner has really cherished the fact that it is a historic home, and they have maintained the bones of the house,” Cain said.

The 40th annual Candlelight House Tour will be held on Dec. 1 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. (the Nov. 30 evening tour is sold out). Tickets are $50 per person, $45 members. An optional breakfast at the Old Field Club from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. is available for an additional $20. For more information or to order tickets, call 631-751-3730, email info@tvhs.org or visit www.tvhs.org. Tickets may be picked up at the Three Village Historical Society located at 93 North Country Road, Setauket.

Photos by Rita J. Egan, 2017

Volunteers, above, plant lettuce at Bethel Hobbs Community Farm in the spring. Photo by Heidi Sutton

More educational programs are coming to the last farm in Centereach thanks to a county grant.

Suffolk County Legislator Tom Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma) sponsored a resolution to amend the 2018 operating budget and transfer funds to Sachem Teen Center, Suffolk County Police Athletic League and Bethel Hobbs Community Farm. The transfer resulted in a $29,616 grant for the farm, which donates 90 percent of its vegetables to area food pantries.

Vice President Ann Pellegrino by one of the farm’s raised gardens. File photo

Vice President Ann Pellegrino said Muratore has been one of the farm’s biggest supporters for years, and to thank him, he will receive a plaque at Bethel Hobbs Community Farm’s annual Fall Harvest Festival Oct. 6.

“He sees the good work that we’re doing over here, and he always likes to help us out,” she said. “And this year, he really pushed for a grant.”

Muratore said he loves the farm. A few years ago, he joined Town of Brookhaven Councilman Kevin LaValle (R-Selden) in organizing Run the Farm, an annual four-mile race fundraiser.

“I think it’s a wonderful, wonderful asset that we have in the district and in the county,” the legislator said. “Ann Pellegrino does so much with that place and with the children, and people get to buy fruits and vegetables there that are homegrown. It’s really a big plus for the community.”

Muratore said his fellow county legislators voted unanimously for the grant.

He said it’s up to Pellegrino what she does with the funds. The farm’s vice president said she plans to use the money to enhance the educational programs it offers for students with things like farm tours and making salads with them. In the future, she said she would love to build an indoor classroom so when it’s cold or raining outside, programs can be held indoors. She said it’s the first time they received a significant amount of money. “We’ve never had that, never,” Pellegrino said. “We’re always scrounging for pennies. There is so much we can do with that.”

Pellegrino invites the community to the farm’s 10th annual Fall Harvest Festival which will be held this Saturday, Oct. 6, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The afternoon will feature tractor rides, live music, face painting, pumpkins, a bounce house, games and contests, food, a visit from the “Science Guy,” a farm stand and much more. Admission to the festival is free with fees for certain activities.

Bethel Hobbs Community Farm is located at 178 Oxhead Road, Centereach. For more information, visit www.hobbsfarm.info.

Photo by Anthony White

The fourth annual Culper Spy Day was held Saturday, Sept. 15 offering participants self-guided tours of 24 locations in the Three Village area and Port Jefferson including eight more spots than previous years.

Margo Arceri, founder of the event and owner of Tri-Spy Tours, was pleased with this year’s turnout of more than 800 visitors.

Margo Arceri speaks to visitors about Culper Spy Abraham Woodhull at his gravesite in the Setauket Presbyterian Church Cemetery during the event. Photo by Michael Rosengard

“Culper Spy Day has grown beyond my wildest dreams,” she said. “From Manhattan to Montauk, attendees get to learn and understand just how the Culper Spy Ring helped change the course of the Revolution. These were ordinary people who did extraordinary things. Without the hard work and efforts of each individual
organization and their volunteers, it would not be what it is today.”

Tri-Spy Tours, the Three Village Historical Society, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and The Long Island Museum hosted the  day with more than 40 organizations participating. Ticketholders experienced Revolutionary War encampments; docent-led tours of historic homes, churches and cemeteries; blacksmith demonstrations; Colonial cooking; children’s activities; invisible ink demonstrations, a TURN memorabilia auction and more.

The cast of ‘Man of La Mancha’

By Rita J. Egan

The cast and crew of John W. Engeman Theater’s “Man of La Mancha” have set off on a quest resulting in a production worthy of Broadway. The musical opened at the theater Sept. 13, and on the night of the press opening, Sept. 15, theatergoers filled the venue looking forward to the reincarnation of the perennial favorite.

“Man of La Mancha” debuted off-Broadway in 1965 and went on to win five Tony Awards. Written by Dale Wasserman with music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion, the Northport version is masterfully directed by Peter Flynn.

Taking its cue from literature, the musical takes the story of “Don Quixote” written by Miguel de Cervantes and sets it to music. In the play, which takes place during the Spanish Inquisition at the end of the 16th century, Cervantes is in prison waiting for his trial. Upon his arrival, his fellow prisoners try to take his belongings, including the manuscript of the story he is writing. 

Richard Todd Adams (Don Quixote) and Carlos Lopez (Sancho Panza) in a scene from ‘Man of La Mancha’

Following the tradition of prisoners putting newcomers on trial, Cervantes is charged with being an idealist, and a mock trial begins. The writer, in an attempt to defend himself, has his fellow prisoners play the characters in “Don Quixote.” Through their re-creations, audience members meet Alonso Quijano, the aging man who believes he’s a knight-errant and calls himself Don Quixote. Quijano and his squire Sancho Panza embark on a journey where they meet an array of characters including Aldonza the bitter serving woman and prostitute at an inn who Quixote envisions as a virtuous lady.

Michael Bottari and Ronald Case have gone above and beyond with the detailed set design of a dungeon on the Engeman stage, and Kurt Alger has done an excellent job with costumes, especially with the Knight of Mirrors’ gear in the second act. Choreographed by Devanand Janki, the musical contains high-energy dance numbers that complement the stellar production. The actors and the orchestra, under the musical direction of Julianne Merrill, are in top form during every number.

Richard Todd Adams as Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote is charismatic as the main character who takes his fellow prisoners on a fictional journey. His deep, rich vocals are perfect on every song. When he sings “Dulcinea,” upon meeting Aldonza and sees her as a pure, good woman, his voice has the potential to make many swoon. He also stops the show with his delivery of “The Impossible Dream.”

Janet Dacal plays Aldonza with the right amount of sullenness but yet perfectly portrays the character’s softening later in the musical. Her singing, especially her solos, “What Does He Want of Me?” and “Aldonza” are filled with power and emotion.

Carlos Lopez is a delightful and charming Sancho Panza and lends a good amount of comedic relief including during his solos “I Really Like Him” and “A Little Gossip.”

Janet Dacal (Aldonza) and Carlos Lopez (Sancho Panza)

All of the ensemble members do a fantastic job, and each has time to shine in the spotlight. Morgan Anita Wood, Garfield Hammonds and Phyllis March are wonderful during “I’m Only Thinking of Him.” Deven Kolluri does a great job as the cynical Duke and Dr. Carrasco. In the prison scenes where he plays Duke, he portrays the character’s disdain for Cervantes perfectly. His vocals are strong when he joins Wood, Hammonds and March on “We’re Only Thinking of Him.”

Joshua Wayne Oxyer, Cody Mowrey, Juan Luis Espinal, Enrique Cruz DeJesus and Diego Gonzalez as the Muleteers sound fantastic together on the number “Little Bird, Little Bird.” Bruce Winant easily goes back and forth from the tough governor to the kind innkeeper, and Mowrey garners some laughs as the barber who tries to understand Quixote’s delusions. 

The story of “Don Quixote” and “Man of La Mancha” is more than a tale of a man gone mad battling a windmill he thinks is a giant. It’s about seeing the good in people and the world even when strife seems to prevail. Cervantes and Don Quixote look to escape the realities of life by searching for the good in all things and people, and their attitudes are contagious. It’s obvious the cast gets this message as they seamlessly go from conveying doubtfulness over their new dungeon mate to showing hope in the impossible dream by the end. For theater lovers on a quest for a musical that has it all, the Engeman’s “Man of La Mancha” is a dream.

The John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, located at 250 Main St, Northport presents “Man of La Mancha” through Oct. 28. Running time is approximately 2.5 hours with a 15-minute intermission and tickets are $73; $78 for Saturday evening performances. Free valet parking is available. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

Children remove the tarp covering the sign in front of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook. Adrienne Lauren Photography

A Three Village community group once again is taking a stand against injustice.

On Sept. 9, after their Homecoming Sunday service, members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Stony Brook unveiled a sign that asserts the congregation members stances on social justice and human dignity issues. The unveiling wasn’t the first time the congregation declared its beliefs for all to see. In 2016, the members erected a Black Lives Matter sign. During the months it was displayed, the sign was vandalized numerous times and residents against it sent various emails, according to the Rev. Margie Allen. The sign was eventually taken down.

Visitors attend the unveiling of the sign. Adrienne Lauren Photography

Allen said the current sign, just like the former, is located in front of the building and placed so drivers traveling north on Nicolls Road can see it. The sign reads: “Love is Love; Climate Change is Real; Black Lives Matter; No Human Being is Illegal; Women’s Rights are Human Rights; and All Genders are Whole, Holy & Good.” A different color of the rainbow highlights each line on the sign.

The UUFSB acquired the sign from the Unitarian Universalist Association, according to Allen. Town hall meetings were held at the sanctuary to discuss whether or not to erect a sign, and the congregation was able to choose it from several options and then modified the colors and changed the order of the declarations.

“This banner is the fulfillment of multiple votes of the congregation to put up a sign that will let our community know that we believe — we affirm — the worth and dignity of every human being,” Allen said, adding while it includes the black lives matters message, it broadens the example of who deserves access to the American Dream.

On the day of the unveiling ceremony, Allen said the congregants sang and held a procession from the sanctuary to the sign, listened to a few introductory words from Barbara Coley, co-chair of the Racial Concerns Committee, and then children cut the ropes of the tarp that was covering it. Each statement was read by an individual, and the crowd echoed it. Before heading back to the sanctuary, Allen led the group in a dedication prayer.

“I’m just really proud that the congregation as a whole has made a powerful effort to figure out how to have the kinds of conversations that we actually need in every community in our country and nationally,” Allen said. “The kind of conversations in which people who have different views come to understand the places where their views overlap and then agree to stand in those places that overlap as a community so our voices as a whole can be heard.”

Chris Filstrup, president of the board, said the board members strongly supported the installation of the sign, and congregation members were discussing a new sign for a year. He said he hopes drivers passing by will read it, enjoy it and think about the points.

“It’s a statement,” he said. “It’s our statement. These are the things which are important to us.”

He said he admires Allen for encouraging the congregants to do something, and he said the board is committed to it staying.

“We have a policy,” he said. “We’re not putting it up to invite vandalism or anything, but if there is, we will involve the authorities. We’re going to keep this sign up one way or another.”

Reviewed by Rita J. Egan

Author Thomas M. Cassidy

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

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

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

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

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

How long did it take you to write this book?

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

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

How many books have you written? 

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

Is ‘Damage Control’ your first fiction novel?

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

 

The cover of Tom Cassidy’s latest book.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How close to reality are the investigations in this novel?

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

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

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

Do you have a favorite character in the book?

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

What is your favorite scene in the book?

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

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

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

Tom Cassidy with his father, Hugh “Joe” Cassidy

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

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

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

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

When is your next book signing event?

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

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

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